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September 2012

White Tents or Remarkable Purple Cows

WhiteTENTcraft-show-displays Purple Cow

A parable for artists and makers:

Potential customers are walking past the white tent because they see so many other white tents, and they just keep walking. They saw white tents last weekend and will see more next weekend, and for any number of weekends in the future. The white tent is just a commodity, always there, nothing special.  If they don't buy now, so what?  They feel no urgency to stop and look because so many more opportunities are readily available.

Are you making work worth talking about?

Listen to Seth Godin's presentation "How to get your ideas to spread." It is only 17 minutes long but will give you enormous insights for years to come because "All of this applies regardless of what we do."

Seth Godin says it in this video below.  

"Consumers don't care about you at all, they just don't care. Part of the reason is -- they've got way more choices than they used to and way less time. And in a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff."

What if a white tent was a purple cow?

As the video explains, the message is to make your work remarkable and memorable. What if all your merchandise was "purple cow" -- so that consumers would notice it.

"The thing that is going to decide what get's talked about, what gets noticed, what gets purchased, is...
  ........ is it remarkable?"

"Think about how you can sell to the people who really care about your work because the riskiest thing you can do is be safe."

Is your work remarkable?

Is your display remarkable?

Is your signage remarkable?

Are you remarkable?

"And 'remarkable' is a word that should be highlighted because we think it just means noticeable, but it also means -- worth making a remark about."  Will people go home and tell their family and friends, "You should go see what I saw today!" or "You will envy what I bought today!"

Seth Godin says:

1) Design is free when you get to scale.

2) The riskiest thing you can do is be safe.

3) Being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do. Very good is boring. Very good is average. 

"Triple your sales by being remarkable."

Can you reinvent your work? Can your work be remarkable?

More ideas soon.


P.S. If you tell me that craft fairs don't allow purple tents, you've missed the point of this post. On the other hand, given the trends, I'd consider breaking a few craft fair rules.

P.P.S. AT THE REQUEST FROM ASK Harriete readers I finally figured out how to add an email subscription to my blog! Now ASK Harriete can be emailed to your mailbox.

Please try it out and let me know if it works.

Golden Girl  from the California Collection by Harriete Estel Berman
Golden Girl from the California Collection was on display at Craft in America Study Center. Yes, these are the people that produced the PBS series about craft.

Redefining the San Andreas Faultline

September 8 - October 27, 2012

Craft in America Study Center
8415 W. Third Street
Los Angeles, California 90048.

Three bracelets (below) from the Golden Girl Fruit Crate symbolize three remarkable women from California.
Golden Girl Bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman Mrs. Fields, Jazzercize, Golden Girl Barbie

The Golden Girls of California
are Mrs. Fields, inventor of the cookie company franchise which started in Palo Alto, Ca.; Judi Sheppard Missett, inventor of Jazzercise in San Diego, Ca.; and Barbie, the infamous doll and California golden girl invented by Ruth Handler which later became Mattel in Southern California.

Golden Girl Barbie Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman

The reuse of post-consumer material
in this series reflects California as both the ultimate consumer culture and the leader in the recycling movement and green design.

Golden Girl Fruit Crate with three bracelets from the Californai Collection by Harriete Estel Berman

The bracelets symbolize the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of California. California exports ideas as well as products from its fertile valleys.

The fruit crate
symbolically represents the historic fertility of California’s valleys bountiful with fruits and vegetables. Orchards once covered Silicon Valley, but it now blooms with inventions and enterprising ventures.


This post was updated on June 21, 2022, to provide current links.

Over Supply, Reduced Demand = Downward Price Pressure

The increasing number of craft sellers and the expanded number of sales venues exacerbate the oversupply of craft. 

Oversupply and reduced demand in any market lead to one inevitable outcome - downward price pressure. We have seen the results in the craft marketplace.

Moneyspiral2This is a fundamental principle of economics. Prices will competitively spiral down as long as supply exceeds demand.

It is not a judgment about art vs. craft, quality, or intentions.  With so many choices, consumers can simply wait for something as good or better to be offered at lower prices.  They have come to expect lowered prices and their expectations are steadily fulfilled.

                                  Claudia Reese 1983 bread bowl OVERSUPPLY +  REDUCED DEMAND
          = REDUCED PRICES

My own observation of craft fairs is that the price points for "bread and butter" items have been stagnating, at best.

Taking inflation into account, real prices have decreased significantly.

I had a growing feeling about this for years and had wondered why?  Now I am beginning to understand.

