Art Fair Artists

The world of art is controlled by art critics and galleries and to some minor extent academia.  Galleries by and large choose their stable from those that have been in an arena where they have received recognition from academia.  The galleries then have control of who gets exposure, followed by publicity and therefore a chance of recognition and credibility, of legitimacy and perceived authenticity.   Art critics peruse the world of galleries  and literally make the names. Now this would be all well and good, providing the galleries and critics had a corner on judging the validity of art. I have a more than fair understanding of art history.  I understand the value of much of modern art that the uneducated eye tends to dismiss.  However I also understand that the art world is plagued by politics and greed and therefore can be blind, so to speak. Making names is important to the structure of their game, but the truth is a big sticker price doesn’t necessarily equate with quality.

The art world of galleries and critics and big-ticket collectors look down upon the art fair artist.  Their easy conclusion is that those art-makers aren’t important artists, rather some kind of second-rate wannabe’s.

We meet artists often on the street that are refreshing, creative and genuine.  Case in point:  This weekend we’re at the Carefree (AZ) Fine Art and Wine Festival and have had the pleasure of meeting numerous artists that are creating works of art that have depth and vision. Their work will enhance the patrons’ lives who purchase their art.  There’s the guy from LA, via Uganda, with incredible serigraphs made from his batiks.  They are expressive, imbued with narrative meaning.  Talk to him, ask him about his work and you will be carried away with the story he tells in his images. How wonderful they are to behold.

Then there’s the guy with the character driven, original paintings, which are incredibly imaginative and skillfully executed–two skeletons dancing together, smoke flowing from his pistol.

Or the glass-blowers trained in Italy, with the intricately patterned colors weaving through their vessels.

Not every booth is filled with wondrous art, to be sure.  The discriminating eye can weed out the more amateurish work, but don’t dismiss the lot or you will miss out. Art is for everyone.  There is spirit imbued in the hand-made.  Let it speak to you. Take it home and live with it.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Ever-Changing World

Financially, we excelled in the art fair world, that is until the economy was crushed. The ironic part is that as discretionary income has shrunk, our work has expanded in scope and depth.  A mind that is quick to judge might mistakenly dismiss our objects for the wall as merely decorative.  Those that lead with their instincts respond to the stable symbolism of the geometry, the delicious color, the depth of the texture.  These are metaphors for life.  Our art is loved by many, but in this upside down world we’ve now encountered, there are fewer that can enjoy living with it.  That’s a shame.  Art should be for everyone.

Last Night

We were lucky enough to have our art featured at Growing Media’s Business Booster last night at their studio in the Illinois Centre Star Mall, in our hometown of Marion, IL.  Great evening!  Wonderful conversation, food and networking.  It was preceded by a video shoot which will be added to our web-site in the future.  We’re old dogs having to learn new tricks–21st century marketing called branding.   Our thanks to our friends Angie Wyatt and Julie Ingram of The Spiel television program and their super man-behind the scenes Jason Pinkston!  We look forward to sharing our art in our new gallery space inside their studio to interested patrons, by appointment only. And if you tune into The Spiel with Angie & Julie, Saturday mornings, 11 AM on Fox 23 you just might catch a glimpse of some of our art on their walls.

How Twitch Began

The last 2 years of my mom’s life were bizarre.  After her death in 2006, I was so distracted with the events that lead up to it that it became increasingly difficult to concentrate in the studio or to think of anything other than her and the family. Along with that sudden inability to focus on my creative life, I was finding it increasingly difficult to get juried into the most profitable art fairs.   We had never been into networking and we found out late in the game just how the politics of art fairs work. Robin was still able to get into many of those coveted shows, but the sales suddenly became sparse.  For example, 5 of Robin’s 8 shows in 2009 were zeroes.  Concurrently, I had a series of mishaps, involving a sprained ankle, then shoulder surgery, then a broken elbow and sprained wrist, followed by 2 dislocated fingers.  In the middle of this the stock market collapsed and then by the summer of 2009  Robin’s work was even more difficult to sell.  Our stocks had lost much of their value so I didn’t want to cash in our retirement funds to live on until the economy recovered which we were certain would happen shortly.   Without income we had to do something. We had zero debt of any kind so we didn’t have difficulty getting a mortgage on our home.  Under all of these circumstances it’s no wonder we made several poor decisions.

