Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
It was the 65th year of the Fairhope Arts Festival this past weekend. In a cute suburb of Mobile Alabama, the show hosts 236 artists throughout the town's main cross streets. It's 300 dollars to participate with a prize chest of over 10 thousand dollars. The show is a three day event that starts at ten each day and ends at 6 on Friday and Saturday and then on 5 on Sunday.
Load in on Thursday at 6 pm was pretty uneventful and was easy to maneuver as was load out. The show is set up in quads with each participant having two open sides if they prefer. This is a nice touch but they are very strict that no one is anywhere outside the lines drawn for your booth. I got chided for having my pro panel table too far out in the aisle. So you have a ten by twelve spot and you definitely need to stay inside those lines. There is no storage behind your booth so that extra two feet better have all your packaging stacked up tightly.
The committee running the show are very nice and there is breakfast each morning. The first morning they served shrimp and grits- I was in heaven. Anytime I get close to an ocean or a gulf I am on the search to find the best seafood. I grew up a Jersey Shore girl and although I live close to the Smokey Mountains now... anytime I can find good seafood that doesn't get flown in or frozen, I am a happy camper. Coffee and drinks were also available. There was a a nice awards dinner on Friday night. Drinks also were delivered multiple times a day by a great group of volunteers.
So now down to the nitty-gritty. The show says that close to 250 thousand attend this fair. There were a lot of people there, unfortunately, they didn't seem to pull out their wallets too often. I am a contemporary encaustic artist and for me personally, this was not my show. If you were into realism or jewelry or driftwood or anything nautical- you probably did very well. But if you did anything a bit out of the box it wasn't probably going to be good.
I watched the crowd a lot since I had a lot of time to do that... and I saw on the first and second day many prints and flat packages go out. There were not many framed works leaving the show in my area. On the third day I remarked to the girl next me.."the people at this show are just on a hike"...they weren't walking in anywhere or stopping to look. It was a bit surprising.
I did have some last minute sales that helped pay for expenses but basically I worked for nada this weekend. It was a pretty weekend (no tents down this year) which wasn't unpleasant, but when it's an 8 hour drive home and not much to show for it...it's never easy. I realize this business is like that, one show up, the next one might be down, I can handle that by now. I can also handle disparaging comments but this show had more than I have been used to. I need to vent on the website " things people say at art shows" - I have some good ones from Fairhope. When one guy with a strait face said my work looked "like a cat fight in a rain storm"...I just had to shake my head and laugh. Might have to work that into my art next time on purpose- I do have a bunch of cats so that's a distinct possibility. That was only one of the more unusual-smile on your face things said to me- we will leave the rest to your imagination- I am not above taking a good ribbing. Things happen.
There were really wonderful people there too, and great food- the Bistro on Fairhope Street was terrific and we ate the best MahiMahi sandwiches at Merl's - my best suggestion if you decide to do this show. Also, the Fairhope Brewing Company makes three nice brews...try them all.
One thing I think needs to be said is that there were a lot of "scabs" all over. Many local artist's set up on the sidewalks across from us and stores rented out space to hawk buy/sell. Next to me were two painters with all their work leaning up againt's a storefront and next to them at a store directly in front of me, was a woman painting a tree all day, which brought crowds over consistently. This, I think took a lot away from those of us who paid a booth fee to show. It was all over, in fact there were quite a wide mix of things in the show anyway. I came in off the wait list after not getting into Winter Park this year ( they used the review I did last year for AFI on the Winterpark website- and of course- I didn't even make the cut.)....yea, that's my life sometimes....you just have to laugh.
All in all, Fairhope is a perfect show for some..... with great food, mostly nice people and great weather. It just wasn't the show for me and now I know. But if golf shirts, kaki pants with the occasional Auburn or Alabama hats are your demographic.....this is your show... and I wish you, and the Fairhope Art Festival much success.