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Sunday, March 5

suddenly I'm obi-wan kenobi

It seems like only a year ago that I was picking the brain of a coworker in my government job about how to make money at craft fairs. He and his wife were "on the circuit" and they made stuff for work events and since I had tried every craft known to man, I figured maybe this could be a small revenue stream for me. I was already plotting how to take a very early retirement from a job I really hated.

They were true "crafters" and I remember they were making the "hot" items for that year: Country and Victorian. Jerry kept track of trends and pandered to them. I wouldn't call him an artist necessarily but he was a careful and creative crafter. He took me under his wing.

When you start in this business you have no idea how it works. I mean, how do you get to do a show? Who do you call?  Oh lordy, I was naive. He helped me find a few "easy" show to start with and taught me how to apply. I was actually accepted to 3 shows before I had made one sellable item. It was crazy. But it was fun. That was almost 20 years ago now. Wow.

So, anyway, now we are hardened show artists. I still learn something every show from my fellow artists, but we are comfortable in our routines and we know what to do!  2 years ago a show I do added an "annex" for new artists and students. That is where I met Joshua. He is a college kid with a delightful spirit and warmth. I was drawn to him because he works in paper and he works with it in a way I wish I could. He follows his instinct and his muse and makes lovely, whimsical works of art. I am more likely to choose designs and work based on whether it will sell and while Joshua is also hoping to make a profit, his spirit is clean.:) We have become friends and while I am sort of a mentor for him now, he is an inspiration for me. It's a great partnership. We will be doing some shows together this year.

Another friend called me the other day and asked to meet for coffee. She wanted to talk about  being a working artist. She is a talented watercolorist and also a quilter.  We met and I told her everything I knew. I advised that she make a choice between her 2  arts and stick with it. She had a lot of good questions. This is one smart lady. I told her, on a personal note, to make sure her partner is supportive because she is going to need him and he is going to need patience. Not everyone has a Russell. I am so blessed in that area. She brought me a small book with anecdotes on creative entrepreneurship. It was a wonderful coffee date. She is going to "shadow" us at a few shows to get a feel for it and she is happy to pitch in when needed. This will be fun.

I guess I am now the seasoned veteran, importing what wisdom I have to beginners. That's pretty cool. The show circuits need new blood. Notice the average age of the artists you see in their little white tents. Mostly baby boomers. The festival artist pool is aging out and there isn't a lot of new blood to step up. Technology may be the final death knell. If you can sell online, why bother with the hassle of setting up shop on street corners? I love it, but this generation may not. I guess we'll see.

Meanwhile, I will drag my aging butt back out there. I will absorb the energy of the festivals and reconnect with my show friends and eat street food and get inspired and meet wonderful people with whom I will have interesting conversations. And I will always remember my mentor, Jerry, now passed, and feel grateful that he took me by the hand and led me into this wonderful world. Thanks, buddy.