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

I just did my second small craft market event yesterday, and would appreciate some frank feedback on my booth and/or products. This was in a church parking lot.

I had quite a bit of interest in my work, but hardly any sales. What might be the best venue for this type of work? 

I do watercolor and photography prints. I was selling miniature 4x6 matted prints $15, 5x7 matted framed prints $30, a few larger framed and some cabochon necklaces with either tiny prints $25 or polymer clay swirls $10. 

Several have said I need more stuff. Maybe so? Lower prices? Higher? 

Be brutal, it's okay.

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Congratulations on beginning the show circuit.  I appreciate having a few different product lines to pick from.  Church and school shows can be a good place to practice setting up and learning to deal with customers.  We did that our first year.  We quickly moved on to better shows.  Our customer base was not there.  Possibly yours was not there either.

I really do no like grid walls, especially when there is nothing to block the view of neighboring booths.  Using the walls that should have come with your tent can help with that at no extra expense.  Besides that, TO ME, grid walls look cheap and unprofessional.  Possibly you used them because you already had them and were available and free?

The table with the white table cover ... I can't tell what the fabric is.  It looks like 2 tables covers are on it, neither of which are enough to give good coverage.  You can find professional table covers and plenty of other stuff at Premier Table Linens.  The ones we got are able to go in the washer and dryer.

I see some stacked totes against one of your grid walls.  I am not sure what was in it.  Back stock?  Supplies for your booth?  It needs to be removed or placed under a table with a floor length table skirt.  Customers do not want to see your totes when they come into your booth.  We use a couple tables with black floor length professional table skirts to hide a bit of back stock and supplies.

What are the white pieces of paper?  Index cards?  What's on the paper/card?  Is that your pricing?  If so it looks like an after thought.  It is distracting from your art.  If it is pricing it needs to be a "lower profile", less noticeable but seen when standing in front of a particular piece.  It does not need to be seen from outside the booth.

What is hanging on the cross bars of your tent?  Unless you have those cross bars at 8 feet, it seems customers would be dodging whatever is hanging on the cross bars.

Pricing depends on quality of your work, materials used in assembling the print (the matte, mounting board, frame, etc.), quality/size of the print, etc.

Cindy, thank you for your suggestions, they're great. I do have the tent walls, just didn't think to use them. It was on the warm side, but I could have at least put on the back one. Good idea! 

Also you're right on the tablecloth(s). Starting out, I've got very little money, so I cheaped out here. I'll see if I can find a better look. And some risers so I can raise my table way up and fit all the totes under it. 

Yep, price cards. I can make them smaller next time. In fact, I'll print double and fold in half. Thanks for calling that out!

The hanging things are pvc pipe squares, painted a nice white color, to display my necklaces. Maybe I can re-form them so customers can see them easily but don't have to duck them. Rats, and I was so proud of those things... :P 

There are jewelry displays that can showcase your necklaces.  I see some when I go to Hobby Lobby.  I am not sure what they are called but they are black (velvet?) and remind me of a dress form but just the neckline.  Do you know what I am referring to?  You can use a coupon for 40% off or catch them on sale and build up your supply over time.  If you have a tax id you could probably find a place to get them wholesale.

When displaying think of your customers height.  Not every one can view easily from above.  I am short (5 feet even) and I would have a hard time viewing jewelry displayed like that.

When you get risers, which you can probably get at Walmart, measure how long the table skirt need to be before purchasing.  That way you don't end up wasting money on one that is too short.

Cindy, brilliant ideas! 

I wanted to hang the jewelry rather than lay it on a table, so I could have just one table for easier traffic through my booth... but sounds like I should hang it maybe on a wall instead. I know the black display things you mean. I'll rethink my layout.

Hi Sarah !

I think your booth looks great !, its very appealing and your prices seem very fair and easy to afford -( which is where most artists dont start- so i think your on a good path -congrats ! )

Basically your gaining a basic education - and your on step 1 -so all fine so far .

Ask other artists about shows in your area - a few questions to ask are,  1.) how did you do in sales ?( in general terms )

2.) how many attendees   3.) did they promote the show  4.) will you come back next year?

Theirs alot more -but a basic start - is where you get your education - Its been a tough year so far for myself and most other artists ive talked to - so dont let your slow sales slow you down- keep the faith -

God bless you !

All good ideas Cindy. A couple of other suggestions. Choose your biggest piece of art and hang it in the middle of the back wall. Then fit the other pieces around it. Put your table either off to the side or in the back. You have created a barrier for people to not come into your booth.

Also, I am glad to see you have weights on your tent (that is a "newbie" mistake to not have weights). However, they are more useful if you hang the weights from the top of the frame without touching the ground. Use a strap to hang the weights and a bungee cord around the weights to keep them up against the legs, so they don't swing around. 

But, it looks like you are off and running. 

Thanks, Colin!

And good idea for hanging the weights off the ground. 

I'm still trying to perfect my layout... I want enough room on the table to be able to work on art to get attention, and keep it to one table so people can easily move up close to the work. 

All the advice so far is good, and 3 things stand out to me.  Yes, table in front is BARRIER to business.  It's hard enough to get people to come in and look, they are scared to death you will try to sell them something!  I say this with tongue in cheek, but the old hands know that's true.  One of the things you'll notice is all the little things you do which will run them off.  Put that table in the back and I don't advise you to sit at it.  Move around. Talk with people.  Put the necklaces on the table.Put some smaller pieces in some cloth bins (available inexpensively in all the dollar stores) on the table.  People love to browse through bins.

Whatever is hanging from the cross bars of the tent makes it look low-rent.  It doesn't matter if you don't have a lot of money to start, just don't make it look that way!

