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

At a loss for what to do..what if the judges don't get or like your work...

Sorry so long...

I sell ok considering the economy, by selling online,but it's getting harder.I seriously think the few shows I've gotten into were a fluke,considering the high rejection rates.

Gotten into three shows, 1- made expenses plus, on one show, 2- lost my arse on another , it was really bad, loads of Buy/Sell and 3- I sold a couple things at one plus award saved my bacon, mostly due to ,long drive $800 in gas , and high hotel costs...Stayed at a cheaper hotel,as cheap as you can get in Orlando in Nov...

I got an award on my freakiest piece,my octopus hand flower, people of all ages, not just kids, loved it,surprisingly..

I like what I make,I make what is in me to make and my customers love it,but judges don't seem to...One show,I had to show a picture tutorial of how I make my jewellery for them to get it...Which actually I didn't mind, if they did more of that it might cut down on Buy/Sell. The bad part was none of the judges knew a thing about jewellery creation...

One of my pieces was a hand made pair of  sterling eye glasses, they didn't know people could make their own eyeglasses...so I did a picture tutorial of myself making eye glasses from frame to lense cutting , beginning to end.

Rarely I do get a response as to what they see wrong, or that I can improve.. Mostly I see that it's style...

The most common response I get is it's too representational,we're looking for minimal clean gallery , high art pieces.

It's not what we're looking for, or doesn't fit into the show... it's too different,we want a cohesive show.

Too busy,too weird was one. Considering I've seen pieces made from drywall screws wired together in a necklace.

Not creative was another..Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and should be in Comic Con was another...

From the responses I got, it must be my work...

I looked at a well known show, they do Jan, Feb,March, looked at the jewellery for all three months and for previous two years,all the same artists,all three months and both previous years... all the jury piccies were the same...for each show...

A lot of the jewellery styles were similar to each other,nothing at all like mine...

Isn't it about diversity?

I had a friend who made ornate fabulous pieces for years, no problem jurying, and always great sales...then she ran into the brick wall of minimalist tastes at jury...So she began doing what they liked to get in, jury,minimalist type pieces would just sit there... and the gorgeous ornate tribal pieces that sold like hot cakes.  The judges would praise her minimalist pieces when they  judge her booth  but chastized her it not being the bulk of her inventory..

I can understand the rational.

She told them, "my ornate work sells, the juried stuff that got me in, doesn't...if it did, I'd make more of it! They told her shows were about promoting fine art, she told them ...then don't charge so much for booth fees, artists can't afford to be a traveling art  exhibit... She never won an award at a show, but made her money in sales...

I'm about ready to give up. I can't make what I think will get juried in. It's not what's in my soul...I wouldn't be an artist just a jewellery maker.

I had to do that to get through college,it was all about abstract and minimalist, non representational art..anything else wasn't considered creative... So I fell into line, did what they liked,they loved it,they thought I had an epiphany... Had a highly praised senior show, sold nothing,melted it all down after the show, made what I loved and sold most of it...

I don't see a lot of representational realism in jewellery,I do in sculpture but not so much in jewellery...

I like making pieces that will keep the person interested, they find something different each time they look at it...

Granted some of my work as a fantasy component, but also nature and other elements. The octopus hand flower isn't everyone's cup of tea. But one older lady liked it enough to have it done in gold! Which I'm working on now...

I just don't have the money to make jewellery and have photographed, keep submitting to shows, that isn't going to get past jury and the economy isn't getting better and online only goes so far.. plus I like shows you get to meet people, see what they like and how they respond to your pieces. You don't get that sitting in studio and selling online...

Maybe what I do isn't art,so juried art shows aren't my venue..

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I looked through this link initially to check out booth shots for ideas...

http://www.woodlandsartsfestival.com/artists.directory.asp?MediaID=6

but I also saw something that I see at pretty much every juried show... The same style my college professors told me to make instead of what I like to make...

To me, I'm not trying to be mean or critical and I'm no expert, but all of it was either modern, abstract, architectural ,much of it minimalist,not one piece of representational jewellery, no floral no nature , not a thing similar to mine...

I do like some of the jewellery ,my favourite was Don McCoy, wow! They're so alive and vibrant,amazing! I want one of all of them if I could afford them! Judy Gosky, nice pieces and they all look like they match as a set. Micheal Stephens jury shots were kinda hard to see, dark busy background...

Much if it I don't care for but I see the work and skill and it's amazing.. I can appreciate it for the creativity and skill,even if it's not my style..

I know they don't care for my style either... I can tell by the looks I get from some of the artists at shows...

I think it only proves my point, I'm wasting my time and money...

I was told by the shows I got into  because my pieces were so different than what normally juries in... I took that as a good thing.. I'm seriously at a loss...

One of the things I heard years ago was that you can do work for show or you can do work for dough, but seldom do the two meet. Do enough of the show pieces to get in the shows, and do enough of the other pieces to make your dough.

My college professors said that too..

Unfortunately the judges didn't agree..

