Art Fair Insiders

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

At a show in Charlotte, NC, a couple weekends ago, promoter Patty Narozny pointed out that there are very few young artists at the shows. And as I looked around that weekend and this past one, I began to see that she has a point. 

I'm 56. Most of the artists I see at shows are in their 50s or older. Is this the way it has always been? Is it a symptom of changing economic times - young artists putting art aside to earn a steady paycheck? Or is it something about Gen Whatever It Would Be - Gen Zsquared? 

When I do see a young artist at a show, he or she is often doing something really innovative, really cool, really interesting - and inspiring to me. So what's going on here? 

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LOL, I never thought about going out at an art fair. I always thought it would be at my bench. That would be interesting.

and it really frightens the art fair organizers!!

Is everyone simply assuming and making judgement on a persons age, or is there actually a point in a conversation someone says - so, how old are you? Just wondering.

My dad had a good expression, when someone would comment about his age...

"I'm young, very young, inside.

I'm just being held captive in this old and decrepit body."

Myself, I'm one year younger than G-D.

At shows people do, sometimes ask my age.

Usually after we have been speaking about the art, for awhile. They seem to like my perspective.

That is a good perspective, Larry. It grounds your work and your prices. 

I am often asked "how long have you been doing this?" (saddle making).  Reply is "over 60 years professionally" and I guess that sort of tells them I am "old" (75).  Also I use an HP12C calculator at shows which also dates me with some folks. LOL

I'm 64 and regret that I didn't do this when I was younger. Before doing art fairs, I got roped into to doing very expensive indoor, hard-wall shows like Art Expo, Spectrum Miami, etc. It was a lot easier to do, but there were NO sales and I went into debt to the tune of $5-10K a show. So then I decided to do the fairs and with the aches and pains of age, I'm not so sure it was a good idea. I just don't know what the answer is for us Baby Boomer artists.

I love what Jon Hedin said, that his "first show was spectacular before profits were counted." 

It has been years since I posted this originally. And guess what? I'm older now. Sigh. 

I've met a number of younger artists as I've continued to do shows, and they do bring energy, zest, originality to the fairs. Youth! But many of the older artists bring these, as well. And experience. 

The younger folks have stresses and hurdles that we older artists have already leapt over. Our kids are grown, college is paid for, mortgages are finished, and we have a freedom to experiment that many young people, I believe, think/feel that they don't have. 

That being said, I've seen plenty of young couple camping at the shows, bringing their brood with them, buying houses, paying mortgages, sending the kids to college - all on the profits from art festivals. So it IS possible - and to some degree, I think maybe it's the responsibility of us older artists to help make it possible, and help the young folks believe that it is possible. Share our experience, strength and hope, as it were. 

As for me, painting and shows have damaged my shoulders. I've learned to accept help when it is offered, and seek it or hire it, when I can. It's worth it to me to pay for help to set up and take down my booth, unload and load the van. I've cut the number of shows I do, partly because I can, and partly to help my physical and emotional well-being. 

When I see a young artist whose work I like, I try to buy a piece, and whether I can buy or not, I try to remember to be encouraging and supportive, and to introduce that person to buyers and sellers alike. 

I've grown to just adore this life, this community, these people, and I do whatever I can to make it as rich and varied as possible.

I'm a young artist! I truly wish I had some guidance from other artists, which is why this website has been such a great resource for me! I'm excited to try my second year on the circuit with a heck of a lot more merchandise!

When I first started doing shows in the early 1990's I always took a picture of my booth. Later on in reviewing old shows to apply to, I realized that my sales were off because I didn't really have a lot of inventory.  At one, I might have had 10-12 geologist's field belts I simply wanted to get rid of. Now, I put up 600 belts on the wall and make money.  Currently, I take about $50K of inventory to every show and shoot for selling 10% of it - mostly belts.  "If you don't take it and display it, you aren't going to sell it". 

That's amazing!  I realize that if your booth isn't overflowing with merchandise nobody wants to stop by! I'm working on filling up that space this year! Thanks Richard!

Be careful. It depends on your media. Belts and leather goods might present well and work great with a very large inventory. especially belts as there are many sizes and variations. With some media, that is not appropriate. If I bring too much inventory into my booth, I sell less. too cluttered, too many choices can be a problem. So thin k it out for your particular medium and display.

Most things don't sell if not displayed but too many choices keeps a customer from deciding. Hence they choose none of the above.


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