What fun I had as a vendor at the 2nd Annual Springfield, VT Steampunk Festival, Sept 23-25, 2016! The weekend was filled with festivities all located at the Hartness House Inn shown below:
Steampunk is defined in the dictionary as: "science fiction dealing with 19th-century societies dominated by historical or imagined steam-powered technology." I like to think of it as the Victorian age meets the technological future. H. G. Wells' Time Machine and War of the Worlds as well as Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea are good representations of steampunk literature.
The original owners of the Hartness House mansion were James Hartness (September 3, 1861 – February 2, 1934) and Lena Pond Hartness (August 28, 1865 – March 18, 1933). Mr. Hartness was an executive and governor of Vermont (1921-1923). He was a bit eccentric, with interests in aviation and astronomy. In 1910 he built the Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope, one of the first tracking telescopes in America. He built the telescope several yards away from the house and, because he didn't want to walk outside in winter to look through the telescope, he built an underground tunnel from the house to the telescope. This unique history of the Hartness House made it the perfect venue for this steampunk festival.
With approximately 30 vendors selling various steampunk style products, there was something for everyone at The Trader's Bazaar. Here are photos of me and my booth:
Here are photos of some of the other vendors:
AuraLynne makes exquisite Victorian-style hats and corseted outfits. I particularly loved the ensemble that she's modeling in this photo. The hat that I am sporting in my photos I purchased from AuraLynne last year. Her website is: www.auralynne.com.
Jess LeClair, from Adventure Awaits! is a true artist with an MFA. She designs fabulous and humorous steampunk-style cards such as these shown here. She also designs jewelry and etched wood boxes. Her website is: www.AdventureAwaitsMe.com.
My new friends, Marcel and Alison Dion, from Artistic Anachronism, make all sorts of Victorian-inspired jewelry, including these fabulous and authentic chatelaines. These are intended to hook onto a woman's pocket or belt at the waistline and often would have sewing necessities such as scissors, a thimble basket, needle holder, and magnifying glass. I am hoping to have one custom made by Alison! Their website is: www.ArtisticAnachronism.com.
Here are photos of customers and vendors enjoying themselves:
Aside from shopping, the weekend was filled with various fun events such as parlor games, absinthe tasting (a potent green aniseed-flavored liqueur, originally made with the shrub wormwood), a burlesque show, various musical bands, afternoon tea, steampunk-style board games, and talks on astronomy, how to create a costume, and Steampunk 101! Thanks to all the event coordinators (particularly Sabrina Smith), vendors, customers, volunteers and Hartness House Inn staff who helped to make this a really fun experience!
Some of you may have read my blog from May entitled:
My Recent New York City Marketing/Buying/Selling Adventure
where I explained that in marketing my assemblage art, I spoke with the store manager Lourdes Martinez-Baide from the exquisite gourmet chocolate shop, MarieBelle, in the SoHo area of New York City and pitched to her the idea of making some animals for sale in the shop from their lovely hot chocolate tins. Here is the unveiling of my first two dogs. I hope their customers like them so I have the opportunity to make more! And thank you so much Lourdes for giving me this wonderful opportunity!
Here is "Queen MarieBelle"
Here is "Pharoah MarieBelle"
I think they'll fit right in with the opulent décor. What do you think?
If you live near the city or get a chance for a visit, make sure to check out this fabulous chocolate shop and café. Here's their website and address:
484 Broome Street, NY, NY 10013, phone: 212-925-6999 X 1.
You may also order products online.
My husband, daughter and I had the privilege to attend the pre-opening celebration of the Museum of Whimsy (MOW) in Astoria, Oregon on June 24, 2016 and then the ribbon cutting ceremony on June 25, 2016. This is the most unique museum I've seen and it is filled with incredible "eye candy." I spent several hours admiring all of the wonderfully detailed items displayed on two floors of an architecturally significant and beautifully decorated historic bank. It is owned and curated by Trish Bright, a very talented woman with a knack for interior design and an eye for exquisite and unique antiques and artifacts as well as artists' one-of-a-kind creations.