The bread dish above is my personal example. In the early 1980s, I'd take my saved-up "mad money" (maybe a couple of $100) to the annual ACC show. Once a year, I'd look for presents for family and something for myself.

I clearly remember buying this $85 bread dish (stamped Claudia Reese) which I still have (note the jade green glaze, a signature color of the 1980s). This was the typical price range of bread and butter items at the time.  Despite nearly 30 years of inflation, $85- $125 is still the bread and butter price range at craft fairs.  During that same time period gas prices, food prices, and housing prices have certainly risen substantially.    

100dollarbillAt the recent ACC Show in San Francisco, there was even a promotional segment "less than $100."  In an effort to promote craft purchases to a larger market, they are marketing to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps they are trying to turn the downward spiral of prices into an asset. However, I'd say they are catering and compounding a weakness - the downward spiral of prices.


Additional evidence for

The Art Festival Newsletter recently conducted and distributed a survey titled, "Art Festival Artists: Who We Are 2012". The Newsletter has allowed me to share their survey with you. (CLICK on the links for the full survey.) The quote below only compares only 2011 to 2010. 


"The responses to this question show a strong downward trend in the price of art sold at festivals."

"At a sales level below $100, the percentage has increased five points, to 29.1% Thus, except for the highest sales point, artists are continuing to sell at levels equal to or lower than last year, and much lower than in 2010. Put another way, any increase in the nation’s economy has not, as yet, translated into widespread spending increases, by price of work sold, at art festivals."

      End quote.

This is a reality.  Depressing, maybe, but the point is not to dwell in this abyss. We need to recognize that the crafts marketplace is in a state of oversupply and reduced demand.

In an effort to sell more, makers are showing more low-priced items at craft fairs. Instead of making and showing their best, makers are increasingly focused on the cheapest. This approach is not limited to the White Tent craft fairs and art festivals.  The online markets enable anyone who makes anything to offer their "craft" for sale online.   

And low price isn't the only issue here. Too often, instead of adapting by making work with less expensive production technologies, makers are simply paying themselves less. In other words, they are reducing their cash flow, income, and profit (if any).

Garth Clark says:  "The definition of success in the craft was being able to escape it. It is sort of like a penitentiary theory. We gave the most attention to those artists that seemed as though they were going to make the move into the fine arts.  And in the process of course, in the discussion, it really demeaned craft. What was craft if everyone wanted to escape from it." 

Garth was talking about a craft vs. art debate.  I agree with the observation, but not the reason.  I think everyone who becomes successful in craft wanted to escape the craft world not because they rejected craft definitions, but because they wanted to escape the low prices of the craft world.

Time to stop and rethink.

I welcome other people's insights.


This post was updated on June 21, 2022, to provide current links.

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Reduced Demand

The dynamics of supply and demand determine prices in a market economy. This is a fundamental principle of economics.

The previous post discussed the supply side of craft, specifically, the apparent oversupply of craft in the marketplace. To summarize very briefly, the rapid increase in the number of craft shows, art fairs, street festivals, open studios, etc., and especially the Internet, has created an environment in which multiple channels compete for craft buyer attention. The issues surrounding supply and demand have little to do with judgment, just economics in the marketplace.

SupplydemanddownThis post will examine the demand side of the economic equation in the craft marketplace.  Demand in the marketplace is more difficult to define, but my perception is that demand for craft is lethargic at best. A disheartening picture.  Demand has not kept up with supply.


Sluggish demand can be attributed to four factors that I've noticed:

  • a poor economy,
  • the impact of the information age,
  • aging demographics,
  • competition from "designer" products,
  • please add your ideas.

These may be interrelated, but I will try to examine each.

The poor economy is something we all recognize.  Quoting from a Survey Report and Analysis from The Art Festival; "Without question, the slow, nearly imperceptible recovery in the national economy has had a deep impact on the art festival industry--and the lives of the artists for whom the industry represents most, if not all, of their livelihood."*

There is nothing that the craft community can change about the economy, but we should note that there are products still selling briskly, even in this economy -- such as flat-panel televisions, tablet devices, iPhones, and energy-efficient cars. What do these products have in common? They are considered essential, trendy, new, and directly connected to market segments with growing demand.  Most are connected to the next category - information.


The information age has radically changed the marketplace. Information, connectedness, and social experiences are growth segments.  We are still a consumer society but consumption has shifted away from conventional craft. AppleIphone5laying downDo you realize the sales of the new iPhone 5 will boost US GDP (Gross Domestic Product by a forecasted $12.8 billion? One device has a measurable impact on the entire US economy. This is really astounding.


