Art Fair Insiders

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

I am glad to have found this site.  I am new to the Art Fair world and hope to discover which shows would be the best for my kind of work, and to develop a strategy around where I choose to exhibit.  I have only been to two large shows.  The first one was the Western Design Conference in Jackson, Wyoming last September, the second was in Great Falls, MT at the Western Living and Design Show last month.   I have built my art on traditional leather carving techniques and developed my style over 30 years.  I've noticed that most Art Fairs do not have a category for Leather, so I sometimes wonder how I would apply.  I make leather jewelry, (sometimes adding Montana sapphires that I like to mine), personal accessories like belts and handbags, and home interior pieces such as table runners, mirrors and frames.  My website is  I am still in the process of adding more product to my site as well as a shopping cart.

I don't see any reviews on this site for Art Festivals and Fairs in Montana?  I know, there are few of us here (barely a million people in the 4th largest state), but a lot of artists live here. 

I am looking for an artist's canopy for outside shows.  I have applied to several shows this summer that are outdoors.  If anyone has a used one to sell, or recommendations other than EZ-Up, please let me know, plus I will search the forums.

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Hi Olive and welcome to AFI :)   Your work looks very intricate!  Is it time consuming to make a piece?

I believe you may have to apply in different categories with your work, but someone with more experience will be able to give you more information I'm sure.

The heavier duty tents seem to be in preference - eg. lightdome and crafthut. EZUps are used by many but are also often damaged in bad weather conditions.   There are lots of tent discussions, the search function is your best friend on this site since there is so information to trawl through :)

Hi Olive, I am leather also and my website is If a show does not have a leather category, we are usually in fiber, and possible further categorized as fiber-wearable art (belts). Another option is mixed media for silver mounted stuff. Never hurts to ask a show ahead of applying for their opinion on category. Where in Montana are you? I did a lot of geologic work between Helena and Butte in the 80s. Also ran around the Big and Little Belts, Bitterroots, Sweet Grass Hills, Gravelly Range and Elkhorns. Looking for gold, niobium and other oddball metals. Miss the fly fishing.

Hi Richard,

Great website and very nice work too!  How do you know how many belts, chaps, etc to take to a show?  You have a lot of inventory in your booth photo, and I know that took a lot of hours to build up.  I am in Stevensville in the Bitterroot Valley, and close to the Bitterroot river.  I really enjoy sapphire mining over in Philipsburg, and am going to head over to Helena to do some mining at the El Dorado mine on the Missouri River.  Have you ever heard of turquoise being found in Montana?  I came across someone at an art show who showed me some turquoise he said he found here, but I asked the state Geologist about it, and he said he didn't know of any.

Sapphires yes, turquoise no. What's at the El Dorado, sapphires? There was an old mine north of Butte that had really nice chalcopyrite xls even after every geologist picking over the dump LOL. I have about 900 plain and carved belts in stock and reserve inventories when it is fully built up. I tracked sizes sold for several years to get to what to take and stock. I'm working on a "Belts" CD but have other stuff to do now. I take one pair of chaps or chinks to a show, something fancy and expensive. My inventory for shows includes belts and personal leather goods, horse tack, dog tack, and gun leathers. I'm expecting the gun leathers to be big in CO this summer based on gun sales. I worked on the Darby fluorite deposit sampling it for scandium. Did you meet saddlemaker Pete Gorrell when he was in Darby? He is back in CO now. Dont remember Stevensville, but had to go through it to get to Darby. It has to be bigger than Franktown LOL. Take a look at www.

Yes, I know Pete Gorrell, and visited his shop before he moved to Colorado.  I've only been here in MT for 9 years.  I also go to Sheridan to the Rocky Mtn Trade show put on by the Leathercrafter's and Saddler's Journal and see Pete there, along with Bob Brenner and Bob Klenda?  

there are sapphires at the El Dorado.  This fellow that had the turquoise said he found it on a Reservation, but he wouldn't say where, as I suspect he may have taken it illegally. Do you do all those belts yourself?  Takes me forever to do belts!

I do just about everything in the studio. I have a couple apprentices that come in to work on their stuff or mine - usually getting saddle restorations ready for me to work on. I hand cut everything. I know Bob Klenda and Bob Brenner through CSMA. I think I am the last founding member living. I wrote for the Journal for 18 years. Quit last year after Dot and David left. Contact me at and we can talk shop more. Geology not right for turquoise to form in oxide zones in MT.

Hi Olive, Sounds like you and Richard have alot in common being in the same medium.  Are your earrings made from feathers?  Feather earrings have become very popular in the last couple years.

Hi Pat,

Yes, it is nice to know another leather artist is doing art fairs.  My feather earrings are made from leather.  They are carved, shaped and shaved (aka skived) to a "feather edge" with scalpels.  I also do leaves and other shapes.  The feathers are removable from the stud so the earrings can be worn two ways.

Hi Olive! Welcome to AFI! I just looked at your website. Very pretty, very different work! I'm in Texas, so can't help with show suggestions...:( but wanted to comment on your work. Best of luck to you!

Thank you Jonna!  Some day, when I am able to take longer road trips, I'd like to do a show in the Fort Worth area, or shows in Texas that have a western flair.  Right now, I have to still look after the animals, and figure out how to get help to keep the ranch going while I"m on the road.

Hi Olive,

Welcome to the forum.  We're currently located in Western WA, with a show circuit that includes WA/OR/ID/CA.  We've applied for Sweet Pea this year in Bozeman, I think you've missed the application deadline for that show, I've heard great things about it so you might check it out for next year.

How far are you willing to travel?  We know a couple of artists out of Montana, usually see them at our shows in Eastern WA and Idaho.  They've mentioned the 2 Jackson Hole shows and said they are both usually pretty good.  They also do the summer shows in Coeur d'Alene (Art on the Green) and the Sandpoint ID Arts and Craft festivals.  We've done both of the Idaho shows the last few years and combined they make a good road trip for us.  I think there's also a big festival in Spearfish SD that they travel to. Unfortunately, living in Montana seems to translate to a LOT of traveling.  Also several good shows in Utah that they travel to when accepted and the one in Sun Valley ID.

Other festivals in Montana that are on my list to consider include the Whitefish art festival that is around th 4th of July weekend, there's a festival we've looked at in Missoula called "Under the Big Sky", I think it may be the only one I've mentioned that the app deadline for this year hasn't passed.

Thank you for the Welcome Ruth!  I live south of Missoula about 3.5 hours from Spokane.  I have applied to Whitefish, Big Fork and Kalispell - all are in western Montana and about 3 hours away.  I think this year I will keep it fairly local and get my feet under me.  The Bozeman and Coeur d'Alene show are the same weekend as the Big Fork show.  What shows do you go to in Eastern Washington?  I think the "Under the Big Sky" show is coming up soon and is in Missoula.  They do another show Thanksgiving Weekend in Missoula too.  I will look into the Sun Valley one.


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