Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Lessons learned by a newbie.
Birds of a feather…find your own flock…. This is my fourth year attending Arts & Crafts Shows and Festivals. My first year selection of shows was based on good advertising, word of mouth and shows that were within about 2 hours of home. I was excited to be accepted to ANY shows my first year. Wow – they let me IN!!
The second year I realized some of the “art” shows carried a lot of buy/sell. I was not making a whole lot of money and thought to myself “they pay $50. for that junk but won’t spend $30. on my beautifully double matted photography that they “just LOVED!” as they moved on. Hmmm.
The third year I realized I was the one out of place despite the “must be made by artist” clauses. The public was there and they had plenty of things to buy the kids or decorate their homes. They were having a lot of fun eating funnel cakes and watching parades but what I had was not what they wanted to spend their hard earned money on. I am not there any more. They probably don’t even know I am gone and I don’t miss them. More power to both of us.
This fourth year with growing confidence I am applying to smaller and more competitive fine art shows, put on by art associations. I am winning awards and doing very well in sales. Yeah. I am finding my nitch. My profits are way better. Often times the entry fees are much smaller too.
Present with quality if you want to be seen as quality… I also attend some VERY large Arts and Crafts shows during the holiday season. There is a wide variety of fine arts, beautiful crafts, flavored dipping oils, cinnamon almonds, chips dip and soup venders. They have hundreds of artists and thousands of shoppers. I did OK the first years. As I look back at pictures of my booth I am surprised I did OK. My photography has improved, but even more so my presentation has been significantly elevated. We spent the money to get quality display materials. I eliminated a lot of my “ok” pieces. Anything that is not value added is eliminated. I have less variety but everything I have is top quality and attractively displayed. I work the crowd with my eyes and smiles. When they pause at the entrance to my booth and admire my work I invite them to browse. We engage in conversation and laughter. I hand everyone who comes in my booth a business card with my contact information and thumbnails of some of my more popular work. In the large shows the card also has my booth number so after they have “seen it all” they will be able to find me again among the hundreds of other booths. Or they can, and sometimes do, contact me after the show and order their gifts to be shipped.
Speak softly and maybe you won’t have to carry a big stick… I am not much of one to talk negative. If I can’t say somethin’ nice I don’t say nothin ‘tall. I just quietly take a different path. However, I attended a very nicely run show last year. There was a good mix of art and crafts. Unfortunately there was a commercial vender directly across the walk from my booth in their 10x20 foot store in a can. The merchants were so intrusive and obnoxious hawking their wares in the middle of the sidewalk that shoppers ducked their head and basically ran through the gauntlet to avoid the hassle. My sales were not so great. After the show letters were sent to both the promoters and the customer comments site of the vender. We received very nice letters from both promoter and management. We went back to this show. The commercial vender was still there. They were on a side street with similar venders and while the sales people were still in the middle of the sidewalk they conducted their selves in a much more professional manner.
I am sure I have a lot more to learn and appreciate all the constructive comments and information provided on Art Fair Insiders. Thanks everyone.
A very interesting read from a year ago! Things really haven't changed that much. As I was reading Sherry's first post I thought "ahhh, welcome to the show scene in Australia"...
I have a show scheduled in a fortnight - small but with a lovely setting and what should be a well-to-do crowd. I spoke with the organiser last night to check on what other jewellery would be there (as last year there was 60% jewellery which was far too much - all of it buy/sell, except for me, and obviously everyone suffered with this set up). She has told me it has reduced and there will only be 2 other sellers who do jewellery (both buy/sell - they do a lot of other things eg. hats, scarves, wraps but seem to always have a lot of jewellery as they say its easy to transport) but they are also both local so probably known to the crowd. One of them called the organiser the other day and said she 'had just been to a trade fair and has TONS of stuff". Great.
So now I have to make the call - drive three hours each way for a 5 hour show. My product is obviously different and OOAK and my presentation will be far different - but I obviously need something that will work like a sledgehammer to inform/educate the person walking by that its handmade etc, when they hardly know me. (I do have "handcrafted" on my sign).
I probably should just say no, but shows have been thin on the ground around here this year and I feel I should give it one more try. Decisions, decisions, oh how I hate them sometimes!