Art Fair Insiders

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

While it has been a trying year for everyone in this industry in particular, I know I would be having this same discussion if there was no Covid19. I believe my level of frustration with art fair organizers is reaching new heights regarding arbitrary rulemaking and exclusionary policies. 
Background:
I am a part-time artist in Charlotte County, Florida, working in multiple mediums and in the last year I have been focusing solely on digital projects. Lately, I have a series of travel poster themed images, some serious and some humorous/tongue-in-cheek. I never intended this project to be under the domain of Fine Art. Are they art? Absolutely. I do consider them to be interesting designs that folks would like to purchase a print and hang on a wall. I also like that they have further applications for consumers, such as t-shirts, mugs, etc. I have sold several blowup posters and smaller prints locally and online. While I feel that these images won't necessarily win any awards, I do feel that I put a lot of work into them and people have proven they are interested by plunking down cash.
I understand art shows/festivals that are well known to be or advertise themselves as "Fine Art," have certain expectations with the artistic medium and presentation.
These are shows seeking artists who produce one-of-a-kind or limited production products which sell for moderate to high values and possibly could end up in a gallery or win an award. I would not try to enter my travel project in a show like this because I feel it's in a different category altogether. My ire is directed and lower to mid tier art/craft shows which don't explicitly advertise for fine art. Shows which occur all over the country throughout the year.

Here's the rub:

I absolutely do not agree with art shows and craft shows putting unnecessary restrictions on the the print mediums which 2D artists choose to market their work.(Especially shows that do not advertise themselves as fine art.) My project is well suited to be sold to the masses on high quality poster print blow-ups, rolled into a tube for protection and sold to the customer for $20-40. While I could have it printed as a giclee, canvas, or other high grade/limited production method, then mounted on board or in a frame, I feel this would be onerous or needlessly complex and expensive for what I characterize as an artistic travel poster.

What I found:

I just looked on Zapplication at the application for the Punta Gorda Holly Jolly Holiday Craft Fair and was dismayed to read through the rules. Digital Art must be "limited editions, signed and numbered on archival quality materials."  This very same event has categories for Soap/Bath products. If a vendor can produce a vat of soap, package it, and sell as many as they want to, why would you restrict the delivery process of someone else's medium?

In another example, the Punta Gorda Sullivan Street Craft Fair (which is Howard Alan btw), states, "PRINT POLICY: American Craft Endeavors will allow a limited quantity of offset prints, giclees, and reproduced work that must be clearly labeled as such." I would undoubtedly be penalized in some way if my entire inventory consisted of poster prints and other reproductions. However, this is a craft show with categories such as Candles, Soaps, and even Dips/Sauces. Really? You're going to put some restrictions on a guy trying to sell some artistic prints while the guy across the aisle is hocking bottles of Barbeque Sauce? What-the-He**?

It gets worse. For the April "Bloom in Art" event here, also on Zapp, the rules state, "Digital Art includes any original work for which the original image or the manipulation of a source material is executed by the artist using a computer. Work in this category must be limited editions, signed and numbered on archival quality materials. This gem includes categories for CBD Oil producers, Plant Growers, and Soaps/Lotions. Here's what the plant people have for their instructions: Plants/Garden:  Any and all plants and garden art. That's it. Why so many restrictions on certain other categories? If there is a standard that they are trying to meet, how do they reconcile that with allowing booths selling CBD brownies? The logic is missing something. 

Arguments:

The devil's advocate would argue that having prints available in all sizes which aren't limited edition could be seen as not being "hand-made", which is usually understood to be a component of these shows. I would argue that for all photography based mediums this definition is subjective. All photographic works must be replicated onto something in order for another person to acquire a copy of it. Whether the photographer prints it at home on his Epson wide format printer or sends it off to a lab, the results are essentially identical. 
I disagree with another argument that these rules are necessary to eliminate buy/sell. So a guy shows up with photography work and a truckload of mass-produced prints. They can't be certain that this person actually took the photo or worked on it. Okay. Does this really matter in the context of a lower or mid-tier art/craft show? Like all the other white tents out there, here is a another person with interesting artsy/craftsy things to sell. They also can't be certain the barbeque guy didn't just repackage Sweet Baby Ray's either. 

