Brandy Heinrich: Art & Illustration

To break out you gotta give up the chase…

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This post was originally saved as a draft in June, 2018.
I made a few updates in January 2019, and additional notes in August 2019.

Today I am going to talk about a somewhat thorny topic. It's one shrouded in a bit of mystery and not often discussed. And that is: the cost of doing business. Specifically, the costs associated with art & craft markets, in this case. (Full discolsure: at the point I’d originally written this I’d only ever done five markets since I started pursuing Art As Enterprise back in 2016, and this year I’m at ten for the year so far - but I consider my experience to still be from a relative novice's perspective.)

First, let me explain that for the purposes of this discussion, my use of the term "markets" can apply to anything from really informal pop-up single-day events coordinated by a sole individual to fully-juried multiple-day festivals managed by actual event management companies.

Over the last couple of years, I've gotten a little bit of experience with what can potentially be the rather significant cost of tabling at markets, although I've been lucky enough to be able to keep those costs to myself relatively low up to this point. I make my own displays, buy linens second-hand, only consider daytime or indoor events, and have not yet invested in a canopy - although there may come a point where I would need a tent, eventually. (Reader, that time came, and I plopped down too much money for a cumbersome “easy up” tent that is a pain in the ass to set up and isn’t as water resistant as I thought…) I also don't apply to events that come with what I consider to be excessive space reservation fees. Yes, that's right. Not only do you sometimes pay to apply to a market, you might also be expected to pay for real estate. And depending on the event, that real estate is at a premium and rent can be steep.

Personally, I consider anything up to $100 to be an acceptable reservation charge, but I'm going to balk at anything over that price point at this stage in my progression as an artist vending at markets. It's likely I won't make that back in sales, so the entire experience becomes a business expense at a net loss from the outset. Add in any supplies needed for the event - new table cloths, reprints, packing supplies, for example - and then figure you'll probably need to eat, maybe grab a beer (a lot of these markets are held a breweries). That all adds up. If you're starting from scratch for your first market, there are basic supplies such as a portable table and folding chairs you'll need, since a lot of events don't provide those to vendors, so you have to bring your own set up. 

This brings me to the issue of what I consider to be unacceptably high fees. I was just looking at some events closer to the area where I'm currently living, and a couple looked promising. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as specifications for applying (photos of previous events showing the display, photos of examples of work that will be similar to what will be offered, etc), the application fees were $25 per show, which is on the high end for me, but again, I'm still new to a lot of this...and then I was reading the details. One show had a booth fee of $475. The other was $350. For a 10' x 10' patch of ground. "Gallery" style displays only - no tables allowed. Wire or cloth panel walls. And handwritten signage is forbidden. Only one medium per submission. (...that last one, like...I'm multidisciplinary, that is some nonsense!!) 

What. 

The. 

What. 

I *just* finalized the payment for a market in Tampa in October where the tables will be provided, all vendors will be given shirts, refreshments will be available, and there's a networking event being coordinated. And I paid $75, which was the more expensive of the two options because I elected to get an indoor space. I've paid between $20 and $50 for the four markets I've applied to previously. I suppose those more expensive events are for well established vendors who do this for a living, so they can write off these costs as true business expenses. But people on this side of hobbyist, like myself, aren't really in a position to plonk down that kind of cash to stake a claim on some pavement, and I am increasingly struck by how pervasive economic roadblocks like entry fees are. It's been quite a realization to acknowledge how lucky I have been to have the flexibility to participate in the events I am a part of. Because I have a day job. Which is a double-edged sword, in and of itself.

Art is meant to be accessible. But when you look at access, historically, ownership of fine art has been elevated so that it's available to the more affluent, and entire gate-keeping structures have been developed to enforce that cultural strata. It's not surprising, then, that in the descriptions for these events I was reviewing there are keywords like "tropical paradise" and "affluent." Ah yes. Sarasota. 



Post script:

Since originally drafting this over a year ago, I’ve participated in (or will be participating in) 25 group art shows of different kinds, and 15 markets. I’ve learned quite a bit - mostly what works for me, and what I really find absolutely no joy in. Most markets are a complete bust. I get a lot of browsers, and few buyers. It’s likely my choice of event is part of the problem, as well as what I bring to sell. I’d like to focus more on commissions, and actual art shows, so moving into the second half of 2019 and planning for 2020, those will be where I put more of my energy. I’ve also ended my use of Patreon, and suspended my newsletter (at least temporarily).


Miscellania

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Just checking out to hide from life

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Hello, again, my dear, neglected blog.

I’m not sure why I’m not keeping this updated. Other than I’ve managed to make myself exceedingly busy over the last several months.

Doing things.

Mostly art.

Which is also keeping me quite occupied into 2019. So far I’ve had two events - a market at a local distillery that led to an invitation to participate in another market, which is this weekend, and a juried group art show at a retail space-slash-gallery. In total, I have four events in January, three scheduled in February, and one so far in March. Plus, I joined my local arts council and the community artist guild. I’m going to schedule monthly update posts, and see if I can stick to that.


Miscellania

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Swim until you can't see land

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This past weekend I participated in my second artist market. Each one has definitely been a learning experience. The major takeaway from this one is that the creative community here is incredible. They really have been as a whole, with very few exceptions, some of the most supportive, helpful, welcoming bunch of people I've ever met. When I was setting up my table, one of my neighboring vendors noticed I didn't have a shelter, and noting the weather that day, offered a loaner to me. I was floored by their generosity to me, and having a pop-up over the table made the whole experience of sitting in a Florida parking lot in pre-Summer much more enjoyable. (The excellent ciders at the venue also helped, I'll be honest...) I need to rethink my setup, as well as what I'm offering. In all, it was a nice day spent with my teenager serving as my booth-buddy for the day. I have two group art shows coming up, and then the plan is to take a part of the summer off to move to a house in a new community and get my new studio space set up. I'm really looking forward to it. 


