What I Learned From My 2nd Art Show


This summer, I had the opportunity to help a friend sell costume jewelry at a local Barn Sale.

“You should sell your canvases,” she offered.

I thought, How hard can it be to set up for a festival? I might as well try it.

The day before the show, I got $10 in singles, and I filled a baggie with nuts and fruit and yogurt.

Before the sun came up, I drove over to Sara’s house and helped to load her car with tables and chairs, bins and shelves, baskets and… oh yes, the humongous canvas canopy.

When we started driving, I realized that I no idea where we were going. As I followed Sara’s car, I cranked up the radio and enjoyed the morning breeze. But it was August, people. After we’d unpacked our cars, moved them to an adjacent field, and hiked back to our reserved spot, I noticed my shirt was sticking to my neck. It was hot. Damn hot. I wished I’d thought to bring a sundress.

The rest of the day was punctuated with little moments that kept reminding me I didn’t know anything about how to prepare for an outdoor festival.

Our sale took place in and around a barn.

In the middle of a field.

It would have been a good idea to have brought sunscreen. And wasp spray. And a fly swatter. A hat would have been a good idea too. And tissues. And lip balm. And Advil. I had no idea I’d need all those things to have a comfortable outdoor festival experience. Sara, a seasoned vendor, had everything: safety pins, zip ties, scissors, twine and tape, even bungee cords.

Did I mention I set up my display in 7 minutes?

It’s not enough to have a quality product. One must also have a degree in merchandising.

Besides a freshly pressed tablecloth, it’s necessary to have clear signage and extra-enticing displays.

I didn’t have any of these things.

Luckily, Sara how to artistically arrange her bling in bowls and baskets. She heaped bracelets on silver trays and draped scarves over wrought-iron racks. Sara’s tent was packed all day with women who couldn’t get enough of her inventory.

At one point, someone touched one of my canvases.

And then put it back down.

Long story short?

That day, I sold nothing.

Not one thing.

I pouted, I’m never doing another festival as long as I live.

And yet.

Four months later another opportunity presented itself for me to sell my stuff, and well… it seemed like a good idea to give the festival thing a second chance.

My handmade cards & canvases paired with Pretty Bird jewelry
My handmade cards & canvases paired with Pretty Bird jewelry

This time, the event was indoors. I felt more confident. No bugs. No heat. Plus, I had a better display and a pile of cute business cards. I’d brought plenty of change, and I was prepared to take credit cards.

They say you only need one customer. That one person to make your day worthwhile, and guess what? My customer showed up. She was looking for some special gifts, and I was just thrilled to have been able to help her with her holiday gift-giving.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to continue doing festivals. I certainly have a new respect for artists who participate in them regularly.  It takes a lot of work to research and prepare for a show, not to mention the labor involved with setting up for and traveling to and from a show. You also have to have a kind of mental fortitude because strangers sometimes make unintentionally hurtful comments.

Right now, the honest truth is that as long as I’m connecting with other people and making some money while doing it, well… that’s a great day for me.

What’s something you’ve done that had a sharp learning curve?

• • •

Oh, and it’s a good day for Lisa Kravetz! She commented on my blog and won the HOME canvas. I couldn’t be happier for her. Lisa, please email me at and provide me with your snail mail address so I can send that canvas out to you as soon as possible.

please tweet me @rasjacobson

31 thoughts on “What I Learned From My 2nd Art Show

  1. I am thankful you came to the club sunday. It’s amazing how far you’ve come in such a short time.

    Please continue to send me any suggestions you have for next year.


    Sent via the Samsung GALAXY S® 5, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

    1. Thank you for hosting, Iris. It was such a pleasure to meet other artistic-talented women in the area. I know we were all jazzed out to make next year’s event ever better! I hope you recouped some of your expenses with the raffle.

  2. Hi Rene! I think your canvases are absolutely beautiful! Don’t give up on something that you love, it takes time for customers to come. The good ole saying is “if you build it, they will come”. Hugs to you & your craftiness!

    1. Hi Nikita! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I’m not stopping painting because I haven’t figured out the whole festival thing. I’m doing really well by selling things on Facebook and Etsy and via word of mouth! I believe in that saying! If you do what you love, good things will come to you! It’s the law of attraction!