Final Thoughts:

It is incredibly disconcerting that there are so many artificial roadblocks in the way to try to find buyers. Other avenues such as flea markets are next to useless, with the average shopper looking for a phone case or cowboy boots. The value in art and craft fairs is that shoppers here are a "targeted audience", potential customers who are already interested in looking for things to hang on the wall. 
I think that it's time for artists to band together, democratically, and create our own shows. We could all pay a nominal fee (the true costs) to rent a city space, pay for the permits and portable toilets, and advertise through word of mouth. No juries, no application fees, no restrictions. Just art. 

Ok, enough ranting for a Monday. How is your Monday going so far AFI?

Frustrated in Florida

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Replies to This Discussion

Just like you are struggling with the show rules, the shows are struggling with the definitions within mediums. Especially smaller shows that usually get their definitions from larger shows who have done more research and spoken to established artists within the mediums they are defining. I wouldn't get into the editioning issue with photography because that's a whole different can of worms.

If you call your artwork posters, it means they are commercially printed, not a photographic process. If you want to apply in the photography category the work needs to be created using a camera and then printed as a photograph. Posters, greeting cards, puzzles etc. are not appropriate for art shows and never have been. If you create your work from scratch on the computer it's considered digital art and must abide with the shows rules for that category. You might consider looking at rules for other shows. And there's nothing to stop you from contacting the show director and discussing the issues you have before spending jury fees.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

I had this problem with my jewelry. I create my pieces by hand weaving vintage beads, pmc, bronzclay, pearls and using some of my vintage torched beads. I was rejected in several cases and was told “well you didn’t create those beads, or that the pmc/bronzclay wasn’t true metal work.” And when I went to the lower tiered shows, I had no sales. I was considered too ‘high end.’ It’s frustrating as all get out. 

Same here, although I don't do "craft shows" any more.

The last one I entered ADVERTISED as being a "crafts show-- hand made only", didn't get enough entries, so they expanded it to include "home businesses". Hard to compete with "everything $5" MLM jewelry, when ones' materials cost more than that. Didn't sell anything, and had a ring "evaporate" during a promo set-up (they had local news come and film, since this was for a school fundraiser-- and they had kids "shopping" as the focus).

Ann Marie - totally get what you’re saying. I’m also a beader but instead of jewelry I create unique suncatchers using beads, gemstones, metal, etc. combined with new or antique/vintage chandelier crystals. Finding Art Shows who will accept my artwork is difficult, especially out of state. Shows promoters are people and as such, have their own definitions of what is, or isn’t, art. (My sister is a successful wall artist and if she wasn’t my sister, I’m absolutely sure she wouldn’t look at my work as art. We’ve had discussions.) The shows that accept artists from all over the States if not the World have such a well of talent to choose from, why would they open the field to what they consider ‘not art’? I keep wondering if the pandemic will have an effect on how promoters look at who they’ll accept. People being people, I assume their prejudices will return once things return to ‘normal,’ but will there be a window of opportunity for those of us who have non-traditional forms of art?

Have several printed in large sizes, larger than 24x36, such as 30x40 or 30x45, perhaps larger. Frame them, mount behind acrylic. If you do it yourself, it's considerably cheaper than farming it out. Number the large ones going up to 250. The smaller ones need to be packaged in a clear acrylic bag with a backer, not rolled up in a mailer tube. The presentation is killing you as that is classic cheap poster sales methods. 

it doesn't take much to sign and number the posters, just put a number like x/250 or x/500. Edition numbers go  in the bottom edge middle and your signature over on the lower right hand number.

Just because they're humorous or light hearted, doesn't mean they're not art. Put an expensive tag on the framed pieces and keep your $20-$40 price on the smaller pieces. make sure your prices are not too low or people will think they're litho prints from China.

Your medium is digital or graphic arts. Lay claim to it and be proud. It doesn't matter where you have your work printed at; number it and sign it, and you've met the show's criteria. BTW, backer board and an acrylic bag will be cheaper packaging than a mailer tube and more efficient to pack. And not to mention a classier presentation.  

"The smaller ones need to be packaged in a clear acrylic bag with a backer, not rolled up in a mailer tube. " At Comic Con Art Show, most print artists matt and back, and put them in a fitted cellophane bag, then put on a hanger (plastic hook with adhesive backing). The best sellers are 11x14 and smaller, in "standard" sizes for which pre-made frames are readily available. Framed versions are not as popular-- #1-- don't fit in luggage as easily (attendees come from "all over" the world), #2-- many "collectors" have frames/limited spots on their walls, and rotate what goes into the frames; 5x7 (and even smaller!) can go in a standing frame on their desks....