Trish Bright collaborated with museum curators and artists around the world to create her whimsical museum filled with such wonders as antique and artist-made hand-beaded Native American bags and photo frames, African headdresses, and gorgeous flowers; large 3D paper wall circus and fairytale-inspired dioramas; a Victorian taxidermy miniature horse; a replica of a British canal boat with authentic folk-art hand-painted accessories; and many other delights too numerous to mention.
I feel incredibly honored to be represented in this museum, with 11 of my one-of-a-kind assemblage sculptures spread out amongst three different displays.
Museum of Whimsy, 1215 Duane Street, Astoria, Oregon, 97103, phone: 425-417-6512.
Open Friday through Monday, 11AM - 5PM, with a $10 admission charge. However, it is best to contact the museum directly to verify this information before visiting.
The Museum's website is: http://www.museumofwhimsy.com/
The Museum is on Instagram at: museumofwhimsyastoria
I hope you're able to make it to this museum and enjoy it as much as I did!
Photo of me outside the Museum on opening day, June 25, 2016.
My assemblage sculptures that are all part of a whimsical tea party table display:
Below is the Admiral Dewey Parade Display, in which 5 of my assemblage pieces are parade participants:
"Patriotic Pup," "The General," and "At the Zoo"
Below are my two cats, "Wilhelmina VandeMew" (stretching) and "Sakura" (sitting) who are relaxing by the arts and crafts tiled fireplace on the 2nd floor of the museum:
My husband and daughter enjoying the pre-opening reception of the museum June 24:
I just returned from a wonderful long weekend in NYC marketing myself as an artist, selling my creations at a juried art show in Greenwich Village, and buying more supplies at a flea market. I would like to share in this blog both the "good, the bad, and the ugly" of this experience.
The trip got off to a rocky start when, while driving on the highway, my husband had to stop suddenly at a road construction site and all our tables went flying off of our minivan! I was absolutely mortified!!! We were very shaken up and profoundly grateful that no one was hurt and that there were police officers right there to help us gather our tables and better secure them to the top of the minivan. Of course I ruminated about all the potential disastrous consequences. Lesson learned: secure items on the roof rack 10 times more than you even think is necessary!!! I'm sure in the future, we will always err on the side of being OVERLY cautious, even if it uses an inordinate amount of rope.
Once we arrived Thursday in the mid-afternoon and checked into The Washington Square Hotel (which I highly recommend as a delightful boutique hotel with art nouveau style), I wandered the streets of Greenwich Village and SoHo looking for stores or galleries that might be interested in my whimsical sculptures. I had been in this wonderful gourmet chocolate shop and tea room in SoHo called "MarieBelle" on a previous trip to New York. At that time, I had picked up some tins of hot chocolate and tea to enjoy at home and ultimately had used one of the tins to create a sculpture which I fittingly named, "MarieBelle." She is an elephant with her baby attached to her tail.
As I've described in my previous blog, "Part I: Learning to Market Myself as an Artist,"
I often "pound the pavement" with my two portfolio books that I created through Shutterfly in order to market myself to shop owners/gallery directors. So, I went into MarieBelle on this visit and asked for the store manager and met Lourdes Martinez-Baide, a delightful woman who willingly let me show her photos of my work and propose making some dogs for her shop to sell to potential customers. Ultimately we agreed that I would make a couple of dogs for her shop to display and see whether or not anyone expresses interest. I left MarieBelle with 4 beautiful empty tins and several photographs of the shop to inspire me to create girlie, feminine dogs with "bling" that will complement the elegant Victorian and Parisian décor. Here are photos of this sinfully delicious chocolate shop which is located at 484 Broome Street, New York, New York:
Hopefully I'll be able to post photos of my new creations some time in August, so stay tuned...
