Art Fair Insiders

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

Hello to everyone! My name is Rob and my wife is Jan. We haven't done any shows yet but we are hoping to do a few next year. We both work full time but woodworking is my passion. My wife is more of a tinkerer when it comes to making things but she loves the idea of working the shows so we've been attending a few shows in our area this fall to get some ideas. We've talked with many venders about the ins and outs of being a vender. The fees, the types of tents they use, whether they make any money selling their products etc. We haven't seen an over abundance of wood products for sale so I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing. On one hand, the market wouldn't be flooded but on the other hand, maybe the lack of woodworking items for sale is because they don't sell. I did get a little concerned at a show this past weekend where a gentleman was selling hand turned bottle stoppers for $8.00 At that price, he was losing money. The stainless steel stoppers themselves are nearly that much and then add in the price of the wood, the labor involved etc. and you are at about $8.00 The vast majority of folks that make bottle stoppers sell them for $20.00 or more (based on what I've seen for sale online) so I'm starting to wonder if it's just the market in Western NY and/or the economy. We talked with a few different women that make jewelry and every one of them said they sell only 10% of what they used to before the economy went in the dump and others felt it was because the jewelry venders at the shows are so flooded that it's hard to make any money. I spent a lot of time watching the people that came to the shows. Just about everyone was eating something they purchased from a food vender but very very few were carrying merchandise. So as a newbie, I understand that there is some risk involved when trying to sell anything but how do you weigh what your products are against the market and the costs associated with starting up? Are the chances high that we will poor hundreds of dollars into a tent, all of the display items to make your selling area eye appealing, show fees etc. only to be disappointed in the end? What were your fears when starting up and in the end has it all been worth it?


Thanks for reading and we're looking forward to getting to know you as fellow members here!

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Hi Rob (and Jan!) and welcome to AFI :)

Yes, it always seems that people have money to spend on poor quality food but little to spend on quality art and crafts!   Go with your passion - make what you love and your passion will show through to your customers :)  Of course, show selection and customer base comes into play as well but personally I believe passion is the number 1 thing to have!

Welcome Rob and Jan. We're glad to have you here. Most of these questions have been answered on this site so please spend some time searching. Questions such as "is anyone making a living here"? are pretty common. There is high overhead in this business. I'd suggest you not invest too much money in equipment before you have got something you love and want to make and it has begun to be tested in the marketplace. There is a good discussion on the site right now by a newcomer who has just done his first two shows. Check them out as you'll get a lot of information. Search for Charles T. Dana. Not only is he talking about your issues he is getting great feedback from others.

Does wood sell? Hell, yes! The people who have the most success in this business (to my mind) are those who make beautiful functional objects. Check out these two artists sites: VicLan.com, http://www.rayjoneswoodboxes.com/ -- just for starters.

Thanks for joining us.

Hello Rob and Jan!!

Another North Easter here, specifically a "Mainah!! I am Karole and I do Jewelry. Wood items sell here in New England, and as you are a Woodworker, or Craftsman or Artist, you would be able to sell at various venues. From your local school craft shows, to some of the BIG Art Fairs depending on your finished products. Check your local Craft and Artisan Guilds, check out castleberryfairs.com, they organize shows in NH, MA,Vt. If you go to their website you can see a list of Craftsmen and Artisans, pics of booths, a list of past 2012 venues, and the final upcoming 2012 shows. They are already accepting apps for some 2013 shows...do a search for New York area, and surrounding communities. See what is available. Here in Maine, we have several Craft and Artisan Guilds, but NOT so many BIG shows, so I attend any venue I can, from street Festivals (Moxie FEST, Moose Mania, Lobster Fest, Harley Festivals), Art Fairs, Art Walks, Local Craft shows, Music Fests, and even the week long, Agricultural Fairs, which we have MANY of!! I have seen a lot over the years at each venue!! They all each have their own peculiarities, but all are good venues, especially for Wood Craftsmen/Artisans. Wood can be Art or Craft, however you choose to term it, and the possibilities for venues can be many and varied. Whether you make functional items or Wall art, furniture or specialty, carved items, the possibilities for venues can be tremendous. Do your research, and find your niche.

Hi

I am new to doing big shows too (A-List), I have been doing retail sales for a number of years and I can tell you unique sells.  So, do what you love and if it is unique to the market it will probably sell, of course,  there are no guarantees in life. 

As far as costs go and starting up, yes you will have to make an investment of some kind to get going in the show business.  There is the booth, vehicle, travel, food, accommodations, insurance etc.  Some of these you can arrange so the costs are low, like renting a tent or a van, economy hotels, take a days worth of food with you etc.  You also need to invest in quality photography and editing, IMO.  This is a great investment in the sense that you will need top notch photography to get into the shows (Larry Berman is a wonderful source for this www.bermangraphics.com  These are a few costs I have already incurred or planned for over the last few months to get ready for 2013.

 

What I did was set an amount of money aside or in my head that I was comfortable losing.  This is the amount that I will spend on my first year of shows.  I have a full time job, so I planned it out, taking into account how much of my other income I would need to devote to the show start-up costs.  This number includes as much as I can concieve of.  There will always be costs that you can't anticipate, so it is a best guess.  If I lose this much money after a year and am not earning a profit that is worth it to me to do the shows, I will stop doing them and just sell on my own to galleries etc.  Worst case senario, I have a house full of sculptures and plenty of gifts for everyone I know for the rest of my life. LOL   I will be able to sleep at night if I have lost this much money knowing I tried something and gave it my best shot, but when the money is gone, I am done with the show circuit, unless I have done good and profited, then hopefully it is onward and upward. 

Basicly it boils down to what you are comfortable doing and spending and if you are willing to lose.  We all want to do well and it is so hard sometimes to not let nerves eat you alive, (see my post on Jury anxiety), but what is it worth to you?  How bad do you want it?  What will you risk to try it?  Ask yourselves these questions and answer them as honestly as you can and you will have your answers. 

I wish you the best of the best of luck!!!!!!  

  

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