Artists' Books in the Marketplace

My booth at Codex featuring artists' books, papers, trade publications & more

My booth at Codex featuring artists’ books, papers, trade publications & more

The Codex Book Fair, which I’ve had the privilege of attending three times, is by far the biggest marketing gamble I take in my business. It is a huge undertaking on many levels – cost:  the hefty booth fee, travel expenses, and shipping; and time spent in preparation, marketing and being physically present at the booth. 

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I am incredible lucky and grateful that I am able to find (or they find me) generous souls who help me fulfill my visions. Daria Wilber went above and beyond to come work with me in my studio during my final push to finish preparing for Codex. Before she came I mentioned that I’d like to make a paper garment to wear at the event. I scrounged up some paper that was left over from the Mother Tree Project and Daria got it to take shape in the form of this vest, which was a great talking point at Codex. There was even a conversation about making an edition. Paper vests anyone?

Robbin Silverberg makes exquisite books utilizing her own handmade papers

Robbin Silverberg makes exquisite books utilizing her own handmade papers (it was sunny at this venue)

And even though I had an assistant during the event (Daria also accompanied me to Codex and I didn’t even take her picture!) I hardly had time to step away from my booth, much less to take photographs! I had every intention of talking to others who were exhibiting (in fact, I requested a booth next to another artist so that we could catch up, but we hardly exchanged a word).

My friend Diane Jacobs had a booth nearby, featuring her exquisite bra and panties

My friend Diane Jacobs had a booth nearby, featuring a woven and printed  bra and panties, among other books

I wanted to hang out with friends, seek inspiration from other artists and introduce myself to other book artists. I did some of this, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped!

The crowd on opening day!

The crowd on opening day, despite torrential rains!

And so it goes. I did sell products, I talked to loads of interesting people, I had some interest in my new book Interluceo and now I have lots of follow up to do! Many of the people who stopped by my booth were overwhelmed by the sheer number of booths they were trying to get to (there were 190 exhibitors), and those who were able to come for multiple days definitely had an advantage.

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At an event like this there are people you want to meet, but they may not come by your booth. And there are others who you might not know or dream of seeing that appear at your booth. Old friends, strangers, acquaintances, students, librarians, book dealers, collectors, you name it! The woman pictured with me above is named Kate, and she took a class with me at the book and paper center in Chicago about three years ago. All of a sudden, there she was at my booth wearing a tyvek paper jacket. 

Thanks to all of those who stopped by to say hello (especially those of you who read my blog and told me so)! It was a lot of fun, and I am thankful that I showed up! Sometimes that is just what it takes.

8 comments to Artists' Books in the Marketplace

  • it looks wonderful and horribly exhausting. i love the paper and tyvek clothes. i hope you had a week for extra sleep-in’s.

  • I love the paper vest, Helen, and the mother tree is beautiful! It is something all can relate to.

  • I love your blog and books; appreciate reading about your adventures with paper. I’m wondering if Codex is worth it-monetarily. Seems as if it is a big expense (although it has future earnings potential). But do people make purchases at Codex?

    • Helen

      Anne, you hit the nail on the head! I just don’t know if it is worth it monetarily. Since I sell smaller items (trade books, paper, etc) I do end up covering my expenses. I stay with a friend and eat simply to keep my expenses low. I think having those smaller items on my table is a bit distracting though – some people don’t even notice the artists’ books! And you’re right about future earning potential. I hope there will be a few sales in the coming months, but you never know!

  • Betty Kjelson

    I’m happy that you were able to get a clear first picture of you booth. Everything shows well which would have been impossible when the huge crowd came through later.
    Good to see Robin Silverberg and the pic of you in your vest. Makes me want to pull out my long coat I made out of banana fibers. People were always coming up and wanting to feel it.
    Put my name down on the mailing list for the new book. I have them all and use them.
    Betty Kjelson

    • Helen

      Thanks, Betty! I’d love to see your banana fiber coat. The new book is a limited edition, not a trade book like the others… much more expensive and not a how-to book! Let me know if you’d like details… 🙂

  • Maryruth Ginn

    Helen–In Peoria, Illinois, I am part of a shop of fiber work. The name of the shop is The Sheared Edge. We would love to have some clothing made of paper. Maybe it could be our featured artist show of the month. We feature a different artist’s work each month, opening with First Friday. Paper garments can be shipped pretty easily. You look charming in your vest!

  • Nice vest! And I liked the Tyvek coat too. ; ]

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