Many people attending craft fairs and craft organizations have already recognized that both the sellers and the attendees at craft fairs are getting older. This is confirmed in the recent survey, "Art Festival Artists: Who We Are 2012" Survey Report and Analysis from The Art Festival Quotes:

More than three-quarters of art festival artists (76.4%) are 50 years old or older.

Their age continues to shift upward. 

The impact of an aging demographic = fewer buyers and fewer purchases per buyer. Why?  They are settled and already have complete households. Recently an established gallery (specializing in craft media) revealed to me that their collectors are buying less than in the past. She observed that more senior collectors are even downsizing and seeking to deaccession their collections. (This adds to the supply side of the craft marketplace.)  Fewer buyers buying less and less are sure signs of weakening demand.

Corresponding to the aging demographic, another observation is that the merchandise and the merchandising in the white tent are less fashionable or trendy (with exceptions of course), but overall it seems stale. The accepted standards for display in the white tent have become status quo and (dare I say it) boring. It doesn't help demand when the marketing of traditional craft fairs does not use contemporary marketing through social media effectively.  Advertising and promotion techniques have changed in the information age.


In his lecture and paper "How Envy Killed the Crafts", Garth Clark says, ". . .  one cannot blame craft's slowing market on general economic conditions in the past ten pre-recession years. During that period more Americans spent unprecedented amounts on distinctive contemporary home furnishings, decoration, and art than ever before. While this market waxed, the interest in craft waned." 

I take this to mean that the craft market has not been adequately stylish or contemporary, nor competitively priced. I agree.

Garth Clark continues, "Design is undermining the craft market at every level. It can deliver handsome ceramics, fabric, and jewelry at a low cost. It can produce work that to the average eye seems to be hand-crafted and can program machines to produce objects that are to some extent, unique."

In a lecture that Garth Clark gave at the 2012 SNAG Conference, he said, "The crafts retail field at least at the top end is shrinking by the day" and the "[craft] work is too sophisticated for the existing craft marketplace."  Clark is referring to a number of Galleries that have closed in recent years. The more thoughtful, conceptual, theoretical, or expensive craft objects which had a specific audience during the booming 20th century have waned since the downturn of the economy. Demand is reduced even at the high end of craft.


The Art Festival Newsletter survey also reveals a steady decline in expectations from craft show sellers. I'd consider this an economic response to reduced demand.

In 2010, only 1.2% of respondents said revenue below $1,500 constituted a good show. In 2012, that number rose to 8.0%.

In 2010, 21.1% considered between $1,500 and $3,000 in sales a good show.  In 2012, the percentage rose to 29.5%.

In 2010, 25.2% responded that a good show brings in $5,001 to $10,000.  In 2012, it is down to 19.7%.

Expectations are shrinking.  The two lowest expectation categories are expanding, while the high expectation category is dwindling. 

As I was writing the previous post about the supply channels for craft, it struck me that the post was getting longer and longer as I thought of all the supply channels for more craft. I suddenly realized just how excessive the "supply" of craft had become.

As I wrote this post and tried to diagnose the reasons for low demand, the depressing realization was that the reasons for reduced demand of craft will not get any better without radical change to the white tent MARKETING and the products available for sale. The craft community needs to rethink really hard about the future of craft business.  To put it bluntly, adapt, wither or die.


THE NEXT POST connects the principles of supply and demand to the impact on prices. 

* Here is a link to the Art Festival survey.

Consuming Good Taste   1999
Teapot by Harriete Estel Berman from post-consumer recycled tin cans.

This post was updated on June 21, 2022, to provide current links.

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Over Supply

The interaction of supply and demand is the most fundamental concept of economics and it is the backbone of a market economy.  It is described as the state where shifts in supply or demand cause changes in price, up or down, that bring supply and demand back into balance.

Cherry TOMATOESWe see the effect of supply and demand every day at the gas station with fluctuating prices. At the farmer's market, an abundant supply of seasonal fruits and vegetables will be priced lower than at other times. We hear about the oversupply of housing on the news causing depressed housing prices.



Strong demand for new technology supports strong prices with the new Apple 5 phone.

In this post about supply and demand in the craft marketplace, I want to focus on SUPPLY.  This includes the full spectrum of craft supply at all levels from the white tent to "big G" Galleries, i.e. all the potential sales venues for all makers of craft.



