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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Looking back--that awful first booth

 My first time out at a maker's fair was a complete disaster.  I made just about every mistake it was possible to make.  Some of them were monumental. I had a borrowed  tent.  I had no idea how to put the canopy on it.  After my husband and I wrangled with it an hour we decided I could live without shade.  And of course there was no chance of rain predicted.

It rained buckets for 45 minutes.  We stood there trying to hold the unattached canopy over most of my stuff.  Then the sun came out and we were standing there in soaking wet clothes.  

I had priced my items haphazardly and had to prop them against each other and my makeshift tables because I had no walls or hanging spaces.  The prices were written with magic marker on masking tape.  In the midst of 45 other professional looking booths I looked like I was at the tail end of a garage sale. 

But I sold one small painting. That meant I made a profit of $15 for the day.  My husband closed his eyes and shook his head silently.  He could tell --I was planning to do it again.

That was back in 2016.  I have since done a lot of investigating online and at other shows to get ideas for what to do. I experienced a LOT of what NOT to do (especially at that first time).

So now, I have a straight-leg, easy setup white tent with

sidewalls, tent weights, two folding tables, fitted table covers that cover the mess under the tables, and most useful of all, an assortment of gridwall panels that I can configure to maximize my space in just about any circumstance.  Believe me, not all 10'x10' spaces are alike.  And some organizers don't measure very well.  Some shows will only have space for a table.  You have to just be ready to adapt, no matter what.

And you have to take your neighbors into consideration.  Most of them will be good people.  But every now and then you will run across one who creates a need for a barrier.  They may spill over into your space. Or have a very distracting booth space themself.  Or ambush your customers and move with them into their own space. (this one is especially irritating, and it is NOT acceptable to whack them over the head with a heavy object, no matter how appealing that sounds--sticking a piece of gridwall full of paintings in the way works just as well and has fewer consequences)

Having a booth is always more fun when sales are good.  But that isn't the only thing you are doing there.  You are presenting yourself and your art, and may make contacts with

future customers who see your work and come find you.  I always have a supply of my business cards, which contain my social media handles as well as my name and contact information.  Don't be afraid to hand them out, that's why you have them!  I also keep an email sign up (with the pen tied to the clipboard or else it leaves) so I can send out my little newsletters,  I don't send them if I don't have something to say, so most people don't mind getting them.  

There are a ton of free craft fair checklists available online to start out with, but you can keep track of what works for you and what doesn't and add or subtract items from the list as you gain experience. 

You do well to use one as a starting point to cover the "must take" items and check them off each go-round.  Learn from each new experience, be it good or bad.  And enjoy getting out there!  Your space is YOUR show, and you WILL connect with the right market if you just keep trying new things and evolving.

Share some of YOUR booth photos--good or bad--along with comments on this post!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


I have gotten in the habit of bringing home all different kinds of items to paint.  I don't just shop all the sales at stores.  I make lots of trips to thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets. And I bring the car to a screeching halt to check out promising piles of discards on the curb. I have snagged canvases, frames, lumber, and furniture.  LOTS of furniture.  Upcycling is fun to do, and can turn someone's trash into someone else's treasure while making me a little money. (art for art's sake is nice, but the electric company still expects cash)

Painting on any surface that already has a finish in it can be very tricky though.  While your painting may look nice, if it won't stick to the surface you wind up with a finished piece that cannot handle any kind of use.  Who wants a chair or a table that loses its paint with every casual touch?

I paint mostly in acrylic, so I need a reliable way to cover a previous finish. I have sanded a couple. But sanding a large piece before painting is horribly time consuming.  I want to find a quick and easy alternative.  Sure hope there is one!

I tried using housepaint once.  BIG mistake!  It did not bond to the wood, so the primer plus all my painting peeled off in large, floppy strips.

I ran across a good product from Dixie Belle paint that is called "slick stick". 