"it doesn't take much to sign and number the posters, just put a number like x/250 or x/500." Also, if you are printing "on demand"/at home, you don't have to print them all up at the same time-- maybe print up 10 of each picture/size, except for the large ones you frame-- maybe only a couple of those, and let "disappointed late comers" know you have more available at home. 

I wouldn't use a merchandise hanger to display the bagged prints, a flip bin would be more acceptable. Many shows have a rule that framed pieces only are to be displayed on the walls, although metal and gallery wrap prints sidestep that as they are ready to hang as is.

The frames are done to appease the show organizers for a higher presentation standard, not so much for the buyers. It elevates the presentation. It adds some "sizzle" as it were.

For Comic Con, the Art Show is more like a gallery-- rows of 4x4' pegboard panels in the middle of the room, and 2.5x6' tables along the walls. Artists set up their panel(s) or table and leave until time to pack out-- unless they mail in their art, then they make a "map" on how they want it hung/set up, and a staff member sets it up. No bins -- no multiples of the same item, either (an original and a print of the original is allowed). Adhesive hooks/tabs with a hole are attached to the bag, not the art itself, and hung on pegboard hooks. Some artists put these about 1/3 the way down the back, so the tab/hook doesn't show. Framed pieces cannot have glass, and all but very small ones, must be wired for hanging. 3-D art and stand-up framed pieces go on the tables. 

Attached files show my panel and table from 2015 (can't take pictures of any except your own). I do crafts, rather than 2D art, but you can get the idea.

Attachments:

I remember applying to a show in Shreveport, LA, Red River Revel, several years ago.  I was mostly making travertine coasters and travertine trivets but had started added upcycled, refurbished home decor.  For the coasters/trivets I used 2, 3, 4 or 5 stamps with permanent ink to achieve the designs on them.  (I don't have the skills for painting them.)  For the home decor, I bought pieces that needed some love and upped their game by painting, staining, etc. and adding other embellishments as needed to make them beautiful.  My work was rejected because it was not "handmade."  Admittedly, I was mad and sad at the same time.  In the end, I think God saved me from a train wreck.

The show was something like 8 or 9 days, running from something like 10:00 AM to about 9:00 or 10;00 PM.  You could apply for the whole thing, all 8 or 9 days, or you could apply for the first or second half.  I had applied for the 2nd half which was like Thursday-Sunday.  We'd have to have left on two days before the show to allow time for set up due to the distance it is from us.  Then we probably would not have traveled home till Monday.  It was a setup for disaster for us with travel expenses.

I say all this to say that yes, some promoters/committees set arbitrary rules on submissions.  I guess since I was not making my own travertine tile that disqualified me, along with using stamps.  I suppose since I was not building the furniture or making the home decor pieces, that disqualified me.  Do they make canvas artists make their own canvases, make their own paint, make their own brushes?  Don't think so.  And again, maybe I missing something in my particular case, but I do get what you're saying, Jason.

Your last paragraph Cindy, is EXACTLY what my husband said to me. Painters don’t create from scratch their own paint or canvases, and potters do not create the elements that go into making their clay. High end jewelers do not create their gold or silver-and do not mine their stones. Let’s get real here. All artists create something wonderful out of materials they find that express the message that they want to share with others. Let us be the artisans that we are! Accept our process, please!

Ann Marie, think of how little art and beauty we'd have in our life if artists actually had to mine their stones and precious metals, or had to take time building canvases or go after the elements to create clay!

That being said, I have signed up for an online class to learn to make paint old world style.  It is custom made to make whatever the painted object is to look authentically old.  Will I use this exclusively and never use store bought paint again?  Probably not.  However I want to create/paint pieces to make them look more authentic in their patina, when in reality there no beautiful patina on it.  It's an alternative to what I've been doing.  I can't wait to pick up my studies in it now that I am through with shows till March.

I have always thought it unfortunate that technic and execution don't seem to count for much.

Does anyone ever say to YoYo Ma - "Yes, that was a very nice Bach cello piece, but what have YOU written lately?"

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