On 19 December 2020, I was a vendor/exhibitor at The Steel Yard‘s “Holiday Art Market”, and it was really a great event held in very challenging times. All the pandemic precautions were in place: social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitizer, and staggered entry of patrons to prevent crowding. Also, it was held outdoors, which in December in Rhode Island is a bit of a gamble.
With the exception of a few miscellaneous bits and bobs, about 90% of what I brought were bottle openers. It’s a smart seller’s choice given the holiday season. Bottle openers are good stocking stuffers and everyone has a beer lover in the family. I sold well over half of what I brought in for the sale.
I’ll also point out that the staggered entry of patrons to the sale worked out well (I think) for the sellers. Because of the steady, regulated flow of customers and no “rushes” or crowding, it was easy for me to chat with each buyer or individual group about the things I make and why I make them. I definitely feel like that helped me sell more items, and also talk to people about follow-on work in the months to come.
The event was also very tiring for me. As a classic introvert, and someone who has been locked away by the pandemic, I’m very out of practice when it comes to talking in person to lots of people I don’t know. Though I had great fun and moved a lot of product, I was utterly drained by the end of it. That said, I was thrilled by some of the friends of mine who showed up to support my work and chat a bit. A highlight was meeting fellow “Fools with Tools Podcast” groupie, Nick Carruthers, a very fine woodworker here in Rhode Island. Nick and I have been online friends for quite a while now, but this was our first time seeing each other in “meatspace.”
Anyway, I don’t sell at many in-person markets. Meaning, I sell at perhaps two physical venues each year, and the only one that’s open to the public is The Steel Yard’s “Holiday Art Market”. So, if you want to buy directly from me, then I’ll see you in December 2021 at The Steel Yard.
To finish, I want to thank all of The Steel Yard staff who put this event together. In the current crisis environment, it was a big logistical challenge with more moving parts as usual. I’m sure that all of the artists you support appreciate your efforts to advance the arts in these trying times.
Why The Steel Yard?
You probably see and hear me go on about The Steel Yard a lot and wonder why. Going back about 6 years ago, I was struggling with my Dad’s declining health and not coping very well. By chance, I found this blacksmithing episode of the BBC’s Mastercrafts TV series on YouTube. For whatever reason, it sparked something in me and it also occurred to me that this might be something that would help manage my anxiety.
So, I got on Google and quickly discovered that The Steel Yard offered a two-day beginner’s course and it was on the upcoming weekend (12 April 2014). I signed up immediately, not knowing anything about blacksmithing or The Steel Yard. Suffice it to say that I absolutely fell in love with it. I mean, I didn’t show any particular talent, but I loved it.
I took more classes at The Steel Yard, each building on the last. It was very good for managing my stress. That said, I was not able to blacksmith as much as I wanted, because helping my Dad as he slowly declined took up a lot of bandwidth. It wouldn’t be until Dad passed in late 2017 that my time blacksmithing went from perhaps once per month to a more dedicated schedule. And thankfully I had blacksmithing at that time in my life; I was a bit of a wreck in the months after my Dad left us.
In any case, at some point I decided to start volunteering at The Steel Yard. I got a good feeling from everyone I met there, and I just wanted to help. Long story short, the people there are my friends now and I think they’re all fantastic.
Anyway, if you like any of the stuff I make, then you can ultimately blame The Steel Yard. I would not be doing any of this if it were not for them. And by “blame” The Steel Yard, I mean “donate”. Click here to give them a bit of money. They deserve it.