This primer coat was developed specifically to allow decorative artists to paint over glossy finished surfaces and adhere the paint.  I was impressed with the results.  Unfortunately it is a little in the pricey side, so I have had to save it for really special projects.

One tip for using Slick Stick by Dixie Belle paint: always cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap before you screw the lid back on.  When they say it adheres well, they are not kidding.  It will adhere to both the lid AND the jar, making getting the jar open next time a real workout.

I tried using DecoArt's paint adhesion medium, with some good results.

 It is easy to mix with your basecoat paint.  But it comes in little bottles.  To tackle a large piece of furniture you would have to have a LOT of those little bottles.

One good thing about using Dixie Belle and DecoArt products:  you are dealing with good, reputable companies that specialize in decorative painting products.  One thing you DON'T want is an unpleasant surprise. (No, I don't get any kickbacks from these companies--I just like their products for this.)

I asked the manager of a local paint company if he had a primer that would work.  He advised me to read the label carefully, and always look for the words "bonding primer" in the title and description of the product.  I have tried several out--with mixed results.  Some have left a lot of brush marks or sponge marks no matter what tool I used, others have not had good adhesion to the surface. I was often not sure what type of finish I was covering up, (oil based? water based?) so I don't know if that impacted results or not.  

I also tried spraying pieces with a matte varnish, but sometimes this just caused bubbling or crackling of the original finish.  Wound up making more work for myself.

So I am opening the floor for discussion here.  Have any readers found a good solution?  Please share it in the comments.  I would love to find a dependable, affordable, step one for upcycles!!

Here are 3 of my successful upcycles of curbside browsing.  I am currently taking on a huge one--a dining table with matching chairs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!!!

Whether you are hitting a creative wall, or charged up with ambition, or just wanting to try something out, take a risk!  Get out of your comfort zone completely and dive into something new!  You may find that it totally re-energizes all your artistic outlets.
There are worlds of instructions online on how to get started in just about anything, and plenty of them are FREE FREE FREE! (Which is great because it leaves you more money for art supplies😜)
I got interested in creating abstracts with pouring techniques mainly to end a creativity dry spell.  I didn't really think it was going to be my cup of tea. I got a cheap set of little bitty bottles of paint (from the clearance aisle, of course).  I snagged a few used canvases dirt cheap and gessoed over them and got started. Before long I was experimenting with mixing my own paint, using different additives,
heat and air...and the experiments quickly began to produce results I liked. 
Apparently other people have liked them too, as several have already sold.

Have you had a positive experience trying something outside your artistic comfort zone?  Please share it in the comments!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

painting tip

I won't bore you with a wordy post today.  Quick painter's tip:  those glass plates from the bottom of the microwave make GREAT re-usable pallets!  Easy to clean and can be found free or cheap all the time!
Do YOU have a painter's tip?  Share it here!

Sunday, June 4, 2023

It was a dark and stormy day....

 Booked into a three day long arts and crafts fair,  I was keeping an eye on the forecast.  Friday was fine with slight chance of storms predicted for Saturday.  By 10 Saturday morning, chance of storms had gone up to 30 percent.  By noon, the forecast had completely changed and severe storms were expected by 6pm.  Fortunately, since I had been worried about the weather, I had taken my spare tent instead of my good one.  I managed to get all my art into my plastic storage boxes and under my table.  Then I tarped the table just to be safe.  As I was pulling out of the lot the storm was really upon us, and I noticed a couple of tents were already blown away.  Mine had gridwall walls attached to the frame plus a set of weights, so it was heavy enough to remain in place at least. I got a text off about the loose tents to the event organizer.

On the drive home, the wind lifted my trailer up in the air twice.  Pulling a trailer that is flying in the air like a kite's tail is an experience I would not care to repeat.  

