When I received an email newsletter from Simple Steps back in September announcing that it was hosting Her Creations: Handmade Arts & Crafts Fair, it felt like a strange coincidence. Just the previous evening, I had expressed my dream of participating in arts and crafts fair to my husband. I never imagined I would actually have the opportunity to take part in one in reality. It seemed so far-fetched to me that my work would be selected for a fair, and the process of participating in such an event was daunting since I had never done anything like it before. But when I read the Simple Steps email inviting women artists to apply, I felt like this was my opportunity to at least try.
I have always enjoyed attending arts and crafts fairs, meeting makers and buying handmade items that support local artists and craftspeople. Although I love creating art, I never really believed I could be one of those makers, meeting customers and selling my work. I’m a self-taught artist; I studied art history and English literature at university in Ireland, and for many years worked as a visual arts journalist, but creating my own art was something I had always done in my spare time, and I was very shy about my work. Having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Dublin, Ireland, in 2015 with my husband and young son, I took a career break from my work as a journalist and editor to focus on being a mom. However, as my son grew older and became more independent, I started thinking about what I could do next. A job with flexible hours that allowed me to work from home was important for me and my family. I dreamed of making a career out of art, but I had no idea how to go about it, nor had I the confidence to pursue such a dream.
It is particularly challenging trying to change careers in a new country, without social supports and where cultural and bureaucratic differences are often difficult to navigate alone. Simple Steps offers a stepping stone towards achieving one’s goals after such a transition. I was very nervous about applying to participate in the Her Creations fair because applying in itself was a big step for me, but despite my reservations, I pushed myself to do it. I had previously exhibited one of my paintings at the Simple Steps I am an Artist and a Mom exhibition in April 2018 and had an amazing experience on that occasion, so I felt confident that the arts and crafts fair would be similarly well-organized and inspiring.
I was delighted – and surprised – when I was selected to participate in the fair. With that acceptance came a flurry of activity. It was a steep learning curve, but an extremely rewarding process. Simple Steps helped with the practical aspects of the event, particularly with walking participants through the process of applying for a seller’s permit and giving advice on what was likely to sell and how to display art effectively. In addition to creating as much artwork as possible in advance of the fair, I also learned a huge amount about running a business as a sole proprietor, something in which I had no previous experience. I designed my business cards, a poster and the layout of my booth, set up a Square account to allow for card payments, opened an online Etsy store, and registered my fictional business name, Little Lemur Designs.
On the first day of the fair, I was pretty nervous. To put myself and my work out there in such a public way was daunting. However, when I arrived at the venue, the Simple Steps organizers were wonderful at helping me feel at ease. I was assigned a table next to Afshan Syed of zizi&me designs. It was her first fair too, and it turned out that she was also a local mom just starting her business of creating enamel pins and accessories. We hit it off straight away, bonding over our shared experience, and I feel I’ve made a new life-long friend. I also reconnected with other very talented artists who I had met in 2018 at the Simple Steps exhibition.
The fair itself was incredibly rewarding. It was wonderful to meet members of the public, to hear their feedback about my work, and to sell some of my artworks. A lot of families with young children visited the fair, so I ended up selling many of my small canvases on stands featuring acrylic paintings of cute animals. I had not expected these to be my bestsellers so it was really interesting to learn about what sells depending on who is visiting the fair.
I had such an amazing experience at the Simple Steps Her Creations fair that it gave me the confidence to continue working as an art maker and seller on a professional level. Afshan and I recently shared a booth at the SJMade San Jose Craft Holiday Fair, which was on a much bigger scale than Her Creations and featured almost 300 makers. I would never have had the courage to participate in such a large-scale event had I not done the Simple Steps fair and had I not met Afshan. I am more determined than ever to make a business out of selling my art and crafts, and it is all thanks to Simple Steps that this has become possible for me. I will be forever grateful for the experience of participating in Her Creations, and I feel everything Simple Steps does to help mothers and immigrant women return to the workplace or forge new careers is invaluable. Thanks, Simple Steps for helping me start a new chapter in my life!
– Eimear Picardo
Little Lemur Designs