Artists hope end of recession means more sales

Local artists said they hope their sales will increase this year as the economy starts to pick up after a four-year slump.

More than 30 artists and craftsmen sold fiber art, paintings, woodwork, hand-crafted jewelry, glass sculptures and pottery Saturday and Sunday to a steady stream of people at the Makanda Spring Fest despite weekend heat and humidity.

Some vendors said they thought the sales they had made were keeping pace with sales from last spring’s festival.

John Lipe, of Carbondale, a woodworker who makes custom wine racks, said he attends Makanda’s Spring Fest and Vulture Fest, which is in October, every year and was satisfied with his sales at this year’s show.

“We always look forward to Spring Fest,” he said.  “It has a more diverse crowd than at any other show.”

Lipe said he thought there weren’t as many people at this year’s show because of unseasonably hot weather, gas prices and the continuing recession.

People have to spend more of their income on food and fuel, he said, which leaves less money for non-essentials such as art.

Ken Herman, a handblown glass artist from Grantsburg, said this was his third year at the festival.

He said he’s more optimistic about the economy this year than last year and thinks his sales are gradually improving.

“I’ve sold more glass sculptures in my first three shows this year than all of last year,” Herman said.

He said he thinks people are starting to purchase more expensive art again because his glass sculptures cost more than his other merchandise.

Amy Naas, a fiber artist from Carbondale, said she’s had a booth at the spring and fall festivals in Makanda almost every year since 1994.

She said sales were sluggish at this year’s festival, but she enjoyed the atmosphere and nice weather.

Naas said she did well in April at the Queeny Park Art Show in St. Louis and hopes the show indicates better days ahead.

Denise Parks, of Crab Orchard, fashions jewelry from handmade glass beads. She said this was her second year as a vendor at Spring Fest.

“It’s probably comparable to last year,” she said.

Elycia Camille Ceci, a ceramic artist from Carbondale, said she graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale two years ago and has been self-employed full-time as an artist since September.

She said her sales were slow at the festival, but her business is growing overall.

Ceci, who designs and makes dinnerware and other ceramic pieces, said she sells her work through online shopping websites and to 12 boutiques across the country.

Most Saturdays, she sells her work at the Carbondale Farmer’s Market and on some Fridays she sets up a booth at the Carbondale Community Friday Night Fair, Ceci said.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but every day gets better,” she said.

Ceci said she works in her studio during the day and spends several nights a week marketing her work through online sources, which she said takes a lot of time, but she can’t afford to hire someone yet to promote her business.

Sue Mills, a partner in Escape Locally, a web-based tourism business in Carbondale, said she understands the problems artists encounter when they market their own work.

As a former art gallery owner in Carbondale, Mills said she marketed local artists’ work every day.

Mills said many artists lack the time and skills to effectively market their art, and Escape Locally intends to market regional artists through tourism.

“Tourists really enjoy purchasing a piece of local art,” Mills said. “It brings them memories of their travel.”

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