Can I just say – What a fabulous opportunity! The Downtowner Gallery in Round Rock hosts the annual Austin Tinplate Trackers Train Show during the holiday season, and this year I got to have my artwork on display and for sale for thousands of spectators to enjoy! The “Deck the Walls with Artwork” exhibit was my first gallery exhibit and was quite the experience. I sold 4 out of 10 pieces, and had a few people reach out to me about custom orders after seeing my work on display. Each time I checked in with the gallery, I had to replenish my stock of business cards, which is always a good sign and a confidence booster! If you’re local, the Downtowner Gallery is an excellent resource for workshops, events, and exhibits.
Have art, will travel. Burnet is about an hour away from where I live, so this one was a bit of a trek. Between all of the structural/display items and inventory itself, we always take two vehicles (both SUVs) to my shows. Our first thought was, “is it worth the time and gas?” Well, about 20 minutes into setup, my immediate answer was “Hell yes!” Christmas on The Square is an annual event, and I’m glad I learned about it in time to participate for the first time. Well before the event was to start, there were people walking around the square and checking things out. I’ve never had so much traffic at my booth; it was truly non-stop, and I soaked up every minute of it. Overall, for both engagement and sales, this was a huge success! My husband and I were both able to shop the other booths and find some great last-minute Christmas gifts ourselves.
If you have the means to do so, don’t be afraid to travel a little bit for an event. Do some research, and don’t be afraid to ask the organizer what type of turnout they expect, etc. It was more than worth it, and I absolutely plan to attend again. By participating in this event, I was able to learn of the 37th Annual Bluebonnet Festival, a 3-day event that I will be attending in April 2020, which is said to bring in over 30,000 visitors. If you’re in Burnet or local enough, follow Burnet Chamber of Commerce to learn more about large annual events like these.
I am so grateful for the local arts community in Round Rock. The city itself, The Arts & Culture Department, Parks & Recreation Department, and The Downtowner Gallery do a wonderful job at helping emerging artists get their names out there. Between offering multiple events a year and even free artists pop ups every Spring and Fall, the opportunities are plentiful and beneficial for beginners and novices alike. I highly encourage anyone interested in the arts, local activities, or vending, to follow their social media and subscribe to newsletters to stay up to date on all the happenings.
Austin Arts Fair is hosted by Artly World, a nonprofit organization that provides arts & music programs and creative experiences for children, families, and communities in the Austin area. Prior to this event, a member of Artly World came out to meet me at the Round Rock Art Walk and did a short video interview about me and my work (another 371 steps outside of my comfort zone). I believe what they are doing is wonderful for our community and as an emerging artist, I am so grateful for it. They promoted my video and my work through their social media outlets, and even now, several months later, I see my work and photos being shared on their Instagram. Follow them, participate, contribute to their mission if you can. Arts & Music is so important, and I think striving to keep it prevalent in our communities and with our children is worth supporting.
The event itself was a nice change of pace because it was indoors. Not fighting against the elements for once was definitely a bonus. One of my favorite things, however, was that vendors were given the chance to set up an activity for children during the event. Since this was close to Christmas, I opted for a wood slice ornament painting activity. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I wouldn’t have been able to do a pouring class, so this was a great alternative, and families really seemed to enjoy it. Again, this was a great way to get to know some local individuals and plant some seeds about who I am and what I do.
Note my little sidekick who was along for the ride this day – She was a great helper setting up for the event, and of course didn’t complain about having some extra screen time when we were busy
The Downtown Round Rock Art Walk was set up in addition to the usual Artists Popups at Prete Plaza. Attendees could continue their stroll down Main Street to shop various booths on this absolutely gorgeous November day. My husband is my biggest supporter and I am beyond grateful to have his help throughout this entire journey.
At events like this, the location you’re assigned can always be hit or miss. It could make or break engagement and sales for you, if I’m being honest. But again, take the shot and gain the experience anyway. It’s not always about how much you sell. It’s about getting your name out there, engaging with your community and customers, and just enjoying the ride. I met a couple at this event that reached out to me after browsing my website, met me for a private showing of over 40 pieces, and purchased over 20 of them. They are now frequent customers and we are currently discussing a large commission piece.
