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Art Show Season Again!
Art Show Season Again!Healthy Green Artists
by Janet Chui
In the northern hemisphere, the weather is starting to warm up, and for most of us, this also means we're again headed into the season of long vacations, art-and-craft fairs and "skiffy" (science-fiction and fantasy) convention art shows! Time to air out our luggage, make sure we have plenty of business cards, inventory and all the equipment we need for our art-selling set-ups. Whether you're just hanging art on a panel at a con or sitting at your own sales table for a couple of days, it's better to be over-prepared than not, and there are plenty of ways to be green about it!
You're probably selling prints, if you're a 2-dimensional artist; and in many ways, there's limited wiggle room in how to be more "green" in this area. Soy-based inks are probably out of reach for most of us, and we've got our favorite papers to make prints on (more points if they've got lots of post-consumer recycled content) but the fact remains we use paper, and we're trying to sell it as well! To shrink our carbon footprint, it then makes sense to minimize our paper use and wastage outside of our actual products as much as possible... and for me, that means using scrap paper, misprints and even the back of bills as business cards, freebies, sketching paper, note paper and mailing list sign-up sheets. (You can never have too much spare paper around you at sales tables...)
Backing Board & Picture Mats
Cutting one's own picture mats can be a huge money saver if you know how, but it's not for everyone... cutting mats can be quite time-consuming. But if you sell your prints with backing boards, consider still using acid-free matboards for support, instead of foamcore boards as backing. Matboards frequently have recycled paper and rag content, are biodegradable and safer compared to expanded polystyrene (the foam in foamcore). In fact, imperfect pieces of matboard from either the discount pile at the art supply store, or better yet, from the creative re-use centers, make great (and cheap) backing boards.
These are always optional, but they can command better prices for your art pieces. Just having at least one or two framed artworks around your display can make your work look more professional (and worth it!). Creative reuse centers, thrift stores and flea markets are excellent places to find affordable picture frames. Most just need a bit of cleaning to bring them up to scratch; even slightly damaged or aged ones may work; elbow grease can be applied to make them new again, or manually "aged" even more for that chic "distressed" look. (Hint: find some sandpaper and/or craft paint.)
Finding and using second hand frames is not hard... and one does not necessarily have to find a frame whose size fits the artwork perfectly. As long as the frame you find is larger than the artwork or print you're framing (and as long as the frame suits the artwork), one can use the frame... the right picture mat will make the art fit. You can cut your own mat if you have the equipment, or have one custom cut for you. To do your own framing with second hand frames, be prepared to read some library books on how framing is professionally done, and then copy (and apply) the research. Some frames you'll find won't need you to anything except to pop your own artwork into it. Brilliant!
I love miscellany. In fact, miscellany is my favorite part of setting up tables at cons and craft fairs, because it's the bits and bobs around your table that help make it more visually interesting, professional looking, eye-catching, and secure (this last bit may be important when you're outdoors where the breezes blow). Miscellany is what makes your display shiny. Things I class under miscellany:
Bags & Packaging
This may be another thing that artists can't run from... putting their products into clear polypropylene bags. These bags do protect artwork, but that said, I try to minimize their use by combining several items into one propylene sleeve if I'm manning a sales table and the customer is buying more than one item. Nowadays, being green is becoming more mainstream all the time; and plenty of people will understand the reasons for doing using fewer baggies. Your buyers may even be relieved when you combine several products into one bag... they won't have to toss out multiple bags either when they get home.
If you're shipping art to an art show, try to use packaging material you've collected around the house, instead of buying new styrofoam peanuts or plastic bubble wrap! Shredded paper documents can be used as cushioning material as well.
I love convention and craft fair season... it's always a happy, busy time, and I'm happiest when I can get all my supplies creatively and from second hand sources! I'd be surprised too if you've not already got some of these cost-saving (and earth-friendly) practices in place... and if you haven't, well, it's time to start!
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