I went to the IHeartArt Mixer last night - it was amazing and crazy and awesome. I want to share what the experience was like from the artists perspective, first let me explain what it was:
WHAT: speed dating event for artists to meet local shop owners and buyers
WHEN: Sept 1st, 2010WHERE: Design Within Reach in the Pearl, Portland Oregonsponsored and hosted by PNCA, IHeartArt and EtsyWHY: a catalyst for local shops to find new local handmade goods to sell in their retail stores - also an opportunity for vendors to practice presenting their work
Here is a list of the participating retailers:
The Gallery at Museum of Contemporary Craft, The Joinery, Local Goods, Mink Boutique,Moxie, Powell's Downtown, Presents of Mind, Radish Underground, Redux, Relish, Seven Planet,Sword + Fern, Tender Loving Empire, Tilde, Trillium Artisans, Twill, Union Rose, ZimZim
Applications went out a few weeks ago and then there was a lottery where 60 artists were chosen at random to participate. It was a free event, unjuried, you simply had to be capable of filling wholesale orders and providing a line sheet. I got an email that I was invited (my name was drawn in the lottery) and then another email detailing the event. It was intense. Well organized and super crazy all at the same time.
Everyone arrived around 6pm and there was mingling while we went thru the registration process. Deschutes Brewery supplied a free bar that kept flowing until they ran out. Creme puffs, fruit and sandwiches were also provided to keep the crowd content while they waiting for their moment. Some additional shop owners and local craft celebs were there to mingle and chat with the restless crowd, their nametags said "Superstar!" They were there to encourage us with pep talks and success stories. This all occured downstairs in the DWR chair gallery. It was hot and crowded. A bit intense. Have I said that yet, that it was really intense!?
I was in the first group of artists that was led upstairs to enter the speed dating arena. The shops were set up in 16 stations around the room. We sat in exquisite furniture as we introduced ourselves to these shop owners, one after another. 2 minutes exactly for each station, 16 stations only taking a little over a half an hour - but it felt like a workout! Isaac was running around with a bull horn yelling at us to change stations and letting us know when we were about to run out of time. I was a bit sweaty by the end. Maybe it was the intensity, perhaps the heat of a combined vulnerability of all these people. It was something awesome.
As I walked around and took pictures the energy was amazing; the shop owners were so focused on the artists pitching them and the artists all had their amazing samples:wonderful paintings, plush monsters, clothing, accessories, you name it... simply awesome. Once I joined the pitching line, I quickly had to laugh at the whole experience. It was crazy! I was not familiar with some of the shops, and that was my error. There was no time for social niceties (ie them introducing themselves and telling me what types of things they sell, what their space is like and what kind of buying structure they use) None of that, just 2 minutes of crazy fast pitching myself. Me talking about me. And then standing up and going to the next station to do the same thing. Some of the shop owners knew me, some were familiar with my work. Some were a really good fit and I look forward to working with them. It was a very positive experience.
My pitch was pretty simple: I had a basket with a few samples in it, mostly small things that would sell well in a gift shop and I brought my book to show pictures of my work. Also in the basket were cards and line sheets, just in case any of the shops were interested in carrying my work. The book was a hit, everyone liked looking at the pictures of my work and loved my sweet book. I also had one mobile hung from a hoop I clipped to the basket, I think it looked sorta fun. I wore a colorful pair of earrings as well. There were 2 kazillion pictures taken that night, and I dare say my dorky little basket of mobiles was a hit!
I did this event because as an artist I avoid going into stores and pitching myself. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable and I simply don't do it. So I thought this event would light the fire under my ass to find a few new business relationships out there in the Portland area. I've never done something like this, but I think its a great idea!
It was a wild success, I hope there are more. Required a lot of hard work and organization behind the scenes... for that I want to share a big thank you to the IHeartArt crew and all the supporting folks who made this event happen. I just kinda signed up and showed up with my camera... and a few samples...