Emerging artist Katie Dison at her first market

Emerging artist Katie Dison recently participated in her first arts market. She did not break the rules. (Photo by Mitch Cohen)

Do you have any pet peeves?  I bet everyone discovered a few new ones in 2020 regardless if we were looking or not. The year 2020 gave more insight into my predilection for some odd pet peeves I thought I’d share with you this week.

Go easy on me, please.

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point over the past 17 years I went from clueless entrepreneur starting Houston’s first monthly outdoor art market, to creating long pages of rules for the “vendors” to follow. When I realized a majority of artists weren’t reading those rules, I managed to whittle the rules down to what amounts to a short bullet list.

My pet peeves derive from that short list. The misuse of the word “vendor” is top of my pet peeve list. Yes, I used that word quite liberally early on. Reviewing early editions of my reams of rules, vendor is as common as the word “um” is used by interviewees with no experience talking.

One day as I was perusing web forums for artists, no doubt I was looking for new rules for my market. I came across a discussion about the word vendor. The author’s biggest pet peeve was how after spending many years and thousands of dollars on an arts education, the event coordinators at fine art festivals insisted on calling the artist attendees “vendors.” Guilty.

A vendor is typically defined as someone selling something on the street, and most often they are selling someone else’s product.

From that point on I changed the wording on all the rules, instructions and marketing to either artist or the painfully long yet more appropriate word, exhibitor.

Exhibitor just doesn’t roll off the tongue or hammer out as easily on a keyboard as the word vendor. However, there was no way I was going to be lumped in with those inconsiderate organizers either. My artist friends would tell you that I’ve become obsessive about correcting anyone who uses the term vendor.

In a close second among my pet peeves at outdoor markets are tent weights. You probably never notice them. I sure didn’t early in my rule-making and vendor name-calling days.

The first time I really noticed how effective weights can be was when two of my tents took flight. They’re about as elegant in flight as overweight flamingos. Half of the round, 5-pound weights I bought at the store with the tent remained firmly attached to the tent legs. The rest, like discs of death, went flying in all directions looking for unassuming vendors no doubt. Ahem, exhibitors.

Today I inform all artist exhibitors that they must conform to proper weight guidelines of at least the minimum 100 pounds per tent. Snapping pics of improper weights is almost a hobby for me now. Artists are creative, after all, and sometimes the shortcuts they take to get past the rules are hilarious if not just dangerous.

I remind exhibitors of a favorite quote I found years ago online about inadequate weights. It was something like this: “Those (insert the weight used) are the equivalent of a 3-year-old child trying to hold down a 100 square-foot parachute.”

My last pet peeve are multiple pages of rules. I always try to get the most important points right at the beginning. Everyone’s in a hurry and these days, no telling what device they’re reading from. A paragraph looks like a book on some phones.

Good luck conquering your pet peeves. I bet you notice what’s holding those tents down at markets next time you’re out. If you spot something weird, like a chair or laundry bottle strapped to a tent leg, send me a photograph.

Katie Dison’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katiedisongallery717/ and her market profile here.

Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com for additional highlights and artist’s stories.

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