The first monthly Downtown Art Market last Saturday, opened on a cold windy overcast day. (It was a dark and stormy night…. kind of weather) Not the best looking weather for kicking off the primarily outdoor market. But despite the weather, more than 250 people made their way down to the event. I was happy to be among 19 vendors spread through Tornado gallery, its courtyard, and workshop. I was even happier to be one of the vendors inside the gallery. It helps to have only a 4 foot table and no EZ UP tent. Sorry no pictures, the camera got left at home. I am not in my best state of organization at 7 am.
Lynn has been posting about the meaning of success over on her blog here and here. It’s interesting that one of the organizers of the market and I had a conversation just last week about what would success for the new market mean. Obviously sales and attendance are necessary to keep the market going. But the organizers hope for something more. They would love to see the community embrace the market as a social event, a meeting place, something they look forward to each month. It is also hoped that it will be a learning experience, where people can get to know local artists and learn about the art that is made right here in our own community. This is a vision for the market that I share and am committed to.
At the community level the market was a great success. People seemed to enjoy themselves. They chatted with each other and the vendors. They mingled, they laughed, and best of all they were looking forward to coming back next month. Yippee!
For me the market was more than just a success in sales, which were good (better than expected). Most of my work is sold online and only a wee little bit of it goes out to local venues. And I almost never have face to face interaction with the people who buy my work. Most of my work is designed as components that people use in their own art, buttons for a lacy crocheted jacket, a closure for a felted bag, a pendant or bead in a necklace. I actually think of myself as more of a maker than an artist. And I am always thrilled when I get to see how my little piece is used in someone’s work.
I think of art as narrative. Someone may tell a story in a painting or piece of jewelry, and that story becomes something bigger, something longer when it is shared and others add their own meaning to the piece. At the market I had the wonderful experience of seeing that in process with my own pieces. A little dish I designed thinking that it was perfect for soy sauce went home to hold daily vitamins. A woman with 2 small children in hand carefully selected charms and beads to make earrings as a gift for a friend.
But my favourite was the woman who came back to look through a bowl of colourful beads. She is not a jewelry maker. But she saw something in the bowl of beads. She carefully selected a little row of beads, arranged the colours and shapes in a way that pleased her. Put some back, selected others until she was happy with what she saw. Now we both have different but shared memories of the event and those beads. A new story.
My pieces go out into the world and become something else. I happily let them go with no further thought to how they might be used. The art happens not when I make something but when it becomes a part of someone else’s story. If I had to define success, it would be continuation of the story.