Art Markets and Animal Lovers

my setup with sally

My display with an old friend.

With a display full of artwork inspired by my cats and other animals, I am sure to collect stories from people passing by. The image of my Cookie as “The Goddess” is especially inviting to people, but many things in my display will catch animal lover’s eye, from cats to dogs to wild birds to wildlife.

wool bird wristlets

Bird wristlets made from recycled wool sweaters.

And I’m not the only artist around who’s inspired by my cats and other animals! As more and more small festivals and markets have been available, we’ve been meeting up and sharing stories and ideas. In the past we’ve been most successful at events focusing on animals, but the market for products for pets and their people has grown—it’s been the one “growth market” during the recent recession—so we can now have a successful day of sales at non-animal events and general marketplaces.

chaz letzkus

Chaz Letzkus at his table.

I’ve written about my friend Chaz Letzkus and his hidden animal drawings before and I’ll be writing more about his new projects, and also about Amanda Brewer and the wonderful cat and dog collars she makes inspired by her little kitty Bijou.

Amanda Brewer

Amanda Brewer among her colorful collars.

My recent day at the Artisan Market in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (no we don’t have to strip naked, it was originally a long “strip” of wholesale warehouses) was great fun and highly successful. Generally frequented by wholesale buyers, Saturday is the big shopping day for the general public as fruit, vegetable and meat markets are open and sellers set up on the sidewalk with everything from flowers to logo toilet seats (really).

strip district pittsburgh

The view outside the nearest door.

This particular Saturday was hot, but the sidewalks were crowded with rivers of people all on the lookout for a bargain or an unusual item. The building that houses the Artisan Market is basically just a big warehouse, and the receiving bays on street level aren’t used anymore. That’s where we are, in a big old garage! They simply open the big bay doors and we set up on concrete floors with open beams strung with trouble lights and Christmas lights. But on a hot day that thick layer of concrete kept the heat out, and the bay doors allowed a breeze to move through making for a comfortable day of setting up at 7:30 and tearing down at 4:00 and and arranging and rearranging and greeting customers and visitors during all the hours in between.

artisan market

Artisan Market at 20th and Penn.

The only risk of setting up with animal artwork at a general-interest event is that your market is limited, and when you’ve paid to display items you’ve made by hand or created from your work like my note cards and prints, you think twice about the expense and time when a fraction of the people passing your display will be interested.

my setup in the strip

Cookie is featured prominently.

But I think more pet owners have taken a greater interest in gift items for their pets, themselves and other pet owners. I also think that part of that interest has grown from being able to meet the artist who has designed and made these things, hearing about their inspirations to create from their own pets and then sharing their stories. It creates a bond between the maker and the consumer that is deeply personal.

And because my merchandise is largely created with images of the cats I’ve loved through the years, and with the artwork I’ve spent most of my adult life creating, I love meeting the person who wants to own it, who shares their story with me, and who takes a part of me with them.

So, on to the next events! If you’re in Pittsburgh, stop by and say hello, and if not I’ll be sure to share my animal stories.

August 14 Mt. Washington Art Market
August 21 Artisan Market in the Strip District
August 28 Street Fair in the Strip with the Animal Rescue League
September 4 Mt. Washington Art Market
September 9-10-11 Carnegie Arts & Heritage Festival
September 18 Artisan Market in the Strip District
September 25 (afternoon) Applejamm at Beechwood Farms/Audubon Society
September 25 (evening) Best Friends’ Ball with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society

BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL, BUY HANDMADE!