Art Fair Insiders

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

I just wanted to share a few thoughts (totally my own) on things I've observed over the past 15-20 years of art fairs and other venues where I've exhibited. If it helps anyone, that's icing on the gluten-free cake.

In no particular order.

  • I was born to create!
  • The art market can be (is) fickle because "art" is in the eye of the beholder.
  • I create for me. But, if I want to sell, getting customer feedback and researching trends are essential.
  • People really are nice out there! Especially other artists. Thanks everyone.
  • I'm an average guy/artist with average sales - probably. Although I've never not made a decent profit at any show.
  • Art fair promoters/directors over hype their event.
  • My wife and I have set up and tear down down to a science. About 45 minutes. Our record is 30! #kaizen
    • Keep simplifying your processes. It will pay off in the long run.
  • Weather happens! Plan for it.
  • What goes around comes around. We always donate artwork during art fairs. It could be an official donation to the fair, or we always look for someone(s) who just need to be blessed with a piece of art. It always comes back around in sales.
  • Attitude rubs off on those around you - including your customers.
  • I get giddy with every sale. Someone really wants to buy my artwork!
  • Take pleasure knowing that someone finds value in you and your work and are willing to pay for it. You are not a sack of groceries! 
  • Enjoy it! Think about worse things you could be doing. 
  • Above all be grateful, be graceful.

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Good words, how true, how true. except...

I NEED to see this 45 minute (30 minutes once) setup and breakdown.

The part about other artists being "really nice" just changed. I was I'm JEALOUS  :-)

Hey, Larry.

I'll admit I have a pretty simple set up. I use an EZ pop up tent and have Flourish mesh panels. I load our van so the tent comes out first. We set it up and then hang the mesh panels. The panels literally take less than 5 minutes. Tent walls go on next which take a few minutes also. I have my artwork (photos on canvas, metal, etc) mapped out for the panels so we quickly take the art out of each box and hang on S hooks. Then a 5' long table in place and set prints in crates on it and voila'.

Add a few minutes for weights or stakes - depending on the surface and we're done. For take down we just reverse. Except some things we take down before close. Weights and tent walls can come off if there is no chance of rain, etc.

I understand that most artists have more complicated systems than mine. But, simplifying keeps me coming back, and my wife, too!


I have a couple of Pop -Up tents also. However I like to use my Trimline. It allows me to go 8' and seems to have a better look.

I use the Flourish mesh walls also.

I use the S hooks also.

I map out, in advance, pretty much my layout.

3) Propanel print bins (no table).

2) awnings.

Banner sign.

However the tent, lighting, battery system...

Needless to say. I do it all alone. It takes me around 5 to 5 1/2 hours to do a complete setup.


Now, in my case, each and every photo is in it's own protective foam case, which are then  grouped into separate bins. So the unpacking and restoring the cases and bins, adds time.

Also I am working out of a vehicle that is very tightly packed, NOT in an efficient manner. So my setup would cut down tremendously, if I changed vehicles. This would allow a different packing system.

I'm working on coming up with a far more efficient system.

I need to follow you to a show and video, take notes, question and learn :-)

Good words of wisdom!  Very positive and encouraging. You just made my day!

Thank you for the positive! Customers pick up on that big time! love your input....continue with the good time and hopefully the money will follow!

Thank you for the great reminder. Especially the donation and being Giddy! I so love being Giddy! And not bagging groceries.

Love your positivity, Hal!  I'm just starting out, and only seem to hear negative stuff from more seasoned artist concerning showing.  I also have the EZ up tent with the Flourish mesh walls - it certainly does make set up easy, but I have yet to encounter any really bad weather.  Other than weighting the tent well (I've got 35lbs on each leg), is there anything else you can recommend that can help these EZ Up tents survive a bad storm?

Thanks for the post, Hal. Good thoughts and great attitude. I was shocked to hear someone can put up their operation in 30-45 minutes. I'm a newbie and my first attempt took 5 hours and the second 2.5! I'll be pretty happy when I'm getting this done in around an hour or so. When I saw Larry Sohn's reply I felt more normal! Hey Larry. . . here's back at cha' from someone in the same boat. I think I like the "be graceful" even better than the "be grateful." Seems like we have a long way to go in this culture in terms of civility. 

Rick, next time we are both at the same show, if we are close enough to each other, let's help each other. We can both do your setup, then both do my booth.  Maybe each will be done in half the time. Here is an idea, how about all the artists share the setups with all the other artists. Community effort. Hmmm, working together, what an interesting and different concept.

Larry, you are the slowest I've ever seen in terms of setting up and taking down. It takes you longer to close your tent up at night, than it takes most people to take their whole tent down at the end of a show.

You are right Barry. I take much longer. Protecting Fine Art work takes longer than pushing aside a bunch of Clay jars  :-)  :-) ;-P

I agree, my system needs alot of work. It displays very nicely. I just need better efficiency in accomplishing it. Also my terrible back impedes my efforts / speed.

A lot has to do with the vehicle I transport in. I neeed to go the Sprinter / Transit / Promaster route.

Wow, some really great tips and insights....




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