Friday, September 24, 2010

I Can't Get Away 'Cause I'm On Display, But I Can't See You, Man*

Yesterday at work there was an employee craft fair.
After confirming that Heroic Portraits met the "must be handmade" criteria (which, it is, it's just handmade on a computer), I elected to throw my hat into the ring. I mean, I never wear hats, so I might as well get some use out of one, right?
Wait, what? Where was I going with this?
Oh, right, employee craft fair.
So, yeah. I participated in that.
Unlike most of the exhibitors, I wasn't actually selling any tangible products, but rather, selling a service.
I think that confused some people.
Also unlike most of the exhibitors, I wasn't selling jewelry.
Sure, there were some other products on display - one guy was selling pens, which made me think of my dad, and at a table near me there was a very nice lady selling photographs (she's very good, and also a pretty talented artist, though she didn't have her artwork there for sale) - but for the most part, it was jewelry.
Which, and I hate to make generalizations here, was probably a much smarter thing to try to sell than, say, a custom portrait service specializing in turning people into super heroes, given that most of the people coming to see/buy the wares on display were women.
Below is a diagram - not to scale - of the layout of the craft fair:

And here's a diagram of the typical flow of foot traffic:

Seriously, it was like there was a force field that was deflecting people away from my table.
For those who weren't diverted to the inner tables, they found themselves pushed quickly out the door.
Okay, to be fair, I did get a lot of people stopping by to check out my display, and a lot of them expressed interest and took a card and a copy of the price list/ordering instructions, and most of them - after having it explained to them that yes, I do, in fact, actually draw the portraits - were impressed by my talent. I'm not quite sure what they thought it was I did before I explained how it works. I think they thought that I either used some sort of 3D rendering software, or simply pasted faces onto stock images downloaded from the Internet or something.
My dispaly consisted of a poster I made of some example images with question marks over the faces and the question "Who Will YOU Be?"
To kind of fill up the available space, I added a copy of the price list and FAQ from the site, and the "About the Artist" mini-bio of me.
I think that was a mistake, as a lot of people saw all of that text and, even with the colorful pictures, found their eyes glazing over and the thought, "I didn't come here to read," popping into their heads.

I also had Heroic Portratis magnets - which, along with other Heroic Portraits products and other products featuring my artwork, can be purchased here - as a free giveaway. After all, who doesn't like magnets?

A lot of people, apparently.
There were some people who stopped by, quickly glanced over the display, made this sort of amused snort, and then turned to walk away, and flatly refused to accept the free magnet.
I think that a lot of the people who glanced at the display, before being pushed away by the force field - maybe it was created by the magnets? - and were confused as to what it was I was actually selling, thought that I was selling buttons.
So next time, if I ever do something like this again, I'll probably skip the magnets.
Again, I'm painting a much bleaker picture than is accurate, but it's just that there were a lot of people there checking things out, so even with the multitudes who did come by and express interest, there were still a lot of people who just couldn't be bothered.
Another mistake I made, beyond the magnets, the text, and, apparently, not selling jewelry, and one I should probably rectify on the site if nothing else, was not having any sample portraits of kids.
The most common question I got, after, "So what is all this?" and "Wait, you mean you drew these?" was "Could you draw my daughter as a princess?"
I definitely need to mention how much I appreciate the support of my boss, who's a huge booster of Heroic Portraits - I'd have to call her my number one fan, I think - and who badgered people into coming down to check out my display. As soon as I told her I was going to have a display she sent out an e-mailt to the team telling them to be sure to come down and support me.
So that's cool.
Overall, I'm glad I did it, even if I don't get any business from it - people who express interest have a tendency not to follow through - though I really hope I do get some, as I did sink a fair amount of money into it. There was the cost of the magnets, and of printing the poster. I had to get it printed - by Staples - because my large format printer has been acting up of late. (Naturally, after I'd paid for the print, I decided to try to use my printer to print out some small supplemental material, and it worked like a fucking charm. Thanks, Universe.)
Since I was paying for a print anyway, I figured I'd go larger than what my printer could do, and, since it was an option, have it laminated. So it was definitely not cheap.
Unfortunately, due to a screw up on my part - I won't get into the technical details - the finished product didn't come out quite right, as the red in the Heroic Portraits logo didn't print. On Scott's suggestion, as there wasn't enough time to get it reprinted, I colored in the red by hand with a Sharpie.
If I'm honest, the part I liked the most about it, beyond even the "Wow, you're so talented!" that helped to bolster my ego, was talking to Amanda, the nice photographer lady, during some of the lulls.
(Just to get it out of the way: she's married.)
We shared some "war stories" about our lives working in graphic design and desktop publishing, and the advantages and disadvantages of the various software applications we use. It was just nice to talk to someone with some common experiences.
And that was the employee craft fair.

*I will award 50 "Jon Cool Points" to anyone who can identify what the title of this post is from. Bear in mind that "Jon Cool Points" are non-transferrable, do not have any monetary value, and can't be redeemed for anything.

1 comment:

Merlin T Wizard said...

F'ing magnets, how do they work?