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Connie Mettler Retires - Congratulations!

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10813124094?profile=RESIZE_400xAfter decades of service to the art fair industry, Connie Mettler, our Founder and Publisher, has retired. Learn more below about her years of pioneering work on behalf of artists and art fairs nationwide and online. Please click through at the bottom to comment and share your best wishes on Connie's retirement, too! 

Connie Mettler’s passion from the beginning was to help her artist friends make money.
 
Her mission:
“ArtFairCalendar.com exists to promote the work of the artists and craftspeople who earn their living exhibiting at art shows around the U.S.”
 
10813148664?profile=RESIZE_180x180In the beginning...
Connie participated in her first art fair in June 1978 in Royal Oak, Michigan, followed by the Ann Arbor Art Fair that July. Connie’s husband, Norm Darwish, exhibited photographs of rotten tomatoes taken in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Shoppers weren’t sure what to make of them and Norm eventually evolved his style to offer the often Victorian, hand-colored photographs that he was known for (often with Connie as the model).
 
After several years of exhibiting part-time, they decided to pursue art fairs full-time together. Connie retired from her position with Detroit Public Schools in 1984 due to the success and fun they were having. They juried into 32 shows in 2000, their peak year. The last event where they displayed Norm’s photos was Arts, Beats, & Eats in 2006. In honor of their retirement, they were granted the privilege to be the first to tear down.
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The first chapter...
In brainstorming about what to do next, her son, Scott, recognized an opportunity: while most art fairs had their own websites, there was no national directory that helped art collectors and shoppers find shows to attend. He built the online ArtFairCalendar.com (AFC) website in 2004, initially focusing on Michigan and Florida only.
 
Connie had no intention of starting a business, but she had good mailing lists of existing customers for those two states. The new service quickly found a national audience and expanded into other states and regions, even internationally. The most popular art fair website in the US, ArtFairCalendar.com has been ranked #1 by Google for online searches for “art fairs” for more than 15 years. The monthly “What are You Doing this Weekend?” email that is published in regional editions was part of AFC from the beginning. It currently goes out to over 85,000 subscribing art patrons nationally.
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The ArtFairCalendar.com platform and its spinoffs collected a first of its kind combined audience of working artists and artisans, plus top show directors and staff, plus art patrons from across the country. A winning pattern emerged: Scott would suggest an idea based on what he was seeing in the new media world, and Connie (being Connie), would run with it. Can you imagine learning HTML in your 60s? Plus, multiple software platforms, soliciting advertisers, keeping clients happy, social media marketing, and managing/training new staff to use software you barely had learned yourself? All while free-lance staffing and consulting with Art Fairs across the country? That’s Connie.
 
Chapter Two...
Meanwhile, social media chat rooms and online communities were emerging as important new ways to connect. Connie was busy with ArtFairCalendar.com and not enthused about another techie learning curve to build out ArtFairInsiders.com (AFI). But when helping Scott as an editor on his second Internet entrepreneurship book, she saw that he had used the new community forum for artists as a case study! The book demonstrated how anybody, even his mother, could build an online business. She learned the new community platform and recruited her many friends across the industry to use it. There were thousands of members in the first year and today there are more than 17,000. Remember this was before Facebook became widely popular – Facebook did not even become available beyond 10813151076?profile=RESIZE_180x180educational institutions until 2006.
 
Several more avenues...
Having built a unique new platform online, Connie was on a roll helping her friends in the industry, and supporting herself and a small team after Norm retired. 2010 brought the launch of another website at ArtShowReviews.com. The first free art fair reviews site online, it was designed to help artists share information and find the best shows for their work. 
 
Shows across the country were asking Connie for help finding artist exhibitors, and artists were using AFC to find shows. By 2010 her son built CallsForArtists.com (CFA) to help Connie help her artist friends and fellow show directors, too. In 2019 it posted over 160 events helping artists find fine art events to travel to and exhibit. Like the rest of the industry, 2020 was hit hard by the 10813150687?profile=RESIZE_180x180pandemic, but 180 events have been posted for 2022 thus far and the site is open for business to serve more.
 
