Category Archives: Art Shows

Pop Up Shop

This weekend we participated in a pop up sale at major retailer. Essentially, a pop up sale is when an artist comes into a retail space and sets up shop temporarily and runs his/her sales through his/her own register. Pop up sales are a way that retailers can provide an event to draw in more customers without having to do much more than clear off a table or clear out floor space for a table. The artist has the advantage of drawing in new customers and have a sale in air conditioning.

We have had subpar experiences at pop up sales, but we still think they are important to participate in. Below, you will find 3 reasons why we think it’s good practice for an artist to do a pop up sale. You will also find 5 tips for artists and 5 tips for retailers. We hope these tips will improve your (both artists’ and retailers’) experience of the pop up.

3 reasons why it’s good practice to participate in pop up sales

Increase exposure and grow audience

This is probably the most obvious reason for why artists can benefit from participating in pop up sales. When you are showing your work in a new space, you will meet new people. The crowds who shop at retailers can be different than the crowds at art fairs. Even more, retailers can use the opportunity to see how your work does on the sales floor before they make the commitment to take you on as a wholesaler. If you intend to grow your audience through a pop up sale, it is important to promote this event on all your social media outlets ahead of time- making sure you use tags and hashtags connected with the event.

Foster Partnership with Retailers

The time leading up to the sale as well as during the pop up, you are building a relationship with a retailer. By being at the store, you are helping to draw more potential buyers into the space. Good marketing will make it so that you’re the attraction, but hopefully more impulse buys will happen in the store as well. You are there to make the store look good and increase its sales as well as increasing your own sales and audience.

Gain familiarity with selling in a retail space

Many artists’ experience with retail is as a consumer. As a consumer, you are thinking about prices, selection, efficiency, meeting your own needs and wants. Retailers are concerned with margins, attractive merchandising, ample selection, high turn rates. For artists to succeed, we must empathize with retailers. As wholesalers, the retailer is our customer- not the consumer. The more we are familiar with selling retail, the more we can empathize with and anticipate the need of our retail partners. For example, through my experience working in retail, I learned the importance of beautiful packaging. I could not stand it when my wholesalers sent me product that wasn’t ready for the shelves. Participating in a pop up sale will help artists learn what it takes to sell their work effectively in a retail space.

5 Tips For Artists

Accept Payment

The customers who are coming into the retail space are expecting that store to accept all major credit cards. Therefore, in order to increase your sales, bring a mobile register (like Square) with you. If you are serious about growing your art business, you have to invest in a mobile register. The 3% transaction fee is worth not losing an entire sale just because you can’t accept credit cards.

Package Purchases

It is best to bring bags with your business’s name and logo on them. This way, when you package up a sale, your brand can get more eyes. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure in sales. If multiple people are walking around with the goods they purchased from your table, more customers in that store will come to find your table. I hear, “Well, I don’t want to carry it around with me,” as a regular excuse for why people don’t purchase our mugs. So we made it easy for them to carry it around with them. We have nice looking paper bags, with handles, and a sticker with our logo. We also use bright green tissue paper to draw even more attention to the purchase.

Merchandise Effectively

You are displaying your work in a store. Managers and clerks spend almost all of their time creating displays, straightening up after customers, and making their inventory look as attractive as possible. Your table should look like another display in the store. Before you arrive to the pop up, look at pictures of the retail space online. Plan your display to complement the store’s displays. For example, if you are showing in a store that is super into crates and reclaimed wood- bring a couple of crates and a piece of reclaimed wood with you. If you are showing in a sleek and modern store, bring clear acrylic stands.

Clarify expectations

The manager who invited you to participate in the pop up sale should provide you with an informational packet. In the event that they didn’t, clarify expectations with them. Check to find out what time they want you there and what time they want you to pack up. Find out if they have a loading dock or any other specifications for dropping off your wares. Ask if they will have a table and a chair for you. Find out if there’s a restroom on site and if there are any rules about food or beverages. Use this opportunity to clarify your own expectations of them. This is a two-way relationship.

Identify yourself

Assume that customers have no idea who you are. If you’ve made t-shirts with your business name/ logo on them, I recommend wearing them to the sale. This will also help distinguish you from the actual employees of the store. Bring a banner to hang from your table. Bring business cards and flyers so that interested buyers can find you after the sale. Introduce yourself to everyone who stops by and tell them why you are there. They will love that they can meet a real artist in the flesh!

5 Tips For Retailers

Clarify expectations

It’s my personal preference to make assumptions that it is everyone’s first time doing anything. When you invite an artist to come into your store, provide an informational packet outlining your expectations in regards to time, use of space, style of dress, set up and tear down. Providing clear expectations ahead of time will ensure that you will get the results that you want from this pop up sale.

Educate your customers

Your customers don’t know what a pop up sale is and they have no idea why there is an artist standing at a table with a bunch of their work. Teach your customers through marketing, social media, and conversations about this concept of a pop up sale. Teach them why it is important to you to know the maker of the merchandise sold in your store.

Provide signage

Providing signage can be a continuation of “Educate your customers.” Put up a special sign on the sidewalk outside of your store, inviting potential customers to come in and experience the pop up sale. Put signage around the space where the pop up is that says, “Pop Up Sale!” or “Meet the maker!” Put signs around the store directing customers to the pop up sale table.

