In this article, I’m going to address my opinion on a topic that’s been discussed several times by other artists. I’ve seen quite a few non-print artists complaining about print artists who use backdrop or “walls” of prints behind their tables. In all my years doing artist alleys, I have never thought of this as a problem, even before I sold print items. It seemed like the natural order of the alley for print artists to want to display prints to attract crowds. I've never heard of print artists complaining about crafters with giant setups soooooo. Ok. I’ll write my response to each claim I’ve remembered to write down.
1. It’s distracting customers away from my table because it’s so big/colorful/etc.
If an artist is using their allotted space and not encroaching on others, it’s none of your business how they setup as long as it’s safe. I’m excluding loud music, lights, or legitimately drawing customers from your table by calling to them. That last one deserves a punch in the teeth.
I believe that part of the artist alley is reliant on how much capital and organization you’re willing to put in. Sure, it’s tough to afford nicer displays at first, but you start somewhere and build up. That seems logical. To be upset that someone else’s display is more eye catching or bigger than yours is just immature. Save up, plan, and make yours bigger and better.
2. The display is too tall, therefore unsafe, obnoxious, confusing customers about who’s table is who’s.
If a display is legitimately too tall and looks like it’s going to topple over, that’s a problem. This can be brought to the attention of staff. I’ve definitely seen print artists who build 15’ tall displays without additional support and the whole damn thing waves at the slightest bump.
My backdrop has a max height of 10’ and it holds all my display prints just fine. I use photography sandbags to keep the legs seated and unless you crash into it at a running speed, it’s not coming down. If a tall display is obnoxious despite being safe and within a certain space, please refer to #1.
As for confusion about table separation, I can’t really say much for that. Many customers seem to have a hard time differentiating tables unless there’s a gap between tables. :/ Section off your area with displays or signs. You’re an artist, be creative! At craft shows, one piece of advice I hear a lot is “Your booth is your world.” Make your table your space. This requires coordination and money so pay up or put up.
3. A customer can decide whether or not they like the style with a few prints so there don’t need to be a wall of them.
Bull. Shit. Even my portfolio is drastically different as you flip through. While some print artists clearly only draw in one style, most of us like to experiment and explore. Not to mention that skills get better over time. To summarize an artist’s style based on a handful of product is pretty ignorant of the artistic process. To say that a few prints will do the trick for most people is like saying a plush artist can just lay out a handful of plush and people will decide whether or not they like the skill and design.
I think it’s common knowledge a lot of people will NOT flip through binders or dig through bins or spin your display to look at every single item until they find the perfect one. Most people look, turn a few pages and move on. So what’s wrong with trying to squeeze as much variety into your display as possible? I’ve had people come over and buy one print from me without ever looking through the rest of my things, just because they “saw X from over there!”
This comment was probably the most ignorant of the ones I’ve seen, aside from flat out “I hate print artists” crap.
4. It’s unfair because craft artists can’t display as big and will get swamped amid print artists who have giant displays.
I call bullshit on artists who say things like, “I sell jewelry. I can’t make my display too big or else people won’t be able to see the tiny piece!” Honestly, if that’s your opinion and you’re sticking to it, just suck it and shut up. There are plenty of ways for people who sell tiny objects to gain attention, it’s just not as obvious. Take good photos of your items and create your own backdrop of samples! Put your best pieces on your banners to draw the crowd in! When someone sees a super cool galaxy swirl pendant on a photo, they’ll come over just to ask you if you’re selling the photograph or if you actually have pendants at the table.
I’d like to mention a few craft artists who sell all sorts of stuff figure out ways to full their vertical space so well they outshine print artists around them! Selling plushies? Build a gridwall display behind your table to show off your stock. Selling charms? Put up large photos of your best sellers or commissions to show off your skill.
5. The backdrops take up too much space behind tables (assuming there is no designated booth style space).
This is a touchy subject. The backdrops really can be space suckers, but so can tubs of bags and plushies. When space is at a premium, I’ll scoot my display as close to the table as I can without them draping over my head. This normally gives me about 2’ of space behind my table. If this isn’t enough, the staff probably need to redesign the alley because I think 2’ is a minimum for most of us to put our boxes and chairs, at least.
If someone’s display is in your way, do the logical thing as ask them to scoot it in. I’ve seen whole aisles blocked by cases and cases of plushies or grid cubes that extend in the hall. This comment doesn’t need to apply just to backdrops. As a community, we all have a responsibility to only use the space that is given to us and to be respectful of others. Unhappy about something? Have the balls to speak up. It usually ends with an, “Oops, didn’t realize that was in your space. Let me move it.”
Most other comments are just reiterations of the above so I’ll leave them out. For years I considered the AA community to be pretty chill with a few exceptions. Usually those “exceptions” didn’t last long. They either got too frustrated or found themselves unwelcome in many alleys.
Recently after joining AANI on Facebook, I’ve been seeing a lot more trifling and petty hate popping up. I don’t know if it’s some underlying thing that people are suddenly feeling comfortable expressing, or if a few misguided individuals are blowing things up. While it’s a great source that’s mostly supportive and informative, I’ve started to grow weary of reading some of the posts and comments because it’s asking for drama. Again, it’s like 1% of the people. Or more like 1/10th of a %.
I want to support artist growth, inviting in the new and curious, but I think that our human negativities don’t belong in the alley. I may dislike something, but it doesn’t come out in a generalized attack on a group. That’s called hate and it’s uncalled for. It poisons our artist alleys.
If you’ve held or voiced any of the statements I’ve addressed, don’t take it personally. As crafters and artists, we should not be segregating ourselves over jealousy, insecurity, or misunderstanding. If there’s something you’re unhappy about, talk to the artist or talk to the staff. If it’s legitimate, like a safety concern or violation of alley policies, it will hopefully be dealt with professionally by the event coordinators. If it’s just an opinion that bruises your ego, don’t deal with it using negativity. You’re only making yourself more upset and potentially looking like an ignorant jackass.