Stake for holding up White Tent Let's go back a few years.  In 1979-80, when I was in graduate school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I made a pilgrimage to upstate New York to attend the fabled and original craft fair, Reinbeck. Later, in the early 80s, I would wait all year in anticipation of the ACC show coming to San Francisco. These two events represented opportunities to see the work of craft makers in the 20th-century craft movement.


Sausalito art  festival white tents Now in one weekend in metropolitan areas,  there can be any number of craft fairs, art festivals, and street fairs.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, this Friday's evening news mentioned four art festivals. On Labor Day weekend, there were two major art festivals, Sausalito Art Festival and the previously mentioned Kings Mountain Art Fair, both considered premier events.  Makers I know frequently lament about how they must choose between multiple events on the same weekend throughout the year.

A variety of organizations have jumped on the idea of hosting festivals or events. All have the best intentions of supporting the arts, showcasing artists and makers, and creating opportunities for selling while generating their own revenue from application fees, booth fees, parking fees, and food concessions.

The number of events showcasing arts and crafts has exploded in the last 20 years to include fundraising auctions, trunk shows, academic programs selling student work, and museums that now host membership events. For example:

  • MAD just hosted "Loot".
  • Bellevue Art Museum now sponsors the Bellevue Art Museum Arts Fair.
  • Tyler School of Art Alumni Association offers an "event" for alumni to sell work.
  • Academy of Art sells student work at the end of the school year, encouraging low prices to promote retail sales. Ironically, the low prices are a more realistic forecast of the "artist's life" than ever intended.
  • SNAG offered its own trunk show at the last two conferences.
  • Pier One offers handsome, well-designed handmade objects if you didn't find what you want at the local craft show.
  • Nationwide the list just keeps growing.
  • D.I.Y. adds to the handmade mix.
  • This is only a small sample. My mailbox (both email and snail mail) receives regular invitations to participate in all kinds of events.

This doesn't even include the extensive number of Open Studios sponsored by local communities, or online marketplaces which have no barrier to entry. Now anyone who can make anything can try to sell it online.

ARE YOU OVERWHELMED WITH THE NUMBER OF EVENTS?  I am. So is the consumer. "Handmade" has flooded the market.


Supply of craft is generated by all makers of craft. Art schools promote their programs and fill students with optimistic expectations that they can support themselves with the skills learned.  Garth Clark says: "We are hugely overproducing art students for a market that can only accept a small number."  The same scenario exists with the craft programs.

Additional sellers come from the baby boomer generation who pursue a 2nd career to express their creativity. While there is nothing wrong with this new dedication, it astounds me that too often their primary objective is to recover their materials costs. 

Back to basic economics and the principles of supply and demand
Let's be honest.  The flood of "handmade" has impacted the market.  We have generated an excess of supply far beyond market demand. All these shows, festivals, online craft sites, auctions, fairs, etc. have greatly expanded the supply available to a finite number of consumers.  In other words, the rapid growth of supply has exceeded demand. 

If you disagree with the over-supply picture presented, please say so. I'd love to hear about it.

This post only covered the supply side.  The other half of the economic equation is demand. This will be the focus of the next post.


Conversation E from a series of teacups titled Consuming Conversation by Harriete Estel Berman

Consuming Conversation is a series of 200 teacups about our consumer society. The stacks of cups are precariously balanced, not unlike our own economy which has been destabilized by overspending, greed, unsound business practices, and lack of government oversight. 

Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Teacups are constructed from post-consumer recycled materials. Brass or silver handles.
Stacks are exhibited or sold in groups as photographed.

This post was updated on June 20, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent - Mainstream, Eddies, and Backwaters of Craft.

I've quietly talked to a lot of people about this topic, genuinely trying to understand . . . Why has the White Tent lost credibility?  I've long wondered why craft has not attained the stature of "fine art", but actually lost ground. 

White TENT craft-show-displaysI'm beginning to conclude that the White Tent of craft fairs and the lack of stature of craft are related.   Our marketing of craft is stuck in a 1960's model and we haven't changed our marketing methods to a 21st-century model.

The 1960s earthy, hand-made mystique of the independent artist outside of the corporate world is dated. The craft movement rode a wave of popularity that may well have become a "sinking ship" as described by Garth Clark.  I think we rode our "well-crafted boat"* with the mainstream current of American prosperity....but now we are stuck in an eddy.

The mainstream current, the eddies, and the backwater of craft.
Have you ever gone rafting down a river?   There's plenty of current in the middle and you hardly need to paddle, but closer to shore along the edge, the eddy currents actually slow down or even go backward, albeit very slowly.

