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Quotable: artist Linda Buck

“What are you going to say about your work? Know what you’re about before you step in the booth.”

– artist Linda Buck, a Mint Artists co-founder, at a Mint workshop.  Linda creates hand colored clay tiles with architectural details. She has sold her work at a number of fine art fairs – and also through the DIA git shop.
Linda Buck’s clay tiles are hand made and colored.
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Quotable: Leonardo da Vinci on doing

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

–Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
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What a street performer may teach artists about asking

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Musician Amanda Palmer learned to connect with patrons as a street performer, busking as the 8 foot tall bride. She believes that all musicians, writers, creatives need to learn to ask – for financial support, for gigs, for contracts.  “The perfect tools aren’t going to help us if we can’t face each other and give and receive fearlessly, but more important, to ask without shame,” said Palmer in this Ted video performance.  Though she no longer works as a street performer, she knows how to ask and connect. She encouraged fans to support her on Kickstarter and collected $1 million from 24,000 of them.

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Judy Bowman believes in setting one big goal – and using that to guide your choices.

Hers  is to create a good body of work, professional presented. “Leave a legacy for my children” as an artist and a person who pursued her passions, she said.

She is pursuing hers intently now after retiring from a 30 year career as a teacher and high school principal. Bowman creates beautiful collage pieces – usually people in happy or everyday moments – and then limited edition giclee prints that sell for hundreds of dollars.  Though she just restarted her art career a few years ago, she’s already represented by Jo’s Gallery in Detroit and appeared in many exhibits, the Essence Festival, Bombay Saphire  and at the Belle Isle Art Fair.

“I hear of an opportunity, take a deep breath and say ‘let’s try it.’ It’s stepping out there. Just go for it,” Bowman says.

She believes that artists must “be watchful for opportunities. Be ready to take advantage of them.” And allow people to help you. Many people have helped her with her career, in part because of her open and friendly approach

Happy Hour mixed media collage by Judy Bowman. © Judy Bowman

When I showed up at an Artist2Artist talk, Judy and I hit it off. We talked about art and artists selling their work. And I told her and the other artists there that night about the debut of the Belle Isle Art Fair.  Judy Bowman followed, showed up – and sold a lot of work.

“Be very receptive,” of people and opportunities, she said, and jump on those that are stepping stones toward your big goal.

(Photo: © Charlene Uresy, used with permission)

Article copyright © 2016 Vickie Elmer, updated 2020

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If you are an artist with a variety of work, create a small portfolio – or file – of it on your mobile phone.

Make sure it’s easy to find, and recent pieces are all in the same place. That way when you meet a potential patron or buyer, it’s very easy to openand show your work.

Too often artists think they may find the work amid a sea of photos or images, yet the attention span of many is short or they are nervous and do not locate the best images. 

 So group it all together in one place or album – and include pieces that have recently sold. A patron may want to commission something similar to the one that just was purchased.

(Photo: MorgueFile)

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Join Mint Artists on Sunday at Eastern Market in Detroit for the Holiday Market in Shed 5. We will have five artists participating, and also will have Mint holiday cards and some prints available. One artist will create henna designs and another will do quick sketch portraits. Browse and buy an array of artisan gifts and “fresh art from Detroit teens.” Among them are Espacia Fotiu, who paints abstracts and watercolor, and her sister Olivia, who makes the cute crocheted owls and critters.  See more details about all the artists on Facebook.

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Crowds were nonexistent and shoppers scarce at the annual event. We didn’t know if it were the weather, the timing or something else that kept people away.

So the day loomed long and boring unless we could come up with ways to make something from  a very slow cultural event.  So we brainstormed lemonade ideas for artists at a slow art event. And then we spoke to some artists and arts experts for theirs. Here’s our list:

Create new art. Start new paintings, or finish a few embroidered pieces. Create rings or make a stack of mini paintings. Sketch ideas or capture the beautiful scene outside your tent. Live paint and make it a visible draw. Any of these uses your time effectively and also may entice the few guests to stop and watch your creative process.  