On Friday, per my request, I met with Stefanie Levinson, Director of Retail Services at the American Folk Art Museum, to "pitch" my idea for designing the museum's window display for this upcoming Christmas season. The museum is centrally located in Manhattan, right in the Lincoln Center area. Words cannot express how thrilled I am that she accepted my proposal. This is one of the most exciting things that has happened for me as an artist. To be able to decorate a NYC Christmas window and gain some exposure is both a challenge and an incredible honor. I hope that people will be pleased with the final result! While I don't want to give too much information away about the content of the window display, it will have something to do with childhood dreams. Here is a photo of the very tall but narrow window that I will be privileged to decorate. This photo is from last December featuring artist Mark May's wonderful robots:
Saturday was the one-day, rain or shine, outdoor Bedford, Barrow, Commerce Block Association Juried Fine Art and Fine Craft fair in the West Village. For the three days leading up to the show, I was very concerned about the weather, as it was forecast to pour from 2PM on. Also, I was told we could not set up until: (1) all the street sweepers had come through, and (2) any cars that needed to had been towed. Fortunately, the street sweepers came through early and minimal cars needed towing and, best of all, the rain held off until near the end of the fair. I had a good showing despite the gray, cloudy day with the constant threat of rain. The crowds came in spurts. Sometimes my booth was empty, and sometimes it was so full of people that no one else would fit! Overall people were enthusiastic about my pieces and I sold several dogs and a Day of the Dead 3D collage. In addition to meeting a lot of great customers, my sister in-law and her family came to visit from Pleasantville, NY and my parents' friends from grad school days came all the way out from Queens. I hadn't seen them in 24 years! It's always so nice to be supported by friends and family.
When it came to breaking down the booth, that is when the problems started. It had begun to rain in earnest and my husband went off to find the minivan. He did not return for an hour because he got lost amongst the many windy streets of the neighborhood and his cell phone, into which he'd put the address of his parking spot, had died. Needless to say, we were absolutely exhausted by the time we finally packed up the car and drove back to the hotel at 9 PM! I always seem to be the last vendor to leave. Here are some photos from the fair:
Sunday I delivered a few pieces to the American Folk Art Gift Shop and then, while driving around trying to find parking, we stumbled upon the Green Flea Market, which I had heard about on the HGTV show, "Flea Market Flip" hosted by Lara Spencer. My husband dropped me off while he went to find parking and as I entered the market, I couldn't believe my luck. There was Lara Spencer and her camera crew filming the last portion of the show right before my eyes! This is a show that involves two teams of two that compete against each other to repurpose items and resell them for a profit. The team that makes the most profit wins a $5000 prize. Lara was interviewing the two teams about their experience and then announced the winning team of the episode. I was thrilled! I managed to get a photo of Lara with the competitors and then one of Lara and me before she scooted off to watch her son play lacrosse (yes, she has a normal life, too!).
Apparently while I was enjoying myself at the flea market, which included purchasing supplies for my art sculptures, my poor husband who was trying to park our minivan with tables on top was being sent away from several parking garages because the height of the van was too great. In fact, he pulled into one garage entrance and it wasn't until he was at the check-in window that he was told his car could not fit, so he had to back up and as he did so, a police vehicle behind him also had to back up and ended up in a fender bender with yet a third vehicle! Fortunately the officer did not hold my husband accountable since it really wasn't his fault, but my husband sure felt guilty!
So there you have it, the "good, the bad and the ugly." Many exciting things happened on the expedition and some exhausting complications. New York City is a vibrant, bustling, and exhilarating city, but it can be very complicated to try to navigate with a minivan and a carload of crafts!
Yesterday I was a vendor at the Waltham, Massachusetts "Watch City Festival," an outdoors steampunk fair that included craft and vintage vendors, entertainers, musicians, and a costume parade! I met a lot of very enthusiastic people, despite the chilly overcast and at times drizzly weather. I dressed up in steampunk-themed garb and very proudly wore my great great grandfather's original Waltham, MA gold pocket watch from the 1890s. Here are some photos from the festival. Enjoy!
