This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I was up late last night packing for a trip. The first grandchild in our family is getting married in Chicago, and I will be there for Joe. (I am his Aunt You, as he had issues with L’s when he was young.)
As always, there’s something in the process that reminds me of my art biz. In fact, it turns out traveling is very much like preparing for a show.
Of course, some shows require travel plans, too. Then your fun is doubled!
There are the booking details. I line up my air tickets and my hotel reservation. For a show, I make sure I filled out the application well before the deadline. How many images of my work do they need? Did I remember to include a check for the application fee?
There’s the prep time. A list helps, of course, but since events are never exactly the same, there are additions and subtractions. The weather has to be considered—is it supposed to rain this weekend? Should I pack a sweater, or extra sun block? I’ve learned I never actually use as many clothes as I pack. But I can’t help it—I like to be prepared for everything! That’s why my booth list includes problem-solving tools like Velcro straps, black photographer’s tape and a black Sharpie marker. Shims, lots of shims.
There are important details for travel (did I pack all my medications?) and shows (do I have enough connectors for my ProPanels??). But there are also plenty of details I don’t have to agonize over. The hotel will probably have an iron and ironing board. If I forget a screwdriver for the show, a booth neighbor will probably have one I can borrow. And even if I forget a connector, I did remember the extra Velcro straps!
There are promises to keep. I’m bringing a collection of jewelry pieces for my sisters and sisters-in-law, old and new. For a show, I remember the custom pieces a customer ordered ahead of time. And new work for those who bought something last year.
There’s self-care: Ear plugs for the plane, and for sleeping. My favorite perfume. At a show, that means a big thermos of ice water, an energy bar or two. Cute shoes that are also comfy.
Time seems to grow in importance. For travel, there are planes to catch, taxis or bus schedules to contemplate. Should I bring a watch? Or rely on me remembering to charge my phone every day? For a show, there are set-up times and show hours.
And money. I need cash for quick purchases, vending machines, tips for taxi drivers and hotel maids. For shows, for some reason, I always forget about bringing cash to make change for those first few sales. I run around the night before, making small purchases at little corner stores to garner as many 1’s, 5’s and 10’s as I can. Fortunately, this issue wanes as more and more of my customers use checks, credit and debit cards for their purchases.
So what did I forget?
I forgot to have fun.
I used to be an anxious traveler, too worried and stressed out to really enjoy the journey. Until 9/11, that is.
That year, we flew to Paris ten days after the twin towers fell. It was a hard trip in many ways. We weren’t even sure if we’d be allowed to fly. (Fortunately, British Airways resumed flights before domestic airlines did.)
But in those bleak days after the attack, I found it strangely comforting to be with my husband and kids, sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris, drinking my café au lait and watching the world go by. My poor husband was a mess, worrying that war would break out while we were far from home. But I thought, “We’re all together, we have credit cards, we’re in Paris.“
I relaxed. I embraced my loved ones. I soaked in the sunshine, I went with the flow. I ate chocolate croissants. I was happy.
Now, how many years did it take me to realize you also have to enjoy the show?
Yep, it gets hard when it’s hot, or windy, when my back aches and when sales are slow.
But more and more, I try to relax. I embrace my customers, exchanging hugs as they appear, year after year, to see what wonders I’ve made in the months in between. I soak in the sunshine. I go with the flow. I eat my energy bar.
I remember why I’m here, at this show.
And I’m happy.