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

How to effect change at the shows we do.

When we see or experience things that are wrong at the shows, how do we addrees them?

If supposed "artists" are violating the rules, what do we do?

Examples might be:

Breaking down prior to set times.

Bringing vehicles in prior to set times.

Buy / sell

Bead stringing (simple, not where they made or colored the beads themselves).

Representative instead of artist presence.

Kit work.

Not having created themselves.

50% off signs.

Just examples, there are many more...

The question is:

What should / could we fine artist's do to effect change?

Some promoters just feel they are renting real estate.  Some do not understand what this is doing to our beloved field.  some are not aware of the wrongdoings. 

We are not going to change the offending "artist's" as they know what they are doing and don't care. How do we get the promoters / directors to police and enforce, better?

If we don't, our future is bleak.

Ideas? Collective bargaining? monetary? advertising / public shamming? 

I have personally spoken to some promoters, when I have experienced this, to no avail.  They do not seem to understand, this will eventually hurt them too.  I have read in the rules that if certain things happen, the "artist" will be evicted, immediately. Then when the promoter is made aware, they say "oh. they wont be welcomed back next year." Next year, they were back :-( 

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LOL~you so so word..95% of REAL ARTISTS would choose the word "Artist."

Well said Judy Christian!

Hi Kaytee,

You may appreciate reading this post. I could not get it to go under your last reply:

This bugs me too! Artists need to think of themselves as artists and not "vendors".  Vendors sell corn dogs and popcorn.

"Vendors sell corn dogs and popcorn."  Fixed that for you.

If you are in the business of art-- you sell, either the artworks or the service of teaching art or making art to order. If it's "just a hobby"-- you can consider yourself purely an artist.

There's no shame in being both. Money isn't a dirty word, nor is selling (vending).




The aforementioned are three different words, with three different meanings. They are not Synonymous.  

Anyone can search and find a definition, meaning to match what they profess. That does not make it accurate. 

Once I know a particular word or phrase is found offensive by a group of people, I use good judgement in not using it.


Some buy into all artists being "starving artists" too.  Sorry, but this artist/ saddle maker will never consider himself a "vendor" . It harks back to the days when if you wanted to really insult a saddle maker you called him a cobbler or a cowboy. Both being below the status of a saddle maker. The cobbler thing goes way back to Europe in the early centuries. I make money as an artist, ergo I am not a starving one either. Each to his/her own. Think of yourself as a vendor if you like.  

The "dirty word" to a talented Artist or Crafter IS vendor...always has been & always will be~like it or NOT Kaytee. I would be willing to bet that 95% of the talented Artists & Crafters would agree with me on this one. While it is true that we BOTH SELL~one HUUUUUUGE difference is~ALL vendors can NOT call themselves an ARTIST OR CRAFTER.

Did any of us make profit on our first shows?

    Yes. Not much, but I wasn't in the red. Even adding in all expenses (including McD's for my kids after the show). is possible some will have a temporary loss. 

     When does "temporary" become a trend? I was doing pretty good until 2008-- then did half as much in 2009.... How many times can you afford to "lose" before you hang up your artists' smock? Especially when incidental and overhead expenses are increasing? Honestly looking for the answer there-- when do you say "I can't continue as a business"? I'm still making a "profit", but the amount over expenses is getting smaller, and if the "trend" continues, I soon may not be able to cover that McD's meal with the "profits" from shows. 

We need to get the promoters to want to invest in quality tenants. 

     Great. Where do you find such promoters? Who don't need to worry about anything mundane like facility rent, utilities, insurance, various govt. fees, labor, etc? Even non-profits with all volunteer labor have expenses they need to cover, or the show closes.

I wholeheartedly disagree with your use of the word "vendor" for those of us that are "artists". Just because someone chooses to give their art away without numeration, does not make them an artist, compared with those of us who sell our work. I don't want o hijack the thread but please: If you want to call yourself a vendor, that is your choice. Going forward,please understand us artist feel insulted if you use that word to describe us. I am an ARTIST, not a vendor.

Now back to the subject. So you made profit at your fist show? That includes building / buying / renting your studio. All your equipment to manufacture. All show and display equipment. Vehicle to transport the art. Materials to create. Website. Time and travel to research. Classes / courses / costs for learning - education. Travel and lodging for the show. Booth fees. Application fee. Business Insurance. And far more.

If you were that good as a vendor that you were able to turn a profit at the first event...then which of these apples to you...

A) you should be able to do so as  promoter

B) you had Bernie Madoff as your accountant

C) When I grow up, I want to be just like you  :-)

OK, Mr. Artist-not-a-vendor...

