Returning again to the years before internet marketplaces began receiving recognition, we see that motives for craft fair participation are guaranteed to vary. Escalating costs and personal matters are what have lead Anneke and Joann to either decrease their involvement or stop it entirely, though other goods often overshadowed the craftwork with regard to profits. For those who focus solely on handmade items, participation could be considered a necessity and one that may not always be embraced with open arms. Engaging in social activity with other dealers and customers from a variety of backgrounds is not for everyone, something you might learn from anyone who has ever been employed in retail. The case I present here explores this side of fair participation, concentrated around the art of stained glass.
One account socially organizes the stained glass profession by both traditional and non-traditional elements with function being a deciding factor. Traditionalism is based upon the techniques that have survived from medieval Europe with pieces resulting from collaboration between designers and craftsmen. Between the years of 1975 and 1982, Laurence A. Basirico worked with a small stained glass business that considered craft fairs to be a necessary evil and one that was proving to be beneficial through their continuation year after year, but only for a select crowd. “What this means for both the non-traditional professionals and novices is that there is an almost constant availability of reference others to which practitioners can compare their work, learn about new technologies and techniques, test out their ideas and products, get new ideas, and generally stay current” (346). When it had come time for Basirico and his colleagues to decide whether or not to join in, they chose to weigh both the positive and negative factors. As traditional artists, they were tasked with assembling a display that represented the best of their work. Doing this required sacrificing valuable work time for their current projects. Basirico openly admits that their participation was out of fear that they would lose track of what was going on in the local craft community.
|A stained glass display at a Virginia Beach craft fair.|
Non-traditional stained glass artists are said to be more accustomed to such environments. Other than in how one presents their wares, craft fairs are typically designed to be flexible and diverse in their offerings. The professional backgrounds of the sellers could be just as mixed. In discussing this matter with his fellow glass workers, Basirico finds three patterns for fair participation. Some sellers might attend fairs for a certain period before simply stopping, some might add fairs to their regular work at their own studios, and others found fairs to be their one and only outlet for professional networking.
To an extent, these ideas all make sense. For the first group of sellers, craft fairs were only stepping stones toward much larger, more long-term business goals. This is the type of artist who strives to make a career out of what he specializes in. In a future entry, I will turn to a discussion with one such artist and with regard to Etsy and the concept of selling handmade works online.
Basirico, Laurence A. “The Art and Craft Fair: A New Institution in an Old Art World.”Qualitative Sociology, 9.4 (1986): 339-353. Print.