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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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Judy, 

Great ideas. I like the middle up $300-350 idea. It still really pisses me off that I have to jury twice for items that contain one medium. I can't remove the jewelry because its easily my best seller but so is chesseboards. I think its ridiculous to spend an extra $25 for that. What are your feelings about that from a philosophical standpoint? Why do we let promoters get away with this? They don't do it with photographers. Seperate for framed and for bins? Thinking of doing a one day at Marion Arts Festival in Marion, IA. Any knowledge on this one? 

Thanks,

Peter 

No, but I live on the other side of the country.

That looks like the type of show that I am talking about, though.

Peter, in the bad old days it was common for artists in many mediums to have a rack or 2 or jewelry in addition to their main product. So the potters would have some ceramic earrings, the wood people a tray of wooden earrings, etc. Often priced very low, as they are often made from scraps that might not be used otherwise. I am not saying that yours is, but simply that it is often the case.

 

As a jeweler that has been doing art fairs for 30 years now, I could easily have competition from half the booths in the show! This was then, and still is, not fair where it occurs.  Often that work is a much lower caliber and price point than the jewelry that had to compete with SO MANY other jewelers to be accepted.

 

The bar is set very high for jewelry, and competition is truly fierce.  So you can see why jewelers can be upset to see other artists selling jewelry as an add-on to boost their bottom line if they did not jury with it.  It is a NON-JURIED item, and should not be allowed.

 

There are still a few shows that allow this. I was next to a fused glass artist maybe 5 years ago. She sold maybe a few plates, but she sure sold a lot of $ 15 earrings! At that same show a group of jewelers, myself included, got up a petition to the director to ask that this policy of tolerating non-juried jewelry stop. I called the next year and asked point blank if now artists had to jury jewelry to sell jewelry. She said she had not changed the prior policy. Off my list. I have not been back, and I’m sure many regular jewelers will not return either once they have this experience.

 

At another show I was next to a woodworker who told me his work had very little waste, as all the off cuts of his inlays were made into earrings. I can’t compete, and I no longer apply to those.

 

If I wanted to bring some of my sculptures to a show, or some of the functional pottery pieces that I make for fun, I would expect to pay the extra jury fee. 

 

If jewelry is your best seller, and you don’t want to to incur 2 jury fees, apply just with that.

 I have seen other shows state that if you want to sell jewelry in addition, a representative % of your jury images should be jewelry. So, 3 images of larger fused glass pieces, and one of jewelry, for example. 

Why not keep the jury part which you are right protects you but eliminate the fee, I could gamble $50-75 and not get in with either glass or jewelry. I could live with just jewelry or just glass, although I am like your neighbor. Sometimes I sell jewelry or sometimes functional glass or both. Wouldnt it be similar to photographers selling large wall items and bin matted pieces and cards? Just asking...I just think $60 is alot to gamble on juries. Thanks, Peter

No, it's not similar at all. In your example, photography is still all 2D wall art (though many shows frown on cards or disallow them). But if the photographer started putting their images on mugs and dishes, then they are infringing on the potters. I HAVE seen this once or twice, and the potters in the show objected.

This is the reason. A person may come to a show with the idea that they need a mug. But if they buy one from a photographer who has mugs, then the potter loses a sale. 

Similarly, a person who wants a pair of earrings comes to the show. If they buy one from the person who has them as an add-on, then the juried jewelers lose a sale. 

While the MATERIALS may be the same in your case or in the examples I cited in my first post,  the end product FUNCTION is different. Vessels / plates vs. wearables. 

Call the shows you are interested in. Ask if you can jury half jewelry and half non-jewelry. Or whatever proportion you plan to display. I have sat in on open juries and seen it done. I think the highest end shows don't allow it, but others will. I was near to a potter once who had half ceramic earrings and the rest ceramic earring hangers and small pots. The director happened by and I asked. They had juried with both on one application.  

It's not that I hate competition. I just want the competition to be juried. 

My two cents:

I have been doing shows now for 3 years. I am focused on the top 10 or 20 arts shows, and I am ignoring the rest, with the exception of 2 local shows, 1 where I went to college (and manage to sell a few pieces) and the Boulder Colorado show, where I have done well. For me, an art show is not all about the $ I bring home, it really is about the experience. The top shows are the top for a reason. Well, that is simplistic, a combination of reasons. And when you jury into a top show, there you are, surprise! with the booths across from you and next to you filled by the best artists in the country. Customers pass them, then see your work. You are now judged through the filter of the company you keep, which is the quality of the work to your left, right and across from you. So when a customer is gazing at work, comes to your stuff, they stop, stare, their eyes pop, their jaws drop, and they say " how did you do that?" it really means something.

yes it is annoying to be rejected by a Jury. So what. And you are out a few bucks in Jury fees. Again, so what. It may take a few years to get into the shows you want, if you get rejected take a hard look at your work, your booth, everything, and make it better for the next year.