My friend did that and ,the judges came back with the show promoters told her to put away her "dough" pieces and only display her "jury" pieces or she'd have to leave... She was surprised they didn't make her pack up straight away,probably because while she was packing up the "dough" pieces, people were buying some of them on the spot!

She never got back into that show again. Not long afterwards, she just quit...

Michelle, I can tell you one thing that is very important. You can not loose faith in yourself. As soon as you that is time to start digging that hole (you are dead).

First who buy your work (demographics and age group). Do not apply to show just because they are well ranked. You apply to great ranked shows where you believe your work will move. You can change your design but still be your style.  For the time just whatever shows you can and keep expenses down but do not cut down so much that you will regretted.

My honest advice, work in very economical line but have a set of pieces that impress you. when you get ten or twelve then hire someone to take the pictures. This pieces should your showcase pieces. If they sale they sale but this are the pieces that you do best skills and heart. When you finish one make one better.

One thing for all us things are stuff but in this days  is to create a great piece with great quality at the right price. That means that your profit instead of 10 times would five time. Also do not under price yourself.

The few shows,I've done, I had pieces in the $100- $300 range, not easy with what I do.. It's hard to keep to down since I do lost wax, it's costs a lot to fire up the burnout kiln and I can only cast 2-3 pieces at a time,small kiln.. plus I do all the work myself so I can't pump out pieces..I don't do Cad/Cam so it takes a lot of time to carve,sprue,cast and assemble before I get to the polishing and finishing stage..

I did more silver pieces to bring it down, I alloyed shibuichi since it's mostly copper and silver, cheaper than silver...

The cheaper stuff sits, I didn't lower the quality of stones,but I did find some nice antique glass instead of opting for blue topaz and amethyst and more common stones. Exotic stones sell better for me...

It's not sales that are hurting,if I can get into shows,except for Orchard Lake, lots of Buy/Sell. Winter Park isn't a high selling show from what many have told me,but first time,I made expenses plus,considering I have $1500 in expenses before I set up with the 1100 mile drive, two days of hotels and and food, then booth fees. That's what really kills me and I can't seem to line up more than one show.If I could line up a couple shows it would help...

I've applied to local juried shows,not many around, haven't gotten in one less than a 4 hour drive away from home...

I thought cheaper price points will help... what sold high were all pieces in gold, in the  $1500-$2000 and up range none of the cheaper pieces sold..I also had customers order pieces after the show too...

My biggest hurtle is getting past jury when they call it "Lord Of The Rings" which is Celtic style and my pieces aren't Celtic , I haven't got a chance.

I can get into non juried craft shows but don't sell anything since they allow Buy/Sell from China and flea markets.

Hi Michelle,

I too have done lost wax casting and understand the long, arduous process it is. I also understand about the kiln size as I learned the craft in school too and we did not have a great studio. Isn't it strange the things we're told to explore and the interesting critiques we receive afterwards? That was totally sarcastic if you didn't get that!

I have to say that when I saw your work, I was blown away! It's a hard thing to create something so beautiful and unique out of wax, making sure there are no bubbles, creating your vision and then casting it and PRAYING that the metal will fill the mold and you won't have to start over again. I remember that very fondly.

I have been doing art fairs for a long time with my Dad and Step-Mom. Since they juried a lot of shows, I asked Connie at the Ann Arbor show one time to explain to me what it was they looked for. We went up and down the street we were on and looked at the art. You can tell the difference between the "art" and the "crafts" just by looking at it. There is high craftsmanship in great artwork. There is a unique quality to the great art out there. Unfortunately, not all juries understand the art they're looking at. That is why when my Dad applied to shows, instead of saying what his work was (black and white hand-colored photography), he called them 'Silver-floss prints'. The technical term for black and white photography. So if you have to give them a tutorial of what you're doing to get in, do it.

 

The other thing I wanted to mention is that the more low price items you have, the more you'll sell those instead of the pieces you actually want to sell. People may compliment you on your pieces but if the lower priced ones are placed out prominently, they'll buy those instead. Obviously, the lower price sales may save you at a show sometime but selling those higher ticketed pieces because that's what you have to show will ultimately save the day. You may sell nothing but when you do, it's SO worth it!

To save money, try to learn how to photograph your work yourself. It takes a bit but other people can help you with this until you get the hang of it. And while you're doing shows, try submitting your pieces to galleries in the meantime. Or at least places your work will be publicized while you're promoting at the shows. You can also see if there are any other artists willing to share a hotel room at a show.

I hope some of that helped. Don't be discouraged because you obviously have talent and a love for what you do and if you give it up, you may regret it.

 

Wouldn't it be a better world for practicing artists if jurors had to have had real world experience selling their art before they were allowed to jury work for a show? I saw a T- shirt at the Colorado State Fair that said "Some Judges Don't Have a Clue". How true about some of our mediums. The latest idiocie for my medium of leather is a show the puts leather in "wearable fiber art" and then says you can have no manufactured components. Try selling belts without buckles or the fasteners that hold a buckle on a belt. How about a purse strap without a buckle. LOL ahh people that like to micro manage minutiae.

