I have a funny mix of public speaking engagements this winter and I wanted to share a bit about each one as they happen. My first talk was last week at an art class for folks with disabilities. They are preparing a show for the March 1 downtown art walk. I have worked with a few of the artists through my garden class, but many were new faces. I was actually really nervous. It's one thing to pump up my peers over a glass of wine, I can gage reactions and comprehension based on facial cues. Brilliant encouragements flow off my tongue. And I can assume a certain level of relativity for reference. But how do you explain customer service to someone who may be non-verbal?
We practiced this script with just three lines and ideas for those who are too shy or non verbal. Some of the artists were quite chatty and others said more than they had all day, while others hardly looked up from their drawing as we went around the room.
Make eye contact, smile, create a welcoming environment. People will not want to look at your art or buy your crafts if you come off as rude, disinterested or snobby. Wearing a name tag is a simple way to introduce yourself. I always wear fancy stitched name tag that shows off my skills and lets people know I am the artist. At the very least have clear price tags or price list with your name, title and price for every piece of art.
2."I made this."
This can actually be the hardest part of showing art. Artists have been known to deal with this uncomfortable statement by drinking too much wine at an opening or hiding out in a corner of the gallery surrounded by an impenetrable circle of close friends. Much aloofness or attitude in the art world is simply a response to shyness. It takes confidence to stand by your work. If you aren't comfortable literally standing around talking about your process and inspiration, at least put up an artist statement. Let people know a little bit more of who you are. We are buying a story or connection as much as an object when we purchase art. So give people another layer of possible connection to you and your story. Every thing in your life shapes your unique view of the world and you can claim it with pride. Whether you have a BFA or taught yourself to paint watching Bob Ross, trust that you are worthy of making art.
I always thank people for coming out to the show or market. If they don't buy my work or even like it, I still appreciate that they left their houses to experience something different. It is especially good to thank people when they have traveled through cold and rain to come to the farmers market or a gallery walk. I think I have made sales just by being polite week after week until the
casual passerby actually needs to buy a gift I can provide. If you can't say it with words, even a glance or nod with this sentiment in your heart can communicate amazing warmth.
That's it. Three very basic phrases with infinite variations and elaborations to use as you share your work. If we all practice these, the world, and especially the art world, will be a friendlier place.
p.s. Come on up to our studio (1318 Bay Street) This Friday February 1, 6-10pm for the artwalk!