The little shelves are a nice touch, and would show up more if you had the walls hanging up to give them some contrast.  (Some inexpensive dark fabric between grid walls and tent walls would add contrast too)

Your prices are fine.  Create a little world where your work looks valuable. 

The more value you create around your work, the more others will see it that way.

Good luck on your art show adventure.  This is a great forum to use to advance your business.

Cindy has given you great advice! When I started out over 25 years ago, I also did my share of church parking lots and other crafty venues.  With regard to your display, I notice you have an easel with a sign and your table right in front of your booth. Neither of those features encourages potential customers to step inside your booth-it’s more like a road block. If you actually ever sit right in the front behind the table,  you might be a little intimidating to people who might otherwise wander in. The front could be prime real estate to showcase your products instead of using it as your sales desk...or you could even move the table to the back making it much easier to step inside your booth. 

I can’t speak to your pricing - not my medium.

Good luck to you!

Hi! I'm in my third year of doing shows and made a lot of the same mistakes mentioned by others that I see in your booth. I wanted to offer a few things that I found helped when my budget was basically two pennies rubbed together and a lot of wishes. The table needs to be neatly covered to the floor. A bigger show would require that. Also, as others mentioned, the walls need something behind them, possibly colored fabric. Both of these can be solved with sheets. You can search for basic flat sheets in a multitude of colors so you can really brighten up the space and start creating a look. I found mine at Target, but only because they had the color I wanted. Any store is fine, shop around for the cheapest. You aren't sleeping on them so the lower thread count or microfiber ones are fine. I still use sheets on my table and tuck the sheet around and used binder clips underneath to create a 'seam' at the corners to keep it neat. You can even do the clips on the outside so it is easier to reach and then flip it inside out so the clips are out of sight. If you choose to do a fabric wall, you can purchase a length of PVC pipe for just a few dollars to use as a curtain rod and hang it along the tent frame at the level of your canopy with zip ties. Just run the pipe through the deep hem on the top of the sheet, cut a hole along the edge if it is sewn shut. It will take two sheets to cover a wall. As the others said, get the items off the tent frame. Use your walls to their full capacity. That will add to the look of more product and make it look more professional. Create an art gallery of your work. Pricing should be printed with a computer instead of hand written (can't see how you made yours) and small enough to not take away from the product, while being close enough to the product to answer that 'how much is this?' question. You can use those small binder clips (maybe in colors to match the new sheet walls) to hang them. Unless this is a show that promotes doing the craft work for people to watch, I agree with the others. Use the table for display but don't do work at the table and don't put it in the front of the tent. People will actually avoid coming in if they think they are interrupting something. Engaging with people is the best way to get them to come in and buy. Eye contact, smiles and a quick catch phrase ( I do close up flower pictures so I always say, 'Welcome to my garden!' when someone starts hovering at the edge but won't come inside to get a close view) and a 15-30 second 'elevator speech' is crucial to getting people to stop and get to know you. Wander some shows yourself, and look at how others set up their booths, and pay attention to the ones that have traffic vs those that are empty. Things will start to fall into place and ideas will start popping. 

Judging by the number of colored canopy roofs, the show you're starting out at is not that good. Having a white canopy is mandatory. It sounds like you have more than one medium. As the quality of shows increase you will have to choose one medium in the booth. Also stay within your 10x10 space. If they let you spread out that's fine but be prepared to not spread out.

You need something to cover your walls to hang your art on. Just rolling down your side walls but hanging on uncovered grid walls look tacky, as does tables covered by table cloths. Those things will keep you out of good shows no matter how good your art is. So as you travel through the art fair circuit, keep trying to improve. Good luck.

Larry Berman

I agree with many of the others regarding the set-up of table in front; my show partner and I always laugh because we see so many people afraid to step inside the tent like we’re gonna bite! So moving the table off to side parallel with wall might be a good start. 

Additionally, I love the suggestion someone made about surrounding your larger pieces with smaller ones. I will add additionally to put a browsing bin/shelf out towards front of booth so people can feel free to browse without actually coming in the tent. Next, if you could find a way to hang your unframed prints on one of the front poles, I think that would help. For example, find a narrow strip of wood that you can run vertically down front pole (attach it using plastic zip ties or Velcro— might take some experimentation for what works best) and then paint some clothesline clips and hang the unframed prints there. 

Next, I’d add some colorful frames or mattes, as I think the all white is monotonous, especially with the white grids and tablecloth. And signage! If your small prints are all the same price, then I’d have a computer printed sign indicating that info— make it larger, easy to read font. List it out and post in a couple spots. 5x7 $xx 8x10 $xx watercolors priced as marked, framed 3x5 $xx, etc. 

Finally, the piece I think many newbies forget: who’s your target audience? This will help you find shows that you have the highest likelihood of selling more. I live in Austin (TX) but my stuff does NOT sell in Austin proper generally. So, I look for shows in surrounding areas that I know fit my demographics. I experiment with new locations and shows but if it’s not a good show for me personally, then I don’t go back. So who’s your audience? Consider age, gender, and then target shows in areas you might see more of them. If your stuff would appeal to college kids, then you know a show that focuses on families or near a senior center probably isn’t your best show expenditure. Maybe you do a lot of nature stuff, then your show focus could look for festivals that attract birders, maybe something at a local arboretum or near a beachy locale. Sometimes art can cross over multiple demographics but I rarely find it doesn’t have a somewhat targeted audience. This can take time to understand but once you have a couple good shows, you’ll start to see trends— who was looking at your stuff this weekend? Males? Females? Age? 

Good luck! Don’t be discouraged and just keep honing your craft. It will come together! 


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