Friday, October 16, 2015

Addendum to an Earlier Post

My previous post on this subject may have given the wrong impression.... And I should remind myself (yet again) that it's neither fair nor a good idea to think aloud at the keyboard when I'm stressed and then press 'publish.' Not a good idea....

So what am I doing now? Adding to the whole thing. Writing more. Digging a deeper hole, maybe. But I hope not.

I've never wanted Fest to be about making money. That sounds silly, I know, since I'm a crafter there.... But since the very beginning I've not given a whole lotta thought to what I want from the place and what I can bring to the table.... Pretty stupid, I know. But I don't claim to be a businessartist.

No other Ren Faire makes me feel like this. I've visited bunches and I can take them or leave them. To me, the MN Renaissance Festival is a feeling, not a business. (Correction: It is a business, I know it is, I'm not 100% silly. I get that it's a business like Disney is a business. But I swear when I'm in the Magic Kingdom that shit is REAL.)

I've written before about what it was like for me to visit Fest the first time. I went there on the worst possible day, I swear. There was rain and mud and cold. But it was a perfect storm for me. Add the fallish weather, the low-hanging clouds. Cue the lute music. Curtain opens and there's Bruce Loeschen's amazing black-and-white half-timbered shop looking like something out of an old English high street. Candles glowing in its diamond-paned windows.... BOOM. I was home.

(Below is Bruce's own art of his remarkable shop as it looked back in the day. See what I mean??)

Art copyright Bruce Loeschen.

On a side note, you'll notice that I've still not managed to share much of my amazing trip to England because it defies description. Setting foot there was like revisiting a past life or something, a spiritual experience. It spoke to my soul.... Fest did as well. Just like in England, there were spirits there. Shadows. Threads of something ancient and timeless.... I can look at other Faires and see that they were once someone's idea, then someone's money, then someone's business on someone's land. They're an attraction like any other themed attraction. But not my Fest. Mine is a portal.

Since that first visit as a patron back in the 70s, my goal was to be a part of that magickal place, a part of that Tribe. But I didn't know how to make that happen, exactly, as I could offer it nothing. My abilities as an artist was all I thought I could bring to the table. So that's the direction I took.

Would that I had done my homework FIRST before leaping in with both feet. Instead of being a crafter I could have signed on to work for a crafter, and for the price of gas, a costume, a day pass, and a commitment I could have tested the waters. I'm sure a season of that nonsense would have knocked all the magick right out of me. As it was, my first year there as a bonafide crafter couldn't have been worse -- weatherwise, saleswise, stresswise, fill-in-the-blank-wise -- but that's another blog post. Even so, all that awfulness only anchored the magick in me more.

That's unfortunate, really. Because selling flat art there is HARD.

I'm convinced there's no dang way a flat artist at Fest can make a profit. Ever. I'm convinced! Not unless they're an incredibly savvy businessartist. Or not unless they're already popular there with a host of rabid groupie fans. (And in my head now I'm seeing Twig the Fairy repeatedly putting her kissprints on little canvases and making million$....)

Here's my hero hard at work. Photo is courtesy of his website -- GO THERE.

Recently I got an email from my Fest hero, the aforementioned Bruce Loeschen, the incredible pen-and-ink artist whose work inspired me to send a slide or two to the Fest jury waaaaaaaay back in the day. He's been retired from the Fest scene for years now. And when he mentioned the place in his email to me, he went on to describe working there as one of the hardest things he's ever done. Fest, for him, was similarly frustrating, saleswise, as it continues to be for me. I can remember our after-hours conversations about it, too, over wine and candlelight. At the time I couldn't imagine anyone visiting his shop and not falling under the spell of his work, buying it ALL, and making him rich.

I'll say again that after 30 years I'm no more popular there than I was as a clueless newbie setting up shop for the first time. Am I part of the Tribe? Via seasonal contract only, perhaps. I've made a handful of friends there that are family to me now -- castmembers, customers, fellow crafters, all of them have my heart, and I wouldn't give up our friendships for anything. Not all are local, and the Fest season is the only time I get to reconnect with them. They appreciate both me and the art I create. And I continue to slog away every season trying new things and hoping to sell enough to pay my bills.

That being said, I'm learning that reconnecting with them is my focus. It's what keeps me at Fest, trying to make sense of this art-selling thing. And I hate that there are Big Annual Fee$ associated with being able to do that, simply because I made the choice 30 years ago to be a crafter there.

Hmmmm. If it wasn't so greedy-sounding, I'd almost consider bumping up the price of hugs from 'free' to a quarter.

And maybe then I'd have a season where my Taxperson doesn't make fun of me....

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