Art Fair Insiders

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

I had posted earlier asking about posting a photo and obviously, I figured it out. So, when you pull up my name, there's the photo right there of my booth. 

I love how this group covers a wide range of topics and lots of useful information is shared. Saturday, May 12th was my long anticipated "first" art show, I say that because actually, I had done some shows 35+ years ago!! A lot of time has passed, AND, my style is way more unique and original. 

The show itself was a inaugural event, in a historical section of the city. Beautiful weather, pleasant surroundings. For weeks I slowly plugged along, first getting my tent...next, stand up grids to hang my work, table skirt...the list goes on and on...

I had a specific "vision" as to how I wanted my booth to look: I wanted it to be crisp, neat and my art being the main focal point. I think I achieved this. Even the color of the table cloth was considered. Even had decorative stones on the table. 

I wanted my prices to be reasonable. I have my frames done at a wholesaler who does wonderful work. 

Now, here's where things got interesting and I really hope to get other's thoughts. I sold only UNframed work, I had art that was matted only, prices, as little as $3, or, up to $30. People hardly even looked at my framed work. Event workers even walked by as if I were invisible. A photographer zoomed in on booths on BOTH sides of me, walked past mine with not even a glance. 

The event information stated there would 5(?) awards: 3 Honorable Mentions, 1 Peoples Choice Award, one 1st Place & then Best in Show. The awards ceremony was to take place in a beer garden last hour of the event. I had even asked the organizers if they would provide a volunteer to "babysit" a booth while the ceremony was going on. Never got an answer. At 5:15, someone came to my booth and said "Change in plans...since the awards ceremony is the last hour, you can go ahead and start shutting down." Uh...ok....so, I left my husband to continue to tear down while I go over to the beer garden. So, here it is, 6:20, band is STILL playing, the guy goes "Ok, one more song & then we'll pass out the awards..." 

FINALLY...and here it is 6:35 or so...the awards...guess what...only THREE awards, 2 HMs & BIS. That was it. AND...the jurors were 3 art teachers from the city, all of which, looked to be no more than 25 years old. AND...not ONE SINGLE judge looked at my work. NONE. Even at 4:30, I asked the woman next to me if SHE had seen any judges and she said no. I posted a question on the Event Facebook page...and the response was "they made their rounds..." I heard someone say the judges went around "undercover" . 
 Needless to say, I was stunned, disappointed and upset. I hope I am not coming across as a sore loser. But just LOOK at my art and THEN do your judging. Is that a fair & reasonable request? I would want the judges to come around, clip boards in hand, introducing themselves and then talking with the artist. To do otherwise, and secretly, in my opinion is a huge disservice to the artist. I would WANT to know their thoughts, positive OR negative, I can learn and grow as a artist. In fact, earlier today, I was reading HERE a thread about judges and how for whatever reason, they can turn away VERY GOOD artwork while accepting works that may be mediocre. 

And finally, my question to this Group: Is there ANY one any more that buys FRAMED artwork? Does it take someone special to consider making thae judge, a High School Graduate, chosen because she was a straight A student in Biology!t kind of a purchase? People will drop money immediately at Pottery Barn for wall decor but original artwork, framed up by a local business in the community...another story. :(  

Thanks for reading, sorry it was lengthy. I look forward to any comments and feedback!

Cathy

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I acknowledge all your emotions and thought process from doing your first art show.  It’s pretty funny to see artists go through different stages of over analyzing everything.  I do it too.

if I were you, I wouldn’t give a care in the world about awards or clip board judges.   Your odds of winning are very low, like 1/100, at shows with 2-300 artists.   And if clip board judges do come in your booth, they are certainly not going to give you constructive advice as to why you didn’t win. Can you imagine what that would look like? Half the artists arguing back and forth defending their style or frame choice etc... not going to happen. Even if they don’t like your work, they will smile and give a generic complement and keep walking.

The real art jurors are your sales. They are what tell you to your face if what you are making is unique or skilled.  Look at patrons faces as they look at your work. Take off your art badge and stand around aloof listening to what people say about your work when they think the artist is gone.

