Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I feel I have learned some in participating in shows, but mostly I feel like a failure. I have literally only sold two items last year that I participated in. I've changed my prices, my sales techniques and anything else that has be suggested. I'm broke and exhausted. Finally I decided to be a part of a co-op with it's own gallery and even that was a disaster. I think it really could be true that you just can't create works of art and hope someone will like it enough to buy it. The rejection is hard to take. I enjoy people so much but, no sales makes me feel like a loser. I haven't met anyone in my position, and I feel like I'm the only person who has had this happen.
I think this changes an artist when this sort of thing happens, I know it's changing me. I've been told by other artists that I cant be authentic, that I need to have a distant attitude. Is art really like this? Does it really come down to recreating things you see on Pintrest that people liked, because your creative voice is speechless.
My new game plan is not a winning plan, but just a childish desire to not let my art sit inboxes in my shed. Yes I may sell my work at the lowest bidder, I may even give it away, which I have been doing. Yes, I may change me just so my hands can continue to feel clay in my hands. Today I'm actually borrowing 25.00 for a box of clay cause I am so broke from all of my efforts. I'm frustrated. The level of bad experiences are so bizarre I can't begin to understand them.
I haven't seen anyone sell an item over $300. this is even in shows like La Quinta. Is all artwork like this? does only inexpensive art sell? is this everywhere? I only can figure that I must do simple blobs to sell anything. Should I try it? should I make a mockery of this whole art thing? should I roll out some clay and virtually play out the" Emperor with no clothes". Make blobs and convince people this is great, and see if it sells. What do I have to loose? haven't I already lost everything?
What do you think?
Every artist has to find the balance between creating art that feeds your soul and art that sells. Have you tried developing another line of work that is in keeping with your style but takes less time to create? It can be more than 'simple blobs' but maybe something for $25 that people can take home and enjoy until they can afford the $250 piece
Listen, I feel your pain and so has everyone else on this site. Selling art is not easy. I am in my gallery every day. When I have a series of slow days, my mind first starts thinking why am I doing this, why am I spending my time and money on materials on stuff that isn't selling. I pray about it and may not get an answer for another few days of nothing. Then, I may get a new idea or that one customer comes in and buys that piece thats been on the wall a year. Go figure. If I have learned one thing, its customer needs and wants seldom make sense. All we can do as artist trying to make a living is keep trying to be more creative, listen to customers, see whats selling in other galleries or shops. I have 2 pottery artists in my shop. I have pieces $600 and they just sit. What sells for me is "functional" pieces, mugs, candles, wind chimes, trays. Customers love this stuff. Where Im located, beach, sea themed pieces are popular. Think about where you are located and come up with small pieces related to where you are. Keep your chin up and keep trying. Where can I see your work? If I can help anymore, please ask. May God bless you.
Thanks for your encouragement. My work is obviously too detailed and it unintentionally flies in the face of religion and that's never good. I find when people speak to me about my work they begin to love it because they feel my heart and my intention. But that doesn't mean it would fit anyone's home decor. I have tried to do shows more in the mountain areas because so many of my pieces are bird women. I at times do a San Diego show and then I show my mermaids and big fish sculptures. I know that I need to work smaller, it takes me longer to work tiny, I don't know why I struggle with that. I have simplified a few pieces and made some trinket boxes.
I had started being in a co-op gallery and I'm afraid I found I was just brought in to be the underling worker. No one else worked and finally I had to give it up. That was in the mountains where I was so sure my lady birds would fit in at a beautiful cabin or B and B. My art seemed like a museum piece to most instead of something they could see themselves owning.
Part of my work was to heal myself so maybe that is all this part of my life has been for.
You can look through my photos here or you can go to my website www.witheredmoth.com
Bruce, you say the 600.00 prices don't move. What area do you mainly do your shows?
When I pray about it, I'm told he loves me and just have fun. I am not trusting him. That I'm to learn to trust him. I am in agreement and I know I'm just to keep going forward, but it get's embarrassing not selling anything.
Don, I think you are suggesting differing price points in whatever setting an artist is selling in ... art shows, gallery, online, etc. I agree wholeheartedly and think most artists/crafts persons benefit from this practice.
