Art Fair Insiders

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

Dear ArtFair Insiders Members,


I just joined a local group of Artists, Cass Area Artists (CAA), Cassopolis, MI area. The group has participated in a few local shows with joint booths, but July 4th the group is sponsoring their first event. I am very happy to be a part of the CAA group.


Thursday at our CAA meeting we discussed a firm rule that no buy/sell will be accepted. We discussed that sometimes it is hard to know buy/sale if they look like a legit artist. Several people in our group are well-aware of some of the established folks and some of the regularly accepted folks who are not really artists. I look forward to guidance about any current buy/sell names of which we should be aware. You are welcome to message me privately or email me to share names and avoid any potential liability. I know about the wooden watches, but forgot the name of the folks selling them and I know there are others. I'm wondering if any of you folks provide additional guidance to avoiding BUY/SELL vendors. 

Lois Anderson:


I am more than happy to take any suggestions to our group without providing your names.

Thank you for any comments or suggestions.

Lois Anderson (Rosary Doctor)

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yes, but a judgement is useless. What are you going to do with it? Good luck collecting. Maybe you will get lucky and end up on Judge Judy.

Collecting on a Judgement is actually rather easy and is only useless if you are not familiar with all the tools available to act on the Judgement. levying a bank account, assets and real property including vehicles is a rather simple and easy process.

The buy/sell issue is getting ridiculous. I did the Guild show at Levis Commons a couple of weeks ago. There was a jeweler next to me with the sloppiest set-up I've ever seen. One weight for the entire tent and boxes of stuff scattered all around the interior of the booth. There was a banner on the guy's tent showing a web site and a notice on the banner advertising for retail partners. WTH? You can't get much more blatant than that and going to the web site it was clearly obvious the work was done off-shore and sold by independent agents. I fired off a text message to the artist chairman pointing out safety issues with the booth, including that it was about three feet out away from the curb, and that it was buy/sell. All we got was was answer that the artist was being addressed by the show staff. Yeah, like all that was done was to make him move back from the fire lane. The guy was there the entire weekend. The glass artist next to me had walked the entire show and said there were about six b/s people passing as artists at the show. The show was terrible for me, so it's the last time I do one of their shows anyway. It strikes me as funny for all their rules about b/s that they aren't diligent about removing people like that.

What did the contract say the promoter would do if B/S merchants were there?

Robert - this line summarizes it all: The show was terrible for me, so it's the last time I do one of their shows anyway. This type of behavior will sort itself out in the end, and these promoters will end up with Flea Markets. They will also need to adjust the booth fees way, way down... to be in line with the junk that is for sale.

I know personally the people who run the Guild shows. It is an artist run organization that has always been very strict about hands-on work. My husband and I were members for about 30 years and served on some of the committees.

This is stunning to me to have this happen at one of their shows. What could be going on here?

I'm not a promoter. But I would do this:

1. Find an attorney, tell the attorney that I wish to put a clause into the app so that if anyone does show up with b/s I have the right to remove them and their booth immediately without any fear of lawsuits, etc.

2. Word this rather strongly in my app, saying that anyone showing up with b/s will be removed from the show.

3. Have a plan in place in case this does happen.

4. Do it.

This may sound renegade, but I had a booth in my view at a show. They were there the first day, and promptly at the beginning of the second day, were issued out, complete with police car. It went quickly, done. We were all told it was b/s. We loved it!

I've seen B/S merchants kicked out too. But the burden of proof lies solely with the accuser. That's why I have little use for the B/S Nazis who cruise shows and believe they can determine what's acceptable.

Look, believe it or not, there are people who will see something made in China, and say "I can do it better!" I know some metalworkers who do that all the time, because it's expensive to import metal. It can be heavy. But then along come the B/S Nazis and want him tossed.

That's where the lawsuits can and should happen.

If anyone on this board believes we can eliminate B/S completely, you're delusional. This has been an ongoing problem for the 35 years I've been doing this, and it will continue long after I retire.

It does make going to the dark side attractive... Especially since I could do buy/sell and bluster lawsuit if busted. 9 times out of 10 ill bet BS merchants can threaten their way out of most ejection efforts.

Often, with a smart phone, you can actually find the B/S product which is being vended being sold by a foreign supplier.

