The popularity of stencils in the face & body art world has grown immensely in the past decade, as is evident by the sheer number of options available out there! In the past, body artists mainly used stencils for airbrush (because they are essential to controlling your paint), or as a “cheat” for those who weren’t able to paint basic shapes freehand. Today, however, stencils are considered an essential tool, valued by even the best and most talented professional artists. As professional artists, given endless time and an inanimate canvas, many of us are quite capable of painting intricate repetitive designs. However, the reality of our jobs is such that time is a huge factor. Stencils allow us to create intricate textures and impressive designs in a timeframe that matches the length of patience our models have to sit still!
Most artists who are just getting into stencils will tell you that they are way harder to use than they originally thought. It’s that classic conundrum of professionals making something look SO easy! Stencils are supposed to make designs perfect, uniform, and fast, right? Well, if you don’t choose the right combination of tools and techniques for your design, and don’t practice enough to get a feel for those tools’ limits, it can result in disaster. Stencils take skill and practice, just like anything else.
Before we talk about the 3 main challenges of stenciling, let’s take a quick look at the types of makeup and tools available, because understanding these options will help you choose the right tools for the job.
Types of Makeup
Generally there are 3 types of makeup that face & body artists use with stencils. Pressed powders, water based makeup and airbrush. For the sake of this post we’ll just talk about powders and water based makeup because they are what most face painters start with, and come with the biggest challenges as far as getting a crisp image.
As you can see, they both have their pros and cons. I personally use both types of makeup for my stenciling, and which one I use depends on the design. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll get a better idea of which makeup works best for what you’re doing.
Once you choose the makeup you want to use, you need to choose a way to apply it. Here are a few of my favorite tools for stenciling.
Foam Blenders – Use these when you’re applying powder. Small Pore Sponge – Use these when you’re applying water based makeup and covering larger areas with your stencil. (Larger pore sponges can work well on sturdy stencils too) Finger Daubers – Use these when you’re applying water based makeup and want more precise control, for example, you only want to use a small portion of the stencil. They can also work for powder based makeup. Press/dab if the stencil is very delicate; twist/scrub if it is more durable. Mini Kabuki Brush – Use these for water based makeup, especially on very intricate/delicate stencils. It can be pounced or swirled. Use these if you don’t want to accumulate a lot of dirty sponges/daubers as they can be rinsed between colors more easily.
There are three big hurdles we fight when painting with stencils. Prickly bits, water, and contrast/coverage.
I tend to categorize my stencils into two camps: delicate and sturdy. Delicate stencils can be gorgeous but finicky and easily broken. I don’t banish them from my kit…I simply have to treat them more carefully. Sturdy stencils can be used and abused, and still work just as well years down the road. Does your stencil have super intricate details, or large shapes? Does it have any pointy, delicate pieces that can easily bend or lift away from the surface? I like to call these “prickly bits.” Prickly bits are those small, pointy shapes that protrude into an open space in your stencil. Having tiny details and prickly bits in your stencil can make things more challenging. Sponges tend to catch on prickly bits, bending up your stencil, and so do wipes when you’re trying to clean them off.
If you’re not sure whether your stencil has “prickly bits,” gently curve/bend it while looking down the edge. If it has delicate areas, you’ll see them stick out around the bend.
Tiny, intricate details are also very easily lost if you don’t have the right tool to paint with, or just the right amount of water. Here are a few tips for conquering those prickly bits:
Use a mini kabuki brush instead of a sponge. Stencils must be flat and tight against the skin where you’re painting in order to create a crisp design, and sponges can easily catch on those prickly bits, bending and pulling up your stencil and messing up your design. A mini kabuki brush can be brushed/swirled over the stencil or pounced over the design without catching. They are also easy to clean, and help keep your fingers clean!
When applying your makeup in a brushing action (as opposed to stippling), be sure to brush from the outside of the stencil inward, or in the direction of the prickly bits rather than against them, to avoid catching them whenever possible or forcing paint underneath them.
When cleaning stencils with delicate, prickly bits, dunk them in your rinse water first. This loosens the paint, and then you can lie it flat on a towel and press to dry and remove paint.
Most professional artists use water based makeups, so it’s a bit ironic that water is one of the biggest enemies of a clean, crisp stencil design. Too much water, and your design will bleed under the stencil, leaving more of a blob. Too little, and you won’t see the entire shape/texture. This is one of those factors of stenciling that simply takes practice to master. Once you get the feel of how much water is just right, you’ll start seeing better results. In general, it’s best to use as little water as possible for a clean, crisp stencil design. Here are a few tips to help control your water levels:
If you want more precise control, use small daubers instead of a large sponge. Our finger daubers and mini daubers do a great job of applying paint in precise areas, while giving you just enough sponge to do the job. The more sponge you have, the more likely you are to soak up too much water. Daubers tend to be thinner and make it easier to control the water.
If you’re covering a larger area, use a sponge with small pores like our foam wedge sponges or mini petal sponges. Larger pores are more likely to soak up more water than you need.
Glycerine based paint (such as Paradise) tends to be more forgiving than wax based paint when it comes to stencils. Load your sponge or kabuki with as little water as possible, so that it is more tacky than wet.
Achieving a good contrast is essential for the viewer to be able to see your design. A perfect stencil transfer doesn’t do much good if it blends in with the background it is on. When creating a dark stencil design over a light background, this is less of an issue. But painting light colors over a dark background can get problematic. There are ways around this issue though!
Powdered makeups tend to be a little more translucent, so they work best when you apply a dark powder over a light background.
Powdered makeups work best when they have a base to stick too. See the examples above for the difference when applied over bare skin vs makeup, primer or glycerine. Notice the change in contrast.
Be careful not to let powder “fall out” mess up your design! After loading a lollipop blender, give it a little tap over the makeup cake to knock off loose powder.
Water based makeups are good to achieve opaque coverage directly on bare skin.
When painting a light stencil pattern over a dark background, the background color can bleed through. To combat this, lay the stencil on, use a clean brush or makeup wipe to remove the background paint inside the stencil pattern, then apply your light color makeup and remove the stencil. This will keep your light color bright because you’ll only have skin behind it, vs the darker makeup background.
