If you’re afraid that you’ll be missing out on the opportunity to shop the work of local artists and artisans this summer, not to worry. They’re missing you too, and now, thanks to the ingenuity of a team from the Vineyard Artisans Festival, Islanders and visitors from near and far will be able to enjoy the festival experience virtually. The online Artisans Festival will take place “live” on Saturday, May 23, and Sunday, May 24, and stay up on the Vineyard Artisans website indefinitely.
“We’re revamping our website and getting ready to put our first virtual show online,” says founder Andrea Rogers. The new site will offer more than just pictures of products for sale. There will be all sorts of extras, like videos of the artisans, in some cases, in the process of creating.
“There will be some live streams of people working, and tours of their studios,” says Kevin McGrath, who is spearheading the website redesign and online selling platform.
“It will be a nice hub for people to filter through,” says Rogers. “They can open that door and have all of the artisans right there. In every case, there will be pictures of the people as well as their work. A lot of customers don’t know their favorite artist’s names. They can see their video and find their work that way. You can check out all of the new work they’ve been doing in the off-season. ”
Like many Island organizations, the Artisans Festival members had to come up with ways to reinvent themselves this year. The organizers held a series of group Zoom meetings to allow for input from all the artisans. At least 37 different individuals will be participating in the new format.
As always, viewers can find a little bit of everything, including paintings, photography, jewelry, ceramics, woodwork, leatherwork, clothing, fiber arts, metalwork, book art, and basketry. Rogers has given the artisans the opportunity to participate for free during this trial run.
Some artists and artisans will be offering their wares directly through their websites or Etsy stores, while others will make themselves available to contact through email or phone. “Everyone is adjusting to this new online format,” says McGrath. “Many of them have been wanting to beef up their presence online. Now they’re working to make that happen.”
Some, like Cynthia McGrath, who sells jewelry and gift items under the label Original Cyn, are finding that they have more time to focus on online sales. “I was so busy with orders and shows that I had to shut down my Etsy shop for a while,” Cynthia said. “Everything is one of a kind. I just turned my store back on after a hiatus.”
Others, like Rogers herself, who grows lavender and makes sachets and other products, are finding it easier to sell by phone and email order. “Bringing my products to a physical show is an absolute nightmare,” she says. “I’m still doing a fair amount of business just by word of mouth. People have been calling me at home to pick it up. I can also mail it.”
With the future of Island events a question mark for the time being, the festival organizers are hoping that this launch of a new format will prove successful and sustainable for the rest of the season, if necessary. “We’re testing the waters to see how this format works,” says McGrath. “We’ve looked around at other arts and crafts fairs around the country to see how others are doing this. I think it’s going to be an exciting alternative to visiting the festival in person.”
To check out what local artists and artisans are offering, and see them at work, visit vineyardartisans.com/directory, starting on Saturday, May 23.