Here I am with my booth:
Here are photos of my great, great grandfather's "American Waltham Watch Company" 1890s pocket watch and an antique lithograph of the factory from which it came:
Here are some of the entertainers and other vendors:
And here are photos of the enthusiastic attendees:
If you did not happen to see my previous blog about the festival BEFORE my participation, which defines the steampunk genre and tells about why Waltham, MA is called "The Watch City," here is the link to it:
Ever since Trish Bright, creator/designer/and owner of the newly forming Museum of Whimsy in Astoria, Oregon purchased three of my Southwestern style Cowboy and Native American assemblage pieces for her museum in August 2015, I have been eagerly anticipating the opening of her museum! She and her husband Walter purchased the historic American Renaissance style Bank of Astoria back in 2005 and renovated it in grand style, creating a wonderful special occasion space, with a ballroom for functions and a "banker's suite" for overnight guests. Now it is being transformed again into this wonderful museum, which celebrates its opening day on Saturday, June 25, 2016. It is situated on 12th and Duane Streets in the downtown of Astoria, the Northern most town on the Oregon coast. It is about 1 hour and 50 minutes from downtown Portland, OR.
More Photos of the Exquisite Interior of the Newly Forming Museum of Whimsy
Here are the three pieces that Trish first bought from me for her Museum of Whimsy:
These are the other 8 pieces that she purchased from me over the past few months, all of which will be part of her permanent museum displays:
My husband, 16-year-old daughter and I have now planned a trip out to tour the Pacific Northwest for June/July in order to be able to attend the opening of this museum. I cannot wait to meet Trish Bright and her family and to see her lovely museum. Of course I am especially excited to see how she's integrated my pieces into her museum which will be filled with art from artists around the world as well as fabulous antiques and artifacts that highlight the history of the Astoria area. Of course after I've attended the museum opening and returned home, I will blog again about my experience!
Here is an article published April 27 in the Daily Astorian newspaper about the opening of the museum:
If you're anywhere near the area, I hope you can stop by! Some of my cats and dogs will be available for sale in the small gift shop.
It's "full steam ahead" as I "gear up" for the upcoming Watch City Steampunk Festival held on the Waltham, Massachusetts Town Common Saturday, May 7, 10AM-5PM (Raindate: Sunday, May 8). Yes, the puns were intended. This should be a really fun event with "everything Steampunk," including performers, musicians, costumed attendees and food and art/craft vendors (including me)! Waltham is commonly referred to as the Watch City because of its association with the watch industry. The Waltham Watch Company opened its factory in 1854 and was the first company to make watches on an assembly line. It won the gold medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and produced over 35 million watches, clocks and instruments before it closed in 1957. This will be a day long celebration of Steampunk, which, according to Wikipedia, "is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West," in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk may, therefore, be described as neo-Victorian." I always like to think of H. G. Well's Time Machine or War of the Worlds, as well as recent movies of Sherlock Holmes and Mad Max.
Here are examples of my "steampunk" style pieces that I have made, many of which will be for sale at this wonderful festival. Hope to see you there! www.watchcityfestival.com
Today I finished this patriotic piece which I call, "United We Stand." On January 14, 1870, the first recorded use of a donkey to represent the Democratic Party appeared in Harper’s Weekly and was drawn by political illustrator Thomas Nast. I am not trying to make a statement of support of either the Democratic or the Republican Party with this piece. I am trying to make a statement that, as was the case during George Washington's Presidency, we as a country of disparate individuals should be standing united. We should be striving towards equality and individuality, peace and solidarity. I feel this is a particularly important message during this 2016 election year when the two major political parties, Democratic and Republican, are the most dichotomized on issues and fundamental beliefs that I have ever witnessed during my lifetime.
This donkey is made with entirely repurposed parts. His head is porcelain and was the lid to a Jim Bean liquor decanter. His body is an antique George Washington Cut Plug tobacco tin. He is sitting up on his rump with his legs in the air. His legs are made from vintage oil lamp wick holders and glass lids. His tail is an old lightbulb. He is adorned with various American symbols such as the flag and the Bald Eagle. At his neck is a gorgeous and heavy brass embossed Eagle belt buckle. His hat is assembled from a vintage oil lamp wick cage, metal cap, safety pin with red, white and blue beads forming an image of the American flag, and a vintage U.S. pin. His ear is embellished with a vintage brass button with an embossed Eagle. A chain attaches the ear piece to the hat.
