Reflections on operating at a show in the time of a pandemic
Guidelines have to be followed. Masks, sanitizer, cleaning, limited number of patrons, restructuring booth set up for distancing and to protect the leather, etc. It has been a challenge.
We’re open at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. We have been for a month now. It’s been…. interesting.
Let’s start with those- the challenges. Do you know how hard it is to sanitize leather? Most disinfectants and sanitizers are harmful to leather. I run the risk of the dye bleeding, leather cracking, and discolorations. We always tell me people to please touch so you can feel the texture, but this year, it is a no touch zone. We have gloves, but it isn’t the same. We experimented and found a solotion that works, but long term we’re not sure.
Selling product when you cannot try it on os not easy. We have halters, bodices, skirts, jerkins, etc that we can not have fun dressing people up. The worst part is people don’t understand the problem of trying on. We have to follow those guidelines set by CDC and the state to be open. I don’t have the luxury of running the leather through a washer or putting it out in the sun to bake. We have to let it air out once we spray it down. So, no, you cannot try it on unless you are intending to buy it.
Last weekend a family came in the booth, not properly masked and not wanting to listen. They touched everything (even after we repeatedly told them not), insisted on trying on things, and had no intention to buy. There were 5 of them, I am limited to 8 in the booth to maintain social distancing. They stayed for 30 min. To buy nothing. Please don’t tell me that I may get a future sale from them, because I pretty sure I won’t. Because of them, several pieces had to be pulled off the shelf for the weekend to “sanitize” because guidelines. And I had to turn away customers while they occupied two of us with their demands and criticism. Yes, criticism. They picked a part the product as a justification for not buyin. And it hurts.
Masks. Everyne who comes in my booth masks up. Properly. Over your nose, not on your chin, not below the nose, not hanging off one ear, not a piece of lace, yada yada. You get the idea. We have masks to give you if you don’t have yours anymore (yup, that happened too). We wear a mask, except when we are eating or drinking or when there is no one in the booth with us. We need that break. I had someone tell us, the vendors, that we shouldn’t eat or drink in front of the patrons. Seriously? If I am the only one in my booth, when am I supposed to eat or drink? I cannot disappear from my booth. We are behind the counters, appropriately distanced. When someone comes in, the mask goes on. Faire rules state you must be staionary to eat or drink as a patron, but people are doing their best to skirt that one. That does not mean your mask is off in my booth.
The flow. We had to block an entrance to the booth to maintian a clear in and out for traffic. I had to buy clear shower curtains to deter grabby hands (they still reach behind them. Sigh). We have limited the amount of product on display for purchase. That’s the hardest since many of my pieces are unique.
Manners. This is a challenge. I get you don’t want to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands constantly, not touch things, and listen. But you have to have just like I do. Why? Because I want my business to stay open. Don’t lecture me on the virus or your opinion. Ask me about the leather.
For the last month, I have felt somewhat normal. I have been creating, because we’re open. And people are coming in and buying (Not all. See above). I thank those who have stopped by to buy small things. I try not to cry every time someone thanks us for being open.
I want to stay open. So wash your damn hands, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow the rules.
Being an artist in the time of a Pandemic
We all know what is happening in the world right now. If you don’t, I am not sure what rock or island you have been on, but may I join you?
Seriously, this has been a hard year all around. Children sent home from school to learn at home which previously had been a place where they could chill; teachers trying to figure out how to guide students and parents through the material while trying to learn Zoom and an online system for teachers and students (and some missing hugs and high fives); employees sent home to try and figure out how to do their jobs remotely, navigate Zoom, remember to wear pants; people suddenly without jobs and having to navigate unemployment sites; , performers without a stage or a venue to shine in; dogs and cats trying to figure out why the human is still here (ok, maybe just the cats); and debating which masks is the best protection or finding toilet paper (seriously people! How much do you need?). Whatever it is, it is scary and uncomfortable.
Where do I fall? I was lucky. I teach so I continued to teach while learning how to do it online. I teach adult education. Easier? Not really. We’re all navigating it together. However, I am still an artist. And most of my income comes from the sales of my leather goods. Because I teach, I can’t get unemployment to make up the loss of income from my lack of sales. Because I have an income from another source, I don’t qualify for many of those programs out there for artists and small business owners.