Practice your pitch. Ask the artist next to you to serve as your faux customer and work on your customer engagement approaches.  Or spend extra minutes with the few real guests who stop by, asking questions and trying out new ways to share your story and sell your work.

Look busy.  "You want to keep the energy in your booth positive because you never know who is going to walk by next and want to buy your work. The trick is to not look bored or like you are waiting for the next person to pounce on,“ says Kristin Perkins, a glass and silver jeweler from Ypsilanti who has served as a Mint Artists mentor.  Here’s her busy work: label packaging boxes or bags, replace worn looking price tags, polish jewelry, organize supplies, dust cases, tidy the booth.  The trick though is to be busy but also approachable, and not too engaged in the tasks so customers will still talk to you.

Discover the busy best events. Visit other artists in the event, and ask them about their best shows, and why. Remember to ask if they’ve been at the event a few years. It’s easy to shine in your first year at a fair and you are seeking one where artists consistently earn good money.

Compare prices and displays.   While you’re wandering around, compare prices on art or creative work that is similar to yours. If the artist has a wonderful display, ask if you could take a few photos. Just be respectful of their needs. "Don’t stand in front of the focal point of other artists booth,” said Mary Strope, artists coordinator for Integrity Shows and a long-time art events expert.  (Integrity Shows is a major supporter of Mint Artists Guild, and invites us to a number of art fairs and events.)

Hold a contest or giveaway. Maybe it’s a small original painting or a lesson in jewelry making. “People are naturally interested in winning something,” wrote Carolyn Edlund, an arts educator and owner of ArtsyShark blog  And you will collect emails for your e-letter list as people sign up for the contest.

Write thank yous or invitations.  Bring along a dozen thank you notes or postcards for your next big event. Set  a goal of writing to three or five customers who purchased from you in the last three months, an appreciation or a few notes on caring for the creative work they bought.  If you are emailing them, ask for their home address so next time you may mail them a card or note. (Just remember not to get too engaged in this; look up regularly from your writing or typing.) 

Perkins, the jewelry artist, shared a list of activities to skip, no matter how slow the show. She would never “text on my phone, talk on my phone, engage in private conversations with other artists, read a book, sit and stare, work on my computer. These actions signal to patrons that nobody is buying your work, you are bored, negative, unprofessional, too busy to engage them.”

She and others also caution never to leave an event early, no matter how slow. “If a patron is coming specifically to see you, you will appear unprofessional if you leave early.  I keep telling myself we never know who will walk by next,” she said.

We’ve experienced that at Mint Artists too. One artist grew very discouraged on the first day as nothing sold. But on Day 2, she pushed to show interest and a positive attitude, and sold several hundred dollars in paintings in just a few hours.

(copyright c Vickie Elmer, 2016, for Mint Artists Guild )

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On Friday evening, sculptor Austen Brantley opens his Royal Oak studio for a Mint fundraiser. The evening features an array of local food and hot drinks, art making and art for sale by Austen Brantley and by Mint Artists.  Friendship, conversation and some surprises also are in store.

His live-work studio is at 822 W. Eleven Mile Road near downtown Royal Oak. Tickets are available online for $20 or $10 for students and starving artists; they cost $25 and $15 at the door.  The evening runs 5 to 9:30 p.m. Read more about the special fall fundraiser in the Mint e-letter.

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It’s super dope to be a role model for girls. Not just black girls but all girls.

artist Sydney James, in a Michigan Chronicle online interview after finishing her powerful Murals in the Market piece in Detroit.
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This outpouring of paintbrushes are stored in old coffee cans in artist Adnan Charara’s oversize Detroit studio. Charara, a Lebanese-American artist, creates an array of art and jewelry and other artisan pieces. He owns Midtown Detroit Galerie Camille, which hosted a Mint Artists workshop this year.