      1. Loving what you do is what makes it all worth it! If you follow along at my blog, you will see that I dabble in a lot of different craft projects and I am always looking for that one thing that I am good at. Until I find it, I will dabble away! (P.S. – My name is Val!)

        1. Thanks Val. My problem is that I love to do so many things that I become overextended, doing too many of the things i love, but never really mastering or moving forward with my skills set. SO I love to dance, but I haven’t taken a class in years, so I stay where I am. Same with my writing. I want to be able to sell my art via a website, but that would force me to change some things. I’m working on taking more risks in this area, and in 2015 I’ve RESOLVED to spend money on myself for self improvement of my blog! Will you hold me accountable?

          1. One thing. I would not call the things you love as “risks”. Being a creative person is a gift. I more than know what it is like to not be able to do “all” the things you want to do. For instance, I live with my boyfriend, we sell on eBay, and have our two dogs. With only one income, it makes it tough for me to delve into all the craft ideas I want to & to sell them because of the lack of funds, so I do what I can. If you want to make some changes in 2015 for yourself, I would printout a monthly calendar and chart out “what” you want to do on a certain month, write it on a sticky note so you can move it, and write down what you need to do to complete that to do list and then work for that goal. I find it easier to reach my goals if I can see it in writing. (it makes a huge difference in getting things done)

            As for spending on yourself – – that is a good thing to do. For us women, I find that we mostly take care of those around us first, and always leave our needs last, or in some cases never get around to taking care of own self needs. If you want to improve your blog & it costs “x” amount of money, then start saving now to fulfill that goal. Make money envelopes and add funds to your envelopes. You will be surprised on how fast your money adds up!

            For example, I heard of the $5 challenge earlier this year, and what it is, is for every $5 bill that gets into your hand, you place that $5 bill into an envelope and don’t spend it. Then see how much money you have saved in a years time!

            I will work with you to help you along if you want. And, if you ever hear of someone who needs my assistance, I could use a side job and some spending money too!

  3. Hot in Rochester? I didn’t know there was such a thing.

    Everything about marketing books and blogs has such a sharp learning curve I’m still at the bottom staring up at it after all these years. I obviously don’t know how to market either my blog or my books. *sigh*

    1. Hi David. Well, to be fair we were in EGYPT, New York — so it’s not really Rochester. Ahem. But yes, it was hot.

      I know that all the stuff in the publishing industry is really complicated. I’ve decided to just write and not worry about the publishing part of it, but when I need to figure out how to put together this children’s book, I’m coming to you, for help, Mister!

  4. Wow, that’s brave to put yourself (because that’s art, right? It’s really ourselves) out there! Even if you only do a few shows a year, I’m sure you’ll learn something valuable from each one (and hopefully share your wisdom with us as well!).

    1. I always learn something important with each new experience. Absolutely true.

      This year, I want to be able to sell my art via a website, but that will force me to change some things. I’m working on taking more risks in this area, and in 2015 I’ve RESOLVED to spend money on myself for self improvement of my blog! Will you hold me accountable? 🙂

  5. I used to do a lot of etching, but my subjects were always kind of dark and creepy. When I started doing blog illustrations, they tended to be quasi-cartoonish and occasionally politically incorrect. I’m sure I’ve got some sort of creative thing in me that could be marketable, I just haven’t stumbled onto it yet.

    1. I’m not surprised to learn that you dabble in art. I think a lot of writers are visual artists in disguise. As far as being politically incorrect or creepy, um, I’m pretty sure there’s a huge market for both. You just have to have a thick enough skin to be able to take the criticism. That part is hard for me.

  6. Sometimes I feel like everything I do comes with a sharp learning curve, haha! But I’ve done lots of shows like that back when I sold swimming pools for a living. It is super tiring! But can be very emotionally rewarding if the people are nice.

      1. Haha, no that was years and years ago, but I really enjoyed it. Just not enough money and I needed a winter job. I’m at cvs now. Still a retail girl, haha.

