“You need to invent,” she said, “a mythology.”

“A who?”

“A mythology. For your pendants,” and she tapped one authoritatively, “You need to involve your customers in the story behind these faces.”

“Ahhhhhh, you want the backstory,” I said, “Sure. See, I always seem to put faces in everything I sculpt, no matter what…”

“No,” she said impatiently, “MYTH-OL-O-GY. What is it your women are peering past in this glass veil? What is their legend?”

“Their what? OK, how about this?”

Long ago a beautiful maiden* lost her way in the darkening woods, so she sought a place to lie down, to nap, await the moonrise, and light her way home. She crept into a small cave, behind the silvery veil of a waterfall, and soon fell asleep.

The moon rose and, seeing the maiden, fell deeply in love with her. He called upon his brother the sun to supply light and warmth, so that when the maiden awoke, the sky was noonday-bright. The moon took the maiden by the hand and led her safely home, leaving behind a silvery glass waterfall to commemorate her beauty.

The maiden, being your usual one-brick-short-of-a-load fairytale bimbo, didn’t ask him for three wishes or a boatload of gold or even one perfect rose. Instead, she slammed the door in his face and congratulated herself on not having to tip.

Uhm….no. Next.

I should probably explain; I’m getting ready once again to do the Oregon Glass Guild‘s Spring Glass Gallery. It’s part of the Gathering of the Guilds, which I believe is the biggest completely artist-owned and managed, volunteer-driven art & craft show west of the Mississippi.

(FYI, it’s at the Portland Convention Center April 29-May 1, 2011. It also includes ceramics, metal, jewelry, fiber, bead and wood art, and it’s really something. Besides great art, we’re inviting the public to come help us make a mosaic wall installation for charity. You should come.)

My friend, a successful professional artist who does some amazing stuff I may someday be able to afford, stopped by for lunch.

Now, I’m not exactly setting the world on fire when it comes to selling my own work. This lady is, so I’ve been hinting around that a little help in figuring out this self-marketing of art would be most welcome. I bribed her with invited her to lunch, hoping to discuss my dilemma.

She looked at what I’m making for sale at the show, we talked about price points, and booth setups, and postcards…and then she got into this myth business.

“Try again,” she said, with resignation.

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I’ve been doing shows for about a year now. I’ve learned a great deal about effective booth design and lighting, about what goes on behind the scenes in a big craft fair and about the different approaches you can take to selling art at one of these things.

Art fairs are a valuable living laboratory for market research, and for actively testing consumer behavior. Good thing, too, because I seem to sell exactly diddly-zip in the entire show.

At my first, I got a high-quality lesson in matching product to venue, i.e., that four-figure glass sculptures ain’t exactly gonna fly off the shelves when the average unit price in any other booth is on the high side of two figures. (To be fair, most of the other 60 or so artists in the glass pavilion had a pretty good show.)

“Will you climb the highest mountain for me?” she teased, as the young man worshiped at her feet, “Will you swim the deepest sea?”

“Anything!!” he vowed, “I’ll leap off yonder cliff and fly to the moon. I’ll gather it up like a pearl to hang ’round your swan-like neck.”

“Prove it,” she sniffed, and without another word the young man leapt from the cliff and was dashed to death on the rocks below.

Horrified, she froze to the spot, weeping copious, never-ending tears.

A thousand years passed while her tears became as frozen as her limbs, encasing her in purest crystal. And still she stands, frozen forever in her crystalline grief… except you gotta admit she looks pretty good for a thousand-year old maiden.

Hmmmmm. How grief-stricken can you be over a guy who was obviously a candidate for the Darwin Awards? Next…

Anyway, this year I’m scaling it down. I’m leaving the big sculptures home (except the ones that may become displays), and I’m sticking to a 2×4 foot table instead of a full booth. I’m filling my table with small, impulse buys.

Lo and behold, all that exploration I’ve been doing with murrini is coming in handy; I’m so far pretty pleased with what’s coming out of the kiln and there won’t be anything that costs more than $100 in the whole place.

I’ve also poured about three dozen waxes for the carved pendants, which are far too much handwork and one of the reasons I’m sitting here with–for once in my life–writer’s block. I’m trying stuck on that bloody mythology, but the only thing I can think of are about as inspired as the lyrics to one of the songs from my first-year piano lesson book:

Riding on a mule, riding on a mule
Ride on a mule
Riding on a mule, riding on a mule
Ride on a mule
Riding on a mule, riding on a mule
Ride on a mule
Ride on a mule, on a mule
On a mule, mule, mule…
(repeat about 90-‘leven times)

Sigh. I may go to this show mythless.


*Ever notice that these stories are ALWAYS about beautiful young maidens? Doesn’t anybody want to read a story about a dumpy middle-aged woman on her fifth husband?