Monday, September 05, 2011

American Craft Expo Recap, or Things I Learned at the Show - Part 1

Today as I come off the high of my recent experience of participating in the American Craft Expo as an Emerging Artist, I am reflecting on how the experience impacted my life and all the things I learned in the process of preparing for and being at the show.

For starters, I learned a little about my sense of fashion and personal style.

Face it, I'm an artist. I spend my days mostly in isolation working at home in my own studio. My wardrobe consists mainly of comfy clothes, including what I affectionately call my "studio pants". A pair of army green capris, with those little stretch bungee things that scrunch or loosen, depending on what I ate for lunch, that I salvaged from a bag of one of my daughters cast off's and wear year round with tank top or sweater, depending on the temperature in the studio, or the cycle of my hormones.

and while I can get away with this in my own studio, I was wise enough to realize the caliber of this show warranted taking a second look at my clothing options.

One of the first things I learned is that I do like to shop at real clothing stores, in places where many different clothing stores can be found together, along side entire stores for shoes, and others just for make-up. I typically spend as little money or time on myself as possible, coming from a background laden with a distorted sense of guilt, and what it means to sacrifice, putting others needs ahead of my own, etc. etc. and past shopping trips for my own clothing has traditionally been done in stores where I can also purchase the family groceries, and tires for the car, and fertilizer if I felt the need.

It was fun trying on all those clothes and after a long day at the mall I selected some new jeans, cute new shoes, and a couple of what I felt looked like artsy-yet-dressy tops, but the first night at the show I felt out of place and uncomfortable in the first flowing artsy top I wore and the second day I put one on and wound up taking it off in favor of a more classically cut blouse I had hanging in the closet.

By the end of the show I had a dawning recognition of my true style, a little tailored, a little classic, and just a little trendy and I treated myself to a post-show shopping trip to both, celebrate the successful outcome of the show, and my developing sense of personal style.

Setting up my booth in the Emerging Artist section, I wasn't sure what to expect from the attendees of such a prestigious show coming to view the high caliber craft and meet the established, experienced artists who had created it. I imagined there would be long stretches of silence watching the action from afar and an occasional visit from a curiosity seeker, a sympathetic patronizer of the arts, or a lost visitor looking for the bathroom.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find more then just a trickle of curious onlookers, but an onslaught of eager-to-talk, look, and buy art lovers and sincere friendly and encouraging men and women. In the process of answering questions, many that were asked several times over the course of the 4 days I was there, I learned how to loosen up and talk about my art in a sincere way that included the intuitive process and my experience of working in silence in my studio. I shared how I felt my time of creating was similar to a time of prayer, meditation and worship. I shared that I viewed many of my smaller works as "wordless prayers" or blessings meant for the viewer and recipient of the work as much as for myself. I learned that when I spoke with this kind of openness, not trying to pretend I knew more then I did, or that I had a well thought out artistic plan that led to each creation, and not trying to hide the spiritual side of my creative process, that I was received with the same genuine openness that I had shared and I was allowed a glimpse into the heart of many who shared with me in return.

This was more then I expected to receive in this environment and I left with an increasing sense of awe and reverence for they way in which we were created as humans, with an earnest desire to connect and be relational, open and real with each other.

Many of these conversations not only led to purchases, but also to inquiries about commission work and interest in private workshops to lead students through the intuitive process and these inquiries led me to the next thing I learned at the show, which was that the business side of my craft matters as much as the art itself. I found myself unprepared with business forms, written information to answer questions on how to commission work, or schedule a workshop. I need to establish a contact list to follow through with inquiries and remember who had asked for what service. I left with several scraps of paper, a notebook, and some mental notes and the feeling that something important had been forgotten. But, I tell myself, this is part of the emerging process. Learn from this experience and be better prepared for the next show.

And this thought, of improving on and growing from the place that I am leads me to the most profound lesson I learned at the show. That of seeing myself as a whole and complete picture. It was a moment that time slowed down and the curtain was pulled back and I felt a stirring of recognition in my heart as if I were staring in a mirror and really seeing myself for the first time. I learned that God can speak to me anywhere, at any time, and I don't have to be on my knees pleading with him or sitting in the silence of my studio to hear it, though these times are important, but that when He really wants to show me something, especially something that He has been working with me on, He has a way of getting my attention. He can use even the most seemingly innocent remark from a total stranger in passing to say the most significant thing. I will share more in my next post as I mull it over and keep it close to my heart a few more days.

For now, I'll just leave you with a few pictures of my booth and a heartfelt thank-you for following me along this journey. . .


  1. congratulations!!!! looks like it is a winning booth. thank you much crystal for openness of sharing. not only the craft expo BUT also the God relationship in your life...blest be! :)

  2. Crystal, your talent, transparency, and beautiful heart shine, not only in your amazing collage work, but in your written voice. I can not wait to see what incredible blessings God has in store for you.

  3. Wonderful post~~loved your conversation about how God guides you~Congratulations on the recognition and success!

  4. Crystal, I was right there with you as I read about your ordeal with clothes shopping. My dear husband has been asking lately why I wear clothes until they are thread bare, I will have to have him read your post for some insight ;-)

    Also, so thrilled for your achievements (financial & spiritual) at the craft expo. I hope this is the first of many successful years there.

  5. I am glad you had such a great show, congratulations! If you ever decide you want to do online classes I would be interested...and you can wear your capris :)

  6. thanks for sharing all that you words just flow as your work too. amazing to see the work hanging there...wonderful presentation and so, so, happy for you and all that you've experienced and shared with us.. many more blessing.

  7. As a fellow studio-pants-trying-to-upgrade type, I appreciated reading about your personal growth. So inspiring. As is your work. Last but not least, your booth is awesome! Many, many congratulations on an emergence well done!

  8. everything looks so gorgeous framed! i'm almost ready to hang those 3 pieces I bought from you at the One of a Kind show last year. i can't believe it's been almost a year and i still don't have them up yet! i've been waiting for the perfect spot...and perfect frames. and i do believe i've found them both!

  9. Beautiful post. Your words are so heart-felt. They wrap the reader up and deposit her/him right beside you on the journey. Love it!

  10. I'm not surprised at the interest and sales. Loved reading this. Thanks for posting. Another reminder to me that "realness" invites and attracts "realness". :)

  11. Your booth looks sensational. Congratulations. And thanks for sharing all the lessons that you learned.

  12. crystal, it seems you and shop at the same stores for our bungee pants/fertilizer/groceries, lol! you more than crack me up! :)

    i love this reflection you’ve written. it has your voice all over it. and i heartily agree, your booth looks so awesome! awesome!

    can you believe it?! you were in ACE!!! :) yayayayayyy!

  13. Oh Crystal, your lessons learned are both touching and funny. I completely get it about the your style changes and love that so many people talked to you and that you relaxed and enjoyed yourself. And of course your work is as beautiful as ever!

  14. Congratulations Crystal! It sounds like an amazing experience. I love your work, and your booth looks great. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.