Friday, February 25, 2011

Kalamazoo, Here I Come

Today I head up to Kalamazoo for the Garage Sale Art Fair -- an event invented by a couple of art fair artists -- Bonnie Blandford and Michael Kifer.

I can't overstate how important I think it is that this is run by touring art fair artists. I don't think that anyone not familiar with our lives and concerns could have pulled it off even half as well. But they do pull it off. Year after year. I think this will be my fourth GSAF.

Bonnie and Michael have made the event fun without detracting from the respect and high regard for the artists and craftsman's work. Though they play up the bargain aspect, it never came at the appearance of anything but an exceptionally good value on something that the patrons may, otherwise, not be as likely to afford.

In fact, there is much buzz among the patrons along the lines of ......."oh my gosh! ....he's/she's ("famous" artist in their view) here!". The buzz I get from the patrons is not just the deals they are getting -- it is the deals they are getting from these particular artists!

The bargain aspect never plays up the "seconds" nature of much of the work there. Sure, that is an understood aspect underlying the whole event, but it just never comes across as the artists unloading junk. It always leaves the impression of a great opportunity for the buyer. Because it is.

And they've made it easy for the artist. If the artist wishes to put more time into presentation, I suppose that is possible. But it isn't the nature of the beast. Art work can be displayed however you wished to display it. This was one aspect I have loved about the event. It reminds me so much of those days 25-30 years ago when we all went to art fairs with our own invented, sometimes crazy ways to display. And as odd as this sounds -- that sort of "ramshackle" sense of display is so dadgum inviting to the patrons. I can't remember the last time I saw a more engaged patronage. They love it. All the intimidation that we as artists subconsciously build into our displays to make us seem more erudite, more esoteric, more "gallery", are absent. Those walls down, patrons feel more at ease to approach artists.

I can't do this event every year. I usually don't have enough seconds to make it worthwhile. But I consider it an important event. It is an interesting reality check. When we artists begin wondering where the art fair patrons have gone.... seems they're probably as crazy about our work as they ever were. They just may not be able to afford our work as it is now priced -- not as reflects the market, but as reflects our (artists) desire for an easier middle class lifestyle to match our age peers. We were never promised that. We were never promised that we could have BOTH the joy of working with our hands AND not have to work hard. Very hard.


  1. Good thoughts, John. Very timely for my particular circle of artists/craftspeople, some who are making all or part of their income from what they produce, and others who are doing it for the joy of making. There is the frequent complaint by the pros that the "dabblers" who paint or the potters who are "playing in clay" are pricing their work artificially low and depressing sales by the "real" artists.
    There's really not been a meeting of the minds on the issue, but it will pop up as surely as daffodils in springtime.

  2. Wish we had something like that over here!

    There isn't much between the Craft Fair with pitches for up to £20, and those costing ten to fifteen times that

  3. Good thoughts here.
    I remember and still try to hold that pots for everyday use should be something even I can afford.
    Seems we are shooting ourselves in the foot by making pottery something for the elite to afford.
    There are many thoughts in my head about why this has happened but I will save those for a night with beer or wine.

  4. Many years ago, I happened upon a garage sale. You were moving to the house you are in now. I felt unbelievalby lucky to pick up 3 mugs, 8 bowls, a sugar bowl (that's what I use it for at least), 1 plate and 2 lamps!! I hit the motherlode. They were beautiful. Nothing matched, but that made it even better. I still use the items daily and still feel as fortunate today as I did that day!! My only regret is that I didn't buy everything that you had for sale. Thank you for letting me purchase a little bit of your incredible talent those many years ago!!

  5. Wow! A reader from Warsaw! Hi there and I sure appreciate your kind words. That garage sale was 22 years ago!


    Pottery and affordability is, indeed, a topic for a long discussion over drinks. I've been working on a post or series of posts on the subject. So far I've got the subject edited down to the equivalent length of a Tolstoy novel.