WhiteTentTheresa Kwong2The craft movement rode the easy downstream current for years. We floated along, hit some gentle rapids on occasion, but never built any sustained momentum of our own.  As a whole, we craft makers rarely become good at marketing ourselves. For example, the artists participating in craft fairs and art festivals typically depend on the show sponsor for bringing in the crowds. The booth arrangements, displays, and merchandising under the white tent too often are poorly arranged, not engaging, or innovative.  I know that the artists and makers are not marketing and display experts, but these are exactly the skills that small business people need to develop in a competitive economy. 

My heart is broken. The craft fair format has evolved, but with no direction.  The white tent and craft merchandising look the same as they did 30 years ago. The white tent format has floated into an eddy and may be drifting round and round with the appearance of moving but not getting anywhere.

Bizarr Bizarre sign at Maker FaireMeanwhile, the D.I.Y. movement jumped onto the craft current and steered itself to catch the emerging currents of the Internet and social networking. Their long-tail marketing absorbed the "authenticity" that craft had 4-5 decades ago. The online buzz and fun names like Bazaar Bizarre captured the mood of a new generation. Their inventory and merchandise weren't so much better, but they leveraged the trendier and lower-cost sales channels like Etsy.

I apologize for all the negativity in this and the previous post.  Future posts will discuss the economic principles of supply and demand, the economics of handmade, demographics, and possible solutions or improvements, but I thought it was necessary to lay a foundation for background. Where can we go from here?
More soon.

*"well crafted" boat was a term used by Garth Clark in his keynote lecture during the 2012 SNAG Conference.

4 Worry Beads from Worry Upon Worry Coming Undone by Harriete Estel Berman promised gift for the Philadelphia Museum of Artlvd
Worry Upon Worry Beads Coming Undone
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman   (4 of 12 beads)
Post-consumer recycled tin cans.
Promised gift to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This post was updated on June 20, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent's Credibility - Context Does Matter

The previous post The White Tent or the White Wall raises an interesting question. Is the value of art or craft defined by the context?

Here is one answer from an article in The Washington Post titled "Pearls Before Breakfast".

"MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station. [Watch this video of Joshua Bell at the D.C. subway station if you missed the previous post.]

ELLSWORTHkelly-tiger-53"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"

"Leithauser's point is that we shouldn't be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters." end quote.

To go back to our craft fair White Tent:
With rare exceptions, the white tent at a craft fair does not add credibility any more than a subway or a restaurant.  The much hoped-for "value" context is lacking.

What is the impact of this lack of credibility?
I have been thinking about this for years, but now, re-examining the white tent in this series of posts has forced me to voice a very brutal reality -- if context matters, then we makers may have devalued our work by exhibiting at craft fairs, possibly to a point that it may never recover. The context of the craft fair has devalued craft media, regardless of quality. 

This isn't going to be a popular observation. I hear outrage....and hostility. My comment is not meant to devalue the art or craft work, nor make a judgment about quality.  I am describing the context . . . that the context of craft fairs has devolved into a branding gimmick for consumer audiences seeking to buy low-priced items.  Consequently, our handcrafted, thoughtful, unique objects are compared to mass-produced, low-priced goods.  This diminishes the perceived value and credibility of our work.

This issue has been compounded in recent years by the hard economic times. In sincere attempts to gain visibility and retail sales, makers are making less expensive items to sell work at lower price points. Two-dimensional artists are selling computer-generated prints and canvases using commercial reproduction processes to look like original paintings.  Likewise, three-dimensional makers shift their efforts to fabricate what sells.  Many decide to show only lower-priced items further reducing limited booth space dedicated to more unique expensive selections.

The consumer public is coming to craft fairs expecting "deals from starving artists" and prices comparable to cheap imported goods.  Craft fairs increasingly feature hobbyists who often price their inventory merely hoping to recover their material costs. Second careers and retirees may have "fun" making and selling but often seem to have less concern about making a living.

In an effort to increase interest in craft and raise attendance, the craft fair has pandered to the mass consumer market.  This is a huge mistake.

It is rare to find the discerning buyer or collector coming to a craft fair to buy the best from a maker or artist.  Most of the time the maker's or artist's "best" is not brought to the craft fair. Only a few craft fairs nationwide have been able to maintain the reputation of their event as a premium show. The rest are slowly diminishing in credibility.