If we get to a point that all our items are $XXX or more and never have anything less expensive ($X or $XX), I believe we are eliminating a customer base that can't purchase at the $XXX level but certainly can at $X-XX level. There is an artist where I live who does original oils in the impasto style. Her originals sell in the $XXX-$XXXX level. I cannot purchase original art at the price point. But I LOVE her work. Fortunately she sells some giclees, matted prints (various sizes), and has it put on glass jewelry. She also has those 6x6 wood blocks with her paintings copied to them. We have 2 of those wood blocks and a matted print. I also have 2 of the glass jewelry pieces. These price points all allow my family and me to support her work at a price point we can afford. Is she selling out as an artist for doing this? I don't believe she is. It is still her work and she is opening up an entry level price point.
I have different price points in my online shop and have the same items in any given craft show I do. In my work I have price points starting at about the $7.00 level (small painted home decor) and car coasters) to over $100.00 (painted furniture). It could have all pieces in my shop that are $100+ but I believe I am eliminating many potential customers if I do that.
I also keep an eye out for lines that I can add to my shop. I used to do only travertine coasters but added the small painted home decor like candlesticks, bowls, mason jars, etc. Then I ventured into painted furniture. I am still keep an eye out for new lines I can add.
This is a good topic. I think probably most everyone has experienced this to one degree or another. The last couple of years have been hard on sales for us. I have not gone to a show and experience no sales but some have had a lot less sales than we hoped for. I am hoping to learn from something from this discussion to help as our economy begins to turn around.
This is a good point although very different for my situation because of my medium I think my small items perhaps aren't still simple enough and less costly. I will look at what I might do there.
Just being asked that over and over again, tells me I am not making enough of an effort there. no matter what I do I will stay in the grouping of ceramics instead of Sculpture. If I was a bronze sculptor we wouldn't likely have this question. So really my little boxes at 25. dollars don't fly off the shelves and I have been working on some hand sculpted one of a kind tiles, but I'm struggling with the tiles warping. Once I solve that problem, that would be a joy for me, cause I like tiles.
What I think I see is that it's my style that is the problem. Most people here seem to be Walmart, target, Hobbylobby, art buyers. I don't even try to sell where I live. Sculpture that sell seems to be more smooth, abstract, and lacking of color, all of which I like and can do very well.
Here's my problem, my soul or the sell?
several people have told me not to put color on my art and make it very neutral. Like most bronzes and wood, or marble sculptures.
You see, trinkets and small nic naks are lovely in color, but sculpture shows texture in a neutral, but not life. I was trying to have texture and life.
I feel like it's my style that is not received. I primarily have women as birds. I use birds as models to color my women. Which is why I didn't make my sculptures neutral.
so with this example, do you still think it's price and smaller objects? when you think of my pieces as sculpture in stead of ceramics.
Your words may echo what many of us have gone through.
First understand why you do this:
Is it for the money?
Is it for approval of others?
Is it for accolades?
Is it for the lifestyle?
Is it for the desire to share?
Is it to effect change?
Is it for a love of our art?
Is it for a belief?
Separate Artistic desire from marketing. They are not the same.
A person can create a product that will turn salt water into oil. Does that make them rich? No!
They still need a comprehensive and reasonable way of marketing the product.
I will NEVER sacrifice the values I have in creating my art. Not the tendencies towards purism in creation, selection of ideas or quality of finished work.
However I will choose which pieces I may display at different venues.
I will not lower my prices. My prices are based on what I believe the value to be. Determined by many factors, not just time and materials. If I were to periodically change those prices, it would indicate I am "cheating" those who purchased from me at the higher price point.
If I have to lower my prices then perhaps my original prices where not fair.
I will not just start producing "junk" to sell cheaply. If that were the method to make the money, I would no longer be an artist. Instead I would be "something else". That something else may be fine, for some people but it is not an artist with aspiration which I hold dear.
Some have the ability to produce art that conveys strong meaning to the customer, without the artist needing to speak. Some do not. Perhaps it is in your approach with the customer. Artists do need to be able to market and use salesmanship. this is why many do not do it themselves. They have representatives do their marketing such as at galleries.