ArtFairRadio.com began streaming in 2010 as likely the first podcast for working art fair artists. Connie’s hosting pioneered the call-in podcast and interview formats for the art fair industry. It played a valuable role sharing business information and building community in the art fair ecosystem.
 
In 2013 Connie launched the “Best Art Fairs” survey and competition on ArtFairCalendar.com. This publicity initiative continues to help top shows promote themselves, engage patrons, and attract publicity to ArtFairCalendar.com.
 
10813151269?profile=RESIZE_180x180The goodwill all this work generated in the community was huge – it allowed Connie to hold an annual “Birthday Pledge Drive” on ArtFairInsiders.com. Artists, shows, and sponsors contributed prizes as rewards for PBS-style pledges the audience sent in to support Connie’s websites. She followed this up with a Secret Santa exchange on ArtFairInsiders.com to further help build community among the artists.
 
The big pivot...
When the reality of the pandemic became obvious in March of 2020, Connie had to do something to help artists stay afloat. AFC had 70 shows listed in April of 2020; only one was live. Art Fair producers and directors were quickly pivoting to virtual shows. The first AFC “What are You Doing this Weekend…?” email edition featuring virtual shows went out on April 2, 2020. A Virtual Shows page on AFC was added, too. Connie conducted a series of how-to podcasts on Art Fair Radio, with experts on 10813156265?profile=RESIZE_180x180Web design, using social media, and what government resources were available to help artists get through the crisis.
 
The Covid pandemic also prompted her to jump on the Zoom bandwagon in May 2020. Partnering with Sharon McCallister of ArtFest Fort Myers, she began hosting private virtual “Show Directors Community Calls” for show producers and directors. These are held monthly online with dozens of participants from across the country. The calls continue to give top art event directors a place to share experiences and learn about resources.
 
A lasting legacy...
10813153853?profile=RESIZE_180x180Connie was on the board of Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak, MI, and Art Fair Director there for 14 years, a Board member of the Guild of Artists and Artisans in Michigan, and a founding member of the NAIA. Connie has now retired after 44 years in the Art Fair industry. You will still see her fingerprints on the websites, but she has finally begun leaving home without her laptop. An avid world traveler, we still receive regular updates and assignments whether she is in Viet Nam, Germany, Argentina, or California. She went snowshoeing and cross-country skiing last winter, but managed a meet-and-greet with the Art Association of Jackson Hole.
 
As Connie would say:
“With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?”
Oscar Wilde
 
Thank you, Connie!
 
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Do you have a Connie Mettler or ArtFairCalendar.com story to share? 10813419282?profile=RESIZE_400x
Please say hello and congratulate Connie on her retirement here!
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Art Business Resources - Here's my picks!

