As a member of the Stanwood Camano Art Guild, I opened my exhibit at the Art at the Schoolhouse Show and Sale. This show is scheduled to coincide with the Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mt Vernon, Washington. Our show is held at Christianson's Nursery in the Meadow School. The school was originally built in 1888 on the Lee Farm, next to the Skagit River. It is the oldest remaining one room schoolhouse in Northwest Washington and remains largely unchanged. The venue isn't large, but for the month of April the schoolhouse has been transformed into a gallery for over 20 artists to display a variety of arts and crafts.
This is the first show of this kind that I've participated in and it's been a challenging learning experience. I joined the Art Guild to meet other artists and to get the opportunity to show my photography on a regular basis. This show is exactly the experience I was looking for. The group is friendly and collegial and it has been a joy to participate in their many activities.
Getting ready for the show was a process. Up until this point I had only displayed two or three framed pieces at any given time. For this show, I needed to create enough work to fill forty-eight square feet of display space, and enough small work to stock my retail area.
The first step in the process was to make a rough calculation of just how many images and what sizes I could display in this space. I went low-tech for this problem, creating a display space on graph paper and cutting squares of paper to correspond to the various frames I knew I wanted to use. Ultimately I decided on a variety of framed images from 16 x 20 down to 8 X10, with the majority in the 11 x 14 size. I also have a few small canvas prints that I knew I wanted to include in this collection. As it turns out, this just fills the display area while still letting each image shine. The next major task was deciding which images to print and frame. I was happy that this turned out to be a difficult task in that I had a number of images I wanted to display, but ultimately I selected images that were my favorite, but also that I thought might sell well at this type of an art show. In particular, knowing the audience that would be visiting the gallery, I emphasized images from previous years tulip crops and other rural Skagit Valley scenes.
Of course, at this show I also needed to have smaller and less expensive items available for purchase. For me, that meant printing and mounting images in a variety of forms. I knew I wanted to make additional prints of the photos I had framed, but to offer them unframed for a lower cost; plus I could include many more images than what I had framed. For this task I turned to Documounts.com, an art supply store I've used in the past. Documents offers a huge variety of framing and mounting supplies, but I came for the "market ready mat kits". These kits include pre-cut mats, backing boards and clear envelopes. This was perfect for mounting my prints. You can't beat the convenience of the complete kits and the price left me room to offer the images at a reasonable price and still earn something on my sales. I also wanted to offer photo cards for easy and inexpensive purchase. For this I turned to Amazon and found the perfect supplies in Starthmore Photo Mount Greeting Cards. With these mounts I was able to turn standard 4x6 prints into really attractive greeting cards. I was even able to run the cards through my printer at home to add my name and contact information to the back of each card. It was a lot of work, but I was able to produce a good variety and quantity of high-quality images, framed, matted and mounted on cards, to display and offer for sale.
The final task, one I hadn't even really considered, was developing a way to display the unframed work, and to market myself to visiters to the show. Of course, I've seen a lot of these types of displays in the past so I had an idea what I needed, but being a member of the art guild gave me a chance to really pay attention to what other artists were doing and learn from them. While I want to convey a professional appearance and have something sturdy and functional, I wanted to get into the show without an even bigger financial commitment. Luckily, I was able to find a couple really nice wire baskets perfect for the task at a local thrift store. Another trip to Amazon found a perfect frame to display my biographical and contact information as well as hold business cards for customers to take home. At this point the little details started falling in place, as I designed and printed pricing labels, and contact information labels to attach to the mats and cards. Details, details. It was a lot of work, but I got it done and I'm really proud of the display.
The show opened April 6 and runs through the 29th. As a member of guild I will work the cash register a few days during the show. It should be really interesting to see how this all goes and I will report my experiences here.