I had a lot of fun making this whimsical fellow who measures 12"H X 8.5"W X 9"D. He can be found for sale in my Etsy shop, ShenVintageCreations under the section, "Steampunk."
As you likely already know, I am a clinical psychologist and an artist. But what you may not know is I am an avid genealogist and as a result I extensively interviewed each of my parents about their childhood memories, descriptions of their relatives, and what life was like socially, economically and politically during their formative years. One of the things my father elaborated upon was his fond memories of the traveling circus coming to Palo Alto, California during the 1930s and 1940s. This would have been the Depression era, so any kind of special entertainment was probably scarce and something eagerly anticipated. He reminisced about excitedly awaiting the train pulling into the station and witnessing the circus trainers unloading the various exotic animals. These would have been animals that he and his family had never had an opportunity to see before-- such as lions, tigers, bears, and elephants. He described the efforts at setting up the massive tents overnight in preparation for the 2-day extravaganza. He would attend the performance the next day with his mother, father, and sister and so enjoyed seeing the antics of the clowns, the animal tricks, and the acrobats. In a world without T.V., this was completely novel, mind-blowing entertainment! The cliché idea of "running away with the circus" was indeed a fantasy of many children of that era. The lifestyle appeared so glamorous!! Because it was such a special event, literally the entire town would show up for the performances. It was something that brought people in the community together.
My own circus experiences stemmed from several different sources. I remember watching Chinese acrobats in San Francisco and being enthralled. Later I would attend Tufts University where Jumbo, Barnum's circus elephant, was the mascot. Jumbo had an ill-fated end to his life in 1885--he was struck by a train while being loaded into his palace car. His taxidermied body was actually donated to Tufts by Barnum, a trustee of the University, and that is how he became the illustrious University mascot. Poor Jumbo was to suffer yet another tragedy when the building in which he was displayed burned down in 1975! While I certainly had seen Barnum and Bailey 3 Ring Circus and Big Apple Circus over the years, I was most enamored of the Cirque du Soleil performances. The costuming, incredible acrobatic tricks and feats of strength and athleticism, and the haunting music all remind me of my father's stories of the circus of yesteryear.
I am very nostalgic and sentimental. I love stories and experiences like these. I also have an affinity for antique toys. These factors have influenced my interest in creating one-of-a-kind circus-inspired assemblage pieces that are reminiscent of nursery toys of the Victorian era (which often were on wheels). Of course my pieces are not meant as toys, but rather as sculptures to be enjoyed as art.
My first two circus pieces were: (1) "Fifi's Trick Poodles," in which the clown "Fifi" (yes, a play on the fact that poodles are stereotypically named Fifi, not clowns), is riding a circus horse and having her trick poodles jump through a hoop, and (2) "Le Cirque des Animeaux," in which a clown with her trick kittens is riding a circus German Shepherd dog. I am a bit of a Francophile as well, so I often like to give my pieces a French-inspired name (this one translated means, "Circus of Animals.") I also felt this clown looked very Pierrot in style.
My next piece was even more elaborate and larger. It reflects an acrobat doing tricks on a pole while riding her horse around the circus ring. It is called, "The Greatest Show on Earth." When I bought the antique doll from an antiques dealer, she loved my work, but was a bit chagrined to think that I might dismantle the doll and use her head and limbs for parts to create one of my assemblage dolls. So, out of respect for her, I decided to use the doll as a whole and that launched my design.
