Many of you have begun following my art as a result of my participation in the American Craft Council show in Atlanta. For the past two years I have exhibited and have GREATLY enjoyed the people, selling, and the experiences around the show. I applied again this year, and was not accepted. Yes, I too was shocked and that rejection really threw me for a loop. After two very successful years exhibiting, I thought my chances were very good for being accepted again.
Why wasn’t I accepted?
That has been one of the biggest questions plaguing me since I received the news. The challenge all artists face when applying to shows is that there is no feedback when you are not accepted. No reason, no suggestions for improvement, nothing. Just a standard ‘ding’ letter and an encouragement to apply again next year. The judges for each year are different, so I am reminded that not being accepted means the judges on this year’s panel did not want my work in the show – why will always remain a mystery. So I have to look inside my art and see where I can improve, grow, and market what I do better. Without feedback I find myself walking into a cloud of fog hoping that I don’t fall into any trenches or ram into any poles. You can either stand there in fear and wait for the fog to clear, or keep moving forward – slowly – and know that something better is out there waiting for you to find it.
What do I do now?
Another thought that squats inside my brain. What do I do now that the major show I plan for each Spring is not going to happen. Huh!?! What now? I can either wallow in the rejection or get back on the horse and find another path to ride. When I was not accepted into the Southern Highland Craft Guild I used one of my favorite Japanese proverbs…and here it applies again…. Fall down seven times, stand up eight!
So it’s time to get back up one more time and find another path. This time the path seems a bit more daunting. I have only a couple shows next year (fer sure) and lots of time on my hand. What to do now becomes a much longer term question, and it makes me question my skills, talent, and the appeal of my art….gulp! It’s that time in my art career to either sit and pout (which I have done – thank God for ice cream and cable television!) or get moving.
Who can help me get moving?
Good question. I find myself in new territory here. Only a couple small shows next year and several applications in the hopper, with no response expected until November. The good news is that we have the North Georgia Art Ramble on December 8 & 9…here’s the website again…. (http://ngaartramble.com/) so that gives me a lot to do through the end of the year. But what about all that time in 2013? Here are a couple of steps I have already taken…
Step 1: Find other shows in the Southeast and apply (if the applications are still available) and make a note of which ones I want to check out to apply for next time. Having this opening in my show calendar gives me the opportunity to check out places, shows, locations that I might not have considered before as I was too busy.
Step 2: I have begun researching wholesale shows – where they are, how to do them , and how to apply. An artist I met in planning the ramble has only done wholesale for the past twenty-five years. She doesn’t do retail shows because she doesn’t need to. She is represented in over 200 galleries across the country and has been a great resource for tips in getting started selling wholesale. (If you remember, I have been approached by shops and galleries at several shows in the past and didn’t know how to proceed!) I found the two top attended craft/gift shows in the U.S. and am looking into traveling to see what they are like from the artist’s perspective. Special note – the booth fee for a wholesale show is ten times (yes, that is TEN TIMES) that of a retail show, so if you do it, you had better be serious! My new friend gave me a CD on merchandising and booth sales, so I am listening to it as I drive to and from my corporate job…
Step 3: Time to turn up the radio…that’s right. Turn up the radio. Crank those motivating tunes and get the creative juices flowing. I have at least 15-20 ideas swimming around my head that need to get on paper; there’s no time like the present. My studio is full of projects in process, empty mats and quote books full of sketched out ideas…all that is needed now is time and sweat…and more tunes!
Step 4: In exhibiting in the ACC show for the past two years, I have made several high level connections within the organization and the Board of Directors. I contacted them to let them know I was not accepted for 2013, but would apply again next year. I didn’t want them to look for my booth and think I did not apply. These contacts were surprised that I was not accepted, and encouraged my to try again. Not the most fun of email conversations, but I think it was necessary to keep my contacts up on my show status AND I let them know I would be back…and hoped to see them at the show as a patron the next year. You never know when a contact will be able to help you in the future. The time to build your roof is when the sun is shining…
Step 5: I signed up and attended a calligraphy class. I spent last weekend going back to my calligraphy roots and re-learned the basics of italic lettering. To be honest, it was a hard class – like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube! I have stylized my writing to my preferences and creative whims, so going back to the basics was a great challenge. I had forgotten how ‘perfect’ lettering is such a part of a calligrapher’s skill. Good news is I learned a few things and was reminded of important foundational standards, picked up a couple neat tools, and couple ‘tricks’ for italic lettering. I made a couple new contacts and had a chance to focus on what I want to do with lettering moving forward.
Overall, this rejection prompted a time of change and reflection for me. It reminds me of one of my pieces that sold out at my last show. The saying was – Faith is the bird that sings in the darkness before the dawn. So while it may seem foggy and dark right now, I am going to be that bird that sings out my song until the sun shines again. Time to get busy and keep moving forward. Stay tuned for I am sure that new and exciting art adventures are just around the corner.