Connie Metler, after seeing the blog asked me to repost this here as both her and I feel it is timely and may help those who are new and old to the business.Looking for Art Business Resources? Here's my picks!It's a New Year - Happy New Year everyone! As with each New Year, I think it is the time we look at changing habits, looking for answers and advice on how to make things better, right? Today I am going to share some of my favorite resources I keep handy regarding art/craft business. Please note I am not paid to mention any of the following resources and they are in no particular order.1. Niche Magazine. This is a fantastic publication the helps unite retailers and craft artists offering advice regarding keeping great employees, market trends, wholesale show information, issues raised by retailers that artists should know, as well as business tips. It is put out by The Rosen Group the same group that is behind the Philadelphia Buyers Market of Art/Craft and the publication American Style. A quick Google search for Niche magazine will help you learn more about the publication as well as how to get your hands on a copy.2. The Art and Craft Show Yellow Pages. This is also a publication and it comes out every quarter and focuses on art/craft show listings throughout the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. It also offers great advice for people who do art and craft fairs such as tips on attracting customers into your booth, organizing tips, financial tips (such as getting ready for tax time as well as insurance help) and much more. This publication isn't on newsstands, but available through the website www.smartfrogs.com .3. The Crafts Report. Another good publication is the Crafts Report magazine which can be found via some news stands and via their website. The Crafts Report covers a wide gambit such as photographing tips, regional vignettes, highlights art galleries and artists, chock full of art business tips, reporting on wholesale shows, art and craft shows, and more. Something of note - I was a freelance writer for Crafts Report and was happy to be apart of the magazine during its transition time. They are still working out the kinks to increase viewership, but the last few issues have churned out some great articles - for this reason I do recommend checking it out again if you are some that were turned off by them in the past.4. ArtFairInsiders.com . This website is a social network for art fair artists and crafts people. It just celebrated their 1 year anniversary in November and is growing like wildfire. I am lucky to be one of the people who regularly gives free advice and tips regarding doing art fairs - booth tips, customer service, finding shows, and most importantly review shows. I keep coming back to this site due to the wonderful networking opportunities as I am learning something new each time I am on the site as well as the feedback given regarding well detailed art fair reviews.5. "How to Start a Homebased Craft Business" by Kenn Oberrecht. I use this book off and on as a great resource for all things people need to know in order to run a home based business. Advice includes dealing with taxes and insurance, marketing your products via the web and shows, setting up a computer system, writing a business plan and why it is important to have one, marketing survey, and so much more. This book with others are available via Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble and Borders. I highly recommend looking at them first - via a book store or library - to ensure the information is right for you.6. "Handmade for Profit" by Barbara Brabec. This is kinda the bible on how to start your own craft business. I use it a lot as even though it is a guide on how to start a business it covers so much more. I also recommend all of Ms. Brabec's books - she has about 4-5 of them, her advice is spot on. Do check out her website as she offers newsletters and advice via her site too.7. "Crafting a Business" by Wendy Rosen. Did you know Wendy Rosen, the founder of The Rosen Group wrote her own book too? If you are looking to get into selling at retail and wholesale shows it is THE BEST book around. It offers advice on applying to events, customer relations, pricing, product development, and how to get free publicity. The downfall is some of the information is dated (in the resource area of the book), but all in all very timely advice. I use this book often - even today - because of the personal stories used to back up the advice, the sample sheets for writing up outlines of understanding(and other sheets) are something I refer back to as my business grows and new things need to be incorporated into my own applications.8. Sunshine Artists. A great publication that offers tips and listings of art shows around the country. There are some great reviews of shows and it does offer great advice too. What is great about this publication is it publishes a yearly review of the top 100 art fairs in the country as complied by surveys by readers and non-readers who sell at these shows.9. Bruce Baker's Cd's on Booth Design, Customer Service and Jury Slides. I love Baker's cd's as the advice given is amazing, revolutionizing the way artists think when it comes to doing shows. The advice is well organized and to the point (and I might add he covers everything). I often listen to his cd's as each time you hear it you pick up on something new and at the same time gets you in a motivated mindset if you listen to one on route to a show. The best tips are how to deal with negativity if it enters your booth, quips on how to deal with "I can buy that at Wal-Mart", and ideas on how to make your booth stand out from your competition at shows - for starters. Of these cd's I have 5 cd's on Dyanamic Sales and Customer Service Techniques as well as 4 on Booth Design and Merchandising (never opened) on hand right now! If anyone is interested in buying one or two from me they retail for $15, but I am selling them for $10 each (plus $4.50 for shipping and handling). If you want one please contact me via my website www.bythebaybotanicals.com and use the email form on my contact page to let me know which cd you are interested in. I accept major credit cards and checks and can send it to you the same day.I am hoping this information as well as all of my advice has and will continue to help you all in this new year as well as years to come. Feel free to share any other resources you like and others should know about via the comment button on my blog or here on artfairinsiders.com .Again, Happy New Year, Michelle
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