Why I don't do outdoor shows anymore
Its that time again, the time where people start inquiring about my show schedule and if I will be doing some of the outdoor shows and festivals in May. Unfortunately the answer is no. Outdoor shows in spring especially, in this region are something we no longer want to contend with. I hate to disappoint and it is nothing personal to the venues but for my business and the way we run things it is not conducive to being happy and comfortable in an outdoor environment. Outdoor vendors make it all look easy, I applaud them and their willingness to battle the elements but I've reached a point in my career where I don't have to do them. We prefer a more structured, indoor environment not beholden to Mother Nature. I am selling art, all prints are on paper and paper hates being outside.
Being outside poses a lot of problems for any vendor. It is 10x worse for someone with materials that are sensitive to the elements! Humidity, dirt, MUD, rain, extreme heat are ALL terrible for original art and prints and this region has those things in abundance especially in the spring. Everything is bagged but that doesn't stop condensation in extreme humidity resulting in piles of ruined prints. I stopped bringing original art to an outdoor show after one tent panel failed and soaked a watercolor, it went in the trash.
One show is especially known for mud. The weekend we vended was no exception 2 inches or more deep by the time load out happened. We had SO many things ruined by mud despite carpeting the entire 10x10 booth and setting things on tarps. The car had to be professionally cleaned some table cloths were completely ruined. I spent weeks bleaching tent walls to get the mud stains out, bleach scrub repeat, bleach scrub repeat. We had to hose off ALL the tables, displays, tarps, shoes you name it, it was CAKED in mud. This show also allows dogs. One of which took a hearty PISS all over my print rack, I had a stack of urine soaked prints no one paid for. They handed me ONE Kleenex and said oh this isn't my dog. After that dog "broke the seal" EVERY dog who entered my tent tried to pee in the same spot, the result 30 prints in the trash and a tent that reeked of dog piss. I got to sleep there for two nights. For those of you at home tallying that is about 300.00 in just dog piss damage. Extreme heat has happened as well. One show it crept up to 108 degrees, we both got sun stroke and almost ended up in the hospital even though we barely crept out of the tent.
Rainy days mean less revenue, they also mean more mud. We had someone slip and fall in front of our tent at a venue (even though we BEGGED them for hay three times) and threaten to sue us. It was not a good day all around. Pollen blows and coats everything, print bags, framed art all if it needs to be cleaned and wiped. Bringing me to point 2.
My partner is SERIOUSLY allergic to pollen, ragweed, plants and grasses. He suffered through 5 years of outdoor shows, four weekends out of the month with severe breathing issues, inability to sleep, hives, rashes and extreme pain. People want to drape him in greenery and make him a part of the festivities which is great if you aren't STUPID allergic to plants. May was like his private hell and eventually I said enough was enough. All of the pollen coated things are then brought into our home making the problem even worse and requiring a lot of work and care to remedy. His breathing wouldn't clear up until mid June. I can't do a show like this on my own and its just not fair to do this to him when I have reached a point in my career when I don't have to.
One of the reasons I can't do the show on my own is because we have experienced a HIGH volume of theft at outdoor shows. My first show at a venue a 300.00 print bin was stolen during load out despite having my name, address, phone number all over it. The last outdoor show we did (the final straw if you will) there was a storm, a fast and bad one. We were situated at an ANGLE on a hill rendering my tent a 10x10 kite. We of course let patrons shelter in it during the pouring rain. Despite 4 screw downs, weights and stakes we were literally hanging onto the top bars trying to keep it from blowing away. During this time the sheltering patrons proceeded to steal several original sculpted ornaments and other merchandise totaling over 200.00. I've never done an outdoor show where I wasn't stolen from despite having a two, sometimes 3 man crew. Unless I can pay for security, I am not doing this anymore. Yes we have had theft at other shows but not in the staggering volume of outdoor events.
Most of these events also encourage or require costumes, booth decor, etc etc. to make it more magical and while I am all for that its expensive. Here's something I bet you didn't think of tulle, is so pretty and fairy like but it TRAPS BUGS. I have had to throw out so much insect laden tulle it gives me nightmares. I also take meetings at shows and I don't feel comfortable banging out a licensing deal in a tutu. I'm a woman that paints pink happy things and am barely taken seriously as it is. I need to be in business attire or somethingat least suitable for that sort of thing. In costume I've had people yell at me or hand me trash because they thought I was staff and not a vendor. Its just not my thing anymore.
While the community at these things are outstanding and the people are BEYOND lovely and gracious I just can't participate in a working capacity. A lot of people see it as a reunion or summer camp where they get to catch up and play with their friends. I'm the odd duck that is there for work and to see my fans. For people that truly know me I'm all business 100% of the time at a show. This is how I eat. I don't have fun because I am stressing about the weather, sales, theft and mud. If I lived in a more predictable climate like San Diego I'd do outdoor way more often but here its just too changeable.
Every weekend there is an outdoor show we have offered free shipping to attendees who have missed us and we intend to do the same again this year. I am looking to book more indoor shows and I do have a meet n greet in Maryland MANY MANY times a year for people to pick up stuff for free and have the same experience at a show. I actually prefer smaller more intimate gatherings because I don't have to look over your shoulder while listening to you to keep an eye on my booth, I don't have to sort of dismiss you because there is a line and I can focus on YOU, your questions and get to know you as a person and not a face of many in a blur of days. I hope you all understand. I LOVE LOVE LOVE all of you. I just want to love you inside ;)