I’ll admit, when this started, I thought it would get under control quickly. People are smart. They will listen. I watched my craft shows and festivals cancel one after another. First my show in April that is my kickoff for the year. Then May’s 3 shows. Then June. Then July. One of my venues tried to offer later dates for the cancelled shows, but that canceled with one week notice. I have watched my friends drive across country to a venue because they were under the impression it would open, only to have the county say no; you cannot open safely.
As an artist, I have been depressed. I honestly have had no desire for over 3 months to work on product. No desire to create. I don’t want to spend money in the hopes that a venue will open. I am scared to spend it because what if it doesn’t. And how do I pay to get there if it does? How to I feed myself when I am miles from home and staying at a campground or hotel? How do I pay for gas? How do I pay the people who come with me because they too need to earn an income? See, fear and worry because of Covid. Fear and worry because this shouldn’t have lasted this long. Fear and worry because adults cannot listen and are so centered on their needs and wants, they forget the bigger picture. They forget it starts with one. One person needs to follow the rules and show others they accept the rules. The next person needs to learn from that first. Then the next. Think of that old tale of “Tell a friend, you’ll tell the world.” Unfortunately, one person decided it didn’t work for himself. That one person decided it was fake or a personal violation to think of others. So a different line of “tell a friend” started.
And the artist, performer, festival worker, barker, self-employed spirit, entertainer, singer, actor, too many to list are now in limbo. Some have managed to get assistance. Others are still waiting. Some have managed to find jobs and put themselves at risk so that a person can still get food. But they are still missing their passion.
As an artist, my passion is expressed in what I make and my joy comes from the love and appreciation I see when someone buys it. Right now, I have no joy in my art. I am having a hard time finding it. Only fear that if I do a festival, will that line that follows the rules be the person who sees joy in my art or will it be that line that line is there because they have been wronged by being asked to wear a mask, wash your hands, etc?
So what is the point of my ramblings, you ask? Think about what you are doing and saying when you let fear direct you. That teacher that you are yelling at because they think online learning should continue- they’re scared that your child will not wear a mask or wash his/her hands, and infect them and they in turn infect their families and so forth. That person who is reminding you to wear a mask when in the store is doing so because they are afraid of you infecting someone unintentionally and losing their job. That artist who is doing a live performance via Facebook needs you to watch it and tell them how much you appreciate it, and even throw a few bucks their way. A person sharing their latest creation on Instagram needs you express your joy in seeing that and maybe sharing it because someone out there will love it enough to buy it so that artist can work past the fear.
As an artist living in a pandemic I feel fear. I have been lucky that I haven’t gotten sick, but I have friends and family who have. And I have had friends who have passed due to Covid. As an artist living in a pandemic, I am trying to find my passion again. We’re all trying to find life again but we need to follow those rules for a reason. Let’s move pass the fear. The doubt. The misconceptions.
I miss hugs. I miss meeting new people. I miss my joy.
As I sit here looking at my show schedule (and anxiously wait for conformation of some of those shows), I look back at the last 15 years and how I have changed and grown. I wouldn’t be where I am, enjoying my love of creating, if it weren’t for two sets of people.
The customers: Every year I see some of the same faces come back to chat or show me how their purchases are surviving or bring a friend to introduce them to my products. I smile when I see a piece walk by that I made. I laugh when I am asked silly questions about how I make things (and sometimes grimace), but most of all, I have a sense of pride that theses people have a piece of my art. A pouch or belt may not seem like art, but we crafted it.
The staff (AKA minions): I have had people come and go over the years- some by their choice, others by mine, but I can honestly say that most have become friends and family to me. I love how we work with each other, support each other, and step up when the other is faltering. If it weren’t for my minion “family” my business would have died years ago when I had the first surgery on my hand let alone the recent neck surgery. So I smile every day knowing that they are more than just workers who show up and sell stuff. They care. They are my family.
So what’s in store for 2018? Changes. Some old, some new. Some good, some disappointing to to others. Stay tuned…
Old is new again
So I’ve been struggling, trying to figure out what is next for the shop. I’m not saying I’m quitting anytime soon. I’m just trying to figure out what’s my niche. What do YOU want to buy next? So this year has been a year of bringing back some old designs and rediscovering my creative side. Having the flood in NJ back in June really made me look at my stock and try to figure out a plan and direction. I’m thinking people have been pleased so far. I’m hoping so. We have several more weeks of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire left so stop by the shop and see what’s new (and old).