Art Fair Insiders

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

Hey all, Been an illustrator for years, but decided to try the "art fair scene" for the first time this summer, jumping in with four expensive, high-traffic shows. I created all new work (7 pieces in these photos from Gold Coast in Chicago, and am working on another 5 for a show next weekend). 

I was pleased with the balance of comments: 80% complimented the work, while the remainder seemed to enjoy the booth and setting. I admit it's a pretty strong theme, but I hope I haven't over-accessorized to the point that it would overpower the art. Based on sales, I suspect it was good mix that gave buyers a hint of a residential setting, while letting the artwork take center stage. That lovely skyline certainly didn't hurt. 

I have 3 more shows coming up: a 10x20 spot, a 10x10 on a corner, and another 10x10 (most likely mid-row) so there'll be some editing and changes for each. Opinions are welcome, you guys are the experts!

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What are you trying to accomplish? As a booth image for jurying it will not work for getting into the better shows. Way too much stuff that is not for sale. But as for a display at the show, it depends on the show director and their vision and what draws the public in. If they aren't being drawn in by the art, they are spending too much time in the booth for the wrong reasons.

Larry Berman

Thanks Larry,

Good to know this will work against me for better shows, that's important. Obviously the more widely appealing it is to multiple show directors, the better. As for what I was trying to accomplish, it seemed (based on feedback from buyers) that they responded well to seeing the art in a setting that felt familiar, like a home.

I'll give a lot of thought to stripping it way down for a juried booth shot, though - no need to stack the deck against myself.

Once you eliminate plenty of the extra not for sale decor stuff, always remove booth number/name plates so your name is not so easily identifiable by jurors.

This is certainly a fun memorable photo of your booth, but jurors don't need to see a city skyline, either.

Great advice - I definitely didn't have "next year's jury" in mind when I took the photo. I was just overwhelmed about being there, and grabbing a few moments where there weren't people in the booth. It was a well-attended show, and the vacant spot next to us was an unexpected benefit.

Thanks Barrie. I'll use the next show to get a good jury photo. I was lucky to be accepted into the four shows I applied to this summer, using only a Photoshopped mockup of the space. So having a real photo will certainly help.

Hi Brad,

Well, I think your booth looks amazing but I happen to love "old stuff", so you should probably listen to what these other guys are telling you because they know much more about it than I do.  I think you're on the right track though...

Thx! I'm sure there's a happy medium in there somewhere, keeping the pieces used for display, while eschewing some of the non-essential stuff, especially when we get into the corner 10x10 spot in a few weeks, where I'll only have 2 walls up.

Hard not to think of this space as a reflection of my personality, as much as the artwork itself is. I realize I can't afford to have a cluttered shot filled with non-sellable items for a jury shot.. but I can't ignore that this stuff also seemed to bring people in, and that sales were quite strong.

Exactly...I know I'd be intrigued.  I have a similar stack of old suitcases on top of an old fact, I might steal an idea or two from you as I have my first ever real show coming up in November and I'm already planning on using some old hatboxes but suitcases would work well too...thanks!

Awesome - I'm sure they'd be great. I HAD a clean, folding print rack all ready to go... but then found a 100 year old easel on Craigslist and saw my suitcases sitting in our storage locker, I couldn't resist using them as a functional stand.

The big 1930s radio is mostly empty inside, and holds packing tape and extra prints... but I know it's probably making everybody cringe. I do appreciate this advice, and I'll try toning it down a bit next weekend. :)

I am hardly an expert on this, but if I were on a jury, your out-of-the-ordinary booth shot would definitely capture my attention.  Ditto if I was a visitor of a fair and walked by your booth. 

I applaud your creativity (which after all is what art is all about)!

Thanks, Reid! Having not been on a jury, it's hard to say, isn't it? My instinct was like yours - that, similar to an employer looking at resumes, one would want to stand out, even if it means risking an unconventional layout.

That's why I appreciate the advice here - I'm sure more than one has been a juror, and much thought has gone into figuring out the mindset of promotors, jurors, etc. It would make sense that the advice skews to isolate your booth experience to sellable, visible product with few distractions.

My suspicion is that the psychology of a shopper may be very different; they're not looking at booths in a dark, air conditioned room - it's overload, wagging ones head back and forth as they walk down row after row. I'm wondering if that pop of color from the plant, or the furniture used for displays may have helped siphon people into the booth. As I said, I only have one weekend of experience as an exhibitor - but years of going to shows to browse. I'll have more data after next weekend, and will keep tweaking the setup until I hit upon a fun environment, but which doesn't distract.

While the chair is a homey touch and useful for context, the odds are you'll sooner or later have problems with people deciding to plop down in it for 15-20 minutes at a stretch. It's going to be awkward asking some old codger to get and leave after they've been parked therefore a while. Someone sitting in a chair like that will inhibit others from coming into the booth. It's the same reason furniture makers who have chairs for sale place them up on pedestals to keep folks from this thinking it's a Cracker Barrel front porch where you sit on the rockers for sale while waiting for a table.

I had a show awhile back where several of the artists sat across from the front of our booths under some shade. Some old guy took over my chair and struck up a conversation with the artist next to him. Twenty minutes later the old fart is still there. I finally tell him I need my chair back. The twit actually asked me if my name was on it. I told it was and it was wtrtten on the back of the chair. He was pissed at being asked to move, but he was in error thinking it was public seating for the festival. You can easily run into the same problem.

Ha!! Wise words, Robert. Your old codger sure was spunky - I'll give him that!

We did have a 4 year-old plop down in the armchair and refuse to leave... but the silver lining is that we chatted with her parents and made enough of an impression that they called tow weeks later and bought an $800 print. Was it out of guilt? Maybe... but I'm not above making sad puppy eyes. :)


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