Visiting an Art Fair
As I mentioned in a couple of previous posts, art fairs are a fantastic way to see lots of different art and also get to speak with the artists! But - having been on both sides of many of these conversations personally - I know it's not always easy to know what to say (or not say!) when talking to an artist about their work. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this territory, so that you can have a great experience at the art fair, and so can the artists you talk to :)
I'll start with the "don't" list, so that we can end on a positive note!
DON'T: Here are a few things to avoid, so that you don't unintentionally offend the artist.
DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING - seems obvious, but you wouldn't believe how often people will touch artwork at a fair. Pieces may be more fragile than they look, and even just the oil from your fingers (when added up over many visitors' fingers) can be damaging to artwork. To be safe, it's best not to touch it until you own it ;) Or just ask first!
DON'T TAKE A PHOTO - sometimes it might seem like artists are being really uptight by not wanting you to take a casual photo so that you can share it on Instagram as part of the highlights of your day. But we have no idea what you're going to use that photo for, and once you leave the booth we have no control over it either. It sounds terrible, but artists get ripped off. Sometimes by large companies who steal their designs or images to reproduce them, sometimes by people who don't think they're doing any harm. Either way, artists and artisans put their soul into what they do, and most of them aren't making much money doing it. You don't need to buy from all of them of course (haha), but it would be so great if everyone respected artists' work.
DON'T HAGGLE ON THE PRICE - this is connected to the above; these artists work so hard and pour everything into their work. This isn't a used car dealership. If you can't afford the piece you want, maybe ask if the artist has something similar in your price range, or if they offer a layaway plan. Nobody wants their boss or manager showing up at the end of the day and offering them 75% of their paycheque.
Okay, so now you're all set as far as what NOT to do! How about some ideas to help you have a lovely conversation.. It's sometimes hard to know where to start, but assuming you were drawn into this artist's booth because something interested you about their work, let's start with basics:
"What's your medium?" - more and more these days, the answer to this question isn't obvious. Many artists are combining techniques or developing their own unique methods. This is an easy start to the conversation.
"What inspires you?" - this might seem a bit personal, or vague, but I can almost guarantee you'll get an interesting answer if this person's work interests you. Many artists draw inspiration from diverse areas (such as music, current events, scientific research, etc.), and you might learn about something cool that you'd like to look into further when you get home. The answer will also give you a new way of looking at the end result in front of you in the artist's booth.
"Can you tell me a bit more about this piece?" - if there's one that stands out to you, ask about it! Maybe there's a story behind it, or maybe there are subtle details that you didn't notice at first.
"Do you have an email newsletter or Instagram/Facebook page?" - this is a great way to get updates from the artists you're interested in, or follow them on social media so that you get to see some of the behind the scenes excitement.
And as a final note, always feel free to tell the artist what you like about their work! Artists are people too, and often art fairs are their main opportunity to get feedback about their latest pieces. Your kind words and thoughts are always appreciated, probably more than you know :)
Now go find an art fair to attend, and ENJOY IT!!