Friday, September 16, 2011

A Year In Review

I had every intention of writing a re-cap on October 1, after the completion of the Year of Fearlessness project... but I've been a busy lady. I thought that end of the Plaza Art Fair would be the beginning of my vacation. I was wrong... but at least I'm never bored. However, I've learned many lessons in this past year, and I feel like sharing a few.

1) Life is very much like spinning plates. If you've ever seen someone spin plates on the top of sticks, you know that the difficult part is getting the plates up in the air. Once they're up, you just have to use momentum to keep them going. I'm done with the overwhelming effort of putting my business together, now I just have to maintain the energy. Even despite languishing after the Herculean task of starting a business, and then grieving for my grandfather earlier this year, I still managed to get into a number of awesome art fairs, win awards in the Bead Dreams competition, the British Bead Awards and the Designer Jewelry Showcase, and show my work in international competitions and exhibitions (I'm up to three continents!). It's uncanny.

2) If a photographer contacts you about using your pieces, make sure that they're reputable. I dealt with a photographer from Model Mayhem who asked to keep my pieces for two weeks and ended up holding on to them for two months. He pretty much ignored me for most of that time, not answering messages until I posted something on his online magazine's Facebook page about how frustrated I was. That was over a year ago, and I still haven't seen the photos from the shoot, haven't heard back from him, and it looks like the photos won't be included in the magazine. Creative talent does not equal business talent, unfortunately, and my time and energy were wasted on this guy.

Conversely, I dealt with a fantastic stylist named Apuje Kalu who sent me a contract, shipped my pieces back in a timely manner and sent me images of the photo shoot directly when the photographer was overwhelmed by his personal life. Because of my work with him, my jewelry has been featured in two very beautiful fashion editorials. If he contacts you, work with him. The photos will be amazing, I assure you. Plus, you might get your pieces in an Australian magazine like I did. That's pretty neat.

3) Research out of state art fairs VERY CAREFULLY before you take the time and effort to leave the state. I made the mistake of doing the Milwaukee Domes Art Festival this year. The location is gorgeous, the crowds who came out for the show were lovely (although many of the people had no idea that there was an art fair happening in the Domes that weekend), but it's a new show and that turned out to be problematic. As I said, attendance was VERY low and show policies were unclear. While the volunteers were generally nice, I ran into a couple problems:

--The show ended at 7pm on Saturday. Since I had a booth inside, this meant that the lights were turned off at 7pm. Seriously. I had a customer at my booth who was thinking about what merchandise to purchase. First the lights were shut off on her (how was I expected to clean up in the dark?). Things were then made worse when the volunteer at the door started clapping her hands and shouting, "Finish up your shopping and let's go!" If the customer had any doubts, that would have been the end of that sale.

--The director of the art fair walked up to me and said excitedly, "We're giving out the awards now." When he shook his head to indicate I didn't win one, he said, "I just wanted to have one of those American Idol heartbreak moments." I'm not exactly sure what I did to incur his passive-aggressive wrath, but I really wish he would have just brought it to my attention instead of being hurtful. A cash prize (they're generous at this show) would have made this lackluster show a real winner.

4) I already knew this, but the more time you spend doing what you love, the more confidence you develop about everything in your life. I credit improv classes with a lot of my freedom to say and do what I want. (They drill in your head immediately that if you think something you should say it.) However, doing what I love and being successful at it have worked wonders at making me freer with my opinions. There is no greater experience than just being yourself:

Aluminum chainmail jewelry
Handcrafted chainmaille jewelry


  1. Vanessa, I'm so proud of you for all that you're accomplishing! It's amazing, but not at all surprising, since you're so very talented.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Wow, that fair director sounds like an enormous #$%&!! That is just awful. I agree completely that it's important to vet a show first before committing to it -- that's one BIG thing I've learned myself this year.

    Congrats on all that you have accomplished! :)