Art Fair Insiders

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

The other day when I stopped to buy some E-6000, the woman in the checkout line ahead of me was buying an armful of jewelry magazines.

As we were crawling by inches forward, she turned to me, admired my necklace and asked, "Which magazine did you find that one in?"

I was surprised at the height, breathe and depth of my indignation. I have been thinking about this moment and I have an epiphany to share with you:


People who copy from books, magazines, websites or classes are not artists!

They are copy-cats.


I have never used a book, magazine or the web for my work. Every design comes from my imagination. I have taken certification classes in a process but never a class on how to make a pair of earrings. I have a book on how to use the various PMCs which I received in my cert class, my kiln operating book, a book on the properties of natural gemstones, one on pearls and a general How To Bible of tools and techniques.


Aren't there clear instructions at Art Fairs that nothing can be made from a kit?


Well, following the step-by-step instructions (with pictures) is just like using a kit. You just go to the local bead shop and they will read your instruction set and give you everything that would have been in that kit.


Today I was back at the store and thought I would look through the lot. I could not believe the silliness, the trashiness, the lack of balance or color, the ART-LESS-NESS of the patterns in these ad filled mags. This is a business: NOT one set to build the next Artist.


I am sure Michaelangelo wasn't pausing on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, waiting for his monthy magazine for inspiration.




Views: 385

Comment by geri a. wegner on May 14, 2011 at 9:13pm
Please define artist for me.
Comment by Carla Bank on May 15, 2011 at 1:13am

I use the web, go to museums, browse magazines and read books about other artist's techniques and all these inspires me. I don't feel I'm copying anybody, sometimes I find an artists that makes something to click inside of me to start a new painting. An example is Cezanne, Matisse, their colors inspire me. Diego Rivera, his flowers and people make me run to my canvas and I don't even paint flowers, Picasso, his lines push me to try to paint more lines, so is this copying??  The other day I was browsing all the work of this Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo that fascinates me, I love his abstracts and I started a new abstract. If you compare the work it is totally different, no similarity at all, I was looking at a painting that he did with watermelons. I ended up painting abstract red flowers, nothing close to watermelons but it made me feel like using purples and reds.

I graduated from graphic design 20 years ago, but until now, I always love to take painting classes, every teacher has a different technique, perspective or point of view and I love to learn from them and spend hours analyzing other works and talking about techniques. I admire each teacher I have known because they opened my eyes to other concepts, I keep my style but I experiment with other subjects, materials or themes, art is infinite and I feel I will never stop learning. 

And at the end of the day, Picasso, together with Georges Braque he initiated around 1906-1908 Cubism, based on a strong inspiration of Paul Cézanne's work.  The question is...Were they copying, experimenting or just using each others work as inspiration?

Comment by lori kay on May 15, 2011 at 5:13am
I asked that question Geri and the answer I was given by a show director was this, an artist is a person who produces non functional, decorative work, a craftsperson produces functional work.  I can live with that.
Comment by Jeanne Steck on May 15, 2011 at 7:50am
Lori, I'm not sure I can live with that.  Clay artists, wood sculptors, jewelry artists, etc all may produce work that might be functional.
Comment by Jeanne Steck on May 15, 2011 at 7:58am
Fabulous response, Carla!


Linda, I'm sorry, but this time I have to disagree with you. I probably subscribe to some of those magazines you're talking about. I also have several books on my shelf with hundreds of designs.  And you know what - I look at them and wonder why they're there. I've never made any of those designs.  But, like Carla said - They inspire me.  I see Irina Meich, Denise Peck or anyone else in Beadstyle or Wirework  0r Bead and Button and they inspire me to try new techniques with my materials and to put my own twist on them.  I'm curious, when you take a class, aren't you "copying" the instructors technique.  How does that differ from reading her instructions in a book or magazine? I spend time on another site where we share designs and techniques and critiques when requested in a very supportive forum.  We're not copying - we're sharing and growing.

I also look in jewelry stores, catalogs, and on necks.  As an artist, I might not care, but as a businesswoman, I need to see what the trends are. 

My response to the woman in the checkout line would have been very different.  Perhaps a smile before proudly responding that it was one of my own creations.

Comment by Caroline Kwas on May 15, 2011 at 8:03am
Right on, Carla.  I'm in the middle of a fascination with Georgia O'Keeffe and I've been looking to her realistic works to inspire me beyond the photorealism I've been doing.  I too wonder where the line between "copying" and "inspiring" is.  After studying her work, I see new avenues my own work which I'm very excited about, but strive to make it "mine".  As artists, our job is to explore creative expression, but we don't necessarily have to reinvent the wheel.
Comment by Jeanne Steck on May 15, 2011 at 8:10am

Caroline, we must have been writing at the same time!

I totally agree with you!

Comment by Larry Berman on May 15, 2011 at 8:23am
Copying can be considered art though not be other artists, but by the public who may not know better. Appropriation can also fall into that category. Look at the Fairey Obama poster. It's considered art and stealing.

One possible way of dealing with the question about whether you got your design from a magazine was to tell the person that you create your own designs and have been asked to write about it for the magazine but have turned them down because you don't want your designs copied. You might even generate a sale from the discussion.

Wearing your own jewelry makes it easy to promote yourself to the people who may be interested enough to purchase. I once made a sale of one of my photographs at a supermarket by showing a portfolio of images on the back of a point and shoot camera.

BTW, for non jewelers, E6000 is an adhesive.

Larry Berman
Comment by Leslie Christopher Bookout on May 15, 2011 at 9:23am
I might use a detail from a magazine ad/photo, like folds of a bent trousers knee, or highlights on a glass window... nothing particularly remarkable. Cats make wonderful models for dragons!
Comment by Caroline Kwas on May 15, 2011 at 10:01am
Jeanne, looks like we were!  I use photos I find on the web when I can't find what I need in my own library of photos that I take myself.  Recently, I needed yellow oak leaves because I don't have any of my own.   I do not copy a photograph, even my own, but I borrow elements of many to guide me as I work up a finished piece.  I don't feel I'm copying, as the final piece is a composite of so many different references that it has taken on a life of it's own.  I probably could make my life a lot easier if I did just work directly from a couple of photos, but that's not the way my art works.


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