While unfortunately there is no one “trick” to achieving perfect, crisp stencil design transfers, there are methods to help guide you down the right path as far as how to achieve that crisp, clean look. Which method to use is determined by many factors that vary depending on the design. I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of what methods and tools work best for the task at hand! Got more questions I haven’t answered? Have a great tip to share for achieving great stencil results? Post your thoughts in the comments!
One of my most frequently asked questions that I get from my customers is, “how many faces can I paint with this set?” or, “I’m painting [x number of] kids; how much paint do I need?”
Many other online retailers will give you a number of how many faces their palette will do. I totally understand, as I know it helps you to estimate how much you need, and they would probably get this same question over and over if they did not assign some sort of number. However, realistically it is impossible to give a real solid estimate for many reasons. There are many factors that affect how long your paint will stretch:
Size of the designs.
Are you doing small “cheek art,” partial faces, or full face designs? Smaller cheek art will make your paint last MUCH longer than full faces, for obvious reasons. Covering an entire face with white will take up probably the same amount of paint that doing 15-20 unicorns or rainbow clouds on smaller cheek designs. Even the size of your cheek art itself can make a huge difference. Do you paint small, or do you make your designs as large as you can to fill the cheek? Over hundreds of faces, that can make a big difference. Here are some examples of the differences among these levels of designs:
Range of colors in your designs.
Are you displaying a board of designs that use all colors of the rainbow? Or are you doing a Christmas event where you’ll be using a lot more green and red than other colors? If you’re using all colors relatively evenly, a rainbow palette should work great as a starting point for many events. If you’re planning to use a lot more of certain colors, larger, individual cakes will ensure you don’t run out, or a few extra palette refills of the colors you’re using most. And keep in mind, even if your design menu reflects a wide range of colors, you still can’t guarantee you’ll use them evenly. I can’t tell you how many times I do one unicorn, and then every girl after that wants the same thing, making me use a lot more white than other colors.
Being that the paints are water based, you’ll be using water on your brushes and sponges to apply it. The amount of water you use when you paint, coupled with the above factors, can mean the difference of your paints lasting through one gig or through a year’s worth of gigs. More water will stretch your paints farther, but give you less vivid and opaque colors. Less water can make your paints bright and bold, but run out quicker. Every artist will have their own unique ratio that they like to work with.
What type of paint you use.
With some brands, metallic and UV paints can require more water and more paint to get them to a good covering consistency than the regular standard colors, because they are made up of different ingredients. If you use these more sparingly as accents like I do, they will last you years. But if you are trying to paint a tin man and make his entire face look like silver, you could easily use up most of a large cake, whereas the same size cake of a standard blue (maybe you’re dressing up as Blue Man Group for Halloween?), could cover several people’s faces, arms and hands.
How many artists are painting.
It would logistically be very hard for more than two artists to share a palette. You could theoretically have one artist on either side of a table with one palette, and then you’ll have your “subject” in front of each artist. Having had to share paints in the past myself before, I’d prefer to have my own palette to work from. But, at the bare minimum, if you’re doing a charity event with low budget and can’t spring for a palette for each artist, I’d suggest at least 1 palette per 2 artists. Some artists may use more paint than others as well due to the other factors I mentioned, so increasing the amount of paint you have on hand will help ensure you have enough. Every artist needs their own set of brushes as well…you do not want one artist sitting there painting nobody because he or she is waiting for the outline brush from another artist…otherwise there is no point in having more than one painter.
“So how do I estimate then?!”
So, you may be saying, now what? How am I supposed to estimate what I need?! Many other face paint supply websites will claim some number of faces you can paint with their sets, but the reality is now obvious, that it really depends on too many things to give an accurate number. Just know that these numbers are only estimates, based on one person who is making an assumption about how and what you will be painting.
Here are my recommendations to help you decide whether you need a palette set, or the larger individual colors…
Get Refillable Palettes if:
• You are doing a one-time gig, helping out at your local school or church event. (I also put together a Smile Painter Set package for people in your situation, which includes instruction, a design sample sheet, and brushes)
• You already have a full professional kit but would like to play around with a bunch of new colors and affects before investing in the larger cakes.
• You just want to have a set of quality paints around to do your kids’ faces every year for Halloween or for their birthdays. Any of the palettes are a great option for you. I’d recommend starting with a set of the bright, standard colors in a 6 to 12 color set. If you want to add more excitement to your selection, you can always try out the metallics or fluorescent makeup later. You can even build your own set and mix and match, depending on the brand. You can always purchase more refill cakes to replace any that run out down the road!
• You are a professional who wants a small, portable set (palette boxes) but use enough that you’ll be refilling them a lot. (You can buy the larger cakes of each color to keep at home, and refill your little palette box as needed out of that “stash,” saving money per ounce over the palette refills.)
• You are doing a small gig but plan on using more of certain colors, such as more red and green at a holiday event or school colors at a football game. (Get a multi-color palette, plus add larger cakes of the colors you expect to use a lot more of)
Add these other items if desired:
• Brushes: I’d recommend a set for each artist at minimum: a #5 and #2 round to cover both larger areas and outlining, for smaller designs and basic cheek art. Add in a 3/4″ flat brush if you are planning on using any one strokes, and a larger round brush for full faces.
• Practice Head or board: A practice head or practice boards is great for practice, whether you’re just starting out or are a professional looking to perfect your designs on your own schedule without relying on a willing “subject!”
Need a little help getting started face painting? Been asked to face paint at your church or school event and you just don’t know where to begin? This blog post is for you. I’ve been face painting professionally for over 19 years and love helping others learn how too.
What Supplies Do I Need to Get?
It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the products available on the market today. The most important thing is to make sure you get quality paints that are specifically designed for skin. For a really easy way to get started, check out our “Smile Painter Set” package deal, which includes quality makeup, brushes, a design sheet and a book full of tips and tricks! But if you’re interested in picking out all of the supplies yourself individually, read on for some suggestions and advice!
A few things to consider when shopping for paint:
Safety should be your TOP deciding factor, not price. Stay away from cheap craft store paints made in China.
Never, EVER use craft paints or acrylic paints on skin! Here’s why. “Non-Toxic” does NOT mean safe for use on skin!
