I recently signed up for a juried Arts and Crafts Festival in Florida. I had to send three photos of my work and a booth picture. The contract I had to sign said there would be no commercial vendors and no buy/sell allowed. It stated that any violators would be asked to leave because this rule would be strictly enforced. The rules stated that everything had to be handmade and that the creater had to be present in the booth during the show. In the one block I was assigned there were two vendors selling the exact same tee shirts and dresses and someone selling linament, a vendor selling some form of sauce and plants that were either purchased for resale or they came from a commercial grower who probably did not have a retail license. I recently attended a show in Sarasota that also had commercial produced products and two vendors selling the same ankle bracelets. How can we as artists and crafts people influence the promoters to stop the practice of including that which they say they will not include. The buy/sell and commercial vendors reduce the Arts and Crafts Show to Arts and Crap Shows, reduce the quality of the purchaser to the flea market buyer and lower the quality of the show. I have been told that if one complains they are put on a list of complainers and are excluded from further shows. This all seems unfair. The promoters need us and we need the promoters but the promoters need to live up the the agreements they make us sign and we also need to live up to the agreement that we have signed.

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  • Thanks to all of you who have replied and given input. I agree that communication is key and I have talked to every promoter prior to applying to the shows and have read their contracts completely. I have tried giving praise for that which is good and constructive criticism for that which I deem inapproiate. I have also offered to help a promoter understand what is needed in my community to enhance the show, draw larger crowds and get free publicity along with the paid publicity he offers. I just want promoters to live up to the contract they provide as I have to live up to it. If I leave a day early or pack up before the stated time I have violated the contract so I won't do so even if the prospects for a sale are bleak. I am afraid that the buy sell and commercial vendors are now so much a part of the shows today that the public expects them to be there and they go to find the cheaply priced products that belong in the flea markets or farmers markets. The people who really go to find the handmade arts and crafts items maybe staying away because they don't like the current circus atmosphere. I know a lot of people in the last catagory. They complain to me as an artisan about the quality of the products offered and say they are bothering to go to the shows anymore. They are turning to the small boutique shops instead of the art shows because of the quality of the work shown and the quality of the customer drawn to the art fair. I too have a never do again list but in Florida there are only so many shows during the 6 month season and only so many promoters. I have also suggested a commercial area set aside from the arts and crafts fair where the promoter, sponser, local merchants offering services (real estate, massage schools) etc.can be located. In some cities they are as you walk into the venue so they are not ignored, They are not as much of a problem as the buy/sell and the commercially produced products like sauce, seasoning, linament, plants etc. that are for sale that belong at the farmers market. Today one only has so much disposable income and when people buy from the flea market or farmers market level sellers that takes away from the artisans. I think going to the FTC would be too drastic. We need the promoters and they need us. I do think that the artists need to be able to communicate their feelings to the promoter without fear of reprisal and that the promoter needs to be willing to listen and try to made the artisans happy or the artisans will find other venues. I can sell wholesale and probably make more money with less effort and I have a website. There is also Etsy and sites like it. I just enjoy being with the public and personally displaying my creations and concept. An arts and crafts fair without artists will close. I understand that the promoter needs to fill X number of spaces but maybe he can't because the artists aren't coming because they fell there are too much non-artisan competition. Even our well thought of promotors are now getting bad reviews from the artisans because they feel the show quality has been reduced. We are all trying to make money, promoters and artisans alike, but to allow the buy/sell and commercial items puts money in the promoters and buy/ sell vendors pockets at the expence of the true artisan. I think every show should have a required comment card, totally anonymous, so that the promoter knows how the artisans feel about the show and whether or not they will return and why. And we as artisans would need to band together to require this, to fill it out honestly, unemotionally and turn it in. If the promoters don't meet the artisans requests they will not return. Maybe the forum is not thorugh a comment card but through Sunshine Crafters or Art Fair Insiders or another similar venue on the internet where rapidly one could see what happened the previous week. The key is getting artisans together and agreeing to do this to improve our industry.
  • I share the same frustration as well. I have had this happen in the past as well. Unfortunately, some promotors are unscrupulous when it comes to lining their pockets & they goal is to fill every space, whether it is detrimental to the artisans or not. Why go through the jury process if this is what happens. Yikes.

    That being said, I want to share this info. I do participate in 2 shows that make no bones about having commercial vendors but they handle this situation pretty well. They have 2 seperate locations, one specified for commerical & one specified for the art show. They keep the 2 separate. Because of this they are able to put on a great art show, & still having the opportunity to let commercial vendors from the area participate as well. (One show is put on by the Chamber of Commerce of the town, while the other is part of a very large weekend event with many other activities). It really does work. Maybe other promotors could take a page from their book - if they insist on having commercial vendors, keep they separate - put it in the application so artisans can choose whether they want to participate in the show or not. At least you will know going in what the situation is.
    Just a thought.
  • if you look at my post from Monday the same thing happened to me this past weekend. I won't do another show without first talking to the promoter and seeing what their policy is regarding commercial vendors, if it's not to my liking I won't apply. If promoters are going to let these vendors come in and bring down the quality of the show then i don't want any part of it.
  • If you pay good money to attend a fair and the promoter refuses to enforce the rules, maybe it's time to complain to the Federal Trade Commission. If enough artists complain about a promoter, the FTC might investigate. Wouldn't hurt to try it. Here's a link to the complaint form: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
  • As typical for me, I agree with Michelle. Artist/Promoter become temporary partners - both should be able to work together to produce a successful show. Effective communication is key. It's all a learning experience for us all which is why show reports shared here are extremely valuable. Shows, as in life, are not all fair and equal. If after an attempt to share information with the promoter proves fruitless, I put them on my list of never-do-again and find a more artist considerate show. Once the word gets around.... fewer artists will apply for the non favorable shows and the likelihood of that show either dying off or begin to pay attention to artist input will increase. At the same time, I will herald any promoter/organizer that gets it right and share that on this forum and via direct email to that promoter/organizer and their bosses/sponsors.
  • Very good points Sherry. I see this at shows where I am too.

    Solutions you ask? My two cents is that I find it is almost the norm now having some sort of commercial stuff at every show I attend. But I can't get lost or angered by this because I am not there to point fingers, my primary focus is make the most of what I can at every show and make a profit - commercial stuff present or not. Now my ideas on a solution... The way I see it is there needs to be an open line of communication between promoters and crafts people. As easy as it might be to blame the promoter or the jury, they really aren't the ones we should be mad at - it's the violators. Also the thing that is always an important variable are the promoters themselves as one show coordinator is different from the other regarding what they want done with their event. But that is another topic...

    Regarding an open lines of communication... Promoters, I really think need INFORMATIVE feedback from artists at their shows as well as prospective ones too and we do have some duty in doing just that. While promoting my events, I actually chat at least 15 minutes with each person who calls and says (mind you many don't even say hi or how are you) "Can I get an application". I need to know about each person, what their expectations are and of course answer any questions they have. Why? Because if you care about your show, you should very much care about the people signing up to them. You can't mislead them because one way or another they will find out. Also filing out surveys - with truthful and detailed facts (in other words not loaded with emotion) also helps too.

    As an artist, ask about show coordinators about their advertising efforts and what their ESTIMATED gate counts are and if that number is growing and if not why? The answers might surprise you (it could very well be that weather has played a role in bad attendance the past two years than other answer people are quick to jump to). Communication tends to lead to a very good business partnership and possible friendships. Working with well connected promoters will usually work for you as they might recommend the cooperative and talented artists to other promoters as well as possible check up on your personally at the show and take care of you. I know because I speak from experience on both sides. And it isn't favoritism! Promoters do find it refreshing to work with an understanding craft artist who isn't a Prima Donna with a list of demands. Put yourself in the promoters shoes and ask yourself how would you handle the various situations that would arise? Buyer retention? Artist retention? How can one cut costs, spend more on advertising and still make money at the end of the day at the event? If you have valid solutions - that is what needs to be brought up to promoters. It is at that point you both are speaking the same language.

    Do realize the relationship between artists and promoters is really strictly business - and shouldn't be taken personally. Just as artists are doing art fairs to make money - the same goes for promoters. They both want eager shoppers walk away from an event with arm loads of purchases and of course keep coming back year after year. Sometimes promoters make bad decisions - as some offending "artists" are able to get in, usually by being sneaky or the advertising just doesn't get out to the right people when it the past it has always worked. Sometimes artists make bad decisions too. But we all learn from them to become better business people.

    Don't forget, we are in the same boat - allowing buy/sell in (knowingly or unknowingly) hurts promoters as it hurts their credibility and the same for artists - directly or indirectly hurting sales. Offer ideas on how the show can be better - ask to be a juror, offer suggestions on places where promoters can advertise, connect promoters with others in the community where both can benefit from each other. Of course the only way this will work is if both sides are willing to LISTEN just as much as they are willing to offer solutions too. Maybe there is more than one solution, but this is what I see.
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