CONFESSIONS OF A FESTIVAL VENDOR
August 08, 2008 11:00 pm

By Scott Graves

Pilot staff writer

Many readers know me as the editor of the Curry Coastal Pilot. But a few of you know that I moonlight as an arts and craft vendor at local annual festivals and the Saturday farmers market.

It's a family affair – my wife, Jacque, and mother-in-law, Joyce, have been selling handmade items for years. Joyce has been doing it for at least four decades – mostly tole painting but, in later years, some ceramic, china painting and anything else that has captured her crafter's eye. She is truly a gifted artisan. And she gets a lot of help from her husband, Jim. He's the man behind the scenes, cutting out wood figures and assorted pieces with his trusty jigsaw and helping set up and break down Joyce's display booth.

Since moving to Brookings in 1999, all of us have participated in various annual festivals – particularly the Festival of the Arts at the Port of Brookings Harbor and the annual Christmas Bazaar at the Brookings High School.

The last few Saturdays I've been getting up early to set up a display and join the two dozen vendors at the farmers market on the boardwalk at the Port of Brookings Harbor. I'm sharing the space with my wife and mother-in-law.

Making a little extra spending cash is a nice benefit but, as many artisans know, you never make enough to cover the hours of often painstaking work that goes into making a handcrafted item. For example, following a particularly successful festival, I added up the hours I spent making the items, prepping them for sale and the time spent at the two-day festival, and determined, sadly, that I made about $5 an hour.

So why do I, and other artisans, do it?

Well, for one thing, $5 is $5. And some artisans make more than that.

Second, it's a fun and profitable way to socialize. I enjoying getting feedback from customers and swapping ideas and war stories with fellow vendors.

Third, selling items at events provides an outlet for all the things that I make that would otherwise fill my home to the rafters. Who really needs dozens of decorated seashells and driftwood?

Speaking of shells and driftwood. Those are the items that got me into this mess ... er, business ... in the first place. I started my arts and crafts career by making decorated seashells perfect for hanging around the house or on Christmas trees. That evolved into making driftwood chimes, candleholders and mirror boxes.

These days I'm selling my photography, which focuses on the region's tremendous scenery and wildlife. It was my mother-in-law's idea. After looking at other photographers' work at local festivals, Joyce said, "Hey, you're photos are just as good as theirs. You should try selling them."

She was right. All I needed was a little push. And customers' response to my photography has done wonders for my ego. Thanks!

Right now, dozens of artisans are scrambling to put the finishing touches on their work for the Festival of the Arts at the Brookings port next weekend (Aug. 16-17).

Come check out all the wonderful items for sale. You don't have to buy anything, but compliments are always welcome.