Life etc.

Tips for Surviving Summer Art Festivals

Summer is officially here and that means that my business is kicking into high gear. Summer art festivals and outdoor markets are so much fun and can be great exposure for artists.

Since most shows require applications wayyyyy in advance (I’m talking February for most of them), I tend to overbook myself and then face burnout before August even hits. My Facebook feed is full of friends doing fun things like hanging out at the beach, swimming, going camping. And I’m…well I’m at the beach, but I’m behind a table all day. And the only thing I’m swimming in is TO DO lists to get ready for the next market!


Whether you’re an artist displaying your work or a festival goer hanging out for the day, there are certain things I’ve learned over the years that will help make your outing a success. Most of these I’ve learned the hard way, so don’t make the same mistakes I have!

1) Wear sunscreen AND bring sunscreen with you to reapply.

Even SPF9000 will eventually lose its effectiveness and need to be reapplied. It’s hot. You’re sweaty. You may have missed a spot when you put it on before leaving the house. Stash a can of the spray stuff in your bag so you can quickly spray your shoulders, back of your neck & feet later in the day. The tops of bare feet are one of those spots everybody forgets until you’ve burned fugly sandal lines at least once.

2) Wear comfortable shoes.

I know you love your new sky high platform wedges. They’re adorable! But you’re going to be walking. And standing. And walking some more. It will be crowded. You’ll need to dodge strollers, dogs, bicycles. I promise you’ll have a much better day if you wear comfortable shoes that don’t leave your feet sore at the end of the day.

For vendors, it’s a good idea to bring a second pair to swap into halfway through the day. I like to switch between flats and something with a low heel (less than inch). My feet, knees & calves always thank me at the end of a long show.

3) Bring a water bottle.

In the hot sun, your body will be craving water. Rather than spend a ridiculous amount on bottled water or sugary drinks at the festival, bring your own water bottle & refill it throughout the day. I never leave home without my Camelbak bottle. it’s got a lock on it so won’t accidentally open up in my purse & spill. Love it.


4) Set an example of peace and patience amidst chaos.

I struggle with this every day. I’m just trying to get to the bathroom, to the coffee place, back to my booth…wherever. And there are a million people in my way. How dare they! Can’t they just MOVE already!!! I am walking with a PURPOSE here, people!!! Hahaha!

You need to breathe & relax & accept that you’re not getting anywhere fast. And by you, I mean me. 🙂 People are going to wander. They’ll stop in the middle of the walkway to have a chat. They will suddenly & without warning change direction. They will park their stroller right in front of a vendor’s table, blocking you from seeing what you want to see and/or blocking you from getting out.

And that’s OK. Remind yourself that not everyone in the world is an inconsiderate asshole. Even the rudest of us are usually totally unaware that we’re being rude. It’s hot. It’s hectic.

That mom is running on 4 hours sleep & would pay $1000 for 30 minutes of uninterrupted bathroom time.

The dad that just shoved past you has his in-laws in town for the week & is on the verge of snapping under the weight of passive aggressive “suggestions”.

We’re all dealing with our own crap. Try to picture yourself being surrounded by a bubble of calm, cool patience & let that glow shine outwards.


5) Remember that other people can hear you.

Sometimes when we’re in crowds we forget that all those other bodies actually do have ears & can hear what you’re saying, even if they’re not part of your conversation. Don’t like a particular artist’s work? Just keep walking. Not everything is going to be for you. The artist does not need to hear the following (& yes, I have personally overheard all of these):

  • “This looks like something that other person makes.”
  • “Oh God. I’m soooo over this style.”
  • “Whoa! That’s so expensive!”
  • “My kid could’ve made that.”
  • “I bought something EXACTLY like this. But I guess it was a little different.”
  • “How do you make this? Where do you get your supplies from? I’m an artist too, so can you tell me exactly your process so I can do the same thing?”

With that last one, I should note there’s a huge difference between being genuinely interested in the work and the process versus pumping an artist for information so that you can rip them off. I actually had a lady take pictures of my booth & my products to send to her daughter who apparently paints in a very similar style as I do. She went on to ask me where I get my supplies from, something that has cost me years of trial & error & research to develop. I tried to politely explain why it was not cool to rip off my entire business model. Her response? “Oh my daughter lives out east. It would never affect you!” Righhhhhhht. Because my website only sells work to people on the west coast. Of course!

6) Have fun!

Sometimes we can get so caught up in trying to jam as many summer activities into our oh so brief holiday time that it almost becomes a chore. Take a look at festival guides and make note of bands or activities that pique your interest, of course. But if you’re having a good time, remind yourself that it’s OK to just sit back & enjoy the moment instead of rushing off to the next thing. Kids are having a blast running around a statue/fountain/dog park? Let ’em. September schedules will be back sooner than you think, so while you have the option of just hanging out, enjoy it!


And on that note, I’m off to the Vancouver Folk Festival for the weekend! I’ll be one of the vendors selling my work in the bazaar outside the gates, along Jericho Beach. Such a beautiful setting!

Vancouver Folk Fest

Jericho Beach Park – 4th Avenue, west of Alma

Friday, July 19th ~ 2-10pm

Saturday, July 20th ~ 10am-10pm

Sunday, July 21st ~ 10am-10pm

1 thought on “Tips for Surviving Summer Art Festivals”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *