Art Fair Insiders

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

Most shows,I barely make expenses. The last two,I lost my arse..

I haven't done a show for a year, last one was Amy Amdur's "Bling" and that was another expensive one to do..Her Gold Coast show, we laid out over a grand on booth fee, travel and hotel , paying to park at the hotel at $45 per day,then at the parking garage near the hotel was another $45 per day...and I sold Zipp,Nada, big goose egg... I wasn't the only one..even the buy/sell people near me were complaining...

Did "Bling" in November,hoping for the best since it was close to Christmas... sold nothing at the show but a lady did put one $500 ring on lay away in December,she's still paying on it... uuugghh.

I have lost money doing shows so I just quit...I can't afford to travel, the hotels and $500-$600 booth fees not with going through cancer treatment the last 2.5 years. Booth fees are so high, jury fees going up..cost of materials, how art artists making it?

I make more money on Etsy and sell more on Etsy than I do at shows...and I don't have cheap stuff..

I managed to make pieces under $100 once silver dropped,but not one of those cheap pieces sold,even though that's all I hear from people is "do you have anything under $100 or even worse..anything for $25....

It's really hard to make silver, let alone gold jewellery cheaply... no wonder people do "buy/sell" at shows now...

I made more money not doing shows, and I like doing them,I love seeing the art and it's fun to travel and to meet other artists.. might just have to stick to visiting the shows..

I'm sure it's the same old lament with many of us...we sell less, and we're competing with more buy/sell,booth fees and jury fees up.. sales down...

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I am finding sales down in the last year even at smaller shows like I do.  Our economy in south Louisiana has taken it's hit finally, in the last year.  When the rest of the country was doing dismally, we were still going strong, then finally took the hit.  That is how it's always been down here.

I sell on Etsy too.  Even if I decided to quit shows I'd still sell on Etsy.  That way when one part of the country's economy is down I have the rest of the country to work with.  I am not limited to who is attending the shows either.

It is hard for me to scratch out a living doing shows with all the expenses, as you said.  My best sellers are coaster sets at $28/set of 4.  It takes a lot of them selling to make it.  I do have other price points though.  I have car coasters at $7.  Those just had a price increase because my blanks are costing more.  It is not like I can sell one painting or piece of pottery and make several $100.  My highest priced item is a wooden cross that painted with pigmented beeswax and it's right around $50.

I feel your pain.  Maybe others will drop in here and offer some advice or sympathy.

No, not at all. The little 10 am to 3 pm one day show at church (Blog: Hilltop Art Fair) with only about 500 people attending produced a little less than $500. Two post show sales/orders kicked it up to a little less than $700. I resumed managing my own investments again after a hiatus of about 7 years and the market is treating me well. The economy has recovered, people are optimistic in an election year and I am optimistic about good sales in the resort ares this summer. My medium: leather with lots of diversity, my region: Colorado, product price range:$20 -$6000. 

Richard,

The economy may have recovered in some places but here in south Louisiana we are in the middle of a big down turn.  As I stated we are almost always later than the rest of the country in downturns and in subsequent recovery.

I am not so sure people down here are "optimistic in an election year."  Sure there is a lot of discussion about it but I am not hearing too much optimism.

What does all that say about sales?  I don't have a crystal ball but I know the shows I've attended in the last 9-12 months have been down in sales.

I hate election years!

For us, overall sales are always off in general during leap year. Sure, we may have one or two great shows, but not so much anymore. And the closer we get to November, the tighter the customers become. And after the election, only half the people are happy.

I'm not going to get into the Presidential election because I am a minority here in my political beliefs, but I can tell you for sure that overall the people in the country are not happy overall. And when the people are not happy, they don't spend on things they don't need. And guess what... that's exactly what we're selling! That's something I was told back in 1980 at one of my first shows.

"There's nothing at an art fair or craft show anybody needs. Nothing."

Chris I agree 100%.

Chris-I agree also!!

