I feel I have learned some in participating in shows, but mostly I feel like a failure. I have literally only sold two items last year that I participated in. I've changed my prices, my sales techniques and anything else that has be suggested. I'm broke and exhausted. Finally I decided to be a part of a co-op with it's own gallery and even that was a disaster.  I think it really could be true that you just can't create works of art and hope someone will like it enough to buy it. The rejection is hard to take. I enjoy people so much but, no sales makes me feel like a loser. I haven't met anyone in my position, and I feel like I'm the only person who has had this happen.

I think this changes an artist when this sort of thing happens, I know it's changing me. I've been told by other artists that I cant be authentic, that I need to have a distant attitude. Is art really like this? Does it really come down to recreating things you see on Pintrest that people liked, because your creative voice is speechless. 

My new game plan is not a winning plan, but just a childish desire to not let my art sit inboxes in my shed. Yes I may sell my work at the lowest bidder, I may even give it away, which I have been doing. Yes, I may change me just so my hands can continue to feel clay in my hands. Today I'm actually borrowing 25.00 for a box of clay cause I am so broke from all of my efforts. I'm frustrated. The level of bad experiences are so bizarre I can't begin to understand them.

I haven't seen anyone sell an item over $300. this is even in shows like La Quinta. Is all artwork like this? does only inexpensive art sell? is this everywhere? I only can figure that I must do simple blobs to sell anything. Should I try it? should I make a mockery of this whole art thing? should I roll out some clay and virtually play out the" Emperor with no clothes". Make blobs and convince people this is great, and see if it sells. What do I have to loose? haven't I already lost everything? 

What do you think?

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  • I did art festivals for 6 years with jewelry. Made between 500 - 1500 per show with priced to sell items. But it was not a success for me because time and $ invested should have produced a much bigger gain. I would walk the shows I was doing, check out the competition and other artists. I rarely saw sculptures of the quality and artistry you create, but when I did my thought was they were in the wrong venue. Your work belongs in high end venues such as the shows by American Craft Council or the Smithsonian. Your sculptures seem very personal, sometimes whimsical like NIADA art. Research what other artists are doing that is selling. See if you can adapt, change colors, subject matter, etc. without compromising your vision. Look into becoming a Patreon artist.

  • Kara, I've seen your work here before. As an artist in my 60s and having created artwork for over 40 years and having seen literally millions of pieces of artwork - your work is exquisite! But, you already know that.

    I've also read down through many of the comments but not all. 

    I have one suggestion, maybe it's been offered already. I would look at submitting your artwork to various exhibits across the country. For a small jury fee and the cost of shipping, I firmly believe you have monetary awards waiting for you and a high chance of selling your work. 

    This is my last year for art fairs, but I will continue to exhibit nationally, if I believe the theme, venue, etc favor my artwork. My prices are slightly higher when exhibiting versus art fairs, and I usually receive some kind of award.

    I just think you would excel greatly in the exhibit type of format.

    "Be encouraged as you see the day approaching..."

    With grace,


  • Don’t change your work - I think you need to come at this from an impartial marketers perspective. Don’t take your current results personally so far, you need to revise your strategy. This is a niche, unique product, and uses some sub genres that are commercially well known but not always popular from year to year (mermaids, fae people). Game of thrones is very popular in the public consciousness right now - not saying that is similar to your work but it never hurts to have people interested in sort in medieval or magical themes.

    Consider your region (I bet this would sell very well at a street fair in CA but maybe not in a country rural area) and also consider heavy traffic science fiction and fantasy conventions - I don’t know what your prices are but some large conventions like dragon con would have enough people who can meet them and appreciate your work. Your website may not be a great marketing tool if no one is getting there from your booth referrals - green website background is distracting, try posting your portfolio on deviantart and do some posts on Reddit or imgur - I see some fantasy or alternative craft artists do that, not sure if that is effective for them. Try cross-selling on Etsy if you don’t already. If you are open to it create smaller utilitarian pieces that people of all incomes can buy and appreciate (eg clay pieces incorporated into sterling silver jewelry or broaches). Similar to painters making small pieces and studies that tide them between bigger sales. You have a niche product and need a niche. Third just from a marketing standpoint are people going to want to buy and place heavy clay sculpture in their home? I love your work but I’m not sure if I want to carry it around a show. How heavy and big are the pieces and would you consider working in another medium like fiberglass or latex where you could get lighter results? What about using molds so you could reproduce pieces at different sizes and prices? Don’t know much about the process just thinking of how you could broaden interest. Hope this did not cause offense, I love your sculptures.
  • Your work is high-quality, so don’t blame yourself. Just try new things until you find what works for your art: try different shows, different states, etc.