People seemed to enjoy my circus pieces, so it encouraged me to make more. I began to focus on elephants and came up with these. You might recognize the elephant heads as coming from Jim Bean liquor decanters. When I name my pieces, I try to use an aspect of the tin or the theme or the size or the type of animal. So, here is "Pagliacci e Biscotti," with Pagliacci meaning "clown" in Italian with the elephant's name, "Biscotti," coming from the tin used as her body. "Prodigious Pachyderm" is a play on the huge size of the elephant piece. "Ella Fitzhugh" was inspired by "Ella" being short for elephant., and "Lady VanderHeinzer" is a play on her Heinz Pearl's tin body.
Often I design my pieces as I go along, so it is impossible to take "before" and "after" photos. So, I purposely designed a few pieces keeping in mind the intention to do before and after shots in order to bring clarity to what pieces I use in my design and how they come together to present a cohesive whole. My first example of these before and after shots are "Corky the Circus Elephant." He gets his name from his bottle cap style necklace with a vintage image of a clown with the word "Corky" underneath.
Photos of the completed "Corky," showing the front, back and a detail of the head.
Here are before and after photos of my circus assemblage, "Cheval de Cirque," French for "Circus Horse." She is riding around the ring with two clowns who are taking turns doing tricks upon a pedestal.
And here are before and after photos of my assemblage, "Amaretti's Circus Dogs." Amaretti is the name of the clown, inspired again by the tin body of the horse. As in "Fifi's Trick Poodles," these dogs are awaiting their turn to jump through the hoop.
A different kind of elephant head was used for this piece, "Balancing Act," in which dogs are taking turns doing tricks on the balancing beam while the clowns play music. The elephant head is from an Ezra Brooks vintage liquor decanter and is more realistic in appearance than the Jim Bean ones. It includes quite impressive tusks.
Finally, two more horse pieces, one elaborate and one more simple. "Bozo's Trick Monkey" shows Bozo the clown directing his circus monkey who is sitting on an elevated platform. The horse is decked out in typical circus attire, with lots of lace and bows and an elaborate feather plume. "Prancing Pony" is simply an elegant pony with a horse-themed Cadbury's chocolate tin body.
So, as you can see, I use a combination of various recycled/found object parts and some new parts to create these pieces. I rely on liquor decanter heads, salt and pepper shakers, vintage figurines, vintage or new tins, vintage castors or new pulley wheels by Tim Holtz, antique wood spools (which make great Elephant feet), jewelry, brass embossed pieces, various hardware and industrial parts, antique buttons, lace and ribbon. The banners are made of cardstock and decorated with glass glitter edging. I hope I have captured the "feel" and nostalgia of the vintage circus. Thanks for reading my blog! If interested in keeping in touch with my blogs, please sign up for my e-mail and newsletter list on my home page.
Now that I have been in business as an artist for nearly two years, I decided that I have learned enough at this point to possibly pass on some "words of wisdom" about marketing oneself as an artist. By no means am I suggesting I am an expert at marketing--I still have tons to learn. But, I thought I would pass on the strategies that have helped me thus far. I call this blog, "Part I," because I realized it was getting very long and that maybe I should break up my suggestions into two or more parts! Here are my current suggestions:
(1) Make a product about which you are passionate. It was a very slow rise to selling in my Etsy shop. I remember another Etsy seller indicating to me that I might have to make more of what the general public wants, rather than what I like. I have come to totally disagree with that statement. I think that if you don't really enjoy what you make, then it will show in your product and in your sales attitude. I think your product must be an emotional outpouring of your personal creativity. If you are passionate enough about it, others will become passionate too. There will always be people for whom your product is not a good fit and that's okay!
(2) Experiment a lot with how to fasten things together so that they are permanently adhered. Obviously, the better quality and more staying power your product will have, the more marketable it will be. I learned through experimentation that often glue alone is not enough. I have come to screw, nut, bolt, wire and even solder my pieces together whenever possible. The next best product is using a metal epoxy. It is like a clay putty that you blend together until it looks all one color, and then you can form it at the juncture of two pieces and it will set and harden within 20 minutes. I always use this to adhere my china doll heads to their bodies. This is particularly good because their necks are often broken and I can fill in the space that is left as a result. Also, I often use it on the feet of my creatures. My last resort, but one that I often still have to use, is E6000 glue, a very NASTY smelling industrial strength glue that even says on the bottle, "causes liver cancer" (oh my!). I had some failings with that glue at the beginning and have now learned, "always follow the instructions!!!!" Yes, I would be too lazy to adhere it to the two different surfaces, wait 3 minutes and then press together. This really is essential to form a permanent bond. Also, you must let it set for at least 24 hours.