Go for the best show you can afford. It is a whole different level of experience.

That will be $0.02 please.

Peter, as a jewelry maker I can see how it would be frustrating to have to pay 2 jury fees to be able to sell both your cheese boards and your jewelry.  From my point of view, there are usually 25% up to 33% jewelry artists at a show, which means that all of us are competing for the jewelry sales.  If fused glass, leather, pottery, metal sculpture all bring jewelry to the show which haven't been juried in, it raises the number of people competing for the same jewelry sales, which decreases my chances of making sales even more. So I definitely prefer that every person selling jewelry has juried into it. That way you are part of the original 25-33% people selling jewelry and not added onto that. I've seen your fused glass, and it is lovely.

Kathleen, 

Hopefully I'm not competing with your jewelry! I got no chance. You make really good points as to why there is a seperate jurying to protect jewelry artists. Perhaps my argument might be with the extra fee, not the inclusion of juried items. If I use some of my glass in jewelry in addition to plates etc, jury those too. If not good enough or in competition, then exclude. I need some jewelry to get some cash and carry sales. Probably 50% of my sales are either necklaces or $15 earrings. Seems easier for people to buy than even $40 plates? Doesnt the materials we use differentiate between us as jewelers? Kind of like potters with bowls and glass with bowls? Your points are probably more right than mine, I'm just outlaying a host of money and might still get rejected. Thanks Kathleen.

I've been doing shows for 8 years and found that it's really hard to choose shows because there's quite a bit of inconsistency in sales from year to year. I did the same show for 3 years and did well the first 2 years but the 2017 show was a bust. I don't intend to go back, The same thing happened at another show but I hae very few expenses so I'll give it a try again this year.  Last year I tried a $400 juried show that was 2 1/2 days and my expenses were a killer. I decided the only way I can continue with that type of show is to camp. It was in the mid 90's and windy at that show so I didn't camp. I have trouble with some of the rules these juried shows have too. I think it was the Des Moines show that requires a commercial or professional tent so that immediately leaves me out, I assume, with my Caravan pop-up ! I've found that my best shows are local since the fee is small and I have no other expenses to speak of.

So its not about the $ , its the experience. Lets see now.......,there is the mortgage to pay, the van payment, food for the family , school clothes, gasoline, electric, sewage, and natural gas bill, art materials, local, school, state , and good old USA taxes, new window air conditioner unit, application fees, cough medicine, health , auto, and home insurance plus a Pittsburgh Steelers hat. ill take the money.

I finished applications for summer Colorado shows a couple weeks ago. Five shows; one new one and four proven money makers. Total outlay for jury and booth fees $1,715.  Add on housing deposits and payments in resort areas starting in March. No ROI until first show at end of May.  Booth fees will start being payable in March, but if on credit card rather than check, add another few weeks. It's business.  I scrapped going to Jackson, WY even though it has been a $5K three day show. I have a new studio project which will pay out better over the longer term than taking at least a week off. 

I'm sure some of it depends on the medium.  As a photographer I find that I do overwhelmingly better at the large, art branded shows.  The smaller resort area shows are just a fill-in for me because the large shows are generally hard to get into.  If I could get into all of those, I would forego the smaller shows altogether.

I find that at the smaller shows when I am talking to a customer I have to steer the conversation from "hey your work is really cool and I really like it" to "uh, you know it is all for sale, right?".  They are typically browsers, not buyers.  You have to make them buyers.

At the larger shows I will get 10-20 people at each show that come into my booth and say "I have a very large wall that is xx high by xx wide and I need some large art to hang there".  Those people are already buyers, so we've skipped the hardest part of making the sale.  That almost never happens at the smaller shows, but those 10-20 people represent the majority of my large sales at the large shows.

Also somewhat frustrating at the smaller shows is that nearly 100% of the potential customers are only interested in images that are sentimental to them, typically at the area of the show.  IE doing a small show in Sedona 95% of the work I sell is images of Sedona.  That includes both tourists and locals.  This can be difficult because I don't have a catalog of great images from every area I'm attempting to sell in.  Meanwhile at the larger shows, while I still encounter plenty of those folks I also encounter plenty of people who just want something that is visually appealing to them, and is not necessarily somewhere they've been or something they're looking to buy as a souvenier of their current trip/home.

I guess part of it is our tolerances too.  I don't really care about this whole "X times booth fee" thing everyone is so fixated on.  I am concerned about gross profit.  If I make $1000 at a show I would be equally upset about it whether that booth fee was $1000 or $100 or $10, and whether that represented 1x booth fee, 10x booth fee, or 100x booth fee.  I'd much rather have a $700+ booth fee with a goal of hitting 5-figure gross than a $1 booth fee with a goal of hitting 4-figure gross.

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