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FNO Newsletter Editor
Turning Your Artistic Hobby into a Business
by Rosalind Resnick
When Terry Speer was a struggling art student in the 60s, he put
himself through college by selling his prints and paintings at local
art shows. In 1979, after eight years as an art professor, Speer left
academia to do the show circuit full time with his wife, Deborah
Banyas, a fellow artist and quilt maker.
"I had tenure and benefits," Speer recalls, "but I was miserable. I
thought, 'Why am I torturing myself as a professor when I can have more
fun doing this and make more money?'"
Speer hasn't looked back once. Today, he and Banyas run a homebased
business selling their whimsical mixed-media sculptures at art
festivals and craft shows around the country, including the recent
Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami where they rang up sales of
several thousand dollars over the three-day Presidents' Day weekend.
Despite an estimated $3,000 in travel and other miscellaneous costs,
Speer and Banyas ended up making a tidy profit. Then they packed up
their truck and headed home to Oberlin, Ohio, where they stayed for
less than a day before traveling to another show in Baltimore.
"This isn't an easy way to make a living," says Banyas, who estimates
that the couple exhibits at 12 shows a year. "You've got to be willing
to drive a truck and get up at four in the morning."
Still, Speer and Banyas can't see themselves doing anything else. And
they're not the only ones who feel that way. Though it's impossible to
know how many artists and craftspeople sell their wares full or part
time at shows and festivals, their numbers appear to be growing as
crowds turn out by the thousands to buy paintings, sculptures,
woodwork, metalwork, glasswork and jewelry and to meet the artists and
craftsmen who make them. And as Speer and Banyas have discovered,
there's real money to be made. Last year, the Coconut Grove festival
drew more than 150,000 visitors who purchased approximately $4 million
in artwork from more than 330 exhibitors over the course of the
three-day show. (Figures for this year's show were not available at
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