To Life / by Susie Lubell


I am fall over and die exhausted. I did my first big show this weekend in Palo Alto. The kind where everyone has a tent. And you pay money to do it. And there's food and music and lots of people walking around. I decided to do it last April and thought oh I have plenty of time to psych myself up and get myself ready and prepare inventory. And yet I didn't want to get too psyched about it for fear I would completely fall on my face. You see, I have done small holiday boutiques for schools and synagogues and the damn Junior League. And all sucked. But something told me that this show would be different. Namely because it's a Jewish cultural street fair and a lot of my work is culturally Jewish.  Good match, me thinks. But the fee to participate was $200 which I thought was A TON for a six hour stint. And I knew that preparing for this event would mean a lot of hours of printing and matting and framing and organizing. Plus I don't own the kind of stuff one needs to attend these kinds of shows. The only tent we own says REI on it. And no walls or grids to hang art.

But my husband, engineering genius that he is, after seeing some of the pictures from the Sawdust Festival this summer, came up with the idea that we could use our sukkah (temporary dwelling we build in our yard every fall to celebrate Sukkot). And I thought, that is the best friggin idea I have ever heard. We were planning to build it anyway and sukkot would be over the 29th of September so that would give us another full week to play around with how to show art inside. We borrowed some bamboo siding from another friend's sukkah and Mr. Rosen fashioned a few beams in which to drill screws for displaying framed art. I bought some fabric from IKEA to hang as the roof. We borrowed tables, grabbed some of our own furniture, a few tschachkes of the middle eastern variety and created a place I can only describe as a desert oasis in a sea of white tenty sameness.

Mr. Rosen has built this structure many times. We've had it for three years now and he has labeled all of the wood for quick construction. But it's still construction. Unlike those little EZ-Up tents this thing requires a drill. And a contractor's license. So we got there plenty early. Within forty minutes I was able to get inside and start merchandising the art. (I actually videotaped the whole thing but we'll see if I can edit it into fast motion. Stay tuned).

Now I don't know if it was the sukkah or the fact that no one who comes to this show has seen my work or that my quota for crappy shows was fulfilled, but this show kicked ass on every level. I felt great about my space. My husband and I were in total teamwork mode. I spent the day working with my mom who is a saleswoman par none and was great about getting email addresses for the mailing list. The weather was beautiful. I met a lovely Yemenite Israeli retired professor who now makes spectacularly intricate filigree jewelry. And I made my booth space investment back five fold. Plus my husband and I got to bask in the eight hours we actually owned real estate in Palo Alto where, on any other day, our 100 square foot jewel would go for 1.2 million.

A few lessons learned:
  1. Having a flip bin is key. People spent several minutes engaged in flipping through $30 prints and many bought. They were a bargain compared to the framed art. 
  2. Next time have a $50 bin also.
  3. No one buys after they "think about it".
  4. 80 degrees feels like 95 when you're wearing jeans.