(3) Believe in yourself!! I cannot stress this enough. I create a product that is quite quirky, sometimes creepy or macabre, and sometimes cute and whimsical. Most people agree that it is "unique" or "different." I have found, while selling face-to-face at craft fairs, that some people absolutely love my work and can't praise it enough. Others just glance at my booth and walk away. I cannot let that discourage me. You couldn't possibly please everybody no matter what you make. The key is to love your own creations and when someone shows interest, help them to love them as well! I tend to sell best when I am present because I can explain the materials I used, how I came up with the idea or the design of the piece, and finally how I came to name it. Bringing each piece to life is what draws people in. Even if they don't buy this time, they may in the future. I always bring an e-mail sign-up sheet to every fair and ask if they'd like to be notified of my progress and any future fairs. I also write out a sales slip for each person with their name and contact information so that I can use that later to market to them.
(4) Create an artist support group. I am profoundly lucky to be in one for the past 1 1/2 years. We have 6 members, but often only 4 are present. We meet once per month in the evenings, taking turns hosting in one of our homes. Of course we provide wine and snacks and good companionship. Every meeting we each have a chance to reveal the ups and downs of the past month and then hone in on what we want to accomplish by the next meeting. This holds us each accountable and helps motivate us to continually progress. We learn so much from each other, such as how to use social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs) to market ourselves and expose the general public to our work. We are each other's cheerleaders, providing much needed support and encouragement. As a group, we have also hosted a couple of smaller artisan fairs, inviting other artists in and getting the word out to the public (via Facebook, Craig's List, signage, mailing postcards, etc.). We also started a Facebook page called, "local Artists 119" (119 is a major road running through Groton and Pepperell, two country towns where we all live, 45 miles Northwest of Boston).
(5) Figure out your target audience and find ways to gain access to them. This has been a bit of a hit or miss process for me, but I'm getting more and more savvy with it. When I first started out, I opened up a couple of small booths in antiques stores and signed up for some local fairs. Because I live in a fairly country setting in conservative New England and I make mostly one-of-a-kind, higher-priced quirky sculptural art, this was not a good fit for me. I remember leaving a couple of fairs literally having sold only a couple of Christmas cone ornaments! What I had to keep reminding myself, though, was that it was an invaluable learning experience. I learned how to quickly set up my booth and take it down, how to interact with potential customers, and what kind of pieces drew more people in. I also met other artist vendors who gave me tips on possible shows that would work for me. When I was at Brimfield Antiques Fair in May 2015, I brought some of my pieces over to the Vintage Bazaar booth and showed them directly to the juror and event planner for that show, Devon Allen. She loved my pieces and told me I was accepted! So, I use every opportunity at shows to market myself for future events. I have showed at two Vintage Bazaars now and at one of them I met Cari Cucksey from Cash & Cari fame on HGTV. She loved my work so much that she invited me to sell at her 2-month long Holly, Michigan pop-up store, RePurpose! What an honor! I always thought that NYC would be a perfect match for my work, since New Yorkers tend to like one-of-a-kind art and many like quirky, whimsical pieces, not to mention their likelihood of a decent disposable income! So, I've honed in on getting my foot in the door there as much as possible, despite initially having no contacts, friends, or family there and having to drive 5 hours each way. So far, the pay off has been incredible. My first step was to try to get into one of the BWAC Gallery juried shows in Brooklyn. I was turned down on my first attempt with the show, "Recycle," but persevered and was accepted into the show, "Really Affordable Art." in October, 2015. I used the fact that I was going to be in the NYC area for the gallery opening to contact Stefanie Levinson, the buyer at The American Folk Art Museum Gift Shop in Lincoln Square. Although I didn't hear from Stefanie before I was in NYC, she did call me the day I returned home and said she loved my work! She bought some pieces wholesale for her shop (which sold fairly quickly) and then I was invited to sell at the Fab Folk Fest inside the museum in December 2015. That was my absolute best show yet, selling 15 of my assemblage pieces! Now I have an ongoing relationship with the gift shop which buys a few of my items every few months. The latest exciting news for me was I was just accepted into a juried show, The 23rd Annual Bedford, Barrow, & Commerce Block Association Fine Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday, May 21, 2016. This will be a full day fair in Greenwich Village, NYC!