While I’m typically the type of person who revels in deep conversations, I truly enjoy the small talk at these events. You have an opportunity to hear what others think of your work, what they are looking for and you can add value to their lives by offering tips and tricks of your trade. This builds relationships, which I believe is key to becoming successful as a maker.
This show was AH-MAZING. I was utterly terrified, if I’m being honest. The fact that it was held at Elysium in downtown Austin until 2:00a.m. was the least of my worries, though. I knew going into it that I was approximately 2,815 steps outside of my comfort zone. This particular show felt LEGIT. It was an art SHOW – not just another vendor booth at a festival. This required a specific selection of pieces and title cards to accompany them, which was a fair bit different, and challenging it its own way.The Pancakes & Booze Art Show is held in various cities all throughout the US, and I just happened upon their information right after the call for art deadline passed. I took a leap of faith and submitted my application anyway and did not expect to be accepted. Imagine my surprise when they immediately responded that they love my work and think it would be a great addition to the show.
This experience was truly like no other. At first I was nervous and self-conscious, but the energy in this place was invigorating. Attendees took the time to really engage with the artists, and I had some lengthy, meaningful conversations about some of my pieces. My first customer of the night was so enthralled with a particular black, red and gold piece. We talked about it for several minutes and he continued to browse the show, checking out that piece each time he passed by. On the third pass, he said “Okay, I have to have it. Let’s do it. I can’t get it out of my head and I need to own it before someone else does.” It meant so much to see someone get excited about my work, but also to have multiple people be interested in the process and take time to ask questions and listen. I sold several pieces that night and made many invaluable connections with other artists and individuals.
Even if you’re uncomfortable at first, I urge everyone to take a leap of faith and just go with the flow. The results may surprise you.
Sell some art AND play with furry friends? Count me in! Doghouse Drinkery & Dog Park in Round Rock hosted a cute little popup during their Halloween Paw Fest Fundraiser, which included a dog costume contest and donation drive for Williamson County Animal Shelter. It was a small event, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For me, my goal for the first year of this venture was to get as much experience with vendor shows as possible. If the cost to participate is low (or sometimes free), I encourage you to go for it! You will learn more each time you vend, and you will discover new and better ways to set up your booth. Plus, the more you set up and break down, the faster you will be at it. – Which can be beneficial for events that have a very specific window for setup and breakdown times. Don’t be afraid to sign up for even the small, lesser known events; you never know what kind of turnout there will be or what connections you will make.
Just three months into this venture of mine, I boldly signed up for my first ever vendor event! The July 4th Frontier Days Celebration is a signature event in Round Rock, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The Parks & Recreation Department does an amazing job of offering an opportunity for artists and makers of all kinds to participate in this event. The celebration itself includes, but is not limited to, carnival rides, pig races, live music, and of course fireworks! As a spectator, we have enjoyed this event for a few years with our young daughter; it is well organized and full of activities to last all day. From a vendor standpoint, this was an excellent “first run” for me to engage with the community and get a feel for what to expect from these types of events. I definitely recommend participating in this event and I look forward to signing up again this year!
Tips & Tricks from my first rodeo
- Bring extra everything. Not of your work, although backups are always good to have… But possibly more importantly – extra tape, zip ties, paper, extension cords, picture hangers, and business cards.
- Be prepared for wind! Thankfully my husband is like my own personal MacGyver and knew to be prepared for anything. He brought the hot glue gun, three kinds of tape, string, a hammer and nails, and enough zip ties to last a lifetime (or at least 8 vendor shows). We ended up securing every canvas to the grid panels to prevent damage from the wind. And yes, we DID end up needing the hot glue gun, too. 😉
- Less can definitely be more. While your first show can be exciting, and you may want the world to know all that you have to offer, it’s not a bad idea to scale back. Don’t put all of your product out at once; give them something new to look at when they take your business card and visit your website or social media pages. Also, when browsing through a space at an event like this, people don’t want to be overwhelmed. It’s hard to focus on and become interested in something when you feel over stimulated and are given too many options.