For example: there was a guy selling 'African Baskets' at a couple events here in the mid-atlantic. With about an hour of work, I was able to track down his suppliers - who were from Africa, and were offering the product he was selling at a fraction of the price. My wife spotted a silversmith jeweler' a few years ago at a major festival who was vending amber mounted in silver. One piece matched exactly a piece she had purchased in Poland. I have also seem the ceramic tile folks in action. I had purchased a piece from a gift shop, made in china, for my wife. Six months later I see the exact motif with a border and a stamped signature added to the piece. Who stole what is up for debate, but I wasn't the only one at that show convinced the exhibitor in question was dealing in buy/sell

With my art work, it's fairly obvious I am the creator. I sit at my booth and I paint - demonstrating my techniques. I get into the newspapers often - shown painting..

But the easiest way to weed out buy/sell isn't receipts and workshop images

I used to do a show in Delaware which advertised itself as the largest all-original handcrafted show in the area. They required workshop images and materials receipts along with booth and work samples. Their contract specified no buy/sell and that they would remove any exhibitors who brought B/S to the show if they found them 

So, I am at this show and I see an exhibitor with a block of 10 booth spots. All I can see in the display is B/S Chinese photo prints in cheap frames - hundreds of them. I went to the show director.... I show her this stuff and we walk around and find several other merchants with questionable stuff. She promises changes but that it's too late to ask them to clear out b/c its a one day event.

I later found out through conversation with the director that the merchant in question had juried hand-made bird houses and did bring 1 booth of these out of the 10 he paid for. His documentation for these was submitted and he was admitted based on this submission. Again she promised changes, but mentioned he was a long-time exhibitor at the event and it would be difficult to exclude him based on his longevity and ability to purchase 10 booth spots in a swoop.

The next year, to my astonishment, the paperwork from the event had eliminated every word referring to no buy/sell... The show committee had obviously experienced a coup of some sort.

I also get the 'it's too difficult and time-consuming to weed out the buy sell' and sometimes the honest explanation that if you make a mistake that you could be held liable. It's too much effort for the potential money to be made to be diligent about the buy/sell

The easiest way to eliminate B/S is to require that the artists demonstrate their work on-site. So clay tile folks have to press tiles and decorate them. Painters have to paint, sculptors have to sculpt, jewelers have to make jewelry, fashion folks have to sew and display their results.. I have no answer for photographers... I have seen potters work with a wheel at shows and lampworkers make beads and small pieces during an event. But for large blown glass pieces, no way to get all that equipment in place and the fire dept's might be a bit nervous with big bottles of propane and hot furnaces...

So back to my original thoughts... ethnic craft can often be found by googling and time spent looking for submitted work samples on the net on import/export sites. The bills of lading and customs forms for import export can also be found and are available through services which charge a fee to use their site to search for the exhibitors name/business name and shipments they receive from overseas - this was done a few years back by a member of this site with regards to a person exhibiting a specific type of ethnic-culture sculpture, but the discussion was shut down by board mgmt. for fear of litigation - despite the manifests being linked to on one site and corroborated on another. It was claimed that the person in question had a gallery in addition to all the shows they did and that the imported finished items were for the gallery and not for the exhibitors outdoor juried display. That person has received several awards at larger exhibitions despite all efforts to educate directors. Welcome to the art show business

Mark, I would like to know how you did at the shows you mentioned. I'm not asking for sales numbers, but were those shows worth your time and effort? Did the B/S hurt your sales, or was it just a case of the promoters not doing what you expected them do to?

I'm a recovering promoter. I threw up my hands when the exhibitors started blaming me for everything from bad weather to their lack of sales because I brought in the "wrong customers". We did everything we could to weed out B/S, and it still snuck past us. I know what the promoters go through, and dealing with exhibitors is far worse today than when I did it back in the 80s and 90s.

So today I do not care about the B/S merchant three rows over. Or even if he's next to me. Because I'll just say "Game on!" when the show begins, and actually compete with him!

Yeah, please feel free at any point to come shill in my booth to see if you can sell award-winning 2-d flat art.

All originals, innovative use of materials, very modest pricing for a booth full of original work.

Compete all you like....with low price point buy/sell art products and omnipresent women's wearables (buy/sell or not), fine art has a very difficult selling environment; except in the most exclusive selling environments (top shelf, top drawer shows which are very very competitive).

If you sell jewelry or modestly-priced craft, you'll have a tough time understanding how a painting under 100$ is a tough sell despite the oooh-ing and praise heaped upon the artist.


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