I too can gt frustrated. It is hard to determine where the improvements need to be made. it can be simple things. You may want to analyze everything. Such as, but no limited to:
lighting, display, presentation,
your appearance, your approach, your words, your tone of voice, your smile,
Type of show, choice of show, demographics of show,
Do not just lower your prices to "cheap" rates nor produce junk. All that does is lower our shows and hurt other REAL artists. There are enough people doing that already.
Also the trend at art shows and the economy is very poor currently which may not reflect our art at all.
You almost had a moment of poetry there. I feel you might understand. Art is all I know. Making something beautiful is what makes me feel complete, it's what settles me. There is a reason behind my work, and that reason isn't for the viewer but for me. I have deep beliefs and those beliefs are like a golden thread though every piece I do.
My lighting needs improvements but usually here in California, we have too much light.
My display is too tight but everyone remarks that it is very nice and professional.
My appearance, I always dress very neat and wear a nice dress and try to be professional. I'm naturally very friendly. Let's put it this way, I have had situations where someone came into my booth was sure I was into witch craft or pagan, and came in hateful. As we talked they realize I'm a Christian and ask me to pray over them.
But here is where what you are saying clicks....If I am busy defending my artwork, then I am not selling art.
My prices are too high for the type of people that would put my art in their home or business.
I have gotten into the top rated shows in California, La Quinta, Sausalito, but I didn't get invited back I believe for lack of sales.
At La Quinta I had a heard of ceramic artists asking me how I was creating my art and fascinated and curious. It was nice and I gladly answered questions. All of them urged me to raise my prices. I tried high prices and medium prices, it didn't matter.
Those are AMAZING!
It's not the quality of your work, that's for sure.
Thanks Joel. I really like your pens. I can see them as a wonderful gift for just about anyone.
“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” Gandalf (JRR Tolkien)
No, I am not very wise but the point is, a lot to do with art sales is not logical, nor predictable. You have been to the top of some of the art show mountains, e.g. La Quinta, Sausalito, etc.. La Quinta boast of average artists' sales in 2017 of $14,000. It is difficult to get to that level with items under $300. I am disappointed that you did not find your market there in 2017.
I very much enjoy your work, but then, I like fantasy. Your creation, "SeeHorse" is so fanciful and fun and from comments on Esty, it seems to have sold, yes? Your market is there in the art show realm, but for some unexplainable reason, you haven't hit it, YET. Only once did I hit $11K at a fine art show, and I assure you it takes more than $300 baubles to get there; you'll do need a wider sales range than your current $800 to $2200 to reach a broader market. As you know, you have limited your market selling fantasy, but then to only have your high price range, restricts it all the more. I might suggest that you:
1) develop product in the $200 range to reach a broader market. I'm not suggesting that you compromise your creativity. Maybe you simplify, so that someone like me who loves your work, would put $200 on the table, not for that gorgeous SeeHorse, but for something simpler and smaller that captures the spirit of your creativity.
2) The art show world is: unpredictable on so many fronts, at times painfully labor intensive, and often unappreciative in what counts, being able to pay the rent. Your work is unique, maybe you should consider hiring an agent who can open gallery doors. Yes, there is a cost and it will need to be reflected in a higher cost for your work.
3) Possibly expand your fantasy world to include interpretations of other classical works, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, Le Quin, McCaffrey to name a few. This will hit the touchstones of a broader fantasy audience.
Finally, in addition to being an artist, I am also a show promoter, An Occasion for the Arts in Williamsburg, VA. Last year , 2017, I had a painter at the show who had a string of horrible shows previous, He had done my show a few times...it wasn't a barn burner for him but good enough to bring him back. On this year, all the stars were alined. Throughout the weekend, over and over he sold his largest paintings, $1K, $800, $1200 and on and on. At the end of the weekend he was near $10K in sales. Why this year and not last? No answer, "For even the very wise cannot see all ends." Hang in there, Kara Unland, don't doubt your work. I wish you were on the East Coast, for I would love to see it in person.