Art fairs and festivals – an onlooker’s point of view

Sugar Creek Arts Festival. Bloomington-Normal’s claim to fame in the world of artists and their crafts. And I don’t mean “crafts” in a hobby-like manner either. For most of the vendors, this is their bread and butter, their income, their life.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Sugar Creek Arts Festival, and vendors come from far and wide to participate … provided they’ve satisfied the jury, of course! A friend of mine – a lampworker – had a little trouble satisfying the jury this year. She received a rejection letter. She appealed on the basis that she had established a clientèle from previous years, and she had previously been accepted, and this year she was being told she wasn’t good enough. She got her booth.

I was relaying this story to another artist friend of mine (who has been juried in for the last four years), who said that not accepting the same artists all the time creates a less stagnant festival, which I agree with. However, I also see the point of view of the first artist, who has clients looking for her because the enjoyed their purchase from the previous year and wanted to purchase another item. In 2004 and ’05, I set up a table outside my friends bead store and did lampwork demonstrations. The following year, Di moved her store from Normal to Bloomington, and I lost the opportunity to set up my demo table. I cannot count the number of people I’ve met since who have asked me “will you be demoing at the festival this year?” – I can’t afford a booth fee just to demo, and I don’t have enough stock to sell, so my answer is “unfortunately, no – but you can come to my basement any time!”

I wish I had photos of the festival, but I’m always conscious of the fact that people always think you’re taking pics of their booths to steal their ideas. So I try to stay away from booth or product photos. There are photos for you to see if you click on the first link in this entry – it will take you to the Pantagraph, our local newspaper.

Another thing I’m self-conscious about when visiting fairs or festivals is the “I can make that myself” syndrome. There’s nothing more annoying to a craftsperson – professional or hobbyist – than hearing “You can make that yourself for MUCH less!” Of course you can think those things, but if you’re with me, please don’t vocalize your opinion! As a vendor, I’d probably be indifferent to those comments by now, but still – it’s not polite. Don’t do it! And I heard plenty of it, yesterday!

Of course I gathered ideas! Paris (8) and Ciel (7) quite liked the idea of going home and doing some egg carving. I think we’ll just stick to making rag rugs for now, though!

The festival almost doubled in size a couple of years back when they extended into the ISU quad. This year, it took up the same amount of real estate, but there were noticeably fewer booths. Still, we did have to rush at the end because it was just about to hit 5pm and we hadn’t bought our fresh, made-onsite kettle corn yet! The girls were too busy at the Noodles & Company booth, making noodle necklaces, and we just got to the kettle corn booth as they were packing up. We had arrived an hour after the festival opened at 11am, and now, at 5pm, we found that we hadn’t seen everything there was to see.

One suggestion for the festival coordinators (who do a great job every year!), spread out the children’s activities.  They are all together in one spot, so you look at booths for a long time, then spend a long time waiting for the children to complete all the activities, then spend a long time looking at booths again. Break it up, folks! Give parents a break every so often rather than one long break.

Not having much money to spend, all I could really shop for was ideas. There was only one lampworker on site, my friend Audra. There was lots of glass work, but most stained glass or blown glass. I did get lots of ideas, and the girls each bought a concrete garden plaque. And that was  that!

It was a great day, the predicted thunderstorms luckily didn’t happen. We came home with some great crafts the girls had made, and had a great day to boot! There are pics on my Picasa album, I won’t take up space by putting them here because they’re really not relative to this blog!  Well, maybe just one photo … if you insist ….

Cheese fries on the ISU qhad

Cheese fries on the ISU quad


4 responses to “Art fairs and festivals – an onlooker’s point of view

  1. It sounds like a good Art Faire. It’s too bad that there aren’t more lampworkers there. Maybe we should all think about trying to change that next year. LOL
    Looks like Paris and Ciel had a good time!

  2. Maybe I’ll have to visit my old alma mater next year! Maybe I’ll try to be a vendor! :p

  3. I make kettle corn at festivals and I always get someone desperately running up to my tent at closing time. I always end up giving MY bag away at the end of the day! 😦

    Velma’s "Wicked Delicious" Kettle Corn popcorn

  4. This is such a wonderful community. There are many wonderful articles here. I was wondering if anyone here can help me out. About 1993, I heard of a teacher at ISU, or an instructor from the Bloomington/Normal area, that was an excellent blown glass artist. From what I have heard, she was originally from England, and she made unique pieces, like a “t-shirt” made from glass. Apparently, from a distance, it looked like a shirt hanging on the wall. I regret never contacting her to purchase such a piece, and would love to find out any info if possible. Thank you for your time.

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