At the time of my first show... my "studio" was our dining room table, its "rent" was included in the mortgage we were paying, and I didn't have a website (and was still complaining about my hubby "getting rid of" my IBM 256K PC, with DOS and Wordstar, and replacing it with one I didn't know how to use). But other than that-- all the tools, materials, displays, classes/publications, office supplies, fees and taxes were covered that year. No outstanding business debts, including those to myself for "selling" the hobby tools/supplies to the business. No, not all those costs were covered by the one show-- I had consignment at a few places, and did commissions. The show was "profitable" in that show income was greater than direct show expenses-- covered the fees, materials, labels, bags, mileage, and Happy Meals for my two "helpers", and there was a bit more that was counted as "income" (although the tax preparer zero-ed it out, along with the rest of my profits, through some sort of accounting magic for taxes at the end of the year). All the shows I've done have been local-- no travel expenses/hotel needed, other than "mileage" (which no longer can be deducted on Sched C...).

Since then... I've gained an entire room for a "studio", although I still work at the dining table. No "rent"-- just property taxes-- mortgage is paid off. Solar energy provides more electricity than the house uses, and except for occasion cans of butane, that's all the "utilities" I need for business-- the panels and installation are paid in full. I have a dot com website, of sorts (it's kludgy, but it's mine). Have a Facebook Page, and Pinterest business account (which I'm still trying to figure out). Pretty much gave up on Etsy-- they are no longer an "artists only" sales venue...; still officially have a "shop"-- it just isn't "active". Have a "Square Market" shop-- but the only sales via Square have been in person.

I have worked on the show organizing side (helping, not in charge), as well as the "participating artist"/vendor side-- small shows, mostly with non-profits. But having a successful show as an artist and one as a promoter are two different things-- and being able to do one, does not mean you can do the other. If you are an artist with good sales, it doesn't mean you can run an art gallery at a profit, and a good gallery manager might not "do art" at all. According to "the experts" (no, not Mr. Madoff), I'm "doing things right", although "web presence" improvements are definitely needed... just not "profiting" as well as those early, pre-2008 years. Number of "available" shows has shrunk (closed down or turned into something other than "art" only shows)-- started with 5, down to 1 now.  Shops where I had consignment closed, or converted to imports. Expenses have risen, and my "target market" customers have been hit hard by cost of living increases, cuts in hours of paid employment, and now a major tax "hit". Custom work orders have also fallen off-- although the last couple of years, income from that was greater than shows, but this year... already "down" from previously. "Labor costs" have also risen-- my helpers are no longer satisfied with Happy Meals (and, not always "available").

Don't "wish" for C).... Physical/medical "issues" limit the type of shows I can do, household/other obligations limit time needed for "away" shows. And, like I said, sales "opportunities" are decreasing. Which is why I asked-- when do you say "I quit" as a professional? And go back to doing it as a hobby, doing only what you want to do, at your own pace, for only the satisfaction of "doing", without being concerned about "selling"? I've already given away most of the "class samples" I made for teaching classes at Michaels (they ended their instructor program)-- thinking about doing that for more of my "affordably priced" inventory, too (made for specific venues/shows with mainly limited-income attendees). And for display items, etc. that are no longer getting much use-- hubby already has dibs on my cart.....

I commend you for your journey and if you wish to call yourself a vendor, so be it. However, I do think you are missing the point of us who have had a different journey to being considered professional artists weather we do 2D of fine craft. Mine started with a 6-year apprenticeship when I was 15. I also wanted to be a scientists so working/studying in in the saddle shops paid for all my college expenses and the BS in geology. Being naïve about the science world, I accepted a Ph.D. free ride skipping the MS at Wyoming. I started a kitchen table custom belt  and geologic field case business there for high end western store in Laramie and State/Federal Surveys respectively. After I got out and worked in mining industry for 22 years, the art work was perfected and improved selling on consignment to local stores, directly to clients and at one time had sales reps covering CO, NV, MT, WY and ND. After I left geology I sold directly to clients and I advertised in national western lifestyle magazines. Two of my clients were on the cover of Forbes and their lesser friends were also clients. They did not deal with "vendors" for their custom work. I probably had 35 years of producing art before I did my first outdoor art show. So, after some 60 plus years of professional art work, here I am an artist, not a vendor.  Mind you my 7th grade art teacher told my my mom "I was a beautifully raised child,  but I didn't have a lot of artistic talent" (just needed to find my medium LOL).  I had my worst art show in decades last week where my sales were only about $1500 with a 60% something margin. I suppose I could make that type money selling lots of corn dogs, but making art is more fun. End of discussion for me.

Probably should add that my accountant told me I could not consider the art work as a hobby and I needed to set it up as a business in 1973. It wasn't intended as a tax write off but the purchases of tools and machinery over the years made it a fantastic tax shelter for my geology income. All those losses went into a loan that paid out tax free income for several years. I have also helped produce at shows At the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, Colorado State Fair and an annual one at my church.


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