Art Fair Insiders

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

*** Disclaimer ***

Let me start by stating I have nothing against Jewelry nor any other form of art. I have admiration and respect for artists of myriad mediums.

I do not claim or insinuate any medium is superior to any other.

*** End of Disclaimer ***

Now on to the issue:

I am still trying to understand why people will spend the same money or much more at a show, for Jewelry (just one example) than photographic art.

The Jewelry will often sit in a drawer and only be seen / used once in a while. Unless it is one of very few pieces the person owns.

The photography will hang on a wall and be viewed constantly for many years, regardless of the occasion.

Appreciation / depreciation in value can be comparable. Both have as much usefulness. Longevity can be similar. Price points similar. Photos need wall space, if no room then a piece must be removed from the wall to allow a new piece. Jewelry needs body space, if need one must choose which piece(s) to wear that day.

This is not just a "salesmanship" issue. It is evident from how many Jewelry vendors are present at shows compared to photogs etc. jewelry does the numbers. Why?

is there a great method of using the jewelry allure to aid in photog sales?

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Probably the route you would want to go is either 3D mixed media or bill yourself as "wearable photography". A jeweler can't get by with purchasing a bunch of pre-made components, but as mixed media (I'm guessing) there isn't as much of a restriction, and certainly as a subgenre of photography you could buy the necessary parts for assemblage in much the same manner as buying premade frames which no one questions or has restrictions.

Regarding my own feel toward photography, and this is based on long term experience, I have concerns about future directions. I started doing photography in the late 1950s, became serious about it in 1970, and started doing art fairs in 1988. In the 80's and 90's, you saw mostly B&W photography and some color work. Most work was done by the photographer in those days; shooting, developing, printing, matting, and framing. Each of those, in reverse order, seems to have dropped by the wayside, and B&W even in digital form is seldom seen.

Part of the allure for the buyer is knowing that the photographer has controlled the entire process and done it themselves all the way through. Metal and glass prints are the exception as that's a very large technical hurdle requiring expensive and touchy gear. The heat presses required for the metal dye-sublimation prints are very pricey for the larger sizes and the volume requirements for a dye-sub printer are such that it isn't practical for a single user operation due to head clogging in all but high volume operations.

What it comes down to for the buyer is that the photographer has to be turning out a product that is clearly head and shoulders above anything they can do and has technical requirements that are beyond their reach. Borrowing from the electronics industry, new technology must be on an order of magnitude greater than it's predecessor in order for it to have immediate acceptance. The average Joe Blow has the mindset that if they have a camera, they can do work just about as good as you can, despite the fact that they can't. Most of them lack the expertise to even recognize the differences, so they're blind to what real quality is. The tip-off to that is the number of professional photo studios that are going under, and have gone under, as a result of the digital camera proliferation.

To survive and prosper, and this applies to other accessible media as well, the artist has to produce something that the average person can't go down to Walmart and either buy or place an order for. Metal prints and canvas prints are dime a dozen at Walmart and Costco. Hell, you can even order those from Walgreen's now. Your work has to be simultaneously in a different presentation but not so far out that it's totally ahead of the wave. If not, they look at your prices and decide that their latest cellphone shot ran through some Snapchat filters is the better deal. It comes down to the fact that photography is no longer the medium that required a lot of study and practice to get acceptable images for the general public. When our work combines the "good eye", artistic content, and an obvious expertise that Joe Sixpack can't replicate, then we're starting to sell well.

 Bottom line - women do most of the spending. More women go to shows than men. We would rather buy jewelry.  Without the jewelers A LOT LESS people would be at the show. I am a jeweler, my average sale is $80 - $100. Fine art is usually priced higher than that.  A lot of fine artists make more than I do at shows, with less sales (why am I not painting?).  A lot of what you see at a show is an illusion -  every woman looks at every jewelry booth, this does not mean she is buying, it does make jewelry booths look very busy. As you have pointed out there are often many more jewelry booths than other mediums, this means our sales are spread too thin among too many of us, I have dropped shows for this reason, and yes many of us have had shows with ZERO sales.

 You asked "why?"  its really simple- women are at the shows, spending THEIR money, on what they want. Almost ALL women own some if not a lot of jewelry. I always wonder why the food and kettle corn people make so much at the shows - oh yeah, cause everybody eats.

  So "is there a great method of using the jewelry allure to aid in photog sales"  have you tried asking all these women at the shows spending THEIR money what kind of photography they would like to buy?


Good points. Interestingly I did a small show recently that was one day during the week. I felt it might be a waste as weekdays might not have the foot traffic, with peoples work schedule. I was told by other vendors that it was a good show to do because (not my viewpoint just what I was told) "The women come to the shows without their husbands, so they can spend money". 

Would not matter to me who's money it was, as long as it is legally obtained, US currency, I'll accept it.

Yes, I have asked people in my booth what they like to buy.


You bring up some valid points. I agree with a bit of what you say about the demise of public respect in the field of photography. It has become much easier, due to technology, for everyone to shoot pictures... often, low to no cost, adjust exposures, focus, enhance or alter extremely.  None of which make an excellent photographic artist. Having an eye for composition, understanding lighting, being able to convey a message, what paper /medium will bring out the best results... far more make the difference. 

This would be the concept with what is proposed of mixed media involving jewelry made from photographic components. While it may be a great idea. It is not for me. I would be the same  as those that think they are photographic artists except I'd be applying it to jewelry. I do not, as far as I know, posses the vision, expertise etc.  in jewelry type work. Most importantly I would not have a MOST important quality for that media that I have in photography... PASSION.

Many take nice pictures. Many can manipulate the images in post processing. Many can market their work. I desire to successfully market my work however it is not very important. I love doing photography. I do it for free. I feel close to a euphoria when I shoot and at times produce what will invoke feeling and convey my thoughts. What separates us artists from those just selling goods they made is that passion. Without it I would not be doing this. If I ever lose it I will cease. Those that come and view my work find some of that passion. At times the pubic does not recognize the difference. 


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