  • Perhaps thinking outside the norm for your work (which is awesome by the way). Have you tried women's festivals, the pagan get togethers or the like? Believe it or not I schlepped to every art show and Faire I could find with no luck. Then I attended a local cannabis fair with my husband, met the coordinator and tried the next one. ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS EVER! Hang in there. You'll find your way.

  • Hi Kara,

    Though you wrote your piece in January, it rang very true in my mind now at the end of May, when I should be preparing for this season’s art shows this summer. 

    I feel for you and perfectly understand how frustrating it is when you put so much effort and passion into your art and when it isn’t appreciated financially, it hurts.

    i don’t have answers for you as some do. I invested in a workbook that was targeted to help artists like me to realize their true potential by learning how to optimize their sales tactics. I tried to put it into use and was mildly successful at least in one season.

    But the bottom line that I have learned in my 5 seasons of art shows is that there is no way to predict and plan for a successful show no matter what others tell you. There are just too many factors that need to come together at the same time and that is not under anyone’s control nor will they come together time after time.

    Shows are attended by people of various incomes and tastes. If someone really likes your artwork they will buy it no matter how much it costs. Lowering prices is not in my opinion a good idea if the intention is to sell. It diminishes the value of the artwork and doesn’t add anything to your stature as an artist. 

    I’ve been to shows that were frequented by lower income attendees and by higher income ones. There was no difference in how many works I sold or not. There were shows I did in wealthy areas where I barely sold anything.

    I averaged about 2 sales a show and the most I ever sold in one show were five pieces. If I came out even after the jury fee, booth cost and van rental I felt I was successful. I made some miscalculations and also had some good, enjoyable shows. 

    Many visitors to my tent had good things to say about my work and many also gave me the clichè lines about not having any more room on their walls (never stopped ME from purchasing artwork!) or telling me that they are downsizing and to where they are moving they will not have any space (then why are they visiting an art show where artists are SELLING their art, not merely showing it?).

    I never cared to put pressure on visitors to buy my art even when they showed enthusiasm about a piece. I believe that if someone really likes something they will decide to get it. I’ve had some show up at my tent first thing on Sunday to purchase something they saw on Saturday as it took them some time to decide they really wanted it. I had one customer show up at a show having seen a piece he liked the previous year and not having purchased it, came back hoping that I would be back and the piece would be available. This was someone who was not savvy with websites and such or he could have purchased the piece off my site!

    I cannot afford to do shows this summer and had hoped to resume next summer. It now appears that I may not be able to resume doing art shows at all if the participation costs cannot be offset by sales and I won’t make any decent profit. 

    I understand your position and you being depressed and being told that things will get better won’t help without concrete assistance (i.e. money), so I can only suggest as some may already have that you concentrate on finding some other sources of income and once you can afford it, attend art fairs. 

    I was hoping to find find some cheap, non-juried show in my area but then realized that “cheap” shows mean visitors who don’t want to spend more than a few bucks so that’s out.

    Hope you find a way to continue your artistic venture.

    All the best,


    • Thank you, Bari, for these kind thoughts and your clarity. Your answer, and the long list above you, in a very personal way gives meaning to my work here. It is a gift to me.

      This thread continues to bring out the best in our business, the generosity of our clan to help and support one another. We're all looking for the answer and looking for more in our lives and daily balancing it all. Our art fair business is a journey in more ways than the obvious, pulling it away from its context it seems to me a metaphor for all life.

      • I am now thinking about selling cheeseburgers, ice cream or guns. It seems that that is what "average Americans" want the most. I will hang my best pieces in my house and rotate  them occasionally. No longer will I aspire to make a profit from my art. Going now to re-paint over my last "not sold commission piece", and I am now at peace... Paul Sclafani / Amazing Affordable Art

        • Too funny Paul.  What a gift to be able to find humor in these circumstances.  Let me know if you need a hand making the cheeseburgers. :).  I can wield a mean spatula!

          Kathy Clausen

          • Kathleen J Clausen, I also really like to cook, it's similar to my painting process; and good for the bottom line when you are a starving artist on a tight budget Paul S.

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