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Choosing to (air)brush off the office life

Filed by KOSU News in Public Insight Network.
September 5, 2012

Peter Joyes works on his air brush art. (Photo submitted by Peter Joyes.)

Peter Joyes works on his air brush art. He was a vendor at state fairs for 32 years before the physical demands of the job became too great. (Photo submitted by Peter Joyes)

For decades, Peter Joyes has supported himself as an air-brush artist at state fairs and local festivals. Nothing brings him more joy, he says, than creating a product with his hands that he can sell to the people he interacts with.

Joyes wasn’t always an artist — he started his career in various corporate jobs in England and the United States. But he realized that confined office environments and fancy work clothes weren’t for him.

He traded suits and air conditioning for t-shirts and long summer days outside. But after 32 years, those working conditions have started to keep him away from the fairs he loves, especially after a cancer surgery in 2005.

“I really enjoyed it for many, many years, but I could no longer stand up all day and I found it very difficult to work the long hours,” Joyes says. “It used to be that the fair started at 9 in the morning and went until 11 at night and I would have to be on all the time since I was the only person doing the work I was doing.”

Besides the physical demands of his work, the economics of his chosen trade aren’t working in his favor these days. Joyes’ highest profits were three years in the 1990′s when he made more than $26,000 selling his airbrush work at fairs. For many years, he says he could make back the cost of the booth rental on his first weekend at the fair, but costs are rising as sales decline. The last time he exhibited his work at the Western Washington Fair, it cost him about $5,000 for basic expenses like the booth fee and a camping space for his RV, and it took him nine days to make the money back. What’s more, it’s difficult to compete with the growing number of nearby vendors peddling what he calls cheap, imported goods that he thinks people assume are true hand-made local crafts.

Despite recent problems, listen to Peter describe how his work has kept him happy for more than three decades:

 >> Share YOUR story: What’s your favorite thing at your State Fair?

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It is my love to cause delight with my art. For the past few years I have been doing face painting at small, local street fairs and farmers markets where I can work sitting down.  


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