THE TALE OF A TRAVELING ARTISAN: THE BACK STORY
“How can you justify charging $20 for a print,” a lady asked me last weekend at my first outdoor festival ever. “Seems like a lot,” she added.
I know this woman probably doesn’t deserve an answer, and I certainly don’t need to justify my prices — but I thought people might be interested in knowing what exactly goes into one of my $20 reproductions at a festival.
1. Create the artwork.
That means coming up with an inspiration, and then turning that inspiration into reality with paint, vintage papers, colored pencils, crayons, oil pastels and other ephemera. I don’t know how to put a price on creativity, but I can tell you that part alone takes between 20 and 30 hours, no matter the size of the canvas.
2. Convert the original artwork into a high-resolution photograph.
To do this, I set up a photo session in my house. Because my house doesn’t get the best light, I use three white poster boards curved in such a way as to accentuate the colors without throwing any shadows. The lighting has to be just right.
3. Email the high res image file to my printer across town.
4. Pick up prints. Check quality.
5. Hand slice each individual print into the appropriate size.
7. Slide all reproductions into individual cellophane wrappers. Remove the plastic strips that protect the adhesive tape and seal each envelope individually. This does not take into account any of the marketing I do (which I do by myself), or the fulfilling of orders (which I do all by myself), or the packaging (which I do by myself) or the trips to the post office (which I do by myself).
8. Many months in advance of any show, I have to apply to be juried in & pay the application fee, which ranges in price from $45 to over $300, depending on the venue. I have to remember to bring and display my Certificate of Authority, which I applied for and paid for. This allows me to legitimately collect taxes (which I pay someone to file).
9. Purchase/create a display & practice setting up — tables & tablecloths, tent & tent weights, banners & racks, signage & business cards — the list goes on. I have to make sure I have duct tape & binder clips & clamps & pens & scissors & bandaids & all kinds of other random things that I might need. I even pack my own lunch!
10. Make sure the card reader is working and set up pricing for each individual item. Research and apply the local sales tax in every county in which I plan to show.
11. Go to the bank to get change.
12. Enlist help. I don’t have any single designated person to assist me, and my tent weights are 40 pounds each…so I need peeps with stamina. At this last show, I was helped by my father & an old friend from high school! I am beyond grateful to them both!
13. Set up tent & display. At this particular show, my load-in time started at 7AM. Which means I was up waaaaay before that.
14. Sell. Stand for roughly 11 hours — in any kind of weather, rain or shine. Be professional & fully present while talking to anyone who wanders into my tent. Answer questions, take orders & hold down the fort.
15. Handle unforseens. On the first night of this particular show, there was a torrential downpour. Many tent canopies had not been weighted properly, so they toppled over or — literally — blew away. My tent was okay, but the high winds toppled my tables, soaking my tablecloths, signage & some of my merchandise, which I hadn’t thought to put away. I had to make an executive decision to close-up show, packing everything up in the middle of the night in a heavy downpour.
15. Tear down. At the end of a show, I do everything in reverse: box up, tear down, pack up, drive home, transfer everything back into my garage until the next festival.
So yes, lady in the white leggings. My prints are twenty dollars. And, now that I think about it, it doesn’t sound like near enough.
How would YOU respond to a comment like this? What do people not know about the work YOU do?