(6) Create a photographic portfolio with which you can easily walk around a town or city so that if you come across a shop or a gallery that you think might like your work, you can show them photos. If you can have some actual pieces in the car just in case, that's a good idea, too. This strategy is how I got into my first two galleries, K. Newby Gallery in Tubac, Arizona and The Pink Door Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. At first I was showing people photos on my I-Phone, but found that if their vision was anything like mine, the photos were too difficult to see. So eventually I purchased an I-Pad, which helped, but it still took too long to swipe through different photos when I might be dealing with a very busy person who wasn't expecting me and didn't really want to devote the time. So, one of my best marketing tools has become two Shutterfly hardcover books that I created, entitled "The Assemblage Art of Shenna Shepard." Each one shows photos of all assemblage sculptures I made within a one-year period. I've included different angles of each piece, the character name, and a description of the materials used and dimensions. Here are photos from those books:
Those books have gotten my foot in the door a couple of times. When you are essentially going "door to door," the owner wants to tell you to e-mail them--that they don't currently have time. Of course with e-mails, you don't always get a response. However, on two occasions, I had this book in my hand and as they were indicating they were too busy, they stopped mid-sentence and said something like, "Oooh, what is that?" Because they could see the photos on the fronts of the books, it immediately caught their attention. This is how I got my work into the Muse's Gallery in Concord, Massachusetts. I also use these books now at my fairs to show customers my body of work.
(7) Use the Internet in every way possible!!! I cannot stress this enough. My business has been growing steadily in the past few months since I created a website which links to my Etsy shop, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts. My website serves as my own gallery in which I am able to show both pieces currently for sale and ones that have already sold. I recently created a page for New Pieces, where I can showcase all that I've made in the past month. This allows return visitors and collectors to just check that page periodically. I set up a Facebook page (Shenna's Vintage Creations) an Instagram page (shennasvintagecreations) a LinkedIn page (Shenna Shepard) and a Pinterest page (Shenna Shepard). At present, I am primarily focusing on building my following on Facebook and Instagram. With Facebook, pick groups to belong to that have common interests and make sure to post on their pages as well. For example, periodically I post my circus pieces on the Vintage Circus Facebook page, and most recently I've posted on the Assemblage Collage Artists Facebook page. I posted my cat, Wilhelmina VandeMew, on their page 2 days ago and already have 102 likes and 12 nice comments! Most importantly, it led a lot of new people to my website, Etsy shop and Instagram! Social media is an essential way to gain exposure and it's free! On Instagram, there are also some opportunities to showcase your work on other's marketing sites that have a tremendous following. For example, I contacted craftcurate through Instagram and they liked my work so they featured my cat, Wilhelmina VandeMew, 4 days ago and I got 511 likes! And, again, it directed many new people to my website, Etsy shop and Instagram accounts.
I hope the information I've shared is helpful. My next blog will focus in depth on some of my circus pieces.
I am 59 years old, a wife of 27 years, a mother of a wonderful and independent 20-year-old daughter, a clinical psychologist who treats adults in private practice, and last, but definitely not least, an artist. Whew! That was a mouth full. My passion is creating one-of-a-kind whimsical sculptural animals, dolls, and cake toppers (with a little multi-media collage thrown in for good measure). I hope you enjoy my creations as much as I enjoy making them!