Trading Tales – The Floating Art Gallery Boat
We’ve received some encouraging comments about our ‘Trading Tales‘ series (keep the comments coming!), and I’m feeling hopeful traders will continue to send me their tales to publish for a good few weeks yet:
Wanted to let you know how much we have enjoyed reading your series about the trader boats on the canals. Who would have known there was so much variety?”
“Lovely to see a family enjoying the cruising life and home schooling.”
“I’m really enjoying this series. As a potential trader in the distant future it’s giving a great insight into trading on the canals.”
“Nice. I had a chat to Pam and Andy when my walk took me through Braunston. Nice people and attractive artefacts. Well done for highlighting fellow floating traders.”
Our eighth story is from another new trader travelling the canals this year, who’s loving experimenting with what works and what doesn’t as a Floating Trader.
Introducing Wendy B
What’s the name of your boat, and what business do you run from it?
You really can’t miss her …
Wendy B’s is a Floating Art Gallery, and I exhibit my work on the side of the boat.
I am a professional artist whose work hangs all over the world from Rio to Alaska, New York to Sydney.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I am 63 years old, a mother of two middle-aged children, and grandmother to seven and another due in three weeks. I’ve been married for 45 years, and my hubby and I have been boaters all our lives. We have been living on our narrowboat for the last 12 years.
I have been an artist all my life. I was born into it. My work has been selling all over the world through the internet and my Facebook page, ‘Wendy B’s Floating Art Gallery‘, but this year is my first year trading and exhibiting my work from my boat.
Give us a glimpse into the how and why you decided to become a Floating Trader?
My mother died 3 years ago. Up until then my painting life was very restricted. Since then I’ve been painting like a demon. It got to the stage where my non-commissioned pieces, the pieces I do for fun in between my commissioned work, were building up and my bed was getting 4 inches higher with the stack of paintings stored under it.
A decision had to be made.
For many years, as we travelled round the system, passers-by have watched me as I sit painting at the front of my boat. I’ve been asked, do I sell, and I’ve always had to say “no”, because I wasnt a C&RT registered trader. So this year I decided to try my hand at it, and Wendy B’s Floating Art Gallery was born.
The gallery runs in conjunction with the internet business. When we’re moored in a place where there is footfall, I hang my paintings on the outside of the boat, of which there are over 70 finished pieces so the whole side of the boat is covered.
Although this is my first year doing this the response has been phenomenal. People absolutely love it, to be able to see art work displayed for them to browse as they are taking their walk along the towpath is something very different. And of course I am also open for commissions – plus my decorated boxes are also on the shelves which hang down the side of my boat.
The children especially love to come across my sparkly fairy and dragon boxes as they walk in the country. It gives me so much pleasure to see happy and surprised faces, and adds a whole new aspect to our boating lives.
Describe the joys and drawbacks you’ve experienced to date as a floating trader …
It’s a lot harder work than I envisaged.
It takes about an hour of hard graft to put up and take down. Displaying paintings on the side of my boat was a headache I had to overcome, but we came up with the idea of using green mesh fencing which we unroll and hang down the side of the boat on magnetic hooks, then I quite simply Bull Dog Clip and tie my paintings to it, all very secure. Then if one day I only want to put a few out, I just use the magnetic hooks to display the odd one or two paintings.
I also sit outside in the cratch all day, usually painting, but mainly keeping a wary eye on the pieces which are also vulnerable to passers-by. Plus I find if you make eye contact and conversation, you’re more likely to sell than if you ignore people.
The weather has been my main issue this year. It is impossible to display my work in the wet. Even if I had a cover to come out, the damp would not be good for them. So I am now resolved to just being a fair weather trader, but since I started at the beginning of April this year, two-thirds of my stock has sold.
Oh, the other thing that helps is keep your prices keen. People walking on the canal only have pocket-money usually. I do have a Paypal machine, and that paid for itself the first week – but in 3 months I’ve only used it twice.
Is there any sage wisdom you could share with anyone reading who may be contemplating venturing into this watery ‘working’ world?
To be honest I’m very new at being a Floating Trader, so I’m sure there’s many more of you out there with far more advice to give than me.
However we have both been self-employed most of our working lives.
The biggest advice I can give is just smile. It goes a million miles. People can’t resist a conversation, and then you’re more than half way to a sale already. Also don’t despair at the mess the inside of the boat becomes, don’t forget it’s your office as well. As long as my work doesn’t creep into the lounge area I’m happy. It’s everywhere else, but so what. The most important thing is to enjoy every minute.
Where can you find Wendy B’s Floating Art Gallery?
This year we are about half way round our cruising circuit, with no real planned schedule. In the next few weeks we will be going to Fazeley Junction, on down to the Coventry Arm to Coventry Basin, then back up the Coventry Canal. We are based at Mercia Marina on the Trent and Mersey, and don’t intend being back there until the end of September.
Connect with Wendy
Via her Facebook Page (and ‘Like’ it)
Wendy takes commissions through Facebook messenger (message via her Facebook page), and works from photos.
Her page is up to date with posts telling everyone about her adventures, where they are, and where they’re going next, so if you’re in the vicinity Wendy says to please come and say “hello“