Art Fair Insiders

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

Hello everyone

I’m James and I’m getting ready to do my first shows as a photographer. I’ve been enjoying reading through the posts on the site, finding all sorts of answers to questions and general advice.

One question I’ve been think about, and haven’t found a post about, is where to put yourself during the show. Do you generally stay inside your booth or stay outside the booth? I’ve seen a lot of booth shots with 3 solid inside walls and nowhere to sit, as well as some set ups where part of the back wall is pushed forward to create a pocket inside the booth. Is this to give the people walking into your booth the space to browse without having the artist right there? If you sit outside your booth were do you generally set up your spot?

Thank you for your responses
James Wales
jameswalesphoto.com

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Either inside or behind. Never in front because it blocks your neighbor.

larry berman

Hi Larry

Seen a lot of your helpful replays on other posts and thanks for taking the time to replay. I was toying with the idea of rather then pushing a back wall forward to create a pocket in the booth, that I would remove a 1/3 of a wall and set up a sort of desk sunk into opening with a curtain behind. Ever seen something like that or have any thoughts?

I used to have a 7 foot selling area and a 3 foot area for inventory and sitting and an open back door so I could move back when it got really warm.

Larry Berman

Standing outside of booth is fine. Sitting not. Many shows will not allow a chair outside of your 10x10 space. Placement inside booth are must be so the customer don't have to walk past you to get it. This makes a barrier to be overcome. don't let them feel trapped. Although I have a chair, in most shows I likely get to sit about 15 minutes in a day. If I'm sitting a lot then it is a very bad show or I'm not doing my job very well.

one important exception, if the artist has a mobility limitation, being inside of a 10x10 space just being in the booth makes that space 10 x 4 or 5.  given that my chair has a 5" turning circle,  the problem is obvious.  I have found that asking for disability accommodation in applications tends to get juries to not accept our art. Sitting  outside of the booth may be the only answer 

The Amdur shows are really great on disability issues as are the smaller holistic & spiritual shows.  

Of course accommodations would be made for an issue as you described. that is the exception. Even with your situation, I think you would rather not to be blocking your prospective customers. When we have a choice, we don't want to crowd the customer nor create any perceived barriers to their travel into our booth.

We never setup our chair outside our booth in a way that it impedes the flow of traffic. If an artist were to position themselves so as to impeded the view or traffic flow past my booth, it would be have to be corrected. A 10' opening / window is small enough without obstacles. 

I never want to sit out in front of my booth or be in a location that blocks visitors.

My booth has two 30 inch doors...one on each side of the back wall. Unless we are back-to-back with another tent this gives the ability to sit just outside of the rear of the booth. The awning make sit convenient for shade or rain.

I also have a wood display table placed in front of the rear door that is 16" deep and it is part of my display and additionally provides great storage...especially useful if the show doesn't have storage area behind the booth. I have re-designed my booth display numerous times over the years for maximum space and function for most situations I have encountered.

I have come to love the shows that allow the vehicle to be parked, immediately behind our booth. They are not numerous or the best shows but a great perk. 

If we have space outside the booth I take my large, transport bins, on my cart, and cover it completely with a cloth. This makes for storage and another display surface, if needed. I have setup at shows where there was no storage space outside of booth as well as booths being right up against each other on three sides. 10x10 only. At times, in those scenario I chose not to set up my chair. Yup, no place to sit but I was fine with that.  I can handle being on my feet all day. I have a very bad back but I tolerate it.  i'm there to work and keep myself busy.

James, I took some advice from a more veteran artist and got a tall director's chair that I set right at the front corner of my booth.  That way, I can be present to greet people and engage them, but I'm not blocking them from viewing my art and they don't feel like I'm pressuring them while they browse.  And being in the tall director's chair, I am at eye level with them even if I'm sitting.  I keep the chair at the outermost corner of the tent, but still inside (unless there is room enough to bring it out without disrupting traffic or my neighbor).  Before that, I had a table in the back of the tent where I sat, and I would wander up front during the show.  Once I made the change, noticed an increase in sales and engagement with crowd!

High chair = yes.

Sitting inside, at the front of the booth, not great. It tends to make a perceived wall that customers have to cross. If you must sit within your booth display area, then sitting closer to the back is less formidable to the customer.

All of this is just preference to maximize success. Due to the situations at the show and limitations of our booth designs, we must do whatever we can, to the best of our abilities.

I want to be there, readily for the customers. However, not a line they must cross to see my artwork. 

First rule of sales = Attract attention. If this is accomplished from their walking by our booth- Great. We  must then encourage them to enter the booth to create desire. A perceived "salesperson" that they must cross to get there is an impediment. 

If there is a lot of room between you and the booth opposite you, you can position yourself outside the booth and facing it. I just did a show where many of the artists did this. It lets the browsers know you are there if they want to talk or have questions while not hovering.

A high chair - so you're not looking up at your customers - works best. I often sit in my tent. I have a Trimline with a back door and - especially when it's hot - will sit more in the back door area than inside my tent. Sometimes even outside the back wall in the shade when I put my back wall up. It's a mixed curse. Sitting inside blocks some of your art. Sitting in the backdoor means you can't use your backdoor for art (but often provides more air flow. I never sit by the front but sometimes will stand near the front to engage potential customers when they walk by. 

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