Sadly since they don't have a clue , it's how so much Buy/Sell gets in.. I see a lot of stuff that comes from Bali manufacturer Sajan, it looks a lot like the art pieces being made for shows so it slips right through...

Most jurors that I've read about their background are in fine art galleries or professors at colleges, teaching about art but not actually making any... unfortunately juried art shows think only people with gallery backgrounds have the expertise to judge art... sorry but these are the same people who have art exhibits with cows cut into slices and displayed between glass or the Virgin Mary covered in feces...

The same people who don't know the difference between art nouveau influenced or nature jewellery with dolphins and sea turtles or ladies with flowing hair...from  Lord of The Rings which is more Celtic influenced...

Artists are influenced from so many cultures,you'd think an art professor or gallery owner would have some clue ,having taken at least one art history class in college..I know I still remember many of the styles from my art history and can see a past style's influence,even on a modern styled piece... I think juries should be artists ,they generally recognize Buy/Sell when they see it, even if it's not a medium they work in, they may have worked in many mediums in their early days...

Art galleries are wonderful places to look but they're a pretty homogenous in their inventory.. The average person person isn't going to have in their living room.. Face it most of the people coming through art shows are average people.I've had a few good sales to average people. They really don't care if the jury is made up of prestigious art gallery owners or professors.

You get some upscale collectors ,but even those collectors aren't allergic to a cheap deal.

I had a couple artists tell me they do it for the cash awards.....I don't know how true that is,I heard that at Winter Park,they said they don't sell much there, but usually win an award, plus they do the who circuit in Florida for two months and win at least 4 awards which  pays the bills and sell a bit at certain shows that do bring good collectors...

I don't know what to think...

As for buying components..

I knew a lady who did leather purses and belts too, she had to make her own buckles...a lot of work...back when silver was $4 an ounce,she could afford to do it, but not now...

I find the same thing in jewellery, many CAD/CAM their waxes, have them send out to be cast ,they might set the stones and finish it,but if they're designing it on the computer, the machine carves it out,they send it out to be cast,so less than half of it is actually done by the artist themselves, people like me who do it all from start to finish are at a disadvantage...

Many use manufactured findings.Only thing I use that's manufactured is chain for a cheaper pendant, can't afford to put the time and money into a hand made chain and clasp for a $100 necklace.I use manufactured lever backs for my $75 -$100 earrings...

My higher end neck pieces,I make the chain and clasp. I also make the clasps for my bracelets.

Shouldn't a high percentage of the piece actually be done by the artist?

I remember when I was helping my friend Sandy with shows, her art work as so creative and very labour intensive...then the minimalist abstract movement started to keep her out of shows.Shows where she sold a lot,if she could get in... When she had to make pieces for jury and pieces for sale (some for show, some for dough). it killed her...literally.

Don't see any changes coming, plenty of colleges pumping out "formula" artists and plenty of artists trying to jury in.. Maybe attendance is down due to the economy, I know buying is down..I've heard from many people that do through shows that they think the minimalist conceptual pieces aren't interesting.

Not bragging but I get lots of compliments on my pieces from people walking in and a few buyers, while judges walk in and turn a nose at my work... in fact the stupidest question I got from a judge was "did you make all this yourself?   I'm thinking,I'm fat and pale ( artist's arse) because I work in studio for hours on end instead of doing other things like going outdoors and exercise...lol!

Michelle, I wonder if maybe you could do better in niche markets. I understand what you're saying about your style, but it might APPEAL to the people who are into sci-fi, fantasy, Lord of the Rings, Renaissance Faire, SCA, RPG, etc. There's a lot of geeky people who dig that stuff, and they have money. Just a thought.

Hi Michelle – I love your items – beautiful work.

I agree with what a couple of other people have said on here – you need to find your niche market.

I see on your page where you started doing shows back in March 2012.  Although it’s easy to say (and much harder to afford) you need to give it some time and try different promoters.  When I started out back in the 90’s it took me years to develop a good show schedule – and even now it can change from year to year. 

With high quality / very taste specific items such as yours it can take a different kind of show to be successful.  Those “Top Show Lists” can basically be thrown out the window – you need to find shows that cater to your particular style and quality of your product.  Huge crowds – although nice -  don’t necessarily matter since you don’t need to be a volume seller anyways (you’re not selling $10.00 items).

Although we’re in two totally different markets (woodworking vs. jewelry) I believe the premise is the same.  I always felt that if the promoter doesn’t want me – I don’t want them.  If they don’t understand my product - then they won’t understand how to get the people in that would buy from me anyways. 

Best of luck to you – and never sacrifice the uniqueness of your work just to get into a show – find a promoter that appreciates your work instead.

Ive done sci fi and ren faires, most of the patrons are adult living in their parents basements and no money.... I wish I'd met some people who are into geeky stuff that have money..

Ren faires are mostly Celtic art ,same with Lord of the Rings. My stuff isn't Celtic, my pieces aren't Sci-Fi so the hard core Rens and LOTR and Sci-Fi collectors aren't into my work...

I don't have trouble selling at shows,I have trouble getting in with the shows because they don't think anything that isn't abstract minimalism isn't art.

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