Framed work still sells, not as much though.  Look at what other people in your medium are doing and take notes if you see trends working. The art show business is constantly two steps forward, one step back, up a slow ascension until one day, one glorious day long from now, you will have reached a point where you break even for the show and didn’t lose money at the stupid thing.

Thank you Dori for taking the time to read my rather lengthy post! And despite my emotions and reactions, you are right, its not about IF I got an award, for me and this Show, it was about the judges actually LOOKING at my work, be it 10 seconds or several minutes. That's all I expect, is to be viewed. And no, I wouldn't expect, or ask for any feedback right there on the spot. Just look, say something if you like and then move on. 

This coming weekend I am going to another Event, not as a participant but as a attendee. I plan on having fun meeting other artists, seeing their works AND getting feedback from them about art shows in general. Yup, maybe one day...in the far future...the huge credit card debt I ran up for THIS show will be paid off!  lol....

Catherine, I too was at the same event. It was my first show also. I agree the judges and planners just did not do what they stated in the program. One of the prizes was supposed to be for “ first timers”. No mention of that at the award ceremony. I actually got a purchase award from one of the sponsors but that wasn’t announced either! Let’s hope next year will be better. All in all though I had a wonderful experience and learned a lot from other artists. I think you and I both were very lucky in our locations.

I hope that the organizers ask for feedback from the artists so that next years event will be better. Where was your booth? I was on Warwick Blvd in front of Act II. One thing that I KNOW I will do differently next year, is to sit IN my booth! I had my chair up against the wall of Act II...in the shade...so when people walked into my tent, they seemed hesitant to pick up & look at the art, thinking, the artist was out & about, on break or something. As far as the awards, I was told they will be posting on FB in the next few days the winners and the judges. 

I see these things happening all over, and I am grateful we have had good experiences with judges. Re: the framed art - I strategically select the framed art to draw people in, even when the matted pieces are selling much more. Customers will give a cursory look at the booth walls to see if they like the work enough to come in. If we are fortunate enough to have a spot with some visibility down the row, I always hang one of the brightest pieces where it can be seen from some distance. Framing is an investment in marketing, even if the pieces are not selling.
I like that phrase you just used... “framing is an investment in marketing, even if the pieces are not selling”. Well said.

I did the same thing at the last one. I hung the brightest at the edges of the booth so people would be drawn in and then put a small framed painting on an easel at an angle pointing into the tent and a lot of people stopped and looked at it. They did not, however, continue on into the tent to look further. That just tells me they weren't there for art.

I even had one group of about 8 rude people stop and have a fun 15-minute reunion right outside my tent (an inch or two from the painting on the easel) - blocking anyone from entering. I had to tell them to move! They thought it was funny. MAYBE there is just very little respect for actual painting artists at "art fairs" anymore?

Sorry you had this experience. I have had many like it myself. The questions are unanswerable because everything depends on where your show is and what type of demographic showed up. More and more art fairs these days are "events" with drinking, contests, kids activities, lots of food, music, etc. Less and less emphasis is given to the ART and as a result, people who attend these "festivals" have all kinds of motives for being there. Unless you are in a juried, "fine art" fair with no crafts, no jewelry, no furniture, etc. it's a crapshoot. I have concluded one thing for sure: there has got to be a better way to sell fine art than at festivals and these outdoor art fairs.

You are right, many people just walk on by. The last one I was in was about a week ago and the people clearly were not there for art. They were there for all kinds of reasons, least of all the art, IMO. I did sell one small framed painting but it was literally DURING takedown and I think that was the point, the guy asked me for a "deal" as I was breaking down my tent and at that point I didn't care what I sold it for, which I'm sure he was counting on.

Honestly I think serious art buyers buy online, and that is where my focus is going to be from now on.

Interesting. At my first show, most people wanted my framed art. There were a couple prints I had only as matted prints and not framed. They asked me if I had it framed. I guess it really depends. Next show I framed and only the matted sold! Hahaha! Fickle fate. I'll just have both on hand at all times from now on.

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