Use only professional makeup that is FDA approved for use on skin. (Kryolan, Wolfe, TAG, Paradise, Snazaroo, Cameleon, Mehron, etc…)
A few things to consider when shopping for brushes:
Are you doing mainly smaller designs known as “cheek art?” I’d recommend a #1 and #4 round brush for you. Synthetic fibers will be more forgiving for beginners. Use the #4 for your main color areas, and the #1 for outlines.
Are you doing larger designs like full-faces or masks? Get the above PLUS a larger flat brush and/or sponges. Most artists cut the round sponges in half, and use the flat sides.
If you plan on using sponges, get a spray bottle to wet them with.
You will need some designs for the children to choose from that you are comfortable painting. I prefer to use a board or sign that is on display so that everyone in line can see it and have their design chosen when it’s their turn. Start by displaying only designs that you are comfortable painting. I have several heavily laminated design sheets available that work great…they are small enough to put in your tote bag of supplies, and sturdy enough to wash off at the end of your event!
If you’d like to design your own menu and don’t want to tie yourself down to an exact image on a visual menu yet, we have a service just for you. Choose the type of designs you’d like and we will create a custom word menu for you to print out!
Glitter: Not a requirement, but glitter sure does add a lot to a design! ONLY use glitter that is approved for cosmetic use by the FDA. Metallic craft glitters can scratch the cornea and are extremely dangerous!
Rhinestones & Adhesive: Definitely optional, but if you are doing a fancy princess party, they are a HIT!
Split Cakes: If you’re familiar with one-stroke painting, rainbow cakes can really add that WOW factor in little time! If you’re not familiar with this technique and want to learn, check out our book, “One Stroke Face Painting!”
Mirror: To show the kids the finished product. Bring an extra in case it breaks! Or better yet, get an unbreakable mirror.
Wet wipes: In case of mistakes and to clean your hands. Makeup remover wipes work especially well!
Water jar: To rinse your brushes and wet the paint. We sell a variety of great brush tubs with ridges in the bottom, which really help get your brushes clean! But to be honest, you can get by just fine with any old jar or cup of water!
Towels, Chairs, Hair Clips, etc…
How Do I Learn How to Face Paint?
We have many resources available at Paintertainment:
Hey everyone! We’re just two weeks away from Christmas eve!! I don’t know about you but I’m swimming in Christmas events and loving painting all the fun holiday themed designs!! I’ve been getting such a great response for my quick Christmas painting videos, I thought I’d put together a video of one of my favorite Christmas cheek designs…Rudolph!
I like to have fun with this one…with the nose you can do red paint with red glitter. In the video I use red Liquid Bling! You can also use a red gemstone! Sometimes when I’m not totally slammed with a huge line, I will even use a google eye attached with Pros-Aide, which makes it extra fun. Now if you live in the Midwest like I do, where it’s -2 degrees as I type this, be sure to protect your Pros-Aide! If it freezes, it does NOT come back to life and becomes useless! I keep my Pros-Aide bottles in my purse this time of year so they always come with me!
You can watch the video here, or check it out with the others on my YouTube channel, here! Thanks for stopping by, and happy holiday painting!
Pine tree branches are a great element to learn for your holiday themed designs! I use them often and they are not as hard as they look. (This step by step can also be found in my HUGE full-color book, “Realism for Face & Body Artists!”) Here is a video where I demonstrate how to create these branches in just 1 minute, ending with a few inspirational designs that utilize them! Watch it below or click HERE to go to our YouTube channel! Thanks for stopping by, and happy painting!
Since yesterday’s candycane video was such a hit, I thought I’d do another one today on snowflakes!
Sometimes you can’t find your snowflake stencil, and sometimes they get caught on things and bend or break…but don’t fear! Snowflakes can be really quick to paint with the right tools and techniques. I could paint snowflakes for hours and come up with dozens of different ones, but here is a video with just 4 quick renditions. I paint snowflakes a lot for holiday parties, but they really have become more popular year-round with the release of Frozen, and now Frozen II! I’m just showing you some really simple elements here, but you can really punch these up with some outlines, color variations, painting them in clusters, adding swirls & teardrops, festival glitter, you name it! Have fun with them and make them your own!
It’s December and Christmas gigs are in full swing!
To help you all out with your holiday parties this year, I thought I would put together a quick little video of my candycane design! This candycane can stand alone as cheek or arm art, but you can also embellish it however you wish, with swirls, teardrops, stars, dots, stencil patterns, pine branches, ribbons, gems, festival glitter, you name it…and turn it into a full face design!
It’s that time of year again when our schedules fill up with Christmas events!! So, I thought this would be a fitting time to put together another holiday themed roundup of design ideas! I’m pretty sure I’ve painted more designs for Christmas than any other holiday over the years, so I have a LOT of them, but here are some favorites! Scroll down for examples of full face designs, eye designs, cheek art, arm paintings, and more! I hope you find some fun inspiration here, pick up some supplies in our Christmas shop, and have a wonderful holiday painting season!
The Minnesota State Fair one of the largest state fairs in the country, a very close second only to Texas in attendance size. This year was no exception, with an all time attendance record set at 2,126,551. Half of the 12 days of the 2019 state fair set new daily attendance records. It has long been known as an impenetrable fair for local face painters who have tried for decades to get a booth space. After years of my fellow artists urging me to get into the fair so they could work in my booth, I had tried applying several years ago to no avail. The fair simply had no interested in adding any more face painters besides the one booth already located near the kiddie rides. However, one night last summer as I was drifting off to sleep on a family camping trip the idea came to me to combine several things I love into a new concept: Camping, bling, and retro 1950’s style. The “Glitter Glamper!” The Glitter Glamper would bring all forms of body glitter, focusing on bling rather than face painting, and be marketed at a wider age range to include teenagers and adults. I resisted the urge to wake my husband up and tell him my exciting idea and saved it ‘till morning, and instead proceeded to scroll through vintage camper listings on Facebook marketplace into the wee hours of the night.