Practice Hospitality

It is very awkward and uncomfortable for an artist (who spends most of their time alone in their studio) to come into a new retail space. They don’t know where the bathroom is. They don’t what the rules are about use of furniture. They don’t know any of the employees or the customers. Introduce the employees to the artist. Welcome the artist into the space and help them get comfortable. Provide them with bottled water and a comfortable chair. As part of your sales pitch to customers, invite them to stop by the pop up table. You wanted this artist here and you want a happy customer, make it happen.

Value Local

You are so lucky that you know an artist who is willing to come into your store and give up half a day standing at a table, selling their work to a bunch of strangers. Local artists work their asses off for their craft. They care more about the quality and integrity of their merchandise than any factory in China will. Even more, local artists spend their earnings in the local economy. If your artist is successful, the fiscal health of your community will improve. Value your artist. Honor the prices they set on their work. Tell your customers how much you value your artist. Advertise for this event. Make this artist feel special. They sacrifice for their craft more than you’ll ever know. Help them succeed. If your artists succeed, your store will too.

I hope this post helps artists and retailers have successful pop up sales! Interact with us on Facebook and Twitter to share any tips I may have missed!



A Forecast for Play

An installation by Grace Pardun Alworth. Luther Seminary’s Gullixion Pop-Up Gallery. January 5 – February 15, 2015. Porcelain, crystals, beads, polyfill, glitter.


A wide angle shot of the whole installation.

A wide angle shot of the whole installation.





Ceramics artists occupy an interesting intersection in the arts. On one hand, we are crafts people making practical items for every day use: coffee mugs, cereal bowls, and fermentation crocks. Our craft is judged on functionality and aesthetics. On the other hand, we are trained as fine artists. Our art is judged on aesthetics, conception, and message. Sometimes, the craft world doesn’t understand the fine arts world. Sometimes, the fine arts world doesn’t value the craft world.

Furthermore, artists and audiences take art very seriously. What does it mean? What difference does this art make? What am I trying to express? With they understand my work? Is this any good? These are questions an artist wrestles with as she creates. Viewers struggle to understand what they see. I’ve heard from viewers of my work, “I’m not an artist, or even an artsy type- can you explain this to me?” Viewers want to get it right. Viewers think of art as a puzzle and they want the know the answer.

This intersection of art and craft is where I often find myself navigating. Sometimes my response is to only make craft- a plate, a bowl, a blanket, a button. Sometimes my response is to only make fine art- a painting, a sculpture. But, as I reflect on this meeting place of creating, I realize that the values from each field benefit my work. My quest for meaning and purpose in my every day existentialism is practiced in my studio.

There is another tension found in my craft: valuing concept and theory of fine arts while enjoying the craft. When I say, “enjoying the craft,” I mean both creating my work, but also using that work. An example would be enjoying the construction of a fermentation crock made by my husband Jim, as well as enjoying the process of fermenting cabbage in that same crock.

In the half gallon jar on the left, a maple porter is fermenting. In the crock on the right, some traditional Carolina coleslaw is fermenting.

In the half gallon jar on the left, a maple porter is fermenting. In the crock on the right, some traditional Carolina coleslaw is fermenting.








An underlying theme in both Jim’s and my work is fun. We deeply enjoy working in clay and we deeply enjoy playing. Often Jim will declare, “Well, I’m going to go play in my studio now!” This installation at Luther Seminary is all about play.

This is a detail of the rainy side of the installation

This is a detail of the rainy side of the installation









One viewer came down to the gallery and seeing the 178 pieces of porcelain hanging from the ceiling, “Well that couldn’t have been fun, hanging all those pieces!” My response was, “Actually, I enjoyed the installation of this show very much.” And its true, I loved every minute of hanging each piece. As each ceramic disk went up, the piece changed form. I wouldn’t have done this show if I didn’t enjoy doing it.

I visit my installation regularly and I play with it. I tap each disk. I spin the crystal beads. I step back and watch the show move and dance. Shadows play across the walls.

One day, I sat in the chairs underneath the rainbow side and I watched the disks slowly swing back and forth. I was filled with gratitude. What a joy it is to make art with my husband. What a joy it was to make each disk. What a joy it was to install this work at a place, Luther Seminary, that has been responsible for so much joy and play in the last 5 years. What a joy it is to dabble in the intersection of arts and crafts!









Artist Statement     

For some, change is difficult. Transition into a new reality conjures up anxiety. Fears cloud one’s appreciation for new opportunities possible because of the shift. Luther Seminary is a place of myriad transitions. This is the new reality for seminaries – to promote transformation from within the institution and from without the institution. Because of this calling to encourage transformation, transition and change will abound here- and also anxiety.

What is a pastoral-type person to do in the face of change? What’s an artist to create when her community feels anxious?

This installation is made to be read from left to right when standing on the stairs leading down into the gallery space. It begins with darker clouds and raindrops and transitions into a bright rainbow. I’ve arranged the lighting to point towards the rainbow. You will find that the clouds, made from polyfill stuffing and paper lanterns, are sprinkled with glitter. The circles hanging down from the ceiling are handmade porcelain disks glazed in eleven different colors. If you sit long enough, you’ll notice the Swarovski crystals reflecting light throughout the gallery.

Don’t take this installation too seriously. I made this for you to enjoy and to play with. Be gentle with each piece as you are gentle with each other in this community.