Since launching my handmade handbag and jewelry business, MONOLISA in November 2017 I have learned a tremendous amount as a roadshow artist - let's just say I am still learning. If you read my article in September 2021 "Lessons I learned Selling at Outdoor Art Shows & Festivals'' this article is an updated version of that regarding my latest lessons and new equipment I am excited to share with readers.
I wish I only knew this when I started as a Roadshow Artist....
Roadshow Artists - Rise and Shine
For those who aren't familiar with the term roadshow artist, it is an artist who travels to art shows and festivals featuring their body of art work. As a roadshow artist there are many requirements - creating your art pieces, managing events, marketing, logistics coordinator, getting up early, many miles of driving, lifting heavy bins and lots of endurance to name a few. Some roadshow artists travel around the country while others like me stay within a specific mile range and state. Before I started doing art shows and festivals I never thought much about the luxury of sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. That has changed since traveling to and from shows throughout California most weekends. My mornings start very early, typically 4 am and then off to a show by 5 am. A few days before I make sure, well my husband does that the vehicle has a full tank of gas and the tires look good. The next morning entails packing your work and making sure you have everything. There is no room for forgetting things. Then off to the show for the unknown.
Picture 2 - MONOLISA Booth - the ground is often uneven
Art Shows & Festivals - It is All About The Equipment
It really is all about the equipment when setting up and taking down your popup shop. My first set of equipment was useless. It didn't get the job done of carting my items carefully and wasted too much of my time. First things first for those artists just starting on the road, invest in a durable dolly. My first dolly was a Cosco 12312ABL1E 3-in-1 assist with multiple features. It was a great dolly at getting the job done, but I wanted more in a dolly - longer framed telescope to carry more items with a user friendly collapsing feature. Over the last year I have been searching for the dolly of my dreams, but just couldn't find the right one. Then I saw it at an indoor show.
One of my vendor friends had a new dolly and it was love at first sight. I must admit, I was jealous. My friend loaded all her equipment in one load and then hid the dolly under the table - so she had it with her at all times. The last thing you want to do after a show is run to your vehicle and get the dolly - waste of time. The dream dolly is the RocknRoller Multi-Cart R18RT "Mega Plus". After laying my eyes on this beauty I simply had to purchase one. It weighs 37 pounds and the powder-coated steel tube frame goes from 42-60 inches in length with a load capacity of 700 pounds. It collapses easily and doesn't take too much room up in my van. Let me just say it is worth every penny. People frequently stop me at shows asking me about my incredibly long dolly.
Using three tables - 4 foot and two 6 foot
Another must have are multiple fold-up tables with a handles. Who wants to carry a full 4-8 foot table that doesn't collapse - not me and good luck with that. I use a 4 foot, 6 foot and 8 foot tables for shows. Don't make the mistake I did and get a table that doesn't fold in half. Every show I am literally wresting with my 4 foot table - using my back to hold up one leg while adjusting the other leg. Not a great way to start or end a show. Indoor table equipment for me is different than outdoor shows. For outdoors shows, I typically use all three size tables while indoors I may only use one or two tables. A bonus, the collapsing feature is user friendly, storage is a breeze and the tables are not too heavy.
As I said in my previous blog article invest in strong weights - it is so important it! There is another weight accessory recommendation I am excited to share. Ditch that velcro to hold your weights down to your popup tent. Bottom line the velcro is problematic - it sticks to clothing, gets tangled and is a breading ground for dirt. There is an alternative. Thanks to my husband who found these amazing gear ties by Nite Ize (as seen in picture 2) . They are rubber twist ties, ideal for stabilizing tent weights. The product is inexpensive and a certainly a game changer for me. I don't miss battling with that velcro at 6 am in the morning while trying to stabilize weights onto my popup tent.
