In my last post I wrote a little about my life as an artist and it seemed to generate a bit of interest and so I thought I’d share some pictures and memories with you here. After I had my daughter, it was hard to imagine ever leaving her with anybody else to go to work, and my son was at an age that I didn’t want him in school all day, and so I decided that I wanted to take a crack at raising my kids as a “stay at home mom.”
And so I prayed about it
and the answer came so simply as if God came to me Himself and said “Okay.”
It really did happen just like this…
One day soon after my daughter was born…. my neighbor invited us to their little boys’ birthday barbecue. I was out on maternity leave and not making a lot of money so instead of going out and buying a present, I painted a picture of her little boys in a bath tub for the gift. Personalizing it with their hair color and their names on towels hanging on the tub. Unbeknownst to me, she took that painting to work with her that Monday to show it to some friends and came back with 40 custom orders! Wahlah. THAT is actually how I began. Isn’t God great? How could anyone not believe? He even used one of HIS numbers: forty! Must I even repeat this? How could I not believe that He had answered my prayers?
When I was a kid my mom did arts shows as a hobby for extra spending money. Though it ended up being quite a little business for her. She began having an annual boutique at our house that lasted several years and I remember that she let me try to sell some of my doodlings at a few of them. Back then, I drew pictures of kids at a bus stop. I honestly can’t remember if I sold any. I actually think I may have sold a few. I liked to draw and my dad told me that I was pretty good. Besides the poems that I wrote as a teenager, and the little doodles that I sketched, I never really felt very artistic .
When I first started doing shows, I just focused on the paintings and then I (am dating myself now but…) I started making “Mop Dolls” and even got a rep and sold them wholesale to Longs Drug Stores for a while!
The first show I did was pitiful, I had gotten in by default. There was a waiting list a mile long and because I knew the president of the Art Association I slipped in at the last minute when one of the artists broke her ankle. I was not very prepared and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have a very good display and only sold children’s paintings and then sold just a few at that… I was so disappointed but I wanted to learn from it and so I walked around that show, and noted what the busy booths did differntly and the ones that were selling out had more than just ceramics or paintings, they had a variety of things.
So…the same show the next year, I didn’t just sell children’s paintings, but I also sold dolls, ornaments, baskets, etc. I’d learned by then that just selling one media didn’t work for me and I was right, I made $1000 the first hour at the same show the following year, selling a bunch of different things! Though looking back, I think that I went overboard creating, without a real good focus. Though I did stay whimsically related which was good. I think I needed to reel it in just a bit. Today my advice would be to choose a few things you do well and stick with what you do best.
One of my first shows ~(You can kind of see my paintings on the right in the 1st picture and the mop dolls sitting on the bottom shelf on the 2nd picture)
Some of my first shows and creations are what I like to call “Early Diane” and I have to say they were a little embarrassing. I had a booth at a place called Crafter’s Guild and slowly started doing different art/craft shows and building up my own following of customers.
Brookie standing outside of Crafter’s Guild with my scarecrows as their display and a picture of my booth.
Some shows were pretty sad with poor advertising and not a lot of customers. But ALL of them generated something great! Whether it was new friends or networking about new shows, I never looked at a “bad” show as a waste of time. I met my “wood guy” at a show where I sold one thing and I look back at that show as one of my best because I snagged such a good find! He was this wonderful old man named Wayne who would make me whatever I asked him to and deliver them to my door. His wife used to joke that she wanted to come with him to deliver and he wouldn’t let her. She told me that he would put on his after shave just for me! He was so cute! Wow, I haven’t thought of him for so long. He was the BEST!
My suggestion before signing up for a show, is to go attend it as a customer first! Walk around and don’t only notice how many people are there but how many of them are buying?? The shows I used to do always had a line at the doors to get in and more at the cash registers to check out. Another good piece of advice is to google the reviews. In this day and age with technology at our finger tips… it is easy to find the reviews on shows and read them all, from both a customer’s and artist’s persepective. But actually getting in your car and going is your very best measuring stick! Talk to the artists and see how their mood seems, ask if they have done the show before and if they would do it again. Try to talk to more than just a few! There is always one bad attitude in every bunch and you don’t want to judge everything based off of one sour faced answer. Also look around and notice how much competition you may have.. If you make hand crafted things, don’t just ask someone who is selling manufactured items their opinion of the show. You get the idea. (See Sugar Plum’s facebook video below~ I promise it will be worth your time.)
When I first started doing shows, I’d do about a dozen a year until I settled into a juried Festival in Southern California where I lived, called Sugar Plum. http://www.sugarplumfestivals.com/#
It was such a wonderful find that I ended up giving up all of my other shows and only doing Sugar Plum about five times a year.The rest of the year I would spend getting ready for the next upcoming one. It was such fun. I ended up getting the job of “setting up” the General Store which was their blended area. The other artists who were also assigned this job, worked late into the wee hours of the morning with me, displaying all the wonderful items that several different artists earmarked for the General Store. And together, we made a magical shopping place that actually looked like a General Store filled with treasures and all of our creations! When we would finish we had a tradition of walking over to the Denny’s across the parking lot for coffee and a late night visit before slipping into our hotels and getting about 4 hours sleep before we had to be back to help open the next morning! Though it was a lot of work. I never would have missed a single minute of any of it!
My garage Getting ready for a Sugar Plum Show!
