The Making of an (Art Fair) Artist: Part II – The Start Up

Sky's the Limit

Sky’s the Limit

This is the second in a five-part series about my first year’s journey on the art fair circuit. Part one described my initial questioning and seeking of answers.

It took me two months of questions, answer seeking, and second guessing before I decided to assemble a basic art booth and apply to area art fairs and festivals.

Interestingly, my biggest concern became not whether my photography was good enough.

By this time I had photographed a number of botanical photos, mostly macro shots, and I thought I could put together a cohesive show, rather like a garden gallery. I had photographs I liked, photographs I was proud of. And the botanical theme was a perfect fit with the business name I had registered a year earlier, Seeded Earth Studio.

There were other, more difficult hurdles that I was worried about.

The first hurdle was putting together a list of what I needed to make a professional looking booth. There were so many parts to the whole, and the list made me dizzy to read. Another concern was the number of show applications I needed to track. Organizational skills were not one of my strong points and the thought of keeping track of inventory, show applications, and supply orders was almost more than I could bear.

Another major worry was money. I needed to purchase a basic booth set up and inventory, plus pay for ongoing jury applications, booth fees, and travel expenses.

The first hurdle that I overcame was a big one — the money. By way of a small financial windfall from an unexpected source.

Sherpa and I have been avid fishermen for many years. We were never very successful, but we enjoyed fishing together several times a week.  We had an 18 foot fishing boat, just the perfect size for cruising the chain of four lakes in the Madison area.

But without us even realizing it, our habits imperceptibly changed. We began to substitute photography outings for fishing expeditions. More and more, our evenings and weekends were taken up with trips to the local gardens and parks, or road trips to check out photography locations.

When we re-assessed our leisure time activities, we realized we’d only used the boat once in the last year. It became an easy decision to make. We sold our fishing boat and equipment, and used the profits to start up my photography business. (It helped immensely that Sherpa is my most enthusiastic supporter; he thought it was great plan to switch from fishing to art fairs. We never were very good at fishing! And there is always shore fishing when the urge strikes.)

So now that I had money for the basic expenses, I applied to a few shows in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  To my great surprise, the acceptances came in quickly. I hadn’t expected such success. In just a few weeks, I had six shows lined up from the end of June through the middle of September.

By then it was mid-May. I had less than two months to prepare for a summer of art fairs and festivals. And I had already committed to take a ten day college-graduation-celebration trip with my daughter to the Pacific Northwest.

It was at that point that real panic set in. So I did what made the most business sense to me – I packed and went on my trip with my daughter and we had a wonderful time. I knew all the art fair work would still be there when I got back. And they were…

Part 3: Learning as You Begin


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for the next eight weeks, exhibiting her photography in art fairs, taking photographs in deserts and desert gardens, and blogging about learning to live on her own. Her mantra is “Bo goes solo!”

About Bo Mackison

I’m a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place – a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I’d love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It’s my gift to you.


  1. Bo, you have a lot of talent and a great Sherpa!

  2. Bo,

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your journey. I am starting to kick around the idea of adding more shows for myself and I’m very interested in hearing about the process you went through to make this all happen. I have only done 1 art fair per season for the last three years but I’m hoping to add a couple more this year. I have three applications out currently and if all goes well, I will be working through many of the same things that you went through.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  3. Bo, you got guts and gumption, and this will take you very far on your journey. I’m looking forward to hearing more about all the aspects of your making of an artist journey.

  4. Joanne Keevers says:

    Bo, with your talent, determination, desire and the supportive Sherpa, you’ve got it made! I’m so happy for you and thank you so much for sharing this amazing journey you are on. You are an inspiration indeed! 🙂

  5. Fascinating “story” about your journey into the art fair world. I’m proud of you in your determination to make this avenue work for you. Looking forward to reading “the rest of the story!”

  6. The biggest asset you have, besides your considerable talent, is your Sherpa. A husband who whole-heartedly supports his wife’s passions and jumps in to make it an couple’s endeavor is a thing of beauty. You are a lucky woman in many, many ways. XO

  7. Another cliffhanger? lol! Okay. I’ll be patient. But I am looking forward to reading the rest of the story.

    Your Sherpa is a good man. 🙂

  8. It’s so great to hear how these parts and pieces of ‘becoming’ the artist that you are..have come together. Looking forward to the next installment..

  9. Well, finally I can pick up where I left off and continue with your journey. I love how you and the Sherpa were in this together. 🙂

Leave a Reply