Miscellania

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You say Y-E-S to everything

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YES.PNG

Has it really been 8 months since I've posted to this blog? And that last post was nothing to write home about. Wow am I ever terrible at this...

But here I am, making an update and trying to keep myself accountable to...well, to myself, I guess. I do keep the newsletter somewhat current, so that's probably a better bet for news and updates, but I want to do a sort of year-in-review/preview here. Because I'm deep into 2018 planning and events, and that makes me reflective. I like to compare where I am with where I was, so to speak. So! Let's do some stats! 

In 2017 I submitted to seven local group shows/exhibitions, two markets, and eight galleries or retail shops. I participated in all of those shows and one of the markets, for a total of eights events. I didn't actually hear back from a single gallery, but the one local shop was a maybe. Of course, that shop has since closed. Since that was my first year really trying to get into shows and sending out feelers for different opportunities, I considered it an incredible success and was pretty proud of my accomplishments.

So far in 2018, I've applied to and been accepted into six local shows, signed up to have a table at a local art market, queried one gallery on the other side of the state and been invited to participate in a show there, applied to an international art magazine, and submitted something to a national contest by a large art supply company. Not to mention the several promotional postcards I've sent out to different publications and the business cards I hand out like I'm at Mardi Gras (with considerably less boob flashing action). Since it's only February, and this list only extends to April/May events, I think I'm on track to surpass last year, which would be great. 

The fact that I am doing all of this while maintaining a full-time job and my adult responsibilities and home and family life sometimes actually surprises me. I mean, it's a lot. A LOT. And it takes a lot of juggling to make it work. Plus burnout is always there, on the edges. The other thing that I'd like to make more progress in is actual sales. All of these events, and a growing network, haven't really resulted in selling a lot of art, however. In 2016 and early 2017 I did have some steady sales, mostly from friends and acquaintances, but that has slowed down in the last several months. I do have a commission I have waiting to be finished and another project I back-burnered that I really need to finish. I'd like to take on more commission work, but I'm hesitant to commit to things I can't really say I would ultimately enjoy. 

I plan to stay pretty busy through May, but I'm seriously considering taking a break over the summer months to enjoy some free time, maybe catch up on a backlog of reading I have that's been piling up. And we'll be moving into a new house in a nearby town around that time, which is obviously going to take a lot of my attention. For now I'll continue to say yes to as many things as I think I can realistically handle. 

fairy.jpg

Miscellania

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You and I, we're pioneers

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It's alive! It's aliiiiiive!

Patreon! It's a thing! I know there are probably A LOT of questions about how Patreon works, so let me break some of it down for you:

  • Q: What is Patreon used for?
    A: Patreon is a funding platform for creators, makers, musicians, artists, and storytellers of all kinds to share their work with a community of patrons who help support that creative work. Sort of like Kickstarter, but for sustainable fundraising over a longer period of time and not necessarily associated with a specific project or campaign.
     
  • Q: How do I become a patron on Patreon?
    A: You can sign up right from my account by clicking the Become a Patron button on the right side of the screen OR by clicking on any of the reward tiers right underneath it. You will be asked to add a credit card or Paypal account. My rewards are set up as monthly contributions, so you will be charged one time each month of $1, $3, or $5, depending on the reward level you choose. (Patreon has a simple guide to walk you through the steps.)
     
  • Q: What do I get for my financial contribution?
    A: Every Patreon is set up a little a little differently. In my case, I'm asking for contributions to help pay for higher grade art supplies, and later I may be able to use contributions to participate in art calls and events, as well as expanding to better audio/video equipment and software to record process videos. In return, all patrons will receive access to exclusive content I will only be sharing on that platform, including discussions of process, how I come up with ideas, and the opportunity to see progress images before anyone else, for starters. I will also send out an initial welcome package to every patron who signs up, regardless of the support tier they choose. Second and third level supporters will receive physical art in the mail. In the beginning, if I don't have many patrons at those levels, all tier 2 and 3 patrons will get mail, once a month (schedule TBD).
     
  • Q: If I don't want to sign up to be a patron with Patreon, are there other ways to support you?
    A: Of course! The easiest thing is to share my stuff! You can share posts from my Facebook page or my website at any time. That will help me reach more people, which is really important. If you have any pieces of my art that you love, let people know, and send them my way. Let them know that I have prints for sale on Society6 and Redbubble (the direct links to those shops are on the About section on my website). You can also choose to contribute to my supply and art-book collections by sending me items from my Amazon wish list. Whatever you choose to do to help with this effort is greatly appreciated, from encouraging words to actual financial contributions - it's all meaningful and helps keep me motivated.

So now that I've made this leap, the next steps are to start posting updates on Patreon and work on making some graphics for myself, like banners and buttons to use for cross-promotion. I have a tendency to do things in reverse - launch the thing and then work out formatting, structure, and all of those elements that help make it all cohesive and less like a slapdash attempt. I'm likely going to mirror this post there as an FAQ overview. I'm open for feedback and ideas for additional tiers in the $5 - $10 per month range, so let me know what you think.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last couple of years. I literally couldn't have done this without some of you. I may get discouraged sometimes and have occasional visits by the Fraud Police, but you give me encouragement and sometimes the kick in the ass I need to keep going.