I began using overalls and kid’s clothes to make scarecrows and themed dolls and my husband made a choir stand like display for my dolls so that I could keep them away from the saw dust. I became known as “The doll lady” because when I had my garage door opened people would stop and want to buy them right off of their shelf! Somedays I could make “grocery money” for the week!
My dolls became a hit in the local neighborhoods that loved to decorate for Christmas! There was one called Sleepy Hollow in a Southern Neighborhood in Torrance, near Redondo Beach. One day a w0man came to a show at The Torrance Rec Center and wiped me out. She bought about a dozen of my dolls on the spot! Here is a picture of her front yard. Needless to say she won the competition that year and many years after! She would build a glass house with a life size santa sitting in a sleigh and she put all of my critters around as part of the scene. I was so honored that she chose my designs to be a part of her Award Winning display each year!
You can “kind of” see all my elves sitting around the sleigh…
Soon my paintings became cards and in the beginning I cringe at some of my Early Dianes that I produced without help. But slowly my husband got involved and learned about a technique called sublimation and for a while started having my artwork printed on mugs and tiles and shirts.
I still did a few dolls… but here was a new display after my husband got involved….
My trademark look was a “Holly Hobby” kind of whimsical angel with falling down socks and patches on their wings. I started writing poetry again to go with them and soon my cards began out selling my dolls! Each customer would grab a few and a few added up to great big checks and I had a great little business.
Around that time… my daughter asked me If I had imagined her when I was her age and I began to write my answer to her in way of a book called: “Did You Imagine Me” Which my Dad produced for me! I still have a few left for sale in my Etsy shop.
When we moved to Central California, I still tried to do my shows but when we opened our store “Rose In The Woods” I tried to keep up with Sugar Plum and did for a while, but it was hard working all day and producing enough to make it worth doing the shows and so I slowly retired. Though a few of my friends would occasionally host a little home botique for me. Until I finally sold the rest of my inventory in my store and called it a day.
After the earthquake and the loss of our store. A lot of things changed pretty fast. But it is nice to be able to look back and see the blessings that have come along the way since a time in my life that I only saw devastation. Though I finally had to get a real job and today I work at a beautiful spa in a resort setting and it is a pretty nice place to work, if I have to. I have to admit that I complain from time to time and seem to constantly worry about the bills during this transition in our life, I have learned some much needed lessons about appreciating the important things in life through the different set backs. Lessons I know that I might have missed without the ups and downs we have survived. And….For a long time, my art studio sat empty until my husband took it over for his office after losing his job. And I am praying that he will be using it very soon! due to some blessings God is working out for him!
Recently, my daughter got the creative bug after we visited a Sugar Plum Show during one of my LA trips when I came to see her. We’d received one of their post cards and decided to make a date of it. She had great memories of going and helping me set up from the time she was a baby and so we each took a best friend and I must say it was like magic! The owners of Sugar Plum embraced us with so much love and it was so fun seeing all my old friends. I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t miss doing the shows and it all would be just a happy memory but I have to admit that I missed everything about the entire package from the very minute when I walked in that door. I hadn’t done a show for ten years and it was kind of like withdrawal…. The smells, the energy, all drew me back in like an addict! My daughter excitedly talked me into doing one last show with her. So I set up my art studio again, this time in our guest room since my daughter had moved out and we now had two guest rooms to speak of. It was fun fixing up a new little place to create and for a while it felt as if the magic had come back. (Maybe someday I will write a book about how to have a successful art business including the dos and the don’ts about art shows and investments. I sure have learned enough to fill all the pages of at least one!)
A little fuzzy but you get the picture…
I made one last effort…but did it in a smaller version than before… Later, I heard that people still were looking for my larger holiday dolls so I probably should have stuck to what I knew best but didn’t have that kind of time so I tried something new. (Big mistake!) Once again my cards did well… but nothing as great as in the old days! I’d lost my following a decade earlier for the most part and I just wasn’t in a place to invest the time to build it back up again. I needed insurance and benefits and need to stick with my job for the time being. But it was a happy memory doing a show with my daughter, the once little toddler that had proudly showed off her bright red ears to anyone who would look.. the day she got her ears pierced and we had to go to Sugar Plum right afterwards, when she was three. It was so fun to go back with her again, and have them all remember her little pink ears and see her all grown up.
We did end up doing a Sugar Plum together a few years ago. It was so fun doing it with my baby! But it was a lot of work. And It really was my last show (I think) But it got her started doing shows while it made me realize that everything has a season… I was happy to pass the baton to my baby. And she has soared. She has done many shows since and has far surpassed me in her own Etsy shop! http://www.etsy.com/shop/thenakedbird
A Naked Bird of course!
She also has a blog here http://thenakedbird.wordpress.com She made me the cutest little Writing Mouse typing on her typewriter!
Sure… dub me the proud mama! I’ll take it! There is nothing better when your kids follow your footsteps. It seems as if I followed my mom and so it is kind of cool. And the funny thing is I knew my daughter was a great actress and writer but who knew she had such an imagination and was such an amazing artist?! But she went to LA to pursue acting and is well on her way so has also had to put away her brushes for now… But every now and then will get an order from her Etsy shop!
So Anyway… I traded in my art studio
for a writing studio
and never looked back… till today…
Today I really am fine just writing. I don’t miss the mess and the shows and the set up one little bit…. well maybe… a teensie weensie, tiny bit!
Just remember…. a paintbrush can paint magic…. as our words can become art to the ones who take the time to see their beauty!