I know some folks are doing well and god bless them.  Frankly I'm tired of paying for so much up front only to have buy/sell next to me and having the organizers say,"well we won't have them back next year". Here's the news," I'm not coming back either." Not to mention the amount I'm putting out for jury fees.  I'm considering alternative venues.

My question to everyone is what was the best non-art show situation you have had?

I will share that a few years ago I got a call from a woman who was selling booth space in a hotel/convention arena. She got my name off Etsy and said she was in charge of the booths for a Jr College Administrators conference. She had about 150 booths and had about 30 left and thought she would offer them at the last minute at a discount to local artists and would spice the show up with art. So far the booths were mostly books and learning programs. But she offered me a booth for the day and a half conference for either 30 or 60 bucks. About 12 other local artists came too. It was the closest I ever came to selling out of product. I ran out of bags and packing material. I had only been doing shows for a year and didn't have a great set up but you would think these ladies had never seen jewelry before.

Is anyone doing better at farmers markets? School gym shows? I'm willing to beat the bushes because I don't want to give up seling art.

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  • I have a good friend who is doing really well on sales at farmers markets. She does them regularly, though and the sales add up over time - plus, she cultivates regular customers. Her fees are incredibly low, and this has gotten her through the rough economy.

    Also, recently I talked to some jewelry artists who have a nautical theme to their work. Their best retail show by far is a boatbuilder's show.

    • Good points, Carolyn.

      Last weekend at the St. Louis Art Fair a woodworker who makes amazingly beautiful boxes (think museum quality) told me he recently tried a show where people who collected fountain pens were buying/trading pens and it worked for him.

      So, can you think of anything out of your category, somewhere your art/craft would fit beautifully? Can you adapt something to a particular marketplace? Give that a try. Often you'll be the only one, big fish in a small pond, the fees will be lower and you might find collectors. This really works if you can or will do commission work.

  •  I too, sell my handcrafted jewelry. I do some of my states agricultural fairs= 3-7 day shows. Set-up once, tear down once, security at night.  I usually camp on the fairgrounds. The hours can be long ( 9am-11pm or later). I always open before the midway, which generally opens at noon, because I got decent sales before the crowds. These are usually to the midway vendors, church and social groups, nursing home groups, school groups etc.  I am listed as an "independant vendor" at these shows. These are my best shows, here. Granted, it's long hours, time away from home and family, camping can be a hassle sometimes, but I get a great return for these minor inconveniences. Not to mention NATIONWIDE exposure! I have customers in Illinois, Colorado, etc. who always call before their trip here to find out what my show schedule will be, so they can come shop in my booth.  It's less wear and tear on me, my set-up, my vehicle etc. as I stay onsite, except for the occasional store run, for food! I try NOT to eat the fair food, only allowing my self one day to eat the fair goodies. This keeps my expenses down, my profit margin higher, and I like the atmosphere. No public drinking is a big help too! These types of shows are worth the effort.

    • I know I mentioned agricultural shows before but just reporting in that I did a smallish agricultural show this past weekend.  A 2 day show, I was situated in the ladies pavillion (with the craft, art, photography etc., displays).  Lovely atmosphere, helpful head steward and lots of shoppers.   I do this one for % commission and its now an annual event.   Started small but has built steadily over the years to a good little $ spinner.    I wouldn't go out in the sideshow alley etc., area, but if you can speak to the ladies auxiliary or even the show secretary and ask about being situated IN a pavillion, preferably one as I mentioned above, it brings the ladies in :)

    • Thanks Karole! I'll do some research!

      • It's a good venue- the women love to shop while the men go for the racing, and carny stuff. Make sure you have a good banner stating "Hand Crafted" and "Locally crafted"- the women at these events are looking for good quality jewelry, not the buy-sell. I was amazed at the my first one- week long fair- my expenses were about 1/4 of my sales. But you must have insurance- they require it. 

  • This may not be for you, Robin, as I believe you are a jeweler but we had a nice income for several years by licensing my husband's images to greeting card companies, a big calendar company and gift bags. The place to pick up these clients is the licensing show held at the Javits Center in NYC in June or the stationery show, same place a week or two earlier. Although we did pick up our best clients at art fairs, one in Indianapolis at the Penrod Show and the other one in Minneapolis at Uptown. The great thing about this kind of business is that you don't have to do anything as you've already made the work and you are licensing the images!! No work, checks in the mail. I do love that.

    I know some wearable artists who put together shows in hotels that are near the shows and build up a nice following.

    Build your website! Did you listen to our podcast about that? It takes more time than money and once built it can be a showplace for your best pieces and/or a place to run sales.

  • I"m going to try the farmer's market locally. The internet sales are decent and the art gallery shows do well and I know that you never know where your biggest or next sale will come from. I think constantly working to get your name out there does work. Roy Lichenstein said he spent 10% of time creating his work and 90% of his time promoting it. To me that is so powerful. I'll let you know how the farmer's market show goes, I am doing a show at a friends place of business which should go well. I'm hoping a cost reduction will pay off for the some of the larger shows I want to invest in this year. I know the larger shows you never know who you'll meet which I can attest to the Jewelry Company I work for and the networking connection they made at a Javits Center Show which allowed them to hire a sales force from 1 contact. You never know who you're going to meet and the doors that can open. Best of luck. Stay positive and keep creating.



  • Just wanted to update this thread. And thank everyone who has contributed.

    I did a bluegrass and burgoo festival this weekend. The weather was beyond bad. Thanks to the leftovers from the hurricaine that spun up the ohio valley. Usually there where 11,000 people over three days. One night there was 34 people braving the rain. The poor promoter lost their shirt. 3 bands a night, equipement rental and staff, I can't even imagine.

    Weird thing was, though the spot cost me 150 for three days and I had about $1,000 in sales. I was thrilled. I even had a well-known gallery owner come by and buy 5 rings from me (wholesale... but that's fine) to start carying them in her case in the gallery (with my cards!) I am really thinking that this is the smartest thing I have done in a while.

    I am staying closer to home. There was only one other person with any type of jewelry there... the 2 for 10 dollars kind of costume jewelry.

    Oh, and instead of doing St. James Court this year, I have gotten in to do the Louisville Women's Club luncheon show. Another artist told me about it 2 years ago. She quit doing St. James because she said she made more at this show that doing St. James. It is held the day before and all the ladies who lunch shop the booths (tables really) in their huge antique house before and after the luncheon. So no tent, a short show and I will let you all know how it goes.

    I am eyeing a gun and knife show and am talking to people to find someone who might host a party for me.  Keep the ideas coming! I know I'm not the only one reading these posts.

    Oh, and I'm really doing research on the small craft shows connected to the high schools and churches. Some have been running for 25 or more consecutive years. Hey... I'm no snob. I'll set up in a gym if it's a good show!

    • So how did the luncheon go? I did the Casa fundraiser the night before St. James this year. Nice people, nice venue but not near enough sales to quit st. James.
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