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I recently googled an exhibitor  and learned that he is president of a company that according to the company profile employs 20-50 and has annual sales of 2.3 million dollars.  Additionally he does art fairs in 28 states.

How do I compete against that?

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As long as jurors do half the job of vetting exhibitors, production shops will continue to get into shows. I am continuing to beat the drum for hiring of students to research websites as part of the jurying process. Seems to me it would be win-win-win for jurists, students and artists.

Now that begs the question, just what makes a shop a production shop?  And yet another question,  How big is too big to exhibit in a craft fair?

Tom, in reading descriptions of leather processes on web sites, "we design the ......, then have dies made to cut the parts....." and similar statements indicate they are mass producing clicker cut products. Number of employees and how they are marketing their products are also indicators of production work. (Compare my website www.sherersaddlesinc.com to a commercial place like Levenger ( they don't do shows)). All of this, versus the individual or team of craftsmen (Crested Butte, CO limits this to 5) that hand cut products producing limited editions or one-of-a-kind. But, this is IMO and there are bound to be gray areas. I know individual leather artist that do click out some of their small stuff, they just don't advertise it and they don't have a sweat shop assembling product. To me it's analogous to the individual painter doing an original versus the Chinese guy painting 10 of the same scenes at the same time. One guy doing production work.

Who is the exhibitor? I have always been under the impression that most of the better shows state that the work must be done by the exhibitor and must be present at the show.

I have not ever seen that rule enforced.

You can't compete against that any more than you can compete against stuff made in China at Hobby Lobby. Don't try. You will never win the price battle. You have to beat him in other ways. Be more original and harder to duplicate. Ask yourself, "What can you do that a team of 20-50 could never do?"

I know it's a tough question. I ask it to myself constantly. If you answer that question you will have a competitive advantage.

Also, they have professionals selling their stuff. That's tough to compete with. I have found reading books on selling and business strategy have helped me get closer to their level.

Tom,
Maybe it is just me but I am a little confused by your post. Is this person participating in the art fairs as a representative of his company,selling his company products, using his employees as representatives at the art fairs, or all of those things?

I run into this at every show I have been to.  A craftsman of this type can't be at all the shows especially when there are several the same weekend.  So they use employees or relatives.

If a show wants to make the effort to keep reps. out and only the artist present, all they have to do is ask for a photo ID at check in. Very common here in Colorado.

There's an exhibitor called Hudson River Inlay. They are a production shop that gets furniture from China and does the inlay in their shop. They have lasers to cut the wood so the fit is exact. They do a lot of shows and I can set up right next to them and they don't bother me one bit. Because I have something different than they do.

And that's where our mind should be. Unless you have the same thing as the other exhibitor, you have your customers, and they have theirs.

Don't get me wrong. The ones who lie on the applications should be tossed from the show. Right now there's one exhibitor who claims to make everything, but we have the web pages from wholesalers with the exact same things. But these people swear they make their own work and intimidate promoters into letting them in.

BINGO!

How do they intimidate promoters? I thought it was strictly an application with photos and through the jury process one should expect to only get in a percentage of the shows they want to do. Are you saying there is another layer of acceptance whereas artist/companies just go straight to the promoter and bypass this entire process?

Do they pay extra or what? 

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