Conveying the Concept
My extended family ends every summer with a big camping trip on Labor Day weekend, so I decided to take advantage of this captive audience of my kids and their cousins to capture photos of some of my ideas over Labor Day 2018. My nieces modeled my first ever unicorn horn, monster horns and mermaid designs, and a week or so later my husband let me glitter his beard for a photo shoot! I bought the url GlitterGlamper.com and created a quick website and Facebook pages so I’d have at least some online presence. I designed and printed one business card to put with my application. I worked hard to put together a colorful, glittery proposal as soon as my boys went back to school, complete with a photoshopped rendering of my booth design concept, and sent it off to the fair. Finally my brain was able to relax…my idea was out there, on paper, and now OUT of my hands. If it was meant to be, it would return to me in the form of a state fair licensing agreement. And if not, well, at least I had given it my best shot!
My glittery application
Knowing that it can take many years before hearing back from the fair, I had no expectations of hearing back any time soon.While my Photoshopped rendering included a retro camper, lighting, awnings, and a vintage barber chair, I was not ready to take on the expense of building and storing these things with no idea if or when I would ever be able to use them at the fair.
And then the phone rang…
Summer turned to fall, fall to winter, and then one day in the middle of May 2019 I received a call.The folks at the MN state fair had been following up with their regular vendors, and finding that there were a few who were not returning.A few spots had suddenly opened up in their new “West End Marketplace,” and they thought my concept would be “perfect for that hipster crowd” that frequents the West End. Would I like a spot? Um…YEAH! Where do I sign and please take my money!
My space at the fair…the West End Marketplace “cages!” These are a really cool hybrid between an indoor and outdoor space. The fair provides this nice structure with lighting and electricity, and each vendor can close and lock up their own booth at night.
The woman on the phone was super nice and really loved my vintage camper look and feel, although the space wouldn’t be able to accommodate an actual camper. (This is still my goal and I do plan to have an actual “Glamper” soon!) I assured her that with my background in retail display design, I would achieve the retro camping feel in whatever space they give me. She said “oh I just love your antique barber chair, that will look great in your booth! And your flower planters can go here and there…” In my head I’m thinking “oh, you mean the non-existant chair and planters that I digitally rendered? I guess it’s time to start shopping for a vintage barber chair!”If you subscribe to my free online e-newsletters, you’ve read about my tendency to bite off more than I can chew, and then proceed to teach myself to chew faster, haha! This was certainly another one of those cases! Heck, the glitter beard she saw and loved in my application was literally the only one I had done…ever!
Photoshop rendering that I included with my application
Ready … Set … GO!
Naturally, my head began flooding with amazing ideas, crippling fears, immense excitement and an endless list of what-if’s. How on earth would I pull this off? My boys were going to be done with school and home with me 24/7 in just a couple weeks. June and July were already jam packed with leading VBS crafts, family camping trips and a 16 day road trip, and the first day to start setting up at the state fair overlapped with my busy county fair week in early August. This was about to be a huge. HUGE. Undertaking. What am I going to DO? Well, there’s nothing to do except GET STARTED! I immediately dove into sketching ideas and scouring Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for the things I needed. I drove to the fair to take measurements of my 10’ x 20’ “cage” for design purposes. I set to work designing banners, sewing custom awnings, creating original graphics and signage, defining all of my offerings and their prices (many of which I had never “technically” actually done before), and finding just the right furniture and decor for the booth.
My boys helping me haul foam floor tiles down 3 stories in an apartment building we drove 45 minutes to get to!
Vintage steel cabinets I rescued from a curbside for free, cleaned up and painted!
Lit sign! I designed a banner first, then made a wood base for it that hinged in the middle for easier transport. I mounted all the letters, then delivered it to my brother who got them all wired up for me!
My dad helping to repair an antique secretary desk I had purchased at a local shop. Here it is partially painted. This would function as a decoration and storage when not in use, then fold down when we had enough artists, to function as an artist station.
Sam helping me sort gems by color
Some of the fixtures I covered in shelf paper. This is the checkout counter and register cashwrap. They sat in my living room for a couple months!
Navigating the fabric warehouse in search of the perfect fabric to make my awnings
Figuring out how to recruit, organize and compensate other artists was new and stressful territory for me. (The county fair booth I had done for over 20 years has really only been run by myself, with my mom taking one partial day.) But the one thing I knew for sure was that there was no way I could run a booth 12 hours a day for 12 days completely on my own. I sent out a call for interested artists, thinking maybe I’d get a handful if I were lucky. After all, I was as transparent as possible in my communications, letting them know that this first year I have no idea how much they’d make, if it would be worth their while or their cost of entrance tickets and parking, if weather would be gorgeous or unbearable, etc. To my wonderful surprise, I ended up with 13 of my fantastic, highly qualified painty friends who were eager to take on the uncertainty and join me in this adventure! Oh how very blessed I am to live in this area with such an incredibly talented and giving community of artists!
Then there was the bling itself…how on earth would I know how much to make? Having never done this before, I simply made as much bling as humanly possible over the next couple months. I hauled all of my supplies on our road trip in giant Rubbermaid bins, creating bling clusters and unicorn horns at campground picnic tables across the US and Canada.
Making horns at a campground picnic table
I had some fun with it, posting my ever changing “bling count” on social media. I spent countless hours on the road on my laptop, working through artists’ paperwork, contracts, and figuring out the giant puzzle of a schedule with 13 different preferences and no clue how many people I would need on any given day or hour.
The seemingly rare moments I was actually home were spent building and painting a giant Paul Bunyan and Babe photo board, wire brushing and re-painting vintage steel cabinets I had picked up on a curbside, turning our old bbq grill into a glowing, gem-filled decorative prop, coating our rusty old lanterns with glitter and lighting them up with colorful lights, visiting the used retail fixture store in search of the perfect horn display, and running around town picking up Craigslist finds and scouring garage sales and thrift stores. Honestly, God’s fingerprints were ALL over this entire process as everything seemed to just fall right into place! (I could write a whole blog just on that!) A lot of things just CAME to me…by “things” I mean stuff I bought, and by “came to me I mean” I mean they were delivered by the Amazon fairy. I probably could have built a three story playhouse out of the Amazon boxes I acquired! But really, just the right items turned up just when I needed them at sales and thrift stores!
Paul and Babe in process! Yes I drove to the hardware store and loaded up a sheet of plywood, brought it home, drew it out and cut it out myself! My dad built me a base for it so people would have a step stool and it wouldn’t blow over!