We decided to forego the unpredictability of getting in juried art fairs and instead opt for making garden sculpture to show in other venues where we wouldn’t have to deal with the politics.  We hired a studio assistant, invested in lots of new tools and began designing new work in a new material for us–concrete.  The designs were very Asian inspired, with a contemporary twist.  Not a single piece ever got finished……yet.

I ended up panicking and selling our stocks for fear the market would go even lower, so we took a considerable loss.  Then we wasted $9000 hiring an art rep from California.  We made it very clear on the phone and in writing what we wanted her to do for us, but she ignored that and cashed our checks each month.  We were forced to give up that venture and let our studio assistant go.

While sitting in the heat at the Ann Arbor Original show in 2011 showing Robin’s metal work to a non-existent audience, I suggested to him that we collaborate on a whole new body of work and I showed him some sketches.  He liked the idea I suggested, which was to use his minimal designs, my lush color and textures on wood. The idea was to create a body of work that we could sell at the art fairs that was lighter weight and so easier for us to exhibit and that would be in a more affordable price range. We decided to name this new collaboration TWITCH! –definition, a rapid movement.  Robin took a workshop and then began experimenting with enameling which he added to our designs.  The red orb on this piece is the enamel on copper.  red spirals 2

These designs are all about meditation, balance and tranquility, which we need in our life and nevermore than at that time.

What became problematic was that the expenses for doing the shows continued to increase, attendance went way down at virtually all shows, the public purchased a whole lot less because of their fears of the economy and in order to compete we had to keep our prices so low that we needed to do production work to be viable.  And therein lies a big problem, because Robin and I have never really had the temperament for large-scale production work, preferring to work in one-of-a-kind originals.  If we were staying at home to market our work we could lower our prices. Having always depended on the art fairs for sales, it’s hard to make that switch.

We are in the process of finding the right professionals to advise us on branding and marketing.  In reality this has come about just as it should have.  We were both late bloomers and we’re primed to make the best work of our lives.

The Dead End Tour

The Dead End Tour begins January 1, 2014.

Robin and I have supported ourselves these past 20 years from the sales of our creations at art fairs around the nation.  Since the recession began in 2008, it’s become apparent that the art fairs aren’t going to recover anytime soon.  The writing is on the wall.  Just as we have re-invented ourselves several times before, we know that it is time to find a new way of marketing our work. You’ve just not had a really exhausting year until you’ve made work in the studio,   photographed each piece, made price tags and inventory sheets, written patrons, driven cross-country in the cab of a loud box van, set-up your booth in the elements, and then sat in the wind or hot sun for several days, all the while shelling out money for fuel, motels, restaurant food and don’t forget the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on the booth fee, and then waited for someone to get motivated to buy one of your objects.   And then do it again 15 more times that year.   My shoulder is too old for that.  And more often than not these days, we make just barely enough to keep us going.  That’s over for us.

We know what we need in order to be successful at this time.  It’s not fresh ideas–we’ve got plenty.  It’s not even an improved economy–that’s just not happening in the very near future.  We need new ways of reaching our patrons.  And we need the means to afford professional advice and assistance.  Every business large or small requires these things to be successful.  So very much of our precious time and energy that should go into our design and studio work is instead stolen away on tasks that could and should be accomplished by others.

The Dead-End Tour begins now–it is our last few outdoor art fairs.  We are searching out new ways of reaching our patrons.  We’ve already seeing big changes.  Join us on our journey to re-invent ourselves.