Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Every so often an AFIer throws out a comment about lurkers who should be joining in on the discussion.  Then today I read another thread that appeared to be written by a newbie (i.e. lurker), followed by two pages of comments that jumped all over her case.  Get the connection?

I understand that sites like this can only flourish when there's a healthy mix of people who are willing to contribute.  Fortunately for AFI, we have many artists who are generous with their time and thoughts, which makes the site relevant, meaningful and helpful.

I also understand that those regulars have every right to become tired of doing all the heavy lifting.  They should not have to continually carry the burden themselves.

From my perspective, there are many reasons why lurkers don't write.  They feel they have nothing of value to contribute.  They feel they're not skilled enough as writers.  Or they're afraid others will jump down their throats if they say something wrong.  And face it, it's easy to say the wrong thing when you're a new person and others don't know how to interpret your comments and your point of view.

I believe that we can best encourage lurkers to write by being consistently respectful and encouraging toward those who do, whether or not we agree with them.  That includes not being a smartass when we respond -- a behavior that's hilarious in person and among people who know each other well, but when directed toward a newbie it's enough to make them crawl back into the corner and never come out again.

So can we quit trying to make the lurkers feel like they're doing something wrong?  If you feel like you're being taken advantage of because you're doing all the writing, stop writing until you've calmed down and are once again feeling okay about sharing what you know.

Now let's all sing kumbaya and have a beer.

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Well, Karen, I'm not much of a singer, but I AM having a beer.  Thanks for your post - very well said.  I cringe when I read some comments because I think the one it's directed at will never post again.  Also, when someone is very comfortable with writing, dashing off a quick review or comment comes easily.  Many people are NOT comfortable with writing - they think over and over how to say what they want to say, make more than one false start, and eventually give up.  You can disagree nicely or jump all over someone.  I vote for niceness.

So right, both of you, and you Ruth hit the nail on the head. If you look at our Code of Conduct you'll see that essentially Rule#1 is "be nice."

I, for one, and speaking for others, really appreciate it when a new person comes in to post a comment, blog post or start a discussion. The other regulars appreciate it also. The problem comes in when a person may not be comfortable writing. Art is after all a visual, not a literal medium, and writing is not everyone's comfortable medium. There is that additional problem of nuance. When you are speaking with someone face to face the body language explains a lot. Writing in a community forum is a learned technique. Karen, you and Ruth have not encountered problems with this. 

I have just come back from a Friday night with friends, 2 Dewars and a pitcher of margaritas later, means I can write well. Practice makes (not) perfect. I've been online a long time here and hopefully people understand what I am saying. It should be the same for you. 

We welcome the lurkers. You should have been here four years ago when anyone posting was lucky not to get their (whatevers) blown off by the incivility. Everyone is welcome. Opinions and experiences are all welcome. Including Karen, and Robin and everyone else. 

So, I guess my Friday night works for me. What about you?

Robin did obviously step in it but wow what a thrashing. I simply felt bad for everyone reading it and definitely made a mental note to keep any and all complaints I may have about anything to myself.

I think the dynamics of this board and the various agendas folks have in dealing with it simply makes an open and frank discussion about some things out of bounds. I did find it interesting that such long time participant's seemed so blindsided by this type of input from an artist just starting out. I would have thought they would be so used to such things and would have simply plopped on the ol' PR hat a gently explained the realities of a show, maybe even with a little humor, and then the standard 'we do care and will look into it' response. I guess the shout down works better.    

anyway, thanks for trying though.

I would respectfully disagree with you here. The board is moderated to the degree that truly offensive behavior is removed. Anything else involves give and take. If someone makes a brash statement, they do need to be prepared to defend their viewpoint. The OP didn't fare as well as she could have, and mainly due to the way additional information came out. The key thing is that if you're going to have complaints, have your arguments and ducks in a row before you start. I've left scathing reviews of shows and promoters before, to the point of calling one outfit a bunch of inept clowns. When someone thought that was excessive, I was able to enumerate the inadequacies and problems. End of that argument ;-)

I'm not convinced we disagree at all. I don't think it can be moderated and in line with this post I think it had/has a chilling effect on new artist saying much and I think that was really the point of many of the responders.

I mean come on, I didn't get a warm bagel, they made me move my car and no one offered to help me break down was overly brash and out of line? It seems more like just a new and inexperienced artist with perhaps an unrealistic set of expectations that could have been handled so easily without any of the drama at all.

That's why I posted here, that huge reaction to a fairly benign set of complaints from a new artist just seemed kind of absurd, IMHO, and I just want to say up front that I plan to thoroughly enjoy every single show I am lucky enough to get juried into and as long as the promoters don't toss my tent in the alley b4 the end of the show, I'm good.