Me and Wayde trying out the photo board! Notice the cobalt blue glitter beard on Paul…it quickly went from blue to purple to pink during the fair from the sun!
I was on a mission and my background in retail display design had given me enough experience to know that I did NOT have much time. This fact did force me to eat, sleep and breathe Glitter Glamper all summer, but it also thankfully kept me distracted from the reality that this was a HUGE undertaking: I simply could not afford to waste any time on worrying. Every time the enormity of the situation started to sink in, I dove into the next task, crossed one thing off my to-do list and then added three more.
Some of the many things I collected, made, found, refurbished, etc over the course of the weeks before the fair
The summer months slipped away in a flash among fair prep and family trips, and before I knew it August was here. My county fair which I had always previously considered my craziest week of the fair, seemed this year to be more like the calm before the storm. Five 12-hour days at the fair to simply paint, something I’d barely found time to do all summer, left me both energized and exhausted at the same time. I was ready to start setting up at the state fair, but had to push through the county fair as it’s entire profits would go towards chipping away at my state fair booth expenses!
No Time To Rest
On the last day of the county fair my husband, boys and I tore down my booth, unloaded the truck, and re-loaded the truck for the state fair. The next morning my boys and I took the first trip to the state fair. We laid down foam tiles (to save our feet on the concrete), a layer of astroturf (grass for our “glampsite!”), and hung banners. The next day a dear friend with a trailer helped us haul all the big, heavy stuff, including the elusive antique zillion-pound barber chair I had searched and stressed over and finally found just in time. Each day I drove to and from the fair to build and arrange my booth, as the radio personalities announced how many days left until the opening of the Great Minnesota Get-Together, sending shivers of terror and anticipation through my spine. It was going to happen, and I was going to be there, whether I was fully prepared for it or not!
Finally…the PERFECT barber chair!!
Needless to say, I didn’t get a ton of sleep in the month of August. I didn’t take the best of care of myself, and while I didn’t have time to worry, my body decided to stress on it’s own. I lost 5 pounds but thankfully stayed healthy throughout the month. (don’t be jealous, I immediately gained it back when the fair ended and all I wanted to do was eat and sleep, hahaha!) I shudder to think of what a simple cold virus could have done to me that month!
And Then There Were Artists!
Three days before the fair started I held an on-site meeting for my 13 wonderful artist friends who had graciously agreed to give up part of their busy, profitable summer month to take a chance with me on the fair. It was an emotional day, as it all became more real…I handed out sparkly hats with the Glitter Glamper logo and name tags, went over processes and the booth and answered lots of questions. All of my sweet painty friends were absolutely amazing! Not only did they all hike out to the fair for a meeting, but they even surprised me with sweet gifts, a cake, and sang to me! All I could think was that I didn’t want to let these amazing people down!
My “Glampettes!” There’s NO way I could have done this without them!!
Naturally, with 13 artists and a handful of family members come dozens and dozens of ideas for ways to change or improve things. Everyone was very excited to see how the booth was coming along and had great ideas, and I was able to implement many of them in the couple days I had left before the fair started, though had to table some for next year as I just simply had run out of time!
A few pics from our meeting day! My son Sam also filmed me opening up the booth so I could make an instructional video for the artists.
I would later learn that my husband had told my family wanting to help, to not suggest anything new or any changes to me…simply do what I ask…because I tend to take every suggestion as an item on my to-do list. This is true, and my desire to make my booth the most comfortable, fun and functional space possible for all of my artists, I left the meeting totally overwhelmed with new suggestions that I wanted to implement but simply couldn’t physically address them all. I had to force myself to prioritize and let a lot of things go. On top of that, my cash register drawer was not working, internet was not working, and I only had a couple more days to figure it all out. Aaah! Oh, and did I mention my vehicle which had never had issues in the decade I’ve driven it, suddenly decided to NOT start on random occasions for no clear reason? Yup, I ended up stranded at the fair during setup a couple times, and we still to this day have no idea what is wrong or when it will act up again and leave me stranded. Thankfully my best friend (who’s husband also hauled all my stuff with his trailer) loaned me her van for the entire fair and then some, and took my boys for multiple day-long play dates so I could get work done.
The one thing I really, really wanted to do but just ran out of time for was hosting jams for all of the artists to practice what we were offering and develop some amount of consistency. Once again my wonderful friends stepped up, without me even asking, and hosted their own jams! Jodi hosted a jam, fed everyone pizza, printed out my “Glamping Guide” for everyone and even roped in a real beard to practice glittering on. Tricia hosted an ALL DAY open house style jam at her house, turning over her entire living room to glitter and made countless videos of her experimentations with various glitter products, tools and methods to share. Tiffany hosted a jam immediately following our on-site meeting to squeeze in some more practice before go time! They really picked up my slack and I’m eternally grateful! Jamming is one thing I will definitely make a lot more time for in 2020! In the huge list of things I had to “let go,” jamming was on the TOP of the list as far as importance to the whole operation, and will be the first item to move up to my DO list next year.
I really tried to capture pictures of every “shift” throughout the fair. Here are a few of our “Shift Pics!”
It Takes a Village!
I am really terrible at asking for or accepting help, and this state fair adventure really forced me to rely on friends and family! My engineer brother figured out how to wire up my lit sign so that I could plug it in instead of turning on individual battery powered letters. My husband let me basically take over the entire garage for the summer and overload the house with glitter and furniture. (As of this post it’s still too full to park in as we try to figure out where & how to store everything!) He even dropped me off and picked me up for the first few days of the fair and some of the last, and worked as my booth “babe” for two full days, sporting a colorful glitter “wannabeard!” (If you don’t have an actual beard to be glittered, we can give you a “wannabeard!”) My in-laws took our boys for the first 5 days so we could focus on the fair. My dad hung my beast of a sign above the booth and fixed countless little issues in the booth, and my mom made sure my artists and I had an assortment of yummy snacks and fruit for the fair, and worked the register one day as well! My boys were such good sports about finding glitter on all of their stuff, and happily helped me sort gems, trim laminated pieces, count glitter tattoo stencils and run a zillion errands. My niece worked as my booth babe for the first few days, which was her first job ever at 13! The amazing Lori Hurley made sure that I took a break to eat, and one day even brought in fresh salad ingredients so I would get something healthy! I definitely couldn’t have pulled it off without everyone’s help! But I have to say it was really cool to finally let my family catch a glimpse of my painty friends and how AWESOME they all are.