At the Yountville Sip and Stroll Show
Art Shows & Festivals - Mother Nature Is Against You
Mother Nature can't wait to blow you and your booth away. She is just waiting for your arrival. Mother Nature delivers destruction to road show artist's all of the time and does it when you least expect it. I am amazed at the construction Mother Nature continues to deliver to roadshow artist’s year after year. When you are in your popup tent everything wants to blow away and will if isn't stable. Even stabilizing your items is not full proof. Stabilizing items for handbags and jewelry is different from a painter who has hanging pieces of art and often uses panels. Each artist has different types of needs for stabilizing their art work. A couple of routine procedures I do - clamp mirrors down and if the wind is getting really bad I put certain pieces away. Having a table against a side panel with minimal items helps stabilize my tent. As the wind is smashing against that table it is harder for the tent to move. One big lesson I recently learned at an outdoor show is having an end booth spot may not be so ideal on a windy day. If it is a windy day your stand-alone tent is all by itself getting the wind beat out of it. Not a fun experience.
Allergies beware when participating at outdoor art shows and festivals. I learned my lesson a few years back when I woke up to aching ears filled with fluid after a two day show at the Clayton Art and Wine Festival in my hometown. That uncomfortable experience certainly taught me a lesson and has saved me many trips to the doctors. Take that allergy medication the night before and day of a show along with bringing medications with you - don't forget the Kleenex. The wind, pollen and dust are a guarantee to make you sneeze and deliver a runny nose. Wearing polarized sunglasses saves my eyes from the bright sun and helps keep dust away from my eyes. If the wind and pollen are really bad another alternative is wearing a face mask. While doing outdoor shows during mask mandates my allergies were non existent, so the mask really did the job. Another tip, baby wipes are a life safer for cleaning your hands, wiping your tablecloth, blowing your nose, tackling customer dirty hands and wiping up a mess. I carry a pack in my backpack and have an extra set next to my wrapping station.
Art Shows & Festivals - The Unknown
Each show delivers its own uniqueness, unexpected and the lurking thieves. Yes, thieves. Be prepared. It has happened to me and recently. Someone stole a ring and I am lucky it was only one. There are thieves at shows and they come in all forms - single ready to mingle, adorable happy kids, super friendly mom or curious dad and the fragile senior with sweet grandchildren. There is no one description of a thief, but simply a person lurking the scene ready to steal pieces from your booth - especially jewelry. Lock-up those small valuables and keep your eyes on everyone especially during conversations. The other alternative is a camera, which I am currently looking into. More updates about cameras in my future blog articles.
Loud Noises Beware - art shows and festivals are not for the noise sensitive folks. Be prepared for ultra loud music, barking dogs, the joyful over-served, excited kids screaming and the occasional couple arguments. Watch and observe. You will be amazed what goes on at these shows. Another tip bring throat lozenges. By the end of a show your throat may be hurting from all the customer communications and your voice competing with all that music.
Art Shows & Festivals - My Guidelines
After setting up and taking down my tent almost 200 times I have learned a lot. There are reminders and guidelines I continue following. One thing is for certain, vendors want to get in and out. While many people want to get their vehicles to load out, I wait. I dolly some of my items to my van avoiding those long car lines and people fighting their way to get in. A nice walk and a little exercise after a show is a good thing. I am a believer in trying a show at least once, what do I have to lose? Each show delivers new experiences, connecting with people and marketing my work. I also follow this rule, some shows deserve a second chance. No two shows are alike, therefore sometimes doing a show a second or third time can be a charm - it has happened to me more than once. For all shows I focus on showing up, doing the work and remember the rewards will come - be patient. Another reminder I tell myself, accepting discomfort and the unknown. It is all part of the job. To help reduce the unexpected or unknown I implement systems, procedures and to do checklists which ultimately reduces my anxiety - this process continues to be refined. Well, I am off to a show this weekend in Sacramento, so I better get going. Artists be safe and good luck traveling to all those shows!
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This blog post is written by California handbag and jewelry designer, Lisa Ramos. Take a peak at Lisa's latest project supporting California Artists - GiftsFromArtists.com.
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