Art Fair Insiders

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

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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Your work is really beautiful..how about more Fine artshows ? Your work is really unique ..don't give up..there is money out there...I finally after 12 years had my first 5 figger show..took a. Long time to get there, but took me about 2 years to start finding my market..everything I've learned is from listening to my customers...there is money out there to be made, don't give up ...chin up..and don't be so hard on yourself. Also, be yourself in your booth, when people ask..tell the story..they love the story...where you were, what were you thinking ..how did you get to that point in the piece..I'm very chatty and down to earth ..that seems to work with my customers, as appose to using linga  they don't understand..goodluck, hang in there ..don't give up yet, your work is really beautiful 

Are you familiar with art dolls? Art dolls aren't play dolls for children but figurative sculpture often with fantasy themes. Your work seems to me to find a home in NIADA, National Institute of American Doll Artists. Check out this page: https://www.niada.org/artists/. You can click on any name from the list for a look at the artist's work. Also, Google the work of George Stuart. It is truly awesome. I had the good fortune to study with him. NIADA has artist and collector members. Art dolls are also sold during Toy Fair in NYC in February for high prices. There are other venues as well. What do you think?

Kara, I went to your website and looked at your work. It is lovely. It is not you or your work. Who knows? Art is so subjective. I agree that you may need to simplify and make some gift oriented ware for lower price points (I don't know what your sculpture sells for?) but I would definitely continue to show the work that comes from your heart.

It could be a combination of things - sometimes shows allow too many vendors and the consumer gets crazy overwhelmed. This actually happened to me recently when I attended a show to see if it would be a good venue for my work. I thought I would spend a few hours checking it out, talking to a few vendors, etc. and before I knew it, the entire day had come and gone and I had missed a least a third of the show. Way too many vendors. AND the quality of work throughout was extremely high so this kind of situation also contributes. Additionally, location, location, location matters. Time of year matters. Maybe consider composing a short back story for each major piece. Folks enjoy knowing what inspires, what methods are used, what kinds of influences an artist has, and so forth. Unfortunately, you are not alone. It is hit or miss for many talented artists out there.... Don't lose heart!!!!

Tara

Hi Kara,

I was looking back to see when you last commented.  Almost 4 months ago.  I'm curious how you are doing.  How many shows have you done, entered, etc.  How are you feeling by now.  How have the suggestions panned out for you.  This is an amazing thread, how many people have been involved and over quite a long time!  I hope that all is well and everything is going wonderfully for you!

Kathy

Hi Kara. Yours was the first post I happened upon here and I'm so glad I did. I feel similarly to you BUT your work is so amazing! What I do is nowhere near the same caliber of the art you make. There were two that captivated me in particular: 'Rooted' and 'Seer', but 'Joy of the Spirit' was also amazing, particularly the expression on the woman's face.

I read most of the comments here and I have a suggestion that I don't think was touched upon: the phoenix.

Now, before you wonder why I suggest this, a few years ago I was looking up ideas for a phoenix tattoo. The stories of the phoenix have always resonated with me, as they have with many other people, especially women. This gave me an idea and that led me to a completely new form of the myth and legend. Many artists have been creating images like these and they struck me as so beautiful, inspiring, and just drew me in, 'like a moth to a flame'. 

Here is an example of what I am referring to, a phoenix in the form of a woman, complete with flames and wings: https://ladydomira.deviantart.com/art/Phoenix-Scarf-296205714 

Here's another, by an artist who goes by SheBlackDragon:

You may be able to find more by typing "phoenix lady" or "phoenix woman" into Google.

There is an amazing quote by Rumi that matches this theme:

"You have seen my descent.

Now watch my rising."

Reading through your comments, I found one where you say that a woman came up to your booth, assuming you were a practitioner of "witchcraft". I sincerely hope you do not hold someone's faith against them, as there are many pagans and Wiccans I know who would be enthralled by your art. I think it is important to not burn any bridges and to keep an open mind as pertains your customers. Art means different things to different people. I also like the idea of wall busts and the idea of a Green Man and Green Lady, but those are pagan-themed, so I hope you're okay with that. Maybe a Moon Goddess with white wings? Or even female angels?

I tend to agree that you should add a $50-100 price range of products, as that's the maximum someone like me would be able to afford, especially when going to an art fair. Speaking of which, do you accept credit cards? It's very important to be able to when selling in person, and there's one really good company, Square, that gives you the option to create specific items for when you check someone out in person and also gives you an online marketplace in which you can sell your work, if you so choose. Their card readers are very affordable and are compatible with both Apple and Android products. 

I hope this gives you something to think about and I hope you haven't given up yet!

Take care.

Don't be discouraged. I'm sure many artists also went through the same thing. I suggest you market yourself like crazy online :) Best of luck!

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,

Bari

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.

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.

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