Art Fair Insiders

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

West Linn Fine Art Festival 2013, West Linn, OR

I’m beat!, Exhausted, fried, wiped out... pick your adjective... I just finished the West Linn Fine Art Festival, Aug. 3-5. I did this show in 2011 and it was BAD (it was deserted), so you can’t say I didn’t know better. However, this year they were in a new venue which should have been better. And in some ways it was better. This year there were more people and they were buying. However, as has been the trend for me this year, all of my sales were of small items. And in this case, very small sales, with many single card sales. My average sale was $30 and my largest sale was $118. For me, it wasn’t a large enough attendance to make it on small ticket sales. I did make money, but only because it’s a local show for me. As I was tearing down on Sunday in 95 deg heat, I was wondering why I decided to try this show again.

This is a show that I want to work. It’s a show that ought to work. This year, it was on a new date and in a new venue set on a field on the Marylhurst University campus, set between the upscale Portland suburbs of West Linn and Lake Oswego. Booth fee is $200. It’s well organized, with lots of volunteers, snacks, water, coffee and juice for the artists. The majority of the show is laid out in quads, giving the artists plenty of room to set up and tear down. My set up time was 4pm. I decided to arrive early to beat the rush hour traffic and was allowed on the field early to set up. There was enough space that I could leisurely set up from my vehicle. It was cool during Friday setup. The show ran from 10-6 on Sat and 10-5 on Sunday.

There were two artist shuttle lots, one for smaller and one for larger vehicles. Shuttles were supposed to run every 15 mins but I waited over 30 mins on Sat morning. Saturday started out overcast and cool but heated up once the clouds disappeared. The buying energy was different than when I did this show two years ago. Or maybe I should say there actually was buying energy this year. I left on Sat evening with hopes for good Sunday sales. Sunday started out hot and got hotter. By 3:30 PM I was about done for. People did show up but I sold considerably less on Sunday than Saturday. A few of my neighbors had large late Sunday sales. Most of the artists I talked to were disappointed with their sales overall.

Load out was similar to load in. I partially dismantled my display and packed up what I could and took the shuttle to get my car and the rest of my packing materials. At that point, around 6pm, my car said it was 95 degrees. I had planned on parking and bringing in the rest of my packing materials before taking my car onto the field, but there was ample space so I finished packing and loading directly into my vehicle. It saved me at least 40 mins load out time.

The organizers of this show may be on the right track with changing the venue and they are trying. There were definitely qualified buyers at this event and the art was good. A number of buyers were confused which show this was. They weren’t sure if it was the West Linn Fine Art Festival or another local show called Art in the Forest (which was cancelled for this year.) It will be a show I will watch and hope it takes off in this new location, but for the next couple of years, at least, it’s not one I’ll apply for.

Views: 372

Tags: Marylhurst, Marylhurst University, Northwest, OR, Oregon, West Linn, West Linn Fine Art Festival

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on August 5, 2013 at 11:29pm

Ouch!  Any show on the Western side of the Cascades in WA/OR is going to suffer when the temps are above 80.  Glad it was a local show for you, this is one that remains on our "watch list", I would love to find one summer show in OR that really works for the artists other than Art in the Pearl which we have given up donating our jury fee.

Comment by Lisa Foster on August 6, 2013 at 12:22am

Ruth, I know what you mean. I would like to have a decent local show that I can actually get into :). The interesting thing is I had similar results to Gig Harbor. Last time I did this show I sold one original painting and almost nothing else. This year I had multiple sales but all small. The total sales for both years was almost identical. I had one return customer that I really thought was going to buy a painting. She was my one original painting sale last time, but she ended up buying only 2 packs of cards. I'm wondering if I could have converted her to a bigger sale and let her slip by because I was just too brain dead. I think I was just going through the motions after about 3 pm on Sunday. I just got an awning for my canopy and I was glad I had it!

Comment by lulu moonwood murakami on August 8, 2013 at 11:00am

Hi Lisa, I was there, too.  This is definitely a show that should work, and hopefully artists turned in their surveys with some good, concrete suggestions for improvements.  While I love the quad set-up with uber-wide aisles for loading in and out, I don't think it was great for building up sales energy.  I saw a lot of "customers' sauntering down the middle of the aisle chatting, and not walking into any art booths!  I think narrower aisles could create more sales buzz.

Another problem was confusion over the new location.  Both the website and the on-street signage listed the show at last year's location.  These were things that should have been proofed and fixed well before the show.

It was a local show for me, as well, and thank goodness for one really good sale on Saturday to make the day worthwhile.  Sunday: hot, hot, hot, and no breeze or shade!

I'll be watching to see what the organizers change for the better.  Great group of people, wonderful volunteers - I hope I can do this show again when things improve.

Comment by Lisa Foster on August 13, 2013 at 2:47am

lulu, I agree the isles were too wide. As you said, loved it for load in and out but with a sparse crowd it didn't focus buying energy. I also found myself getting lost trying to find my own booth! :)

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