This past Saturday (April 2) was a momentous occasion: my first in-person market of 2022 and the first-ever Boneyard Arts Market (BAM). The Market was part of the Boneyard Arts Festival, which is a multi-day festival throughout Champaign County, and organized by the same team that did Mistletoe Market.
The festival itself is a really cool event — businesses around Champaign sign up to be venues and host artists in their spaces — visual arts are the most common, but you can also find author readings, performing arts, and musicians. Some places host one artist, while others have multiple artists showing and/or selling their work. BAM had almost 30 vendors plus an art-themed pop-up café, and the organizers did a great job marketing on Facebook and Instagram especially, so we had a lot of shoppers. The official hours were 10-6, but I had my first sale by 9:40 and it kept up pretty steadily all day. In fact, it was one of my best days yet for sales!
Every market I do, I learn a little more about what people respond to and how to display things to catch their eyes. It’s been kind of a fun experiment to showcase different things and see what brings people in. I think that’s actually one of my favorite things about markets: getting real time feedback on what people like the most. For example, it was feedback from a visitor at Made Fest that encouraged me to have vinyl stickers of my flowers made; now I have several designs and they do really well.
People also really liked all my flower paintings and prints, so I keep doing more of those, too. (It works out well, since I love to paint flowers.) I put several small paintings (3×4 and 4×6) in frames for this market, and they sold a lot better than the unframed originals, even though they cost a little more, so I’m going to remember that for the future too. And if someone doesn’t buy anything but stops to talk about my paintings, or ask about my process, it’s still pretty rewarding. Sometimes people will tell me how they “can’t even draw” but wish they could, or how they’ve just started learning watercolor and want to get better, or how they like to do acrylic, or collage, or some other form, and I really enjoy those conversations, too. (I always encourage the people who say they can’t or who are just starting to keep going! It’s taken me a few years to get where I am now, and I’m obviously still learning too.) Being able to connect with someone over art is basically the goal, and doing it means I get to keep making more.
The second cool thing about markets is getting to see what other artists are doing and making, how they display their work, and what people are buying from them. It’s like incidental market research. I’m not always great about striking up conversations with my booth neighbors, even when there is time, but it’s still fun to see what they’re selling and hear their conversations with customers.
I was thinking of applying for a market at the beginning of June, but it turns out that it’s my weekend in the rotation at my day job. So I’m still deciding whether I want to try and rearrange my schedule for that. I have been accepted into two markets back-to-back in July, so I may hold off and spend my time building up my stash for those. I’ll report back here once I know for sure!