Art Fair Insiders

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

There are those who would like to express how we are so much happier doing this than the grind of a corporate career.

Well some comparisons:

If you are happier now, in the Art Fair business...

What you say may be true, to a certain extent but... In corporate, you always got a pay check. Although the "Buck stops here" might have applied, someone else was able to handle some of the issues. You were not the shipper as well as the transporter, assembler, purchasing agent, sales manager & salesperson, inventory control, loss prevention, security, advertising exec, maintenance, accountant, display designer, travel agent, manufacturer, engineer, public relations, general laborer as well as CEO. 

As well as if I take a day off or a weeks vacation no one wants to pay me.

Where is my company car?

Health benefits?


What is the worst?....

Being self employed in this field, I think my boss is an SOB  :-)

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Well, I'm still working in the corporate world for a major telecom company... Been working in the corporate world for 30 years and in parallel, I'm working my visual arts (photography) business in the margins (aka, in my spare time). I've been doing indoor shows for ~3 years and recently started outdoor shows- and I love selling my work, meeting/talking with people; I'm tasting the success of selling my work. Sure, the corporate job pays the bills and also helps seed some of my photography expenses. My corporate working conditions are great. So, while I have a good thing going work-wise, I find myself wanting to spend more time working my passion (photography). And soon I shall. In the meantime, I'll continue to split my time between corporate and private (photography business).

I still live in the corporate world. Been corporate for nearly 30 years. The benefits - literally and figuratively - are worth it. As the sole income-earner, I need those little things like health care benefits, retirement, etc. 

I've been doing outside shows for about 5 years. It's hard. Committing yourself to a weekend - often with Friday travel and late Sunday nights - is a chore to manage and a chore to balance with my M-F corporate job. Keeping the inventory stocked during the week, maintaining all the things you have to do to have a successful show and business ... it all takes more (much more) time than I ever imagined. Probably like the majority of people who start in the art fair business, I vastly underestimated the amount of work and time involved!

But I also love knowing that a) I have only myself to blame and; b) I can see a strong correlation between the blood, sweet and tears I put in to the art and my success on the weekends. That part is often missed when you're part of a larger organization, just a cog among many other cogs.

But five years in I"m still doing it because it provides so many other benefits that my corporate job does not. An ability to express myself through art - have other appreciate it - make some sales - getting to know people and clients and the wonderful artists.

Plus, it's a good way to slowly learn the business now - on a limited summer-only close to home basis - so if i want to do more when i reach retirement, I'll be a bit more ready. 

Yes it's hard. Yes it's frustrating. Yes I want to do more painting and photography.  But I also like to eat, pay the bills and send my kids to school. I'm honest enough to know my art isn't there yet to allow me to do all of those things by itself. So for now, with one foot in corporate and one in the art-fair biz, I'll just keep dancing.

A benefit of having feet in both worlds is that you can use your art business as a tax shelter for your coorporate income.  I hadn't planned on that but a good accountant took care of it for me. We I left coorporate, my business was in good shaoe as far as tools and equipment and those "loosing years" offset income for many more. 

Darn, so I have to suffer for not having "losing years"?

Just because I was making millions, from day one, I have to lose out on those tax shelter benefits?

Don't you feel sorry for me?

You do believe the above...right?  :-)

No. I just believe in having the right advisers with good advice. I stil owe the business over $70K but I can take out loans instead of paying myself a salary and all that goes with it. Then there is all that stuff about losses carried forward. I don't understanfd it other than I don't end up paying taxes every year and in most years none. In the meantime my art business is profitable and my art is a busness.

I never came close to the corporate world, having moved from hospital work to my own practice as a clinical psychologist where I stayed for almost 30 years. No boss, thank God, but also no safety net. And there were many times I wished I’d had one: health care, pension, paid sick leave, paid vacation.

By contrast, it is tempting to glamorize the art world. In my experience non artists seem to find it far more fascinating than they did the world of professional psychology and almost certainly of corporate work, but most of this is idealization borne out of people’s imagination. Making art is hard work. “Creativity”, whatever that is, comes with sweat and painstaking effort, not glamorous bursts of manic inspiration. In the end art, the skillful making of things, is its own reward— the hard to describe pleasure inherent in creating objects of interest and, hopefully, of value.

But being an artist is not the same thing as being an artist who sells at art fairs. At the risk of irritating some, I truly dislike doing art fairs. I do them for one reason only: they are the best, most efficient means of selling my pots. Better than online, better than galleries. That said, I love making ceramic pots, I love teaching others to make ceramic pots. I do not love art fairs. I have no Gypsy in me so I abhor long drives, I refuse to sleep in my van, don’t like motel 6. I actually like being home, with my wife and my friends and my wine collection and my studio. Setting up ceramics is a bitch, long days repeating myself is not great fun, being in cities that you don’t get to actually see is frustrating. The fair rules are often unreasonable, the weather hot, the amenities nonexistent, and the expectations from our own about proper sales techniques laughably unrealistic: don’t sit down, make eye contact, don’t eat certain foods, etc etc. Shoot me now. I like 2 things: selling and making a profit ( not so great this year) and meeting some very interesting fellow artists who become good friends (but let’s be honest here. Artists are like the general population. Some are wonderful and some make being their booth neighbor an absolute misery).

Making art is, mostly, a joy. Doing art fairs is a difficult means to an end.

The Artist life, for me is a labor of love. i do this because I am passionate about what I do. I do not enjoy the selling aspect. I greatly dislike the setting up and breakdown of my booth. The inventory, logistics, ordering, accounting etc is a pain in the a$$ but manageable. It would just be nice to be able to offload some of the responsibilities to someone else and be able to have a boos who I could go to for support, expertise and guidance.

As said, I do this because I love it. Creating & communicating via my art are something I would not want to trade. No security, no backups, no offloading responsibility... but HAPPINESS :-)


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