Now that my life on the road is getting less and less and my life at home more settled and even organized (!) I thought I would do a retrospective on one of my favorite places: upstate New York. Having just returned from a visit there I was remembering how much it has to offer. When I was making my decision to settle down - I looked at two places: Toronto and up-state New York. Many of my best shows are there, and certainly many of my best customers.
The combination of great natural beauty and access to culture is very seductive - but I also really like New Yorkers - I like their attitude. When I do a craft show in canada the comment I get most often is "This is different" (said in a way that makes 'different' sound more than slightly disreputable.) In New York they love different. In canada I often get customers who need to ask at least 5 of their friends if they like the piece too before purchasing - that NEVER happens in New York: New Yorkers don't need anyone's permission to like something ;-)
Don't get me wrong - I don't regret my choice. I chose Toronto, and I love it. I have good Canadian customers. Both here and in the US people who really like my work are in a very small percentile. That percentile is just bigger in New York than anywhere else.
And, sadly, the Canadian stereotype of the crass American does truly exist there too: not all my experiences have been great - there was that Syracuse Arts and Crafts Festival - the only time I have ever left a show before it was over. It was the last Craft show I ever did - finally learning the lesson that they were NOT my market. I remember the people in the booth next to me vividly. They were from Romania and the wife, Maria Ciucur, painted icons. Beautiful little luminescent gems - and the crowds (over 15,000 attended I heard) just walked by as if they saw Byzantine Icons every day of the week. I sold only one pair of earrings in two days, or I would have bought one of the icons...
But this has been more than compensated for by Old Songs (which I have been doing for over 20 years) Catskills Irish Arts Week (over 10 years), The Hunter Mountain Fine Craft Fair (sadly now defunct but a really fine show), the Dance Flurry (which is new to me - but has been going on for 25 years), and there was even a World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs in 2007 when I spent a magical week at the hand built home of a friend out in the woods.
My market is smaller than the big craft shows can accomodate (one of lifes paradoxes - that what is small cannot fit into something too big) My customers (and friends) are found at the places where people have different priorities than just shopping: folk festivals, cultural schools, conferences and conventions of people with interests outside of the mainstream: mythology, history, folklore, music and stories.
That's where I feel I can best do my work. So I will be going back to upstate New York soon ...