Art Fair Insiders

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

i am wondering how large operation buy sell jewelry sneaks into juried are fairs.  Over the weekend there were two vendors that clearly had high volume of the same merchandise, that they seemed to have no thoughts on how they produced them.  One had a slick banner with a website that apparently they did not pay for the renewal of the domain. The other was overheard on his cell phone ordering more stock- specific sizes of rings and bracelets. Now not everything in this show was “fine art” but the reputable jewelers were working in silver and gold, clearly smaller inventory, knew and willingly explained their work, the technique, the stone, etc.  My work is in fiber but I have enough friends working in meal that have educated me on the processes.

as a festival organizer/ jury what are there not more stringent qualifications for being accepted, and why are there a growing number of venders that buy from China in bulk, repackage and sell it as their own?

a quick review of the artist,s website or social media should reveal more than a schedule of where they will be selling.  Pictures of work in progress, video of processes should be required.  

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For years I've been saying that there needs to be artist advisors knowledgeable in mediums that are prone to buy sell. Then when the show is juried but before the results are sent out, the advisors can recommend which artists shouldn't be allowed in the show because they don't make their work. That way the offenders are eliminated before and not when they show up. To go along with that, they can't bring styles they did not jury with.

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

In the medium of leather, it is often the production shops that get in, even when call for artists restricts number of employees in "studio". It is pretty obvious that jurors have not gone to a web site which describes how parts for bags etc. are "precision cut" (that means die cut with clicker machine) or strap cutting machine for belts, and you see a crew running a bank of sewing machines. I compete with the quality that comes with hand work, diversity and originality.

Thank you - I agree. I am saddened to see this on the rise... I often am juried into museum shows and last fall a museum actually won best in show, and he imports this woodworking from Africa...I can understand smaller and less sophisticated shows missing things, but a museum missing this???? Frosts my cookies

Unless we police this better, it will be the end of Artists representing work they actually made themselves, at the shows. 

The promoters need to have better motivation for keeping the shows pure.

I have brought up cases where the supposed artist was breaking the rules. The promoter just stated, "they assumed all the artists, in that medium do it" (break the rules).  i let them know, this was not true. Some, such as myself, do not break the rules. Needless to say, they did not take action. I chose not to do the show again. However I do not believe that had any affect on the promoter's decision. My lone booth was not going to affect the show. Easy to replace with others.

We need to either organize en-mass or find some other way of compelling directors and promoters to keep the purity of our shows.

I remember seeing China Made and Chinese people in a booth at an art fair in Rochester, MI. I lost all respect for the show. I wasn't an artist yet (still trying to be) but as Barbara said, it frosted my cookies. 

There is a local show (not fine art) that purports to be "all handmade."  I saw a lady who had a bunch of bags for sale about 6 years ago.  Think of the bag company 31?  It was similar to that style.  I asked if she made all the bags.  Her answer was she designs them and has them made.  Soooo, I went to one of the promoters and reported it.  I don't think anything ever came of it.  They were (then, and now) worried about filling real estate.  That is what it comes down to for many promoters where it's fine art or all the way down to a local school having an event.  They initially may start out with standards, some of which are high, but then loosen them when too much real estate is not yet bought up for the event.  Who wants to see so many empty spaces, right?

The event I mentioned with the bag lady, I believe their customer following is falling off.  What I have heard repeatedly locally is that it's the same old stuff every show.  There are return artists (some truly are) and vendors who are still bringing the same items that they brought years ago.  No new lines.  It is sad.  I no longer do that show for a variety of reasons and don't miss doing it.

Re Susan Williamson stating "...seeing China Made and Chinese people in a booth at an art fair in Rochester, MI. I lost all respect for the show." I would not find anything wrong with that. If these people were Chinese and made the items, then they would be "China made". If the artist (at the show) made them in "China" then traveled to the USA and sold them, no problem. That would be legit.  Perhaps you meant it differently?

Sorry, it did sound racist, didn't it? It was factory produced items. I have to say they were beautiful table side trays. They had tags on them with the company name. The people selling them were sales reps, there were 3 of them. When visiting other booths the artists were really upset and vocal. 

I understand (but don't approve) of letting in the buy/sell at shows having trouble filling their spots.  But I don't understand why shows are letting in buy/sell when they are turning down truly handmade art and have waitlists.

Even the renowned Cherry Creek isn't immune. A few years back a buckle guy who designed buckles and had them made in China got in. His belts were really poor quality even in the photos posted: crappy leather, unfinished edges, ..... stuff that even a shopper would question.  One or more artists exposed the guy and actually found import invoices for his belts and buckles, and posted them online. So much for CC jurors broad knowledge of mediums. 

This is the unfortunate pattern of shows.  If they get their booth fee, they really don't care.  A few years ago I had to provide pictures of myself painting (to prove it was my work) for our local "water festival" -- but when the guy next to me set up, he unloaded flats (with picture labels of the item) of Chinese made glass "jellyfish" paperweights.  The real glassmakers (there were 3) went nuts and called over the show director -- who did NOTHING.  I listened to that guy lie about those paperweights for 10 days.  I never did that show again, and neither did 2 of the 3 glass artists.  This year I checked it out and it is all crafts, a number of which are like the one Cindy mentioned here (bags etc.), where the item itself is mass purchased and then "personalized" by the artists.

BUT, there are even more insidious elements in shows.  There are a group of people who sell marquetry items (very fine cut veneer woodwork) which are stunning, but they are not made by the artists showing them.  I didn't realize the first time I spoke with one of them at the Magic City show in Birmingham.  I was talking with him about the art of marquetry because my late husband had been quite adept at it.  He knew NOTHING about it.  He basically hemmed and hawed and nodded and smiled.  Later I found out there is a group of a half dozen of these "artists" who show this product at shows. I will not name the "art" but it is the same for all of them.  There is a similar group selling "handmade" leather journals, but I will leave that alone because some of them are nice people you may know.

The larger, reputable art shows will kick people out.  It happened at Oklahoma City a couple years ago, when some Chinese "jewelers" were not only selling mass-produced work, but also bypassing the OKC sales booths and selling on their own with Square (a BIG no-no when the show is getting a percentage.)

There is a group of folks in our business who keep track of these frauds, but many festival promoters just simply don't care to take any action.  They've got the booth fee and they don't want a "scene."

I like Larry's idea about an artist advisors group but I'm too cynical to believe promoters would take advantage of it. 

So honest artists will continue to create from scratch, and cheaters will continue to cheat.  It's sad.

I guess what frosts my cookies is getting waitlisted for these high end shows to later find out that they let in buy/sell over our handmade and designed artworks.  We were invited to 8 out of our 10 waitlists this year and once there, I immediately recognized buy/sell repeat offenders from other shows we've been in.  But, we're new to the field, don't want to make waves as we are striving to be in the best shows and don't want to be excluded from future invites, hence I do not report them.  I have reported them at show flops that we have no intention of returning to due to that very reason, but otherwise, we keep mum.  I believe established artists are more in a position to complain and potentially be heard, but newbies don't have a leg to stand on.

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