Carnival Expo 2017

Let me start by saying how absolutely touched I was by the number of people that expressly came looking for my booth and then said “Oh! I’m glad you’re here. We were hoping you’d be back!” You have no idea how much it means to me to know that my art made such an impression on so many. Thank you for coming back to see By Leigh at Carnival Expo 2017. I truly appreciate it.

Carnival Expo is By Leigh’s largest annual exhibition of work and I love it. I love how much it plays to my heritage, to my need to reconnect with the land of my birth and I love that it’s waaaay cheaper than booking a flight to Trinidad for Carnival. It’s not a ‘true’ substitute but Carnival Expo definitely gives me a shot of Caribbean creativity to take me through the year and for that I am extremely grateful to be a part of such a joyous experience.

As this was our second year, By Leigh brought some new offerings and returned with some old favourites.

OLD FAVOURITES

Caribbean Old Mas

Back for a 2nd successful year were the line paintings of Caribbean Old Mas for various islands. Moving on from Trinidad & Tobago in 2016 (scroll down for links to full series), the 2017 series featured symbols of history, identity and carnival from Jamaica, St Lucia and Grenada. Barbados was in the running but I simply ran out of time! Bajan brothers and sisters, watch this space for 2018!

Wide Selection of Art Prints 

Also returning were a wide selection of prints and original ready-to-hang paintings with Caribbean and Carnival themes. Turns out, the original artwork was the hit this year. We needed to rearrange the wall after 3 original pieces were sold first thing on Sunday morning. Unframed originals also proved more popular than prints so there will probably be fewer prints and more originals on sale in 2018.

Art on Greeting Cards

Lots of stunning greetings cards were available too and because they were based on some of the most popular carnival paintings shown at the 2016 expo, many people were able to take home a small memento of some of their favourite pieces.

NEW OFFERINGS

2016 was By Leigh’s first expo, first booth, first time having to decide what to sell. One year later, I heeded the requests of my 2016 customers and added loads of new merchandise, giveaways, discounts and more. Thanks to your advice, 2017 sales were up 200% on 2016! Thank you!

So what was new?

By Leigh T-shirts 

We brought 10 t-shirts in various designs, sizes and colours. Only one remains from that first stash but pop over to By Leigh’s TeePublic store to order By Leigh art on everything from t-shirts to throw cushions. If the painting you want is not on sale yet, email me and I’ll put it up just for you!

The Bargain Basket

The spot to get all last year’s artwork at ridiculously reduced prices! Up to 70% off in some cases. Only at Carnival Expo!

Win a Free Life Story Art piece

Yes, you read that right! All you had to do was pop your name & contact info/business card into our prize bucket and wait to see who’s name would pop out as the winner of a Life Story Art commission FOR FREE! The winner was announced in our post-Expo newsletter.

Book your LSA at Expo and get 10% off

A few happy customers took advantage of this one. They decided not to wait to see if they won, instead they booked their Life Story Art piece and paid their despoit at Expo to cash in on this exclusive Carnival Expo discount. Here’s one of those commissions for a grandmother’s 80th birthday. It shows her life journey from Jamaica to the UK with all her ups and downs in between.

Message in the Carnival Art

And finally, my art changed direction in 2017. Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is a festival that was created by slaves. With no real communication channels to voice their concerns, complaints or hurts, they had to find creative way to say their piece about all the issue of the day that affected them. In 2017, I decided to revisit Carnival’s history and roots by bringing some politics back into my art. At least 4 pieces on show threw up current day issues that I wanted to have a say about.

SUPERHERO SUPPORTERS

I think it’s fair to say that by the time I get to setting up the booth the Friday before Expo, I’m wired but exhausted. Chances arem I’ve been painting until my arm falls off to ensure I’ve got enough stuff to keep people exploring my booth. Plus, I’m the kinda girl that believes you should go big or go home. If you see By Leigh somewhere, you shouldnn’t forget it! That said, there is no way I could make it through Carnival Expo without a few behind-the-scenes superhero supporters.

Superhero #1 – El hubberito! The husband. The man who functions like a single parent for most of April while I run around like a headless chicken getting everything ready. He’s my driver, my moving man, my cashier, my tech man, my don’t-forget-to-eat guy, my personal pep talker. There is no way that Carnival Expo would be possible for By Leigh without Chris Ross. (Special thanks to Ross Laird for lending me your Director for a week every year.)

Superheroes #2 & 3 – My sales ladies! You know you’ve got good friends when they come back every year free of charge just to help support your dreams, or when they come all the way from Anglesey to help you run your booth! Katrina & Patricia, you’re the best!

Superheroes #4 & 5 – Jim & Terry at Big Day Graphics who produce all my art prints, put up with my fussing and perfectionist tendencies, and deliver before deadline every time! Then I take all those prints and my unframed originals to Essex Framing at The Old School Picture Framers so Mike and Heather can mount, back and wrap 60+ pieces of art. They are the reason all my unframed work looks so beautifully presented. When you find good suppliers, you hold on to them. Big Day and Essex Framing are terrific!

I could go all Oscars on you and thank my parents and my baby brother, etc… but we all know it takes a village to raise a child and support success. So let me just say that I am ever so grateful for everyone in my village, named and unnamed, they are all superheroes who make it possible for me to make art!

OUTCOMES

While financial profits are essential and frankly absolutely wonderful, this isn’t the only plus to Carnival Expo for By Leigh. This year we doubled out sale revenue, we sold more original art than ever before, we learned a lot and were inspired by the Carnival University talks and met an amazing array of people who literally helped developed the By Leigh brand. For example:

Deonte Harris – Ethnomusicology PhD candidate from UCLA – We had the most amazing chat on Sunday morning before the doors opened. It resulted in sales, my work being shown at an art activist conference in Finland and an interview with Deonte about my creative process and content choices. I think I learned as much from meeting Deonte as he learned from me. So grateful! If I’m able, I’ll post a copy of the interview at a later date.

Oliver at Hirogliffix – Printer extra-ordinaire. We ended up having neghbouring booths and a symbiotic business interests. We’re now working on ways to make working together more streamlined because Olivers prints on apparel are a thing of beauty and he can print on pretty much ANYTHING!

Alvin Kofi of Kofi Arts – A pretty laid back meeting with an extremely talented guy that resulted in me showing my work in Brixton during London Design Festival 2017! Just wow! Read more about that here. Thank you so much for the opportunity Kofi!

Although these three people led me to my most memorable outcomes, I met many more people who have been amazing to learn from and explore ideas with, way too many to mention. It’s all these people that keep me coming back year after year to Carnival Expo. It’s a real gathering of creative minds and businesses that’s just so inspiring.

By Leigh will definitely be returning to Carnival Expo 2018 and we hope to see you there!

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