Oh, if they don't buy belts or suspenders, their britches will keep falling down. How do you carry that gun without a holster? Need a leash and collar to keep track of your dog? How about a billfold for your cash and credit cards. Oh your horse stepped on your reins and broke them.... and the list of needs goes on and on. Also I have a personal need to put art on my walls, bronzes to enjoy,  pottery to use and whatever jewelry I don't make to thrill Jean. And we need to buy gifts for weddings etc. and what is more unique than art at a show. 

Yes, people need the things you mention, but do they need your work?

We in the business appreciate the quality of the work at a show, and will not hesitate to buy because there are still exhibitors out there who make useful things, and we need a lot more of them! I haven't purchased a coffee cup from a store in over 40 years. Every one I have ever had came from a potter at a show. Because I knew that the potter put him/herself into making them.

Richard, you're a craftsman. And craftsmen are a dying breed today, especially at shows because we make something useful.

Look around at the shows today. How many booths are manned by craftsmen? Where are the wood workers who would turn bowls or make furniture? The two biggest categories at shows used to be wood and jewelry. Today it's just jewelry. Where are the tinkers? I only know one tinker today, and he keeps getting accused of being a B/S merchant by the B/S Nazis who troll the shows. Today chandlers just pour wax into jars, ad a wick and some fragrance, just like every other chandler.

Where are those one exhibitors who have something completely different, and are the only ones at the show doing it?

The customers are asking the same question.

Agree that what I make is utilitarian, but there is the mechanical side and the embellishment where the art comes in ...as told to me by the old guys I apprenticed with. I've been at this for 57 years now and I've been done shows for well over 20. In the early years I resisted making what I heard people asking for as I thought I knew better. Then I began to listen to what they were asking for: thinner billfolds, belts for their buckles, dog leashes and collars. It all added up to more sales. Latest were those dinky magnetic money clips. Ok, they will use up some of the smallest scrap so I decided to do some. I was all set to sew them up and Fa La they wouldn't feed on the sewing machine. The magnets stick them to the steel needle plate. I talked to a couple others guys and they found out about orientation of the poles the hard way LOL. I had to turn mine over and sew from the inside which I don't like the looks of. Solution: make a brass needle plate for the machine and put it on with brass screws.

I had good shows, my first three of the year - Tubac (AZ), 4 Bridges (TN) and Arts in the Park in Richmond, VA. More than 10 times booth fee for each.

Silly me, I thought it would just continue like this - but not so. The show this past weekend in Crozet, VA, was abysmal. (I will write a review anyways). I made booth fee, expenses and about $20. And my art was on their postcards, posters and programs. People were buying from artists and crafters around me, but not from me. Many of the people around me were from the area, and I think that might have made a difference? 

I had my work on their postcard (I was so proud)-but that's all it got me too. No sales. We tried it twice after that. Still nothing. Not a local either. So we stopped applying.

I am a jewelry artists using sterling silver, gemstones and I hand paint glass to use in some of my designs. I live in South Carolina and have been doing shows since 2011 all of them in SC. I have noticed that the amount of income has gone down in shows I did in the past compared to this year. Actually a decline every year. I was thinking of branching out and trying some of the higher dollar juried shows, the ones with $30 jury fees, $300+booth fees (+travel and hotel expenses), but I had a 30+ veteran painter tell me  she dropped all those kind of shows and now does smaller shows and festivals (no jury fees/$100 booths) because she makes just as much if not more profit from the smaller shows. She tells me it's all about the bottom line. I have to note that she was very forthcoming with her pricing method and she only prices a couple dollars above the whole sale price (material costs + hourly wage+ overhead = wholes sale). Example a 12" x 12" canvas for approx. $18. Sounds low but she said she wants to sale it, not keep it. She has (as a single mom) paid for a house, car, bills, raised 3 kids, etc. for 30+ years, all on this income only. Sooo she must be doing some thing right. I may have to rethink my materials and my pricing. I am also trying to narrow my jewelry designs to the hand painted glass and work in some of my paintings on canvas. I would then have two mediums and that is for another discussion. 

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