Ok, I'll timidly step out of the woodwork for a few seconds and give up some thoughts. I am not a writer. I have difficulty in composing and posting articles for the blog section of my website. Please bear with me. I really appreciate this site and enjoy reading all of the viewpoints, tips and experiences of the folks here. Believe me I have learned a ton here. I truly believe that my increasing success has come from knowledge I've gained here. But this is where , in my case, I am at a bit of a different level so to speak. AFI is populated in large part by highly talented artists who travel to major, major shows across the country and I admire every bit of what they are doing. I wish I were younger and could afford to give that level of participation a try. Having said that, I am also comfortable in my own skin by doing smaller and more local shows. It's quite interesting to compare what I see at these smaller shows with what I read about the majors. So I end up questioning whether my reporting on any of these shows would be of any value to the artists in the upper tier shows. I have occasionally posted some thoughts (see my review of the Atlantic City Boardwalk show) and have never been put down or spoken to unkindly here. I'll just go on until I can feel comfortable with where us smaller, local type guys can contribute.

David, you could have been reading my mind every time I log on here.  I am from a small town in Louisiana and have done only small shows in comparison to what is usually reported on here.  I find it intimidating to ask about the shows that I am interested in because the are on a much smaller scale than what others here at AFI have attended/pursued.


Having said that, when I have posted I have not felt others lashed out at me or made me feel less than.  My "less than" and "intimidated" feelings are all in my own head and heart.  I think it also comes from the fact that my work is aligned more with crafts and certainly is not fine art.  There is much more talk here about fine art than crafts so to me that lends to the intimidation factor.

Thanks for letting me post!

I agree, Karen. I am a long time AFI'er. And a long time lurker. For the first year I found it intimidating, but now not so much. BUT...that being said, over the years of being a member here, and doing what shows we have in my region, etc, I have developed a "thicker skin"....I have learned not to take comments personally, find the humor, and not to immediately react to something I read here. I step away, digest, and if I feel the need, respond when I have a better understanding of the discussion, contributors, and the situation. If it's a down right flame war, I don't play that way. Not my cup of coffee, if you get my drift. But those who are just starting out, and using this forum for reference, research and information, haven't quite developed that yet. I have also seen, not just here at AFI, but on many sites with discussion boards, some behavior, that while fostering thought provoking activity, has some down right disgraceful, rude and insulting stuff happening. I am by no means a shy individual, BUT.... I have ENOUGH extraneous stress and BS happening in my usual daily life that, foster that in my online life is counter intuitive to me.  Insults, name calling, flame wars and all that are just not what I want to deal with. So I fully understand why there are so many lurkers. Why set yourself for more abuse and negativity, when the world is already going to chew you up and spit you out, DAILY. I try to afford RESPECT and MANNERS in my dealings with others, at all times. Sadly, I am seeing this become an OLD FASHIONED, out dated form. Our society is becoming ruder, more selfish, and less careful of others. It is a sad, but true observation. I however, will continue to be the person my Grandma expected me to be...true to myself, respectful of others, and a GRACEFUL person. Thank you, and well said!

I second all of this.....except that I haven't been here for years or done the fair scene before. I'm not comfortable sharing at times because of the behavior of others.  I love the wealth of knowledge on the site and have lurked off and on for a few years.  I'd like to be active in conversations, but don't want added stress and negativity in my life.  I'm the type of person that is such a people-pleaser and avoid conflicts at every turn that it's hard for me to let go of that negativity. It really gets to me at times.  I know that's my problem, not others, but I take care of the situation by not participating.    

This is an interesting discussion, Karen, and as a newbie, I know where of you speak...but like the others, I try not to take unkind comments to heart.  Instead I chalk it up to being inexperienced and therefore rather than think of myself as a "lurker", I tend to only express my opinions on things I feel I do know something about.  There are those who take themselves a little too seriously here, and those that don't and that's what makes this site so fascinating, that mix of personalities and opinions.  I do agree that there's an end to civility in modern culture and that makes me very sad but all you can do is continue to be the person your grandmother would be proud of...

Karole, I know at least a couple of those sites you're referring to -- where some of the members seem to get a kick out of seeing how outrageous and insulting they can be -- and it's a turn-off for me, too.  I don't need that self-indulgent crap.

David, I completely understand your thoughts about doing smaller shows and therefore feeling you don't have valuable input to share with a national/international audience or artists.  I've grown past the regional craft show circuit and am now doing regional art shows that are a step or two below the big kahunas (actually, I don't know what tier I'm in; wish there were a list somewhere).  So I, too, have hesitated in the past on writing show reviews.

I finally decided that if there are any artists in attendance at a show who have come from another state, it's worth writing a review here.  Sometimes I write one when the show is trying to get artists from out of state yet I believe the show isn't up to the standard that would make it worth the time and expense to travel.  And sometimes a show does such a good job of organizing, or handling set-up, or jurying or whatever that it's nice to share their techniques with others.  Show organizers do read this site, and artists do repeat what they read here to their friendly show-promoter buddies, so one good idea practiced at a local show can improve a dozen other shows across the country.

In the end, I think the wealthiest people are the ones who cheerfully give information away.

Thank you Karole for your insights. I actually do several shows that involve multi state artists. Wheaton Festival of Fine Craft (NJ) and the Stone Harbor Arts Fair (NJ again) are two of my best shows each year. I will do my best to share how those shows are set up and run. Your points certainly shed more light for us doing the regional thing :-)


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