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Baby's First Art Festival; or Suffolk Earth and Arts Festival was INCREDIBLE.

April 23, 2018

Good morning everyone! I hope there are a few new readers now! Comments will be enabled today, so please drop in and say hi!

I want to talk about the wonderful Earth Day weekend I had. I had my first full sized booth at an art festival this weekend-Suffolk Earth and Arts Festival. And wow, what an experience! There is so much to learn when it comes to boothing like this. I had a table at a handmade festival last year, but it wasn’t quite the same vibe, and I didn’t have a full-sized space.

To begin with, Suffolk Earth and Arts was so generous with the space they gave. I got a ten-foot by ten-foot space, which meant I had to bite the bullet and buy my canopy tent! I had been holding off, knowing I would eventually need to get one, but it’s a decent investment, so I waited. This festival was the perfect opportunity for me, so off I went to Amazon and got my canopy tent. I’m not being sponsored by Amazon, (hey, Amazon, opportunity knocking!) but I will say that the Amazon basics line has a really decently priced canopy tent for less than $100, so that’s what I went with. Preparing for something like this seems to be a process best spread out over time, if you don’t want to blow your bank account out. I’ve been collecting interesting baskets and table display items for months now, building up a stock for different situations. Thrift stores are a great place to look, and I’ve been picking up small racks, like ones you can store dishes on, to display prints and small paintings, for less than $1.

More important than the display, at least to me, is having lots of cool artwork to show, talk about, and *hopefully* sell. In the past, during my undergrad and even a lot of the time during graduate school, I felt sometimes like I was in a drought in terms of inspiration. And on top of that, I struggle with the idea of forcing artwork out with the plan to sell it. That just doesn’t feel good, or authentic, to me at all. I have been going through The Artist’s Way, as I mentioned a few posts ago, and working to release myself from the anxiety I’ve attached to the creative process for so long. My good friend from school, Adrean Clark (an incredible ASL Deaf artist and comic maker) and I have been working on a daily sketchbook practice for over a year now, and this project has really helped with the process of clearing artist blocks and overcoming fear. (More on that project, known as #Comicpaw, in an upcoming post!) So, thankfully, I have been creating A LOT of artwork, and was able to get it all together, packaged, and ready for the festival with less excessive worry than usual.

The festival took place on Saturday, the 22nd, and mercifully, Virginia’s moody Mother Nature provided a stunning day. The sun was shining, the sky was brilliant blue, and it was that lovely not-too-hot but not-chilly that embodies Spring so beautifully. The location was in Suffolk, of course, which is a rural area of Hampton Roads. There was a big meadow nearby, and a pine forest. I can’t think of a more perfect Earth Day setting. When I arrived, not only was I loving the locale, but I was floored by how well organized but simultaneously chill the event was. The staff were friendly, cheerful, helpful; no one was uptight. Everything was so well planned, too. There weren’t assigned spaces, but rather color coded spots. Essentially, I think, depending upon what type of vendor you were, you got assigned a color, and were told to choose a space marked with a cone of that color. This was great because no two similar vendors were side by side, so there was variety and it didn’t feel like anyone was overshadowing or competing.

 

 

Set up went well-I was very nervous because despite scrolling Pinterest for hours for booth inspiration, I still wasn’t quite sure how it would all come together. At a few points, I had to stop and remind myself to breathe, and not get overwhelmed. A couple of nice guys waiting on another vendor helped me get my canopy set up. (Note to self, practice these things before the big day!)

When the festival opened, everything was in place, and the day flew by. Across from me was a family who has a goat farm and makes goats’ milk soaps and other products. They brought three baby goats with them, and I got to enjoy watching them head-butt each other and make adorable bleating sounds throughout the day. I had a blast talking to people about my process and seeing all of the positive reactions to my work. This was an event that felt like a tight knit community, more than anything.

 

The staff came by and checked on everyone all throughout the day, and the atmosphere was one of joy and celebration. One of my close friends of many years, Deanna Strother, was also boothing for her first time, down the way from me with her poured paint pieces, and getting to see her throughout the day added to the sense of community that was already deeply present in the atmosphere of the entire event. There was live music, and you know how sometimes at festivals, the music is so loud you have to shout, no matter how far away they are? That wasn’t the case here at all. The music volume was appropriate so that it could be enjoyed but also didn’t rattle the fillings out of your teeth. And the bands were good. FOX and the BEAR was hands down the best one, an “indie alternative folk sister duo,” as one article describes them, and they’re local to the area. There were also lots of plants for sale, and if you know me, you know I am obsessed with plants. It’s both sad and fortunate that I was by myself and couldn’t go buy every single one. Everything about this festival was just such a positive experience.

On top of just being at such a wonderful event, I had a very successful day, personally and artistically. I was able to sit and bask in the sun and work on watercolors in front of my booth (forgot to bring sunscreen though. Ouch. Note to self: don’t do that again!) and I got to chat with so many different people about my artwork and my process. I met several cool artists, and got to pet many cute dogs. I sold TWENTY-EIGHT items, which just floored me, and felt the energy of people responding to the bright colors and joyous spirit in my pieces. I am deeply grateful for the conversations and am riding on a wave of inspiration from the reactions people had to my work. I debuted the original watercolor buttons that I’ve been making, and they’re already almost gone, and I sold out of several prints. I can barely wrap my head around it still.

At the end of the day, one of the staff members (I’m sorry I can’t remember names, but every single one was wonderful) helped me fold up my canopy. I packed my car and made sure I didn’t leave a speck of trash, and headed out, sunburnt and happy. I hope that I am allowed to vend there again next year, because wow, it was awesome. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone in Hampton Roads-if you’re an artist or maker, you should definitely check this festival out, and if you like visiting festivals, this one is a can’t miss.

So, what cool experiences with festivals have you had? Did you go to Suffolk Earth and Arts this weekend? Let me know what you think in the comments below. My monthly newsletter will be going out this weekend, and I’ll be giving a first look at the watercolors I did at the festival, and sharing a timelapse video of working on some other things, as well, so sign up!

A quick reminder that today is the last day of my launch-week sale on Etsy; 10% off at checkout with the code you’ll get for subscribing to my newsletter. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week!

 

***Artists mentioned: Adrean Clark can be found at @adreanaline on Instagram, and Deanna Strother’s beautiful work can be found at Fluid Arts by Deanna on Facebook.****

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