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I wonder if this is a common thing that I just need to get used to, or if I should be doing something differently to effectively communicate. I sell wildlife paintings and prints. In my booth I have things very clearly labeled. Where I have my originals displayed on the walls, I have a big sign labeling  them as such. On my table where I have my reproductions, I have those clearly labeled. Every item is labeled with a price tag as well. But invariably I still get lots of people who are confused as to what is a reproduction print and what is an original, and people still ask for prices.

When people walk into your booth, do you give them an initial blurb (ie "Hello, everything along that wall are originals, and I have prints on this table" or some such), or  have you had success with a certain method of labeling with signage? It's not that I don't want to talk to the people that come into my booth, but I guess there are some things that I didn't realize required an explanation. 

Is this normal that people just don't pay attention or don't know what a print is vs an original? I don't want to insult people's intelligence, but at the same time I keep getting people in my booth who get confused (such as assuming that the paintings that are hung on the walls are just framed prints even though there is a sign saying "Original Acrylic Paintings") I might be going to the wrong shows, I don't know. 

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Maybe you answered your own question right at the end!

About pricing ... I have seen/heard of that happening a wide variety of shows.  I price everything in my booth and still get questions.  If you place a sign and do not price each piece, items can get put back in the wrong place by a customer who changes their mind or gets distracted.  There is not right or wrong way to do it.

They are not prints, they are reproductions. Label each item in your booth as an original or as a reproduction. The label should also have the price and if possible the name (and dimensions) of the piece. You can hang a paper with definitions so there is no confusing what they are looking at or purchasing.

Larry Berman

This just an honest to goodness genuine question, why is the term "prints" inaccurate? Repros are made on a printer. Just curious. I've only ever heard artists call them repros, everyone else (at least in my experience) calls them prints.

A "print" is considered an original in the art world. It refers to one of a kind lithograph, mono prints or photographs or such. Where the original exists, as in paintings, it is considered a reproduction. If you post the proper definitions in your booth it will help people understand.

Look up the definition of a print:

Larry Berman

Thanks for the clarification, that helps!

I have a theory for why people don’t read signs, even when we put them all over. Ditto prices. I think that when they get into a visual mode, their reading is affected. Like a left brain versus right brain phenomenon. Images versus language. I originally studied neuroscience so have theories on this.


I have every piece prominently labeled with what stones are in it plus the metal. Price clearly indicated. And still people ask, “What stone is this?” or “ How much is it?”. When I tell them, and point out (nicely) that each one is labeled with the materials, they often say, “Oh, duh” or something similar. Which leads me to believe they can’t always transition quickly  from one mode to the other.

Interesting!! I bet this is true!

Interesting but your question is actually about "communication" as opposed to reading comprehension. When people speak to us, they are actually trying to communicate, what they are saying is tricky. My experience is the questions can be bizarre at times, but, it is what they are attempting to say is what is important. For me (contemporary 2D) i feel more like a curiosity rather than an artist presenting work that is serious or emotionally stimulating. Said another way, I seem to be more of an animal in an old fashioned zoo, in a 10x10 cage that people are content with observing rather than engaging. I prefer to look at inquires as bad communicators that are opening a bridge for us to speak with them. It is our duty to "steer" the queries into a buying mode.

An extreme challenge I assure you.

Often times I put no signs or prices in my booth. Hide the business cards and if people want to engage you, they must work for it. The response to "I love your work" is not thank you. No, it is an opening. What comes out of your mouth next should bring them closer to the work..."I am glad you appreciate it" This leaves the ball in your court with a follow-up, "are you a collector", "what brings you here today", is it the extravagant colors that make you appreciate the work?", etc.

I once heard this and so for what its worth I will pass it on. "A confused mind with always make the wrong decision." Are your signs confusing people? Are you hiding behind them? Are you selling signs, artwork or most importantly you?

Just food for thought, or perhaps a sign of the times. 

Thanks for your thought-provoking reply, Paul!

I am new at this and I am still getting used to talking to people in this sort of setting. I tend to be shy and I'm not good with words (or at least, not good when I am face to face speaking off the cuff). And on top of that, talking about myself and my work is an additional layer of challenge. I know it will come in time but I definitely need practice.

I don't think my signs confuse people, but I'm starting to realize that maybe they just don't look at them to begin with. I joked around with another artist at my last show who had a sign next to her logo that said "It's Not Metal" (her medium looked like metal but I can't remember the actual medium). I asked her if having a sign saying "it's not metal" actually deterred people from asking her "Is this metal?"-  she said "Nope, people don't read signs!"

I need to figure out ways of engaging with people without feeling incredibly awkward. Most of the time people start conversations by talking about the animals I've painted, which is a good start I suppose. I am definitely guilty of saying "thank you" when people compliment my work, instead of trying to continue the conversation. I will attempt to use your advice at my next show!

Paul, Very well stated. :-) 

Hi Kristy.  I’m also paint wildlife, and unfortunately, there’s no way around this.  Like you, I have clear labels and prices on everything.  I label each original painting individually with the painting’s title, the medium, and the price...i.e.  “Bird’s Nest”, Acrylic on Canvas, $150.  I also label my prints clearly as reproductions (many shows require that all reproduction be clearly labeled as such, and not prints).  And I display my reproductions in an area separate from the originals.  But I’m constantly asked the prices, whether something is original or not, or whether something is acrylic or watercolor.  For some people, I think it is just a way to start a conversation.  They want to talk to you, but don’t know how to open up the conversation.  And I’ve also found that many people are also just very uninformed about mediums and painting terms.  I had one woman purchase a reproduction on Masonite board, and she kept asking me how I painted it on the board, even after I explained it wasn’t an original.

I am learning more and more that things that seem obvious to me absolutely are not obvious to non-artists. At first it was irritating because I didn't understand where the disconnect was, but it is getting better as I learn to think from their perspective.

Out of curiosity, do people that you talk to understand what "reproduction" means or do you always need to educate them? I've had people come in and look at one of my paintings and say "ohh I love this, do you have it as a print?" Never do they use the term reproduction. I know we are not Target  but when you see reproduction wall art being sold at big stores like that, they are labeled as "prints". I wonder if the terminology is getting muddled nowadays because of big retailers. Gotta wonder....


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