Everybody else sleeps. You don’t want to just do what everybody else does, right?
Before I gush about how this was my highest-grossing show ever, I have to offer some advice: If you do the Edmond show, either bring enough inventory, or drive home every night and make more prints. Friday will generally give you a good read on what your most popular prints are. When it comes to art, this place is a madhouse. And use Java Dave’s coffee to your advantage — you can sleep next week.
Setup – smooth like butta
When setting up for any show, I follow the rule: Come in, dump everything near the spot, park the van somewhere else, and set up at my leisure. I know I’ll be there 2-3 hours, and I can go get the van later. Not everybody does that, or can do that. Some artists have unique storage and unloading methods that require their vehicle to be present for the duration.
Until I did art shows, I never thought I’d have to do needlepoint with a minivan, but that’s part of the process.
That said, the show implemented new rules for coming in to unload, and it was a good improvement. Artists on each of the three blocks of the show were supposed to enter from the west on the cross street to their north, turn south to unload, and then exit going west on the next cross street. Even though some vehicles remained parked for several hours, they were at least pointing the same direction.
Since it was supposed to rain that night, I didn’t bring any artwork on setup day. I still use way too many cardboard boxes to store my stuff, and there are not many things in the universe more useless than wet cardboard.
I requested a north-facing corner booth because I get way too sunburned in a south-facing booth. I got the north-facing corner I asked for, but this time I was on the west side of the street, rather than the east. That turned out to be better for two reasons:
- By 4:00pm, I was in the shade of Java Dave’s! Only five hours of sun instead of 10.
- The crowd goes counter-clockwise — they will go north along the east side of the show, and south along the west side. If you have a corner, it’s best to have a north-facing corner on the west side, and a south-facing corner on the east side. This maximizes visibility.
This city is very art friendly. Right behind my booth was a bronze of a girl feeding a chicken sitting on the back of a pig.
Friday – a bit touch and go
I arrived with all the artwork — which in hindsight, I could have done the night before because I had a tarp to cover all the cardboard.
One of the perks of showing up early is that they will let you bring your vehicle in to unload, as long as you’re out by 9am. Well, I’m not a morning person, and my time management skills are iffy. I arrived at 9:50am. “Yeah, 10 minutes.. I can do this. <sharking in the parking lot> but that lot is full.. and that one.. and that one too..” I ended up parking in the gravel lot near the BFE branch office.
Everything was shuttled to the tent in three trips: One for my new storage box / print bin (with the podium, chair, cooler, and foldy print bins piled on top). One with the 2×3-foot cardboard box full of gallery wrap canvases. And one with the six boxes of prints strapped to the dolly, and my camera bag strapped to my back. Those journeys took around 30 minutes.. Yes, 20 minutes into the show, and I didn’t have any artwork on the walls.
One hour into the show, halfway into setting up, the judges came by. (Think fast!) I explained that the “empty areas” on my wall were part of a new line of invisible work — one of which was a commission piece as the cover art for John Cage’s “4’33”. Seeing as how I didn’t get an award, they must not have been fans of post-modern music.
There’s some rain. It’s windy.. The sun comes out and heats up the place just enough for the clouds to get all big and dark. Storm’s a coming. David Payne is on TV already, so gather around. We’ll watch him on my phone.
For those of you not from the area, David Payne is chief meteorologist from OKC’s Channel 9. April to May in Oklahoma translates to “tornado season in tornado alley.” If David is on TV, and it’s not part of the evening news, that means he is saying something very important and you need to listen.
By 5:00pm, a heavy storm blasted 80 mph winds all over Norman (south of OKC), and the crowd dispersed. I’m not sure, but maybe three artists remained open. I left at 5:30.
Sales = $0.
And naturally I showed up late again. The decision was a bit rock vs. hard place: Should I arrive early without new prints, or show up with new stuff whenever I get done with it — which hopefully translates to “before 10:00am”?
Solution: Make the new stuff. If you miss the 9am crowd, the 11am crowd will swoop in and buy it anyway.
I arrived earlier than before: 9:45am!
Boy, was I right. Friday was like a pressure cooker — it held everyone back for a day, so Saturday contained two days worth of people.
Not 24 hours after watching David Payne on our phones, he comes by to visit! He asks if I have any photos of Grand Lake (on the other side of Tulsa). Not yet, but I do know someone who has a rental house there, and I can likely get photos this summer. We then chat about storm photos, and I think I was the first person to show him that Monument Rocks, Kansas exists. (I’ve done this show since 2008, and I got the impression that he recognized me before I recognized him.)
6:30pm — The shadow of Java Dave’s shrouds my booth, and it dawns on me that I forgot my lights:
Sales: astronomical. Just in one day, sales were within $100 from exceeding my previous ‘best show ever’ — which was this very show in 2012.
Go home and make even more stuff — especially the prints that people had to order because I ran out of stock:
..Five hours of sleep and I’m ready! I just need to stock up on caffeine, and I can keep up with y’all.
Sales: yet another “three day show” in one day.
The tent was rode hard and put away wet.
Total sales exceeded my previous highest-grossing show (Edmond 2012) by 33%. I’m still buzzing, and I will spend the next several months analyzing what could have caused that:
- Name recognition: I have done this show since 2008, and more people are coming by saying, “good to see you again! what’s new this year?”
- My own comfort: Eight years of being out in public does a cool thing to your personality. During my first year, I was a twitchy nervous wreck. Now I think of running an art booth as people coming by to say hi and check on what I’ve been up to. The part that involves buying something from me is secondary. (Don’t force it.)
- Location-based subject matter: I have tons of photos of the OSU campus, and since Edmond is on the north side of OKC, they’re that much closer to Stillwater, and more likely to be affiliated with OSU.
- Money: Edmond is upscale.
- Booth location and orientation: north-facing corner booth on the west side of the show, facing the oncoming crowd. (see the ‘Setup’ section above)
- Workmanship: I am printing my own work, and assembling my own frames.
- Schedule: I posted that this is my only other Oklahoma show in the spring. (I will be out of the country while Lawton, Mayfest, and Paseo are going on.) Maybe people took it as, “since we won’t see him again for a while, we better hurry up and buy something!”
- My shirt: When I started doing shows in 2008, I just wore what I owned — simple t-shirt. After a couple years, my excitement of doing shows manifested itself as ‘loud’ Hawaiian shirts. As time went on, I just wore the same thing that I wore to my day job — single color polo shirt. For this show, my friend saw me being indecisive on the morning of the show and she suggested a certain light blue button-up shirt that I bought last month but hadn’t yet wore. I wore it Saturday. Thinking that it contributed to my success, I bought two more Saturday night, and wore one of them on Sunday.
- Combination of all of the above: If you have what they’re looking for, and you look like a trustworthy business, you will get love.
Quotes From The Show
- “All the old people are out today!” … “Yeah! All the grandpas and grandpas and grandpas…”
- “Just say anything!” …a couple girls came by just to listen to my voice. I sound like a radio announcer.