Paranoid Traveling Jewelers

April 17, 2011

I didn’t think I would be writing a blog post based on my explorations at the Art in the Square festival in Southlake. To do that, I would have to admit I fell off the wagon.

So, here goes. I fell off the wagon. I went to the festival originally as co-host of the Tapa Palapa internet radio show because our theme this month is fun and recreation. Co-host Francie Cooper and I have planned to record our shows in different fun venues and I was at the festival to see if I could record a clip to integrate into one of our shows. I was there for fun, although it was because of work. You see, ”Play is Serious Work.”

So I was there for work, but working as an internet radio show producer and co-host. I was there for inspiration on more ways to encourage people to set aside their everyday concerns and stressors and take a break. So as I walked around and thought mainly about the food vendors and their small businesses, and the artists as free agents traveling around selling to their target markets, I felt guilty. It was like I was cheating. I was there to explore fun but I had started thinking about my work helping people navigate entrepreneurship. That wagon’s pretty darn slippery.

I took off my Trailblazer hat and threw on my Panama Jack hat and looked at how people were having fun. Now, to be clear, wearing the Trailblazer hat is not difficult at all. In fact, it fits me so comfortably and I enjoy it so much I don’t always realize I’m working when I wear it. It was easy for my mind to go there last Friday night. But when I realized the festival had me thinking about ways to help clients navigate the entrepreneurial life more adeptly, I knew I was missing the point of exploring fun. So I hunkered down and had me some fun.

It turned out to be a lot of fun Friday night, especially watching the debut performance of local band Event Horizon. I was impressed that this group of old guys (some even older than me!) were so talented. They opened with Guns & Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” It’s hard for an amateur to take on Slash, but the lead guitarist handled it pretty well. I thought the silver-haired guy up front was lead guitar and the young kid way off to my left was just strumming along for fun. I even wondered if his input was turned off and they just let him be on stage to be nice to him.

By the second song my ignorant bias was gone. The kid, a high school student named Zak Hanan, has mad skillz. I stood there with my jaw hanging open watching his fingers dance across his guitar, song after song, in some amazing riffs. It was an unexpected freakin’ awesome delight to be there that night. Fun accomplished!

I didn’t think I would be back at the festival but I wound up there on Sunday. My mother-in-law and father-in-law had sent us pictures from their trip to the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival last week. I e-mailed my mother-in-law that I had attended our local art festival and she asked if I had pictures. When I needed to go to the Apple store to have them check out my MacBook, I wound up in the area with some extra time to kill. So I walked through the festival again taking pictures to show my in-laws examples of what was there.

I got to wear my Trailblazer hat this time and think from the entrepreneurial artists’ point of view. I even took a couple of minutes to talk with one artist who engaged me in a conversation. She was friendly and warm. She is in Texas a couple of times a year and travels to other events. She has audiences across the country, and clients who will travel quite a distance to an event to see her work and buy from her.

I walked down a couple of booths from hers and saw some handmade jewelry. I knew my mother-in-law would be interested, as well as my wife and her aunt and cousin. So I started to take a picture of the sign with their business name on it. The woman in the booth stopped me and told me they don’t like people taking pictures. I pointed out I was aiming my camera at their sign so I could tell people about them, and she still wanted me not to take any pictures. She handed me a business card instead.

I was stunned, so I didn’t keep my mouth shut. I said something like, “Heaven forbid that people should see examples of your work. They might want to buy something from you.”

I get that artists might be hesitant for other people to see their original designs, worrying they might copy them. It might be even more likely with jewelry. But as soon as someone buys a piece of jewelry and wears it, other people will see it and be able to copy it.

And I was standing several feet from the booth trying to take a picture with my phone. Not much chance of getting a good, detailed picture of any piece of jewelry that way.

The itinerant jewelers are entrepreneurs who need to create interest in a lot of places they’ll only stop for a few days. How in the world will they do that? Word of mouth, sure, but word of mouth needs to be backed up in this situation. Your statement that someone makes fantastic jewelry is not enough to get me to schedule time to go to a festival. The photo you show me will convince me. Even better, the web site you show me with several examples and explanations of how they find their materials and what is unique about their designs will convince me.

Okay, maybe not convince me. But they would definitely convince my wife, or her mom and aunt and cousin, or a dozen or so other people I know who really get excited about jewelry.

Here’s what the paranoid jeweler should have done. If there are reasons to keep people from taking pictures, that’s fine, but explain why. “These are all original pieces so when a customer buys one she knows it’s one-of-a-kind and no one else will have one. It’s up to her who she shows it to. However, we have this postcard with pictures of examples of our kind of work.” Or maybe, “However, here’s our web site, where we show elements of our design, explain how we choose materials, and explain what makes our approach unique.”

If she had done that I would be sharing the information about her business right here, right now. But she had such a strong reaction to the possibility I might tell other people about their work that there’s no way I’ll do that now!

Instead, I’ll tell you about Diane French’s art. She’s the warm and friendly artist who spent time smiling and telling me a little about her life as an artist traveling to different events and growing an audience across the country. Click this link and you’ll notice she has samples of her work for people to see. She also has a calendar of events so you can see where she’s going to be.

While I was talking with her I actually asked her if the web site had a listing of the shows she would attend so people could find her. She looked suddenly surprised and said she wasn’t sure if it had been updated recently (she has someone help her with that), but it would definitely be updated after she gets back from this show, less than a week from now – since I brought it up.

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Make it as easy as possible for people who show interest in you to find out about you and pass your information on to their family and friends.

Way to go, Diane!

Way not to go, unnamed paranoid traveling jewelers.

Oh, and rock on, Zak Hanan and Event Horizon. They’ll be back in the town square at Southlake on May 7 for a benefit event with a lot of amateur bands. I’m planning to take my younger son. He’s studying electric guitar.

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