What brought me here today:
I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’m participating in a holiday pop-up sale on November 27th. It’s been at least eight years since I’ve sold any of my artwork at an in-person venue. The vast majority of my sales are via my online shop. My online shop came about because of the pandemic. I had indended to use my website to be a place to display my artwork, and to market my teaching of art workshops. Teaching in-person art workshops could not be taught safely at the time though. Selling my artwork then became the primary motive for my online presence.
Selling my artwork in person is full of all kinds of potential mental and emotional snares for me. The internet allows me a degree of personal anonymity that I’ve come to appreciate. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I’m not incredibly keen on how I look from a physical standpoint. I feel as though my unappealing physical appearance might make people less likely to purchase my artwork.
That all being said, I’m still looking forward to the holiday pop-up sale. There is the potential to participate in additional pop-up sales at Books & Bagels during the holiday season. The limited amount of time for each Saturday sale is also short enough that I won’t get overwhelmed mentally or emotionally. I’m also looking forward to meeting other makers and creators as well. In this context, my extroverted side usually takes over. This usually helps me gain control of any mental or emotional stressors.
One of the ways that my husband and I made money for our move to Finland was through arts and craft shows. It was one way that we could make some money that could just go directly into our savings account. Almost all of the sales I’ve participated in were conducted at (then) local public school gynmasiums on the weekends. Two were quite large too. The table fees were pricier for multiple days. But the trade-off was a larger profit.
There was also an opportunity for art teachers who were practising artists to sell their artwork at the annual art teacher’s conference. I think I was the most nervous and the most comfortable about these once-a-year sales. Nervous in that I was showing my artwork to other artists as well as my fellow art teachers. And comfortable in that I had my close art teacher colleagues there as moral support.
One of the ways that I paid for my travel expences to go to the art teacher conference was through the profits from the sale of my artwork. There was also a nice little bit of profit on top of that as well. My friend Cinamon was such an amazing help to me during these sales! I’m just rubbish when it comes to creating attractive displays of my own work. This is one of Cinamon’s many amazing talents. She just made everything look so beatiful! And she was a great sales woman too!
I had so much artwork to sell at my last art teacher’s conference! My gallbladder had other plans though. While I was under-going emergency surgery about two miles away, Cinamon set-up and sold my artwork for me. Cinamon made sure that everyone attending the conference knew that this was the last time I would be at the conference. She made it a YOLO kind of event! The profits were excellent from that sale. And it was all because of Cinamon!
I do a lot of prep work prior to the day(s) of an arts and crafts show, or pop-up event. The actual day of the sale itself is one of the least eventful days. This is one of those events that could be illustrated by an iceberg. With the day of the sale being what everyone else sees above the water. And everything else I write about in this post being the enormous portion below the water. So, how do I start planing for an arts and craft show, or holiday pop-up sale? Read on!
I start by making a list. Actually, I start by making a lot of different lists. A list of the items I want to include in the sale. Plus lists of things like, displays, signage, business cards, petty cash, new point-of-sale card reader, bags, packaging, travel, set-up, tear-down, table coverings, table displays, etc. This is one of those instances when my natural inclinations toward having multiple contingency plans (i.e., Plans A-ZZZ) is definite asset. I’m already looking for some of the aforementioned items when were out running errands. The Dollar Store is going to a life-saver for some of these items.
There will be some services that I will need to purchase. Like business cards. We don’t have a printer yet, so I’ll need to go somewhere to have it done. I checked at the local library to see if I could print them there from a digital file. I can, but the problem is that I can’t use my own cardstock. So an email went out this morning to a local printer who has advertised that it can do small run copy work from digital files.
And, I go as far as to make lists of what I could wear so that I will look as nice as I possibly can. I don’t want the people at a sale to not come and take a look at my artwork because they think I, or my display look unattactive in some way. I know that I’m trying to create an experience of myself and my artwork for any person, or potential customer looking over my artwork.
2: Accomplishing tasks on lists
The lists have to be divided into different sets of tasks. Some tasks are relatively easy. Buy table. That was easy. I’ve already checked it off one list. But then I have to think about the table covering and the displays. The table covering could be something that I simply purchase. But the displays are going to require designing. And in the case of the upcoming pop-up sale, constrution as well.
I know that I could easily purchase collapsible displays online. I’ve actually looked at some. The problem is that I didn’t find anything that suits my artwork. So, I’m going to build them myself using corrugated cardboard. I had created some displays using a Mr. Printable design that you can find here. There’s a super-cute little house too that I think I might try as well. The cardboard that I saved from all the boxes I broke down will be used to create new displays. These are quick builds. One day to get the structure together. Decorating them doesn’t take long either.
There are other tasks that will take much more time. I have decided to create new small pieces expecially for this pop-up sale. This requires me to hunt down the correct patterns. Choose the colours. Decide on exactly how many to create. And if needed, purchase additional materials to create them. I was just going over one of these lists this morning, making adjustments. Why? Because I need to be as realistic as possible with regard to my ability to create any given number of new pieces to sell.
3: Keeping in contact
I cannot stress to you how important it is to maintain an open and frequent dialogue with the people coordinating the sale, pop-up, or event! The minute that email or text plongs on my phone or lap top, I’m answering it. This helps the coordinator keep as up to date as possible. This makes any kind of holiday pop-up sale run so much more smoothly for all of the participants.
Yesterday, I received an email asking if I would like to submit pictures or video of my work that could be used to advertise the pop-up sale. I asked some questions about sizes and formatting and received a quick answer from the coordinator. The photos I chose will be sent to them today or tomorrow. For me, there’s some great free-advertising as a working artist. People who don’t know what my artwork is like get to see it. Heck! They may even buy it! The venue gets to show what kind of art items will be at the pop-up. It’s a win-win all the way around!
Yuck. Now it’s time to talk about pricing of items for this pop-up sale. I am completely, and most horrifically bad at pricing my artwork. My husband tells me that I under-value my artwork. There’s a part of me that wishes I could comfortably price my artwork higher. I’ll get there someday. If business were to pick-up to the point that I was having difficulty keeping up with demand, higher prices would be in order I think.
I try to balance out the prices of my artwork at sales. There are a few higher-priced items. Many more items in the middle of the price spectrum. And juuust enough of the lowest price-pointed items to balance it all out. The logic being that there may be a few people who are willing to spend more on a single item, with many more able to purchase items at the middle price-point. Then there are the lowest priced items that are much more easily affordable for everyone at the sale.
I’m a bit nervous about using a new point-of-sale card scanner as well. It’s the kind that is attached to a cell phone. I’ve seen them used by small businesses here and in Europe. Giving potential customers different options to pay for my work is something that will benefit my small business. There are a few more things I need to set up on the point-of-sale card scanner website. Then it’ll be ready to go!
So now what?
There have been people in my past who’ve told me that I would “make a mint” selling my artwork. And that “selling online is easy“. None of these people were working artists. Nor had they set-up and maintained a website or online shop. I have some experience under my belt running a website and selling my work online now. Enough experience to say that it is most assuredly not easy by any stretch of the imagination. And it has yet to make me a tonne of money.
I can say the same about getting ready for selling my artwork in person; it’s not easy, and won’t make me a lot of money. But, it does offer me a lot of benefits. I’m as much in control as possible over a great deal my little part of the pop-up sale. This control tamps-down a lot of my mental and emotional fretting a great deal. The success or failure of my performance is not measured solely in dollars and cents.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.