My husband Wayde and one of the several “Wannabeards” he wore while working in the Glamper!
Learning As We Go
My artists are really a class act and were so absolutely vital to the success of the first year! They were so open and crazy flexible, knowing that I had no clue how many of them I’d need on any given day, yet willing to set aside their time for me, just in case. I went in thinking the night crowd would be bigger with concerts nearby, but it turned out to be opposite: we were busiest before lunch. I had people “on call” in case we got busier than expected, and people on the schedule as “maybe’s” unless we were slow or it was rainy. They were true friends, sticking it out as we all learned as we went…(hopefully) not taking it personal if I had to cut them. I had to cut shifts, move people around, and rearrange things almost daily. By the end of the fair of course we had learned a lot, and next year I feel like I can arrange the schedule better to maximize everyone’s earning potential.
A few photos of the booth in action
Learning to Let Go
The first thing I did after receiving the call in May from the fair was contact everyone I knew who had worked at the fair, or other fairs, for advice. I got a lot of great advice, including the suggestion to take a couple days off to get my kids ready for school. Thanks to my spectacular team, I was able to take two days off in a row in the middle of the fair to get my boys to their respective school open houses, and pack for our big family Labor Day camping trip that now overlapped the fair. (yeah, I know…crazy…) This involved some of my artists arriving early to set up, staying late to tear down, and running my important paperwork on daily income totals to the fair office for me before the deadline every day. They were simply amazing. I knew the booth was in excellent hands, but handing over your baby to anyone is hard!
On day 5 of the fair I was there sitting in my fancy barber chair, my feet throbbing and so happy to be there but so unbelievably exhausted. I told my mom who was being my “booth babe” that day, “I feel like I’ve just given birth, and it’s all I can do to just lie here and watch other people interact with it!” I wished I had more energy to take it all in, but just getting to this point had wiped me out! My fellow artists certainly carried me! And for those two days off, though MUCH needed and refreshing, I felt like I had just handed my 5 day old baby off to a babysitter already!
My first “day off” at home I had just missed a call from one of these awesome artists, Tricia. It was hard to hear her voicemail over the noise (we are located right by an amphitheater), but what I made out was, “Call us as SOON as you get this! We are DYING over here!” Oh. My. Goodness. Which of my worst fears had happened? Did the Square terminal crap out on me? Is the register drawer stuck? Did Paul Bunyan blow over and crush a small child? Were there so many people they couldn’t handle the crowd? Had we run out of unicorn horns? Oh my goodness, why did I ever think I could miss a day at the booth?!
With my heart pumping I called Tricia back immediately and to my complete surprise was informed that members of the fair board had just stopped by to present us with an award, for “Best of the Fair” of 2019! WHAT?!
Turns out they were “dying” of excitement, haha! I was to appear a couple days later at one of their stages to accept the award with any other members of my staff. Tricia, Stella, Naomi and Jelly were all there that day, as were my husband and two boys, since it was the morning I had taken off to actually visit the fair with them. We were the only brand new booth to receive the award, which is given to only 12 out of 1,200 vendors. What an honor!
Live TV? No Pressure!
Even with my thrifty ways, I spent a LOT of money on the booth. I knew that this was the one and only year that I would be the NEW thing at the fair that the media would be interested in covering, so it had to be amazing no matter what. Money was no object. Well, okay, I limited myself to my credit card limit!
Boy am I glad I went all out, because the media requests came flooding in before the fair started! I had lined up several news station appearances during the 12 days of the fair, with the first being just two hours into the first day! Two local news personalities from KARE 11 came to our booth the first day for a short interview, and got glitter tattoos.
Me with my boys and one lucky girl from the audience, live on KARE 11
This live demo also happened to be the same day my family was visiting the fair with me, so they not only sat through the award ceremony but also the live newscast, but they loved it. My boys were so excited to spend the entire day at the fair which they had never done, and both of them got to be on the news, modeling our monster horns and glitter tattoos. Our wonderful friends (with the trailer, the van, the play dates…) were also there that day in the audience. Tricia accompanied me to the station and unbeknownst to her, got roped into doing a glitter beard live on camera! She rolled with it being the amazing person she is, and somehow not only found me a girl with her hair pulled back and ready for a unicorn horn, but snagged herself a guy with a long, white beard from the audience in a ZZ Top t-shirt willing to let her glitter him up!
Tricia and her epic orange beard, done live for KARE 11! I’d later learn that Reggie, our beard model in this photo, loved it so much he didn’t shower for a couple days!
Besides our visit from KARE 11 and live demo on their stage, I also went live on KSTP channel 5’s newscast as well as their “Twin Cities Live” show, demonstrating mermaid tails, unicorns and the like. Tricia was so sweet to accompany me to a couple of these, leaving her chance to make money on the booth behind to help me haul stuff and keep my mind off of my nervousness. She even had her mom and kids one day, ready to go as models! Many of my other artists found themselves on camera from the booth coverage, and were surprised one day when a personality from FOX 9 just showed up and filmed them. I never did get to see that one since nobody saw it coming!
The final live TV appearance of the fair I had to go it alone as we were short handed, but was relieved to have been given specific instructions this time for what they wanted. They were going to have me paint ears and affix a unicorn horn on one adult woman. Great, I thought…I’ll bring a few other pieces of bling just to show what we have, and will bring just what I need for one unicorn: a split cake or two, black, white, a couple brushes and glitter. Finally, I knew exactly what to expect and didn’t have to try to pack up everything to make anything, just in case. Well, it turned out when I arrived for this last appearance, and just before going on camera they decided instead that they wanted me to paint one of the news personalities’ kids because his family happened to be there. Okay, so there was a little girl instead of a grown woman…no biggie! “Oh, but he actually has three kids, and we don’t want the others to feel left out. So can you do all three instead? And by the way, one of them is a boy so just do something more boy-ish.” I proceeded to panic inside…I had this opportunity to also showcase our awesome monster faces, and I had a pair of horns but no scale stencils, no blues or greens, and no glitters to match. And I had another horn or a mermaid tail I could use on girl #2, but no fun mermaid pattern stencils, and no blues. I told them that I had so many cool boy things and other things I could demonstrate but just didn’t bring anything with for them, and their reply was, “well if you can just be flexible and do something boy-ish that would be great!”