Even established juried fairs are having difficulty filling show booths with top-quality makers. Top makers and artists are becoming less willing to invest three days in an exhausting, costly, and demoralizing event for people who come "just to look." More evidence that the context of the white tent is diminishing in value even to the makers themselves.

So sorry to say all this. I don't like to say negative comments without offering some recommendations....but it seems disingenuous to cheer "rah, rah, rah" and "sell, sell, sell" when the context at the white tent craft fair is losing value.

Is it possible to raise the status of the white tent, to change its context?  Or should we spend our time and effort in more productive channels to obtain the right kind of exposure and context necessary to sell our work?

Let's keep examining the issues. I have more thoughts.

Increasing quantity diminishing valuea
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value
Post-consumer recycled tin cans, and copper.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
7" height x 8" width to 2" (at narrow end) x 58.5" length
Close-up images are below.
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing  Value by Harriete Estel Berman
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value
(close-up view)

Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value (close-up view) by Harriete Estel Berman 2side
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value (close-up view) 

This post was updated on June 17, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent or the White Wall.

KingsMountainArtFair2. Harriete Estel Berman at the S. F. Museum of Modern Art

SF Museum of Modern Art          King's Mountain Art Fair      

As mentioned in the previous post, on Labor Day Weekend I went to both SFMOMA and the King's Mountain Art Fair. Each of these venues offers a sanctuary for creative expression, a haven, a quiet experience to look at art, and a wonderfully tranquil environment.

Cathedral of Redwood Trees.The King's Mountain Art Fair takes place in a natural cathedral of redwoods.   In contrast, the  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a modern building designed for and dedicated to the arts. Both venues are "destinations." San_francisco_museum_modern_art_am030309_1Everyone attending these venues immerses themselves in the surroundings, taking time to look and to see what there is to see. By being there, they are supporting the arts.

Both locations offered visibility for the artists, but I kept wondering ....what difference is there between the white tent of the fair and the white wall of the museum.

Alison Antelman White Booth inside viewThe artists in the white tents are reaching for visibility, credibility, collectors, and retail sales.  But the artists at the museum are visible, credible, collected, and purchased.

Was there any artwork or craft at the King's Mountain Art Fair with a future on the white walls of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
(or any museum)?

What would I think about the art in SFMOMA if it were hanging on a white booth at Kings Mountain Art Fair?

In the video below, Joshua Bell played Bach in the District of Columbia subway during rush hour. A few people stopped and watched this world-class musician "playing exquisite violin piece on one of the world's most expensive violins." Mostly he was ignored, earning a reported $32.17.

The point? Without the credibility established by a concert hall, the metaphorical white wall, he was just another artist seeking visibility with no credibility.  A quote from the article from Joshua Bell, "When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here,[in a subway station] there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."

The primary issue in the art world and in this post is that the white wall of the museum establishes credibility.

Would I recognize work at a craft fair that deserved to be validated by the white wall of the museum?

How apparent is it that a painting, drawing, print, or photograph belongs only at a craft fair?

What aspects or factors of an artwork (of any media) cause it to belong in a museum?

Do you (the readers of ASK Harriete) ever walk through an art/craft fair or SOFA, and ask this question?

In the meantime, do you have an opinion you'd like to share?

Alison Antelman Booth Inside.
Booth Shot of Alison Antelman's Booth.

This post was updated on June 17, 2022.


Ordinary, Extraordinary & Future of Craft

This Labor Day weekend I went to the King's Mountain Art Fair and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  The two venues provided both striking contrasts and similarities -- which raised questions that continue to reverberate in my brain.  The ordinary and the extraordinary coexist in both.  The absolute natural setting of an amazing redwood grove versus the man-made, credentialed establishment of a modern museum. 

Can you see the similarities and differences?

Kings Mountain Art Fair.

What issues do these photos raise?
The issues are varied and complex:

Is there a future for craft beyond D.I.Y.?

What is the economical model we are looking at here?

Can craft media makers make a viable living in craft media?

Can craft makers hope to achieve more than break-even? What is break-even?

Does selling at craft fairs reach your objectives?

Is there a future for craft fairs?

What is happening to the Galleries that sell craft media?

Will there ever be a craft media superstar?

Is it a bunch of baloney to say that making a living from craft is possible?

Does "handmade" have value anymore?

Should consumers pay what it costs makers to make?  

Can consumers be educated about why our work costs so much? Does it really matter?

In the next few posts, I intend to examine, discuss, and debate these issues.  Send comments and let me know your opinions, questions, and insights.


This post was updated on June 17, 2022.