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

I'm still in the red! Well, let me give a capsule review of Summer 15 so far. Kenan Center, 100 American Craftsmen, Lockport NY. Once prestigious, started to fail, artists jumped ship, organizers worked on it, promised improvements, lured some of us back and it was, indeed, better, if not the go-to it once was. So, OK, feeling optimistic. Bodes well for the coming season I tell myself.

Allentown ArtFestival, Buffalo NY, mid June. Saturday was a pretty day which brought out the strollers and leashes. (Dogs and babies interchangeable in those get ups, by the way.) A gazillion people eating, drinking, schmoozing, celebrating Summer, not buying a whole lot. Sunday, downpours, thousands lined the streets with their umbrellas, but, oddly, did not think of our canopies as a great place to get out of the rain. Mediocre sales.

Roycroft Summer Festival, East Aurora, NY, bedeviled by drama within the organization resulting in a split to 2 shows with the regulars needing to choose between staying with the traditional Roycroft organization or splintering off to be with antiques dealers who had access to the Roycroft Campus. But it didn't matter because it there must be a better teemed, it poured, it ..well you get the picture. We were granted a corner booth next to a storm drain. The sound of that drain haunted my dreams for a week. I sold more than I expected since the crowd estimate was in double digits.

I made grocery money doing a couple of artisan markets at Buffalo's Inner Harbor Then, thankfully, it was time for the 1st of 2 fine craft fairs at the Chautauqua Institution. No rain, no drama, best organizers in the business, great sales to lovely people, tickets to see Bela Fleck and Abigail in concert, cozy room on the grounds with antique quilts and ceiling fan. I began to remember why I do this. 

OK, maybe not actually in the red still, but not quite as relieved as I usually am by this time. We are going to Ithaca Friday for a one day market that has been quite profitable for us considering it is a 6 hour show. We love Ithaca and the crowd it draws is wonderful The very next morning we set up for a 2 day show in the suburbs that is relatively new but word of mouth from mouths I respect is good. Then, happily, Chautauqa Part 2 followed by the Elmwood Avenue Festival in Buffalo's Elmwood Village which happens to be our neighborhood.

Then, if the cigar box under the bed has enough money in it, we leave for a month away, driving cross country to see our kids. No pressure. Hey, if shows stay iffy, we sleep in rest stops a few nights. Who needs in room coffee pots and hot showers? It is, after all, the journey that counts or so my refrigerator magnet reminds me.

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Two more to go: Golden, CO in mid August and Estes Park, CO Labor Day. We have our favorite Bear Bottom Cabin (with hot tub) reserved. It will be a relaxing end to summer. Got truck back from shop with repairs on fog pump going out and leak in power steering seal after trip to Jackson. It pays to take care of those odd noises.  FYI: I learned that fog pumps, that pump air into emission system, usually seize up and burn out the drive belt. I think we were lucky not having an on the road repair. 

Three definite, one waitlist, and one not notified yet but probable and I'm still in the red as well.  With the exception of Virginia Beach this has been a disappointing year so far.  

I started with Howard Alan's semi-new show in Arlington, Virginia.  I think this show has promise and I am already in for next year but I was still down from my average show.  I was not happy but I should have been because there was worse to come.

Next was Art on the Square in Williamsburg for my first time.  It rained most of the day.  I've never done particularly great in Williamsburg but I expected more.  A $60 online sale after the show and a very cheap hotel left me with a whooping $85 profit not counting materials.  I'm told that the rain really affected attendance but with a same day setup and breakdown this is just too much work for me to take another chance.

Then came my first non morning of the show setup which was a relief.  Art in the Park in Richmond, Virginia.  Always been a good show for me but not this year.  Sales down by 50% and a lot of people came by to tell me how much they loved their pieces that they had bought in previous years.  I began to get an inkling that maybe I should shake up my schedule a bit.  I'll probably return here.  It is a sleep in my own bed show and spaces are grandfathered so if I don't return I will lose my very nice space location.

Staunton, down by 50% again and again the people telling me how much they liked their purchases from previous years.  The universe is trying to tell me something...  I did, however, make a $900.00 sale last month from someone who had seen me at Staunton so I will return.

Then came Roanoke.  I was very disappointed in my space assignment and then I realized I had done it to myself.  The previous year I had been on the street near an intersection.  I requested a space near that intersection again but I neglected to say - on the street.  I was put in a grassy area that got half the traffic.  I used points for my hotel so I managed to come home with a $200 profit still not counting materials.  I am frustrated with this show for other reasons and will not return.

Thankfully Virginia Beach gave me a very nice profit.  But I had been living on borrowed time on materials and spent most of it  stocking up on frames, paper, and ink.  I was now in the black and expecting to stay there.

Unfortunately Blowing Rock left me with a loss.  Back in the red.  Back at home I add 4 stretch shows to my schedule for next year.  I might not get into any, the best I can hope for is probably 2 but something has to change.

Well three more (hopefully five) to go and a nice online sale a couple days ago from a couple who saw me in Arlington.  I am $33.00 in the red.   But I am fully stocked, thanks to Virginia Beach, two booth fees for 2016 are paid, and I am very close to having enough money in the savings account to get me through the winter.  So life is good.


We're a bit ahead of the game, but our busy season is just around the corner.

We have two shows in August, one just north of Albany, NY and the following weekend in Gloucester, MA. The weekend after labor Day it's down to Chester, NJ and from then until the weekend after Thanksgiving, I think we have only 2 or 3 weekends off.

Something is up this year. We are down, way down. I don't think we are in the red. In fact, I know we are in the black. But our sales are low. We get the same comment on "love the piece we already bought from you" comment. What does should that mean to the artists? 

I've had that "have so much of your stuff" comment which makes me wonder if I need to try more shows away from home. Western NY is in a boom right now so I was hoping that would translate to sales but I made more in Buffalo when it was depressed. Maybe when people are down they buy more fun stuff? I just did 2 shows in 3 days and they were horrific. The one day show in Ithaca was always pretty good for me. Over 600 bucks in 5 hrs is good for me. Not exciting, but OK. This year I made less than half of that. Covered booth, gas and lunch. That was a stunner. I was expecting to make more than last year because that really is my audience and I had upgraded my display and products. The 2nd show was a first year for me, referred by many artist friends. It was down for everyone, maybe because there were several big events in the area that same weekend? One theory floating around is that the schedule this year is kind of off. Shows that use Memorial Day and Labor day as a determiner are off because they are later than usual and some events bumped into each other. Beats me. Luckily I was accepted to both Chautauqua Institution shows and there is one left in 2 weeks. Going to bring as much stuff as I can so they have a lot to choose from. Don't know what else to do.  I did get a special order after the last show and a nice wholesale order from Ithaca so that helps a tad. On we go.


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