The organizer called me at home to let me know my tent was in place but was completely collapsed.  Sunday morning I checked the forecast...again 30 percent chance of storms, so instead of setting back up I just loaded our.  My stuff had all stayed dry under the tarp, so no real harm done.  The few pieces I had left uncovered were yard art and could handle getting wet. The spare tent was one I had gotten for free.  Only the gridwall had kept it in place...almost all the upper pieces were mangled.  Into the dumpster it went.  Most other vendors suffered damages and some had already left.  We all figured it was a strong wind shear that just swept across the grounds, or maybe a small tornado.  25,000 locals lost power and a number of neighborhoods flooded, so I figure I got off pretty easy this time.

Now to start getting ready for the event coming up Wednesday...oh yeah, slight chance of storms that day.  Good grief!

Monday, December 12, 2022

All I Want For Christmas

I am running very late. I don't have any Christmas trees up yet. I really need to start decorating for Christmas.

 To do this, I will first have to remove literally hundreds of painted snowflakes, Santas, snowmen, Christmas gnomes, angels and more. I have been selling painted decor at holiday markets galore. And having to paint new stock in between events. My displays have included mtiple lighted Christmas trees, garland, yard art, ornaments--I paint a lot of everything. A lot of items sold. 

  But the rest of the stuff is all over my house.

I could take the easy way out, I suppose, and just decorate with my display stuff. But I want a change of scenery, folks. I want my treasured heirloom ornament collection that dates back to my very first Christmas. 

 Which takes several trees to hold. 

And I am just about jollied out. I want to prop up my feet and read my latest painting magazines. 

 Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one in the household who knows how to run a dishwasher, washing machine, or broom. 

 Plus it is time to start getting stuff ready to sell for Mardi Gras.

 So Santa, I will pass on the jewelry, the furs, the designer bags, etc. If you could bring me a maid...early!

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Apprentice yourself to BOOKS

 🎨Some folks (rather snooty in tone) call decorative painting a craft or just a hobby, not "real" art.


The roots of all art are primitive people decorating functional objects and even cave walls.  They often seem to have believed they were adding significance and even supernatural power by the act of embellishment.  For thousands upon thousands of years, secrets of method and technique were jealously guarded.  Even into the Renaissance, apprentice painters followed the patterns, techniques, and instructions of their master painters, learning skills they could later use in their own original works.

Decorative painting teaches a myriad of skills and techniques that can be used later in original works. And when it is original, folks, that is art.

I'm glad we don't have to be apprenticed out to temperamental masters to learn to paint today!  We can find a lot of good instruction free online.  And of course, to work more at your own pace, there are books.  I have (to my household's dismay) one of the most expansive collections of decorative painting books in the country.  It takes up four tall file cabinets and a half dozen tall bookshelves.  Some of these titles are out of print and date back to the heyday of tole painting in the early 70's.  

And I don't even use patterns anymore...I sit down and freehand everything!!  But those books have given me incalculable instruction and inspiration. ( And I have let my family know that the entire collection is to go to my artistically inclined granddaughter upon my death and not sold for a quarter each at a huge garage sale.)

I recommend you check out secondhand sources for some of these older books on decorative painting.  And one of the newest entries into the used book market is Dead Tree Dreams, out of Nacogdoches, Texas.  They are a small locally owned business, and we all need to support more of those.  Although they have only been live for a few days, I am quite impressed by a bookstore run by actual readers, not just hawkers of goods. Their inventory is already changing  and updated frequently, so check back often to see what's newest.  

Check them out!

Dead Tree Dreams...Good Books, Good Company

UPDATE:  Dead Tree Dreams will be opening a brick and mortar location in early 2023 at 115 North St in Nacigdoches, TX.


And as always, feel free to check my art out at
My site for my fine art canvases and merchandise

Flamboyant Flamingoes
Gift items all featuring my flamingo art

Betsy's Angelic Gifts
Gift items with my angel art

Feminist Fashions

New, with a few items for the woman who will not be remembered for keeping her mouth shut

Looking back--that awful first booth

 My first time out at a maker's fair was a complete disaster.   I made just about every mistake it was possible to make.  Some of them w...