  7. Renee, I am so happy to hear your energy and your voice returning! You are sounding like you again, while exploring where new opportunities in visual arts will lead. Craft fairs are hard work. The thing that encourages to look and buy is an interested seller, someone who acknowledges my presence and talks with me just enough. I can’t tell you the number of times I have wanted to make a purchase but can’t get the attention of the person selling their goods. So just be friendly. Give me a little space. Be ready for the comments I offer. I try to remember to be polite, thoughtful, and encouraging in my comments. Life needs more art!

    1. Dalta! Thank you so much for your comment. You always sound so upbeat. I really appreciate your positive energy! I just read an article about how vendors have to walk a fine line between saying to much and not saying enough. Right now, I’m pretty enthusiastic when I greet potential customers…but I would never hound anyone into buying my stuff. Remember, I’m still having a hard time asking for money! I’m hardly going to harass anyone! I think life needs more art, too. It’s one of those things that we don’t promote very well in the United States. When you go to Europe, art is everywhere: on fountains, on buildings, hanging in hallways and in restaurants. We kinda like to keep our art contained in museums, which is too bad if you ask me. We’re so lucky to have Artisan Works here in Rochester, but I don’t know too many people who make a point of visiting (or purchasing) regularly.

      1. I love Artisan Works!!! I am very fortunate. My husband’s department regularly schedules events at Artisan Works. Friends have had a variety of celebrations there. I’ve even had the privilege of playing music there! It is alive, breathing, the art calling out, “Come closer… Look here, down this hallway… Into this room… Up the stairs…” I always express my gratitude for someone willing, daring enough to create an art, wedding, birthday, benefit, etc., etc. venue. I am a docent at Memorial Art Gallery and am thinking seriously of taking a leave of absence. Art should not be locked away and shared only with the elite. I love public art–It puts itself out there for all to see, to surprise, to cause viewers to question, to climb, to put a small child’s hand into the hands of a combat nurse holding a wounded soldier… When visiting the Viet Nam Nurses Memorial, a mom actually apologized because her young daughter crawled up the statue, to place her hand into the “nurse’s” hand. Too powerful for words!

        And yes, the art in Europe takes my breath away. I am so grateful that European cities are designed for walking. I’d have been run over long ago if I had to pay attention to where I walk. I am so glad that MAG decided to create a sculpture garden for it’s 100th birthday. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t had the opportunity to give outside tours–I have fallen off sidewalks there…

        I think about you often, pray for your healing, pray for you to find your voice, whether in your writing or in your art. I have missed you and am grateful for your healing. <3

  8. I’ve been making custom tables (dining, coffee, etc) for the last year or so on the side. It’s a tough world out there. Good for you, putting yourself out there. Right now, I’m pretty much word of mouth, but word is spreading. I couldn’t imagine doing craft fairs right now. About the only thing that I can make and sell in a quick fashion is cutting boards, and there’s plenty of people making those around here.

          1. Thank you! That is currently for sale locally, though without much luck (other than ridiculous low ball offers). I’m thinking about setting up an Etsy shop for some of my “freelance” stuff.

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Val. I intend to continue to do shows. I’m going to stick with the little ones until I gather up all the right stuff to show at a fancy-schmacy show. Also, I have to make a lot more product! LOL.

  9. If I lived in your neck of the woods (or your part of the country) I’d have been a customer and then hung around and blabbed with you all day keeping you from all other potential customers. You know I love your work…art AND writing! Doing festivals is SO much work. I used to have a scrapbook business a million years ago and I set up at several shows and after every one vowed to never do it again. And then I would ;). Along with the hard work, there is something so satisfying being out with people and so exhilarating when that one person really gets what you’re doing and connects with it. I may a vendor at the San Diego Quilt show this summer but I’m going to have to bring someone along with me to help me set up my booth. We all have to understand our limits, and booth design is definitely mine. Ack! Keep at it Renee!

    1. Carrie, you aren;t kidding about festivals being a lot of work. I have a new appreciation for all those vendors who have to set up sooooo much stuff. It’s not easy. And sometimes people are downright mean. Thank goodness so far I’ve set up with my friend, Sara who has magical powers when it comes to accessorizing a booth. Without her, my stuff would look like shlock! It’s probably worth having someone help you with booth design! It makes a big difference when it comes to approachability, I think. We are visual creatures!

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