A lot has changed since you first started visiting Art & Craft shows.
The Arts and Crafts "Industry" has become too large, too impersonal, and too filled with factory made or imported products. When you visit most fairs, you make the presumption that the person sitting in the booth is the artist or crafts person that produced the work. That may, or may not be so. More and more work is being produced in factories, or assembled from premanufactured pieces, and represented as the hand made work of a small studio. No longer can you feel sure that you have a truly hand made product.
What is a small studio? One definition, that has been explored, is: "A studio with, at most, two principles who design, create, and market all the work, using appropriate materials, and components, and have no more than two assistants." This would seem to be a reasonable approach to allow for sufficient production, and assuring customers that they are receiving a work of the artists.
There are many creative people who want to continue to produce hand crafted, well made, original work for their customers, and maintain the integrity of their work. They want to maintain a more personal relationship with their customers, and give assurance that they are purchasing original Art & Fine Craftwork. This is the way the Art/Craft renaissance began, and this is where we hope to return to.
Don't get me wrong, there is a place for the larger factory type studios. They fill the needs of the many Art and Craft Galleries throughout the country, where a large volume of consistently well made, unique products are needed. These large volume manufacturers should not, however, be allowed to represent themselves as individual artists in order to participate in shows advertised as made by "The Hand of the Artist".
A great many promoter run shows, (some of the largest, and most well known.) are more concerned with making money, then they are with promoting the arts. They don't limit the number of exhibitors, nor do they truly enforce the rules that all the work should be the work of the attending artist. In short, they aren't "Artist Friendly". If they pay the booth fees, participate in a substantial number of the promoters shows, and have a product that looks attractive, anyone can participate whether they ever touch the work during it's manufacturing or not. Very often they are just salesmen or women sent to "Hawk" the wares. They are good sales people, good actors, and even good people, but they aren't the artists that make the work.
While no single, or even a couple, of these points can conclusively label any exhibitor as a factory, you should give some thought, and perhaps ask some questions before you buy.
How can you tell the difference? Well, it's not easy, but there are some clues:
- Does the quantity of work available seem too large for a few people to possibly produce?
- Are there very many different styles or designs of work represented in the same booth?
- Are they doing one show after another, week after week, and able to maintain their inventory?
- Do the prices seem unusually low for the type and quality of the product?
- Are there different people manning the same booth at different shows that you attend?
- Are they participating in multiple shows in the same weekend?
In order to market work more easily, serve customers better, further explore creativity, and keep work affordable, Some artists are making changes in their marketing methods. They are being more selective about the shows they do, and seeking out alternative methods of reaching their customers. One avenue that shows much promise is the Internet. It allows us to introduce ourselves to you, and display a portfolio of work that can be viewed in your home whenever you want. For some artists, there is actually a larger selection of work than could ever be displayed at any fair. You can get a sense of who we are, ask questions, and arrange to order without leaving the comfort of your home. Thanks to the exposure on the Internet, We have been creating, and shipping work for people throughout North America.
If you, or know someone who, would be interested in participating in this more personal way of finding Art & Fine Craftwork, please send them over to www.artmakers.com All of the artists and craftsmen there are the creators of the work you see. They are not imports, or factories, just hard working , talented people who love what they do. I am sure you will enjoy your visit.
If there is an interest out there for a web page containing a list of "Verified" Small Studios, which comply with the description above, please e-mail me. If enough people want to work on this idea, I will be glad to put up such a page.