My inner perfectionist was freaking out, looking down at my pink and purple split cakes and unicorn horns, knowing I could do so much better with the right tools. However, in the end it all worked out. I had just enough time to quickly complete a unicorn, and partially complete the other so that I could finish it live on camera. For the little boy I was able to hand paint some colorful scales by picking a few of the more primary colors out of my TAG Pansy split cake with a round brush, and adding colorful festival glitter on top for a rainbow monster. In my mind it was not the ideal monster design, but this little boy totally pulled if off, roaring enthusiastically for the camera! And hearing the audience “ooh” and “aah” as I attached the final unicorn horn and spread on a layer of festival glitter was icing on the cake. The moral of the story: just wing it. It’ll work out. This ended up being a really great news spot and they even let everyone know that we do parties as well!
On Twin Cities Live
Me with the Twin Cities Live’s anchors and family after the segment was done!
I won’t lie, it was super stressful having to pack up my gear and leave the booth, hoping I remembered everything, not having planned on extra artists to fill my place…not to mention just hoping I didn’t pass out or throw up on camera, haha! The nerves tore me up and I was never able to eat until I finished with the TV stuff, but just like when I arrive at a gig, as soon as the paints come out, the nerves melt away. I survived…I wasn’t super eloquent and am definitely not made for TV, but every TV appearance brought a new rush of people who saw us on TV and had to come check us out!
Here are a few photo collages of just a handful of the fairgoers we adorned with glitter this year!
I had a display book full of bling clusters that our guests could choose from! Bling clusters themselves ranged from basic to premium, all had glitter of course, and could come with or without a little painted embellishments.
Our festival faces included unicorns, mermaids and monsters! I’m excited to expand on these a little more in 2020!
Festival glitter was our most popular item at the fair!
Glitter freckles were popular and fun! Guests could choose to add star or heart patterns within their glitter freckles.
Glitter tattoos were a hit, and a great option for those rainy days because they are waterproof!
I have SO many photos…I may add more in the future! But in the meantime you can check out our Facebook and Instagram pages to see more! So How Rich Are You?
Tell any Minnesotan that you’ve landed a booth in the state fair and the first thing they’ll say will be something in reference to Sweet Martha’s and how rich you are about to become! For non-Minnesotans, Sweet Martha’s is a wildly successful vendor that sells fresh baked chocolate chip cookies to the tune of about 1 million cookies per day. They are the fair’s top grossing food vendor, with over $4.73 million dollars in gross revenue last year among their three locations…almost $3.4 million more than the next highest grossing vendor on the list. So, naturally, everyone in the state fair leaves filthy rich, right? Well, not quite.
I had no grand expectations for profit this first year, and may have been the only one with realistic expectations. Maybe it’s because I’ve been running county fair booths for over two decades, or maybe it’s because I was the only one watching my business credit card balance climb daily! But making money, while always something a business owner aims for, wasn’t really my main goal this year. My goal since trying to get into the fair was simply that…to get in…to prove to myself that I could conquer the impenetrable fair, land a space, design the heck out of it, create something that the fair had never seen before, become a new tradition for fairgoers, and finally provide a place in our own state fair for our own local, professional artists to showcase their rock star talent. Not only did I achieve all of these goals, but I did it in record time and got an incredibly exclusive award in the process! I’d say the first year was a raging success just by those standards!
Financially, I maybe broke even this year at best (still tallying up expenses)…though still have more expenses to come as I figure out how to store all my stuff until next year. However, in talking to the many friendly vendors around me, I learned that it typically takes 3 years to become profitable at the fair. The booth itself did very well, and I feel that if I can just restrain myself from making TOO many big, expensive improvements for next year, I may make some profit in 2020.
The buzz was just incredible around the Twin Cities about our booth! Each day we seemed to draw more customers, even if the fair’s attendance had not necessarily increased from the day before. The word was getting out fast, and we soon were getting repeat customers already during the fair week. The media spots definitely drew in more people who wouldn’t have found us otherwise, and really helped to educate the community about what we actually offer. Countless fairgoers commented that next year they are coming right to our booth first thing, and many people said that this was just what the fair needed. The wonderful comments and encouragement from visitors to our booth were such great fuel to keep up our energy and excitement, and keep me looking forward to next year! Adult women were regularly commenting on how special they felt, how much fun it was to get blinged up, and how they were going to come back with their friends. We did over 50 glitter beards during the fair, and many of the men came back at the end of the day just to tell us how much fun they had all day with people stopping them for photos, and all the attention they received! The Glamper is out there, the word is spreading like glitter, and I am confident that our local following will grow more every year!
I think some of my followers have been wondering this lately…Where have I been?! In May I had signed up for the Inspiration to Paint group on Facebook, thinking I’d have a month to participate before my boys got out of school and the summer rush hit me full on! Then a couple weeks into the month I got a call from the Minnesota State Fair.
I had applied a couple years ago for face painting, but despite having literally millions of attendees each summer, they are dead set against having any more than the one single booth by the kid rides. So last fall I submitted a new proposal for a new concept that came to me one night while lying in my camper bed one weekend: The Glitter Glamper! The concept was a cool, retro, vintage camper, gutted and turned into a glitter body art studio on wheels. Unicorn horns, gem cluster, festival glitter and even glitter beards were on the menu, with just a touch of paint to go along with them. I bought the URL, opened various social media accounts, created a Photoshopped rendering of the concept, bound it together in a glittery, diamond studded presentation booklet explaining the idea and shipped it off to the fair board for consideration, expecting to hear back someday, if I was lucky!
My State Fair “Glamplication”
My original concept rendering
bling cluster and decolletage
I believe that normally folks find out in the dead of winter whether they’ve been selected to be a licensee for the following summer. Much to my surprise, I got the call in May as the fair began calling around their regular vendors to confirm, and found out that a few were not coming back, and I was offered a 20′ x 10′ corner stall! They were genuinely excited about the concept, and felt it would be perfect for the type of crowd that visits their newly remodeled “West End Marketplace!”
