It’s a long show (four days) with Long hours (10am – 9pm). The booths are on the high end of what’s typical these days for an outdoor art fair. To succeed at such an event your return on investment has to be higher than other shows. While the crowds were here, most weren’t carrying bags – the hallmark of a great show; proof people are buying art! But they were wearing smiles and that’s another hallmark of a good show. We could guess for hours why not a lot of artists did a bang up business at last weekend’s A2Original Art Fair – and some did during their lulls in customers. Me included – though instead of spending a lot of time blaming the other shows, the economy and other extenuating factors I tried to focus on what I can do differently to improve what I have so it becomes even more irresistible! Which I’ve been doing since getting home!
The Original is A+
The Ann Arbor Original Art Fair is among the very oldest in the country. Around this core show though the event has grown in size to accomodate THREE MORE separate shows that run concurrently on the same four days surrounding the University of Michigan campus. There are those who will tell you that it has grown too large. As this year marked the first time I have ever participated in this event I’m not sure I can weigh in on that. I will say that I think I’ll prioritize participating in smaller events that are just focused on fine art and fine craft because it makes the presentations much easier for the people walking through to understand. I can see how confusing it could be to the average attendee to walk past a booth selling sunglasses for $24.99 (“buy 1 get 2 more free”) and then encounter my hand felted scarves, outfits and sculptures and wonder why they cost what they do.
Mind you, I got excellent feedback and did make some wonderful sales with people delighted with my work, so my time there was productive in this way. It was also a great opportunity for me to play around with the physical aspects of displaying my work throughout the booth; adjusting placement of items and noting the change in reactions turning passers by into browsers and even active shoppers. That was actually very fascinating and I think I got an entire course in the direct effects of visual merchandising which I will fine tuning for my next booth display at the Woodland Art Fair in Lexington KY August 18 & 19.
My work took in too many smiles to count, so many compliments and a whole lotta love. The reaction from the crowd ran the gamut from “Super cute!” to “Gorgeous!” ( see below for how I played around with eliciting each variety of exclamations by re-positioning pieces in the booth). Some really got into the spirit of the HappyArt presentation!
If you should ever find yourself in Ann Arbor – for whatever reason – take your $4 and go get a cup of coffee from Comet. It’s a little cafe located in an old style arcade between two buildings. You can only get there on foot. It’s worth it to seek it out. I LOVE great coffee and this joe rocked!
For me, probably the oddest moment in the 4 day duration of the A2 show was when the show’s Executive Director asked me, in all seriousness, (and I’m paraphrasing here – but this is the true gist) “How on earth do you talk people into buying your things that are this colorful?”. She was wondering if anyone was buying my art and if so, what on earth for! This was the show’s Executive Director! The woman in charge of the artsiest part of the 4-show event! I was dumbfounded.
I just stood there looking at her and smiled. It’s honestly the only way I could think of to answer her in the moment. Quite frankly, even with the benefit of these past 5 days I don’t have much more I can add to that answer, lol. I don’t talk anybody into anything! I offer what I have and enlighten when I’m invited to do so. I answer questions, explain the process and help folks understand what’s involved with the creation of what I make. So maybe it’s telling that the show’s chief of staff may have lost some of the vision about what the show is actually about: Fine Art and Fine Craft. Creative work that probably creates trends rather than follows them.
Here’s the other side to this view (we got press!)
I could spend some more days here. Ann Arbor is a delightful place! I enjoyed the people. I had a blast laughing with my fellow artists, my tribe. I felt welcomed and at home here. Will I come back? To be honest I think I need to spend some time looking into shows that are closer to home, and working on improving my online offerings first. I think I’ll also prioritize well focused shows that are just about fine art and fine craft too. I work so hard at this – I want to give my pieces the very best chance they have to connect with people. The work deserves that.