Indiana Arts Commission 2018 On-Ramp Weekend

New & Improved

My fantastic experience with the On-Ramp program and fellowship!

Let's sell something!

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend Art in the Park in Elmhurst, IL. Notice that I said “attend”, not work. It was quite a treat to simply enjoy the experience without the usual pressure of having to make money! 

As I was wandering around the area, saying  “hi” to a handful of fellow artists and getting a feel for the event, I took note of the different selling styles. Selling has been a topic ping-ponging through my head lately. You see, I’ve been working with the business advisors at SCORE and across the board, they are brilliant, seasoned salespeople. They have years of experience and it just seems to come naturally! 

They’ve really challenged me to think about my selling process – where I’m strong and where I could use some help. So as I analyze my own style, I’ve been thinking about other artists I know and how they approach selling. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve found – 

The Mysterious One. Have you ever walked into a booth at an art fair and you can’t even find the artist? They’re hiding behind a panel or wrapped up in something else entirely. This style doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. But I feel like these folks can still sell really well! Shoppers like the mystery, the allure, and dare I say, “aloofness” of that type of artist. 

The Friendly One. I feel like I firmly fall into this category. I like people! So, I do well connecting with them. We’re buds! I would happily ask them to get a cup of coffee (or tea, in my case). But, when it comes down to it, I’m not brilliant at sealing the deal. At the end of the day, these are the artists you look forward to seeing next year at the same event. You may not buy from them, but you’re excited to see them! 

The Determined One. This is the artist who tells you the special features, asks pointed questions, and tries to engage every person who walks past. I feel like these folks are laser-focused, goal-driven, and usually intimidatingly intense. But, if they don’t scare you off, they are typically brilliant at identifying what you need and showing you a solution – convincing you to buy! 

The Absent One. This is a special category for the artists lucky enough to have a gregarious partner who handles the selling portion of the show. They might speak up when asked a technical question. But for the most part they sit back, allowing the non-artist to take center stage and sell the crap out of their unique gems. Lucky ducks! 

So, the goal for my upcoming shows is to enhance my strengths and develop a strategy for the weaknesses, all while happily weaving along! I’ll let you know how it goes…

What is your selling style? Any brilliant selling tips to recommend? 

Handwoven handbag
The magic of selling!

The birth of an idea…

This past week, I’ve been tackling a lovely, colorful custom project using a client’s deceased husband’s neckties! I’m transforming them into fabric that we will then cut into handbags the family can enjoy. I love these types of projects! It is such an honor to be trusted with such personal items – remembrances of someone long gone.

So, while I was working away, my mind took a little trip down memory lane to the very first time I did anything with neckties, or any recycled material for that matter. And here’s my quaint little story!

Once upon a time (I don’t know the year, but I’m sure it was longer ago that I think since time gets away from me so quickly!), I was in a group called the Creativity Continuum. This was a set of ladies who all met once a month at the TLD Design Center in Westmont, IL with the purpose of supporting and stretching ourselves as artists. We did all sorts of fun, crazy activities meant to make you think, challenge you to be brave, and mostly trigger the need to keep creating!

Well, each year, we would put on a small exhibit to show what we have been working on and for a couple of years, we decided to give the exhibit a theme. One of those years, we settled on the theme of “A Woman’s Wardrobe”. Now, there were no other restrictions beyond the theme. You could take that as literally or philosophically as you wanted to. So that very broad topic, combined with the fact that each of us worked in different mediums and possessed very different strengths, always guaranteed a wildly diverse and fascinating collection!

While I was mulling over the theme, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to do a play on stereotypical gender roles. Now, keep in mind that this was LONG before it was commonplace to discuss gender identities at the kitchen table. I was aiming for something much more simplistic than that. So, I settled on the fact that I wanted to create an item that was very feminine, woven with very masculine materials. And when it all came together, I had a pencil skirt constructed using hand-woven fabric made of men’s neckties!

The end result was clunky and stiff and you couldn’t really walk in it (never mind that I couldn’t fit into it now by a long shot even if I wanted to!). But, I remember marveling at how unique the fabric was! Blending all those patterns and colors together gave it a completely different look from anything I could achieve using traditional yarns! And it wasn’t until a few years after that that I connected the dots and started using recycled materials to make fabric for handbags. But, it is so wonderful to look back through my history to ponder the seemingly random, wonderful starting point for an idea I really love!

So, here’s to pencil skirts, the Creativity Continuum, and the family members who gave me their neckties knowing I was going to chop them up into who knows what! Thank you!!!  necktie-pencil-skirtimg_1715

Just take a “weft” at the light…

Weaving humor is not always great… you are welcome to groan…

A view from inside the belly...
A view from inside the belly…

So, we’ve left the browns and reds, and are not heading into the oranges and yellows! Nice, sunny, cheery colors! My brother would approve, considering he’s in favor of all shades of orange! He would wear glow-in-the-dark orange frequently, if only his corporate gig would allow it!

The orange phase...
The orange phase…
Multiple yarns in the weft
Multiple yarns in the weft

These days, we call the yarns in the loom the warp yarns. And, we call the yarns in the shuttle, the weft yarns. Way back when, weavers would call the weft yarns, the “woof”. In a similar train of thought, the shafts that move up and down in the loom used to be referred to as “harnesses”. I suppose that’s what happens when you have an art form that is a trillion years old!

Running through the shed
Running through the shed
Yum... just, yum...
Yum… just, yum…

The process of weaving can be very relaxing – meditative almost. There are plenty of moments during the set-up that I have to be completely focused. But, at this stage, it’s awesome to just watch the colors blend together and let the mind wander…

Coming around the bend
Coming around the bend
Ah, sweet progress!
Ah, sweet progress!

I guess for someone who’s not a weaver, the constant clanging of the shafts might be loud. The metal heddles sliding along the shafts creates a bit of noise! There are other types of heddles that are quieter, I’m sure. But, the truth is, I don’t hear it anymore! I just slide up the volume on the tv (2) notches and I’m good to go!

Shafts are always in motion
Shafts are always in motion
Profile shot!
Profile shot!

Weaving is a brilliant mix of realism and magic, structure and creativity, left and right. When folks ask me about being a weaver and all the time or detail that goes into it, I typically respond with, “Well, you have to be the right kind of crazy!” But, I think that’s true for any artist developing their craft. It takes lots of passion to carry you through hours of detailed work that leads you to something new and exhilarating! So, a big cheers for all the artists out there! We’ll all be crazy together!

And p.s., I’m almost done with this one! Next week, I’ll cut it off! Talk to you soon…

Run 10 Weaving 77