I recently shared in my Instagram stories for #plasticfreethursday about trying to do an entire art show or outdoor art festival without using plastic. I don't have it all down perfectly yet, but I'm getting closer! Here's what I have so far:
Problem: Business Cards and Labels on Prints
Solution: STAMP, duh!
I'm not sure why this one took me so long to figure out. It's inexpensive, lasts forever, and is so easy my kids can do it for me! I used Rubberstamps.com to make a 5"x5" (probably could have been smaller upon reflection). My friend, and designer Allison Clough came up with the perfect stamp to educate and inform customers, while looking cute. I used Archival ink pads so that it will not leak and damage my artwork.
Business cards are often lost, so I encourage people to take pictures when they can, and then have a few on standby for someone jogging through without their phone, or that one person (or child) that collects and enjoys business cards as mini art. I was using THOUSANDS in a season, so having a card taped to the table for pictures is really cutting back on waste. I think it's also helping patrons become more aware of the ease of photographing someone's information, or just immediately following them on social media if they are truly interested.
Problem: Bag to carry purchase
Solution: Tape Handles or BYOBag
More and more art show attendants have jumped on the wagon of bringing their own bags, as it becomes second nature to just have some in your car for random purchases. Just in case, I use plastic tape about 8" long and tape to each side of the print (covered in a plastic sleeve anyway). Then I fold the tape on itself so it doesn't stick to the customer, and BONUS, they advertise your art everywhere they walk after that!
Problem: Plastic sleeves and matte board waste
I recently discovered that Clearbags.com has compostable plastic sleeves and I have only been using them for a few shows, but they seem to hold up! I also eliminated the extra matte board awhile ago by printing most of my limited editions with a white border that looks like a matte. Many patrons choose to use their own colored matte anyway, so they often are thrown out, this way they can leave it as is (it fits better in a standard frame without the extra thickness), or they can get a custom frame, and not need to discard the border they no longer need.
I purchase the 11"x14" backing only made from 100% recycled materials. I also encourage people to return them to me at another show, if they don't have another need for it. You can also recommend that they take prints home in a tube! I haven't had as much luck with this as it is more time consuming and people want to move on, but I have had many customers bring materials back to me at the next show!
For tubes I using Packagingsupplies.com Kraft Crimped end mailing tubes and paper tape to seal them. I also use recycled newsprint paper to wrap the artwork at shows or when shipping any artwork.
Problem: Protecting art during transport
Solution: Cardboard corners, quilted sacks, reusable boxes
My canvases are all easy to clean with a little water and a microfiber cloth, so I don't worry too much about having to wrap a hundred times with plastic like I use to, but corners are another story. I recently started getting cardboard corners from my framer in Jupiter, and I reuse them on the canvas and both 11"x14" and 18"x24" frames. I also put my large frames in quilted sacks that my mom made for me when I started attending art shows 7 years ago. They have held up great and will go for another couple 100 shows I'm sure! I am also still looking for some large boxes, maybe a standup paddle board size to pack canvases in the van, in the meantime I use pieces of cardboard to protect sharp edges,etc.
For my customers, I send them home with the cardboard corners, or I place them in Amazon Prime Now bags that I've accumulated from my own purchases or from friends and neighbors. (pictured)
Side Note: I'm not proud that I still use Prime Now, but especially during season, it is a lifesaver, and I always write in the instructions to put all produce in as few plastic bags as possible, which they sometimes listen to! Try it if you are ordering too. The more people that ask, the more they will see the demand for reusables with a deposit maybe?)
Problem: Propanels need zipties
Solution: But they really don't!
They come with velcro, and you can always buy more if you got yours second hand, or lost them. Use the velcro to wrap them together tightly, and you won't need to use a single zip tie. I have lost a couple to the abyss in my van, but using one zip tie is better than 10! Try to find more permanent solutions wherever you can. At the art shows on A-1-A I am especially careful because if you miss one, it can easily end up as a snack for a bird or just floating out in the ocean with the rest of the marine debris.
More Problems to solve:
-Pens... refillable ink? Pencils?
-No options yet at Clearbags.com for 18"x24" recycled backing and compostable sleeves, just 16"x20" backing so far...
-Buy secondhand tents and propanels, screens or fabric from Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace and artist groups.
-Use a guestbook made from recycled paper for gathering emails
- Always bring your own bottle, cup and cutlery for shows. Bringing your own lunch is always the best option, but often the hardest on the road. Still working on finding good options out of town.
I hope you found something helpful or inspiring. If you have something to add, please comment or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much!