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Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I have a dilemma that seems to appear every show entering season. The question is to do shows that average fees of $180 which tend to be indoor shows with a mixture of craft and some fine art or enter summery shows that average near $450. These tend to be fine art only shows like Ann Arbor, Old Town etc. 

The smaller shows can average between 2500 to 5000 people. I have done well at these with sales in the $800 to $1,000

I am a fused glass artist whose pieces can be 10 by 10 and jewelry which average $15 to $50. 

Does a larger entrance fee and or the designation of a "Art show" make a difference in sales? Would going in that direction increase sales due to a base that looks for higher quality art? 

It is the balance of higher fees in exchange for more sales? What is your opinion?

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It's a balance and depends on the area and show history. Actually so many things that only your own experience can dictate which direction to go.

I will say that I don't think you are making a profit (call it spinning wheels) if you're making what you said for the show total. Base that on materials, time spent creating the work and show expenses and time. So considering that, I would step up the quality of shows applying to.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

Larry,

You know the Chicago area well. I've been to Amdur shows which make up a large portion of the area shows. Those average $475 and I have been to some as an observer. Sales are fair at times. In looking at online sites, my prices are in tune with what the market bears. At the smaller shows, I average 20 sales per weekend. At that rate, the more expensive shows become less cost effective. While there is no guarentee, would an Amdur show bring higher sales volume to justify higher fees?

Thanks Larry

P.S Check out my stuff at www.rhinoglassonline.com. That might give some perspective

This is interesting discussion.  A factor not yet mentioned is what the artist is selling.  Some art is not "fine" so it will not qualify for certain shows.  I would love to do those shows but my art is more upscale craft.  Even so, it is not "fine".  However I am FINE with that because I love what I do and we are not all fine artists.  I would be wasting jury fees for the fine art shows.  At this point we have gone to a double booth for the shows we do and I can swing the fees for them.  However when a single booth fee approaches $500, it is hard for ME to justify that when I would typically have to add in travel costs for a show that is 100's, if not 1000's, of miles away.

Cindy,

It has become a real debate for me. I hope there can be a real discussion here since Im sure more than I have the same dilemma. Because I work in glass, it seems to qualify in all categories. At first I was worried about it being too fine art plus too expensive for @175 craft shows. Some times it is, It is up against crocheted hats, painted wood and tea towels. I have done ok amongst that crowd. I have been to higher end shows, even $1700 One of a kind show in Chicago and if I do say myself my work is even nicer. Obviously in the never ending search for more sales and both as an option, I'm not sure which is best. Please check out my wares and let me know your rhoughts?

thanks, Peter

Looked at your site.  I have not seen fused glass before.  It is unusual and beautiful.

I am sure you are applying only to juried shows?  If not, stick to juried shows.  The issue is many of the shows at $175 claim to be juried but.... I have done enough in that range to know their definition of "juried" and my definition is not the same thing.  I have seen way too much commercial stuff.  Their definition is that juried works till you run through all the applicants with handcrafted items, then it's whatever goes.  :( :(  :(  Or so it seems.  I have been in a show where it listed that only 10% of your product or less can be commercial.  The rest must be handcrafted, vintage or antiques, etc.  Then you get there and there are booths full of commercial or direct sales products.  Very disappointing.  I know for some it's a way to fill real estate.  Others simply don't care from the get go.  I believe there are enough artists out there who do plenty of their own work to fill any given show.  The issue is the promoters are not seeking them out, or once they attend one of these shows and see all the commercial product, they never return ... leaving more real estate to be filled by direct sales and commercial products.

I don't have an answer to the issue of finding the right show except to research but you have already been given that advice here.

I have been doing shows since the early 1990’s. Based on my experience, I would advise doing all types of shows, big, little, indoor, outdoor, etc. What worked out best? What sold best? What were the sales to expense ratios? Try to find more shows like those that were successes by geography demographics. Were they as successful on the second go around or were the first ones just flukes?  You can talk to other artists in your medium to get their ideas and you can analyze what shows the successful ones are doing. Be an art detective.  Bottom line it is all that boring business stuff that keeps you from doing art work which is more fun.

Can you give us some examples of the shows you have done so far? I would look for your "nitch" and work from there. For us, the "B" level, $180 art and craft shows is a good nitch. We have done the high-end shows but do not come close to the same results at the "B" level shows. 

Colin,

Here are some examples... indoor shows like Shipewanna on the road, Christmas Crossroads etc. Shows like you said. Nichey. Nice crowds averaging 5,000 at a reasonable entry fee. Each are $180 for two day shows. Average sales are between $700-900. A mix of crafts (painted stair spindles to look like snowmen. tea towels, but also some fine art like copper garden art. Have seen the same vendors at both these indoor shows and more expensive outdoor shows like Amdur shows, The real question is does the more expensive entry fee bring a better buyer and higher profits? Its gonna take higher volume to create a profit, is it more likely to be available at higher outdoor shows? Does a $400 fee "guarantee" more sales. Is the entry fee worth the risk of not making a profit?

Peter, 

Do you have hotel expenses with these shows?

I don't go by booth fee price as much as other data. It is a bit of research, what works for one artist could be a total flop for another. I suggest being able to identify your customer, then find what shows they attend. That does take some effort, but the payback is worth it.

Last year I only did 5 shows, two had $500 booth, the others, lower for 2 day shows, one only cost $180.  I had good weather for all of them, and I can say that I made 10 x my booth fee or better for all. One of the reasons that the higher priced shows were better, though, was because they were 3-4 days.

Don't know where you are located, but look at 2 day shows that go up to $300. Do your research, best wishes.

No, a $400 fee does not guarantee anything- I have done that, too.

Don't know if this was addressed to me or not. My nitch is people who have money and live the "western life style". They usually own dogs and may or may not own horses. They are gun owners, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Midwestern and Eastern folks visiting resort areas and National Parks tap into this. Others simple want quality belts and billfolds or other leather art I make.  Belts remain my best selling item followed by holsters and all the other stuff combined-billfolds, dog leashes/collars, horse tack. Unlike other saddle makers I do not do rodeos or the big multi week events like National Western in  Denver or Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas. Too many guys selling the same stuff but hoards of people with/without money.

Forgot to mention that although I only did 5 shows last year, they were in 5 different states. So you can see, it isn't that easy to get to the right ones.

Judy,

Thats the dilemma. I am a fused glass artist whose stuff is nice. Check it out at www,rhinoglassonline.com. I'd love your opinion. I was concerned that it was too high end for some of the $180 shows. Those shows are really wide ranging at least here in Illinois. Some really country crafts, body lotions etc but also higher fine art too. Sales have been really consistent for me at these shows. I sell at least 1 of every piece I have. Its not bad. Obviously we are looking for more sales, so I wonder if the more expensive shows could bring more sales because they are looking and expecting more "arty" things? 

I have been to many outdoor art shows and see better and lesser stuff than mine. Similar prices too. Although some are higher for same stuff or lesser, maybe to justify booth fee? 

Did one show outside of Chicago area in Findlay, Ohip. With expenses it wasn't worth it but was really country not semi cosmo like here.

Let me know what you think of site and reply

Thanks

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