Art Fair Insiders

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

Hi All!

Doing my first art fair this weekend at Excelsior Art on the Lake, in one of the emerging artist tents.  I'll be sharing a tent with another artist, and AOTL provides the tent and a couple of tables. I'm bringing a few gridwalls to display my paintings, along with an easel and my paints so I can put on a bit of a show.

This week has been ridiculously busy in preparation, but I've mostly been having fun with it all.  I think I've got my display figured out, so now I'm busy trying not to second guess myself.  

I'm excited to get my feet wet at an art fair, and glad I can do it in a way that doesn't require a large investment on my part. I'm hoping I'll make enough this time around to cover my costs and perhaps even make enough that I can invest in my own tent and display walls.

This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I expect that I'm going to love it!  Counting down to showtime...

Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself and thank everyone for the wealth of info on this forum!  I've been lurking and learning for about a year now.

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Good luck and most of all have fun... Don't forget to take some photos of your display and post them here.

Thanks Greg!  I certainly will!

Hello again, Dale, and Welcome!  We're excited for you and can't wait to hear all about it, as well as maybe seeing some photos?  Thanks for joining our community and introducing yourself too!  Best of luck and keep us posted...

Thanks Christina!  :)

I took a snapshot of the test setup I did last night.  I've got tags for each of the paintings as well (not in the pic).  As I look at it, I'm probably going to swap out some different pieces to keep it more cohesive, but I think it's a good start. :)

Interesting work, what's your medium/process?  How did it go?

Thank you!  It's acrylic on canvas.  I'm exploring the concept of hope.  In each of the paintings, I've included the word "hope" as a secret message. :)

It went well, although I had zero sales.  The positive takeaways were getting some great feedback on my work (positive and negative), getting to meet and chat with a lot of nice people, and learning that I really enjoyed working at the fair.  I'll certainly try again.

It was definitely a learning experience.  

I shared an emerging artist tent (provided at no cost, and no booth fee, by the fair) with another artist.  The original artist that I was going to share with dropped out, so I got paired with someone else instead.

It ended up being really frustrating, as she was not an emerging artist by any stretch of the imagination, IMHO (she's been doing fairs for more than four years).  Also, she was a crafter - what she was selling were thrift store plates that she'd screwed together and attached to a pole as a garden ornament.  Her most expensive pieces were $45, and my price range was $119 - $419.

People came in droves to buy her stuff.  A few people stopped in to look at my art, and said nice things about it.  My only "will be back" ran off before I could say, "I'll be happy to hold it here for the rest of the day for you."  

So, I'm feeling like I got screwed by the organizers.  It was like I was trying to sell original art at full price at a dollar store.  

I'm not sure if "my" market was at this fair at all, although a neighboring tent sold a gorgeous $3000 wooden sculpture, so it's not like there were only bargain hunters at this fair.  I think if I'd had my own tent, or shared a tent with someone who had comparable work, I would have had more sales.

Also, wow, the weather!  There was a heat advisory on Saturday, so we were sweltering and the crowd was basically gone by noon.  Early on Sunday morning there was a severe thunderstorm and a lot of tents were completely destroyed.  That was heartbreaking to see.  At least nobody was there, so no one got hurt!  I was fortunate, and my booth was just a bit soggy inside - I was able to dry off my art and open for business again.  Seeing all the destroyed tents definitely made it clear that it'll be worth my while to invest in a Lightdome or equivalent quality tent rather than an EZ-Up.

I tried a few different configurations, trying to get my paintings to be more visible.  In the picture below, I ultimately ended up taking the WIP I had on the easel (I spent Saturday working on it while chatting with customers) off and replacing it with the large red painting (far right).  I also kept the easel facing the walkway, both days. One other thing: on Sunday I put away the art supplies, in case they were blocking the view into the tent.

As for me, I stayed on my feet in front of the tent both days, greeting everyone with a smile as they walked past.

Phew, my reply turned into a novel...  Anyway,  I had a good time despite the challenges.  It was a way to get my feet wet, at least.  I'll try again, but I'm going to be careful to research the fairs I apply to and make sure that "my" market will be likely to show up.  :)

I am completely open to any constructive criticism and advice. I did the best I could for this show, and I know I've got lots to learn.  :)

Dale, thanks for that amazingly detailed account of your first show!  I enjoyed reading it and I think we've all had similar experiences.  You're right in charting it up to a lesson learned and I'm happy to know that you'll try again knowing what you now know.  Just getting yourself out there, meeting people and having your work seen is all part of the process.  I have to admit that I chuckled a little at your description of "getting your feet wet" after you mentioned the rainstorm which left your booth soggy...glad you didn't experience any personal damage though.  Thanks again for sharing and best of luck as you proceed.  

Thanks for the support and taking the time to read it all, Christina! 

Re: getting my feet wet - one of the other artists stopped by and said that I'd definitely gotten a taste of everything an outdoor show can throw at us! ;)


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