Art Fair Insiders

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

Hi Everyone,

I got a post card in the mail a day or two ago about a show, and I am sure they must have bought my name off a mailing list because I've never been to Chicago.  But it made me curious.

The show is One of a Kind Show+Sale Chicago.  I looked at the website and the application.  It is $1900 for the standard booth, 10x10.  Emerging artist is $700 size TBD.  (EA is closed for this spring.)  I searched here for more info and what came up was from 2010.

I have never paid more than about $300 for a show.  I think those who have read my posts know I have never done top tier shows.  I have no idea how to get started being prepared financially or with stock for one of these shows.  It would be a big stretch for me to afford a booth as an emerging artist.  Then I have travel expenses on top of that.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  This show in particular ... Are the artists selling to the public or is this wholesale?  I am not clear on that.  Is this show available anywhere further south?  From where I live to drive to Chicago, it's a 14+hour drive, not including stops for meals or potty breaks.  I don't see flying as an option since I have to take product with me.

For those of you who started in local, small shows how did you make the jump to large shows such as this?  I know I cannot go to Chicago this year.  But who knows, I could be interested for the show a year from now.  Can I qualify as an emerging artist?  How do I find out about shows like this early enough to get in as an EA?

Help me know learn how to get in to shows that can lead into shows like this.  The shows I've been in are in Louisiana and are not anywhere close to the *kind* of show most of you write about.  If you want to know the shows I've done I can list them.

Thanks in advance.

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I finally told dh about it this morning, only because I finally remembered.  I started out, "I got this postcard about a show in Chicago."

He immediately replies, "We're not going to Chicago."  I already knew I was not going to apply.  We have talked before about how we have not lost anything in Chicago.  No offense Chicagoans.  The violence rivals or beats out New Orleans, the biggest city near us.  That alone right now is enough to keep me away.

Cindy - I did the Chicago One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale in 2016 (it's inaugural spring show), and I was completely terrified of the booth fee. I do fine art repros and reimaginations on flea market furniture, so my product is definitely One of a Kind, and not a super impulse buy, which could be a killer at a show like this. 

Let me say this - the staff was amazing and thoughtful,  ensuring that each artist was taken care of. You want for nothing. Once the show opened on Friday, I was flooded with visitors, news outlets, bloggers, and lots of congratulations. Approach the show like this - it is the single most massive marketing opportunity you will have - I talked to about 18,000 people in three days, had several interviews, some local media coverage, and residuals well into the end of the year. 

Like every show, it's a gamble - you never know now  you will do. I made a profit (even after booth/hotel/truck rental/booth wall covering/wood grain flooring/parking) It wasn't huge, but it was a win. I would do it again - even after divorce and having to rebuild the business singularly - but am honing in on the American Craft Council since I will be moving. 

Just do it. Don't even think about the what-ifs. Do it for the credentials. Do it for the bragging rights. Do it for the sheer one-time experience. Do it to test your own boundaries. If you play it safe and choose the shows you feel you will do best in... you have betrayed the idea of the free-spirited artist. You might lose money. Who cares? Where else will you have an insanely concentrated audience in the guaranteed 5 digits, every day, who clamor for cards and talk time with the artist? Either way your bottom line pans out at the end of the show or from the residuals weeks later, you did it. You were successful because you had the balls to do it. 

Monica,

Thank you for the firsthand review of your experience there.  Congratulations on doing so well!

Quite honestly, we have never felt drawn to Chicago, even before the uptick in crime over the last few years.  That much exposure would certainly be great.  At this time we would have to go into debt to do any show that far from us (south Louisiana).  We don't take on debt for something like this.  I would rather continue building at the pace we are until we have funds to cash flow something like this and it's expenses not affect our checkbook so negatively.

Thanks again for your input.

First of all, Monica, thank you for this report on the OOAK Spring Show. This is the first feedback I've heard. 

Here's the deal: Chicagoans LOVE art fairs, they attend, they put them on their calendars to attend, they bring their friends and they buy art. Not just crafty things but ART. On our website ArtFairCalendar.com we have a whole page devoted just to Chicago art fairs. 

I've attended this show a couple of times. It is beautiful and there is work in every price range and the Chicagoans line up to get in and the energy is palpable. Does everyone make money? Do a "search" on this site for One of a Kind and you'll get answers from one extreme to the other. 

I get Monica's enthusiasm but I also get Cindy's more careful approach. I'm more of a Cindy, but many artists are Monica's.

Thanks for your input Connie.

I have done my share of trying "new to me" shows in my area, up to about 4 hours away.  It is not the idea of trying something new that is scary.  In this case it's more of the monetary investment.  I don't have an easy way to attend this show as a shopper first, unfortunately.  (This is the usual advice when trying to decide whether to do a show or not for the first time.)

This is a 3 day show but it means a full week of time investment just for travel & the show.  Driving straight through is over 14 hours when leaving from home.  This does not include potty or food breaks.  Realistically we would have to plan to drive most of the way on the first day and then finish up the rest the next day.  Same for the return trip.  I would have to be pretty much assured I would make enough to cover the hotel for 7 nights, food for 7 days, gas, booth fee, etc.  I know no one can guarantee that though.  For these reasons, this show will have to wait for the foreseeable future, though I'd love to face such an enthusiastic crowd.

Relax. You don't need to justify anything to anyone here.  Just breathe. We all have the same fears and concerns. I am moving to NC later this year and applying to shows for 2018 with no idea what I am walking into.

When the stars align and the moment is right, the opportunity will present itself to you.

One step at a time.  

Oh Cindy, Cindy,  it's quite the risk!!  I was talked in to doing it because the gal was SURE my stuff would just "fly off the shelf".  I thought it couldn't hurt to try as an emerging artist at the holiday show Dec 2016.  I stayed with my daughter who lives in Chicago, another savings.  I managed to come out in the black and was tempted to try the Spring show thinking that if I had a bigger booth and was on the main area I would do better.  Not.  It seemed that a lot of the wall art/picture people were hurting at this show.  One guy said he usually killed it at OOAK.  I came out in the red, and have counted Chicago as not being my venue.  Now, if you are selling printed muslin tea towels you have it made.  They were selling like crazy!  I guess it just depends on what you have to sell.  The show is well organized, and they are great promoters.  and... it is fun to be able to say that I did One Of A Kind in Chicago.  As it's been repeated to me multiple times.. "It's a crap shoot!"  Best of Luck to you!

Anna, thanks for your experience. We will not be going to Chicago for any reason any time soon.

I've gotten their adverts too..I did two Amdur shows in Chicago and sold nothing.. My friend used to go Chicago and sold a lot but the show sales started declining 10 years ago and she even stopped doing Chicago shows..

Thanks for you input Michelle.

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