Our location in the West End Marketplace
So, realizing that the fair was only 3 months away and at least half of that was already packed with summer family fun, camping trips, leading crafts at my church’s VBS and my other county fair, I literally dove right into design and production mode without looking back. I bowed out of the Inspiration to Paint group for the month (sorry guys!), ordered zillions and zillions of gems, and began my hunt, scouring the Twin Cities Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist adds for the pieces I needed for my booth.
Glamper Location for 2019! This front corner, and the stall next to it! (20’x10′)
While my original concept was for a physical “glamper,” the space I’ll be given for the fair won’t accommodate a camper. It’s basically like an outdoor stall space but is nicer because it’s a solid structure with lighting, electric, and doors that lock. The folks at the fair really liked my whole “glamper” branding, look & feel though, so my goal is to still achieve that without an actual camper. With my degree in Industrial Design and background as a retail display designer, this whole thing is definitely in my wheelhouse, so I’ve been loving the whole design process, albeit a fast & furious one!
I’ve been having a ton of fun but spending every last minute and dime prepping for the fair, so this is what has kept me SO busy lately! I can’t wait to unveil the new “Glamper” setup this August! In the meantime, here are a few photos of my progress so far!
What’s a fair booth without a photo op board?! Paul has a glitter beard and Babe has glittery horns!
Working on my overhead sign with light up letters…my electrically and mechanically inclined brother is working on wiring these up to a plug instead of 9 individual battery boxes and switches!
Bling making in progress…gummy bear bling!
My boys are great at sorting gems for me!
My youngest posing by the 12 foot banner that will hang in the back of the booth…the booth will essentially be like the campsite that the Glamper is in, rather than being inside a camper itself. Be prepared for grass, trees and wildlife! 😀
What’s a “glampsite” without some Vintage lanterns?!
Staying cool in style
Yes, I’ve been making bling so much that I even have been sculpting unicorn horns while actually camping myself!
My table on any given day this summer…
Sweet antique barber chair for the booth! It weighs a TON! Thanks to my husband and good friend for helping get this thing OUT of the truck and into the garage!
You can’t go glamping without a bbq grill! This one has color changing lights inside, underneath clear gems!
Of course I’ll be providing some sparkly new branded aprons and hats for my fellow artists!
Lanterns are a must for camping. Glittered lanterns are a must for GLAMPING!
Antique secretary desk as I purchased it…a bit broken. My carpenter dad fixed the fold-down desk for me!
Hutch after a facelift, before re-attaching the desk part! This will make a great work station that can close up and be out of the way when we have less artists!
My boys have been such great sports this summer as Mom spends so many hours out in the garage painting and building things, and driving all around the Twin Cities to pick up Craigslist finds for the booth!!
My 11 and 9 year old helping haul foam floor mats down 3 floors of an apartment building in Prior Lake last month! This was a long drive added to a long day while also leading crafts at my church’s VBS, but my feet and my artists’ feet will thank us for having these puppies tucked under the astroturf! 12 hours on concrete is hard on the feet!
We drove to Maple Grove to pick up these trees! My boys had to ride with them tickling their ears, but they got lunch at Jimmy John’s out of the deal! Can’t have a “glampsite” without some trees!!
When I saw this posting for FREE vintage, steel, 1950’s cabinets on a curb just 5 minutes from my house, I had to swing by and check them out. My youngest Toby is totally my enabler, haha! He’ll say, “Oh Mom, you HAVE to go to that garage sale if it says ‘vintage/retro’ in it!” Well when I got back in the car after inspecting these cabinets he said “Oh mom, I can tell you really want these. We can help you load them…I can fold the seat down!”
free cabinets on the curb
It took me 3 or 4 trips I think to get all of these home, since I had two kids in the Jeep! But these were definitely dropped on the curb near me by God himself because they were just minutes from home and light enough for me to load! And did I mention…FREE?!
These needed a lot of love but were still totally functional. The lazy susan in our kitchen squeaks horribly, and my boys thought this one was SO nice because it is quiet, haha! It required a lot of scrubbing and cleaning. I’m sure there was dirt, oil and rust on these dating way back before I was born. I spent several days with a wire brush, steel wool and spray paint and got them looking gorgeous…some of these will serve as work stations in the booth while others will serve as storage space in the “back room.”
Ooooh…you had me at RED and CHROME!
Let’s just say that my basement, garage, and part of the living room has been taken over by pieces of the Glamper!! HUGE HUGE thanks to my wonderfully supportive husband for allowing me to basically take over his garage this summer! Okay, if one more person asks me where I’m going to store all this stuff, I just might scream…but right now I don’t have time to think that far ahead. (which if you know me is crazy unlike me, I’m a MAJOR planner-ahead-er!) After the fair we will see if this stuff pays for itself, and if so, I’ll search out storage options! Until then, I’ll stay way outside of my comfort zone and build now, plan later! Haha!
This has been a massive undertaking so far in a short amount of time. I eat, sleep and breathe Glamper but have had such an outpouring of support from family and friends, it’s been very humbling! I had dozens of artists step up wanting to help run the booth. Friends and family offering to watch our boys, help set up and tear down, help find random things I need for the booth, and offer to help in any way. My husband has helped lift crazy things and let me invade the garage and house. My dad has helped me repair and modify my furniture finds. My brother is working on lighting up my sign as we speak. My boys have not only run all over town with me gathering stuff and running errands, but help with many aspects of the booth, down to sorting gems and letting me paint glitter beards on them. My mom convinced her sweet neighbors (one of whom has a huge beard) to let me bling them out for photos. I even have fellow artists offering to donate their time to help me make bling clusters. What an awesome tribe we have here in the Twin Cities!! I SO hope and pray that this whole adventure turns out to be a worthwhile effort for all involved…or if nothing else, is FUN in the process!! The one thing I know is that we will all sparkle and shine in the process! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out…hope to see you at the fair!
Want to keep up with the Glamper’s adventures this summer? Follow us on social media! We’re sure to be posting lots of fun photos throughout the fair! 😀