Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I am hoping I can solicit some sage advice from the Art Fair world on behalf of my father. My father, Rodney Leftwich, is a very accomplished potter based out of the Asheville area in North Carolina. He has been producing traditional folk pottery as well as some art pieces for over 50 years. He is nearly 74 years old now, and while mostly retired, he is luckily still in good health and turning out pots. I grew up on the craft show circuit during the 1980s and 1990s, in which we did a dozen or so a year. He has been a full-time artist since 1993. He has gradually retired from the craft show scene over the last 10-15 years. The costs of booth fees, hotels, and travel expenses, combining with slow show sales, led to him finally conclude they just weren't worth the effort. By the end, he was simply breaking even at best. He has also done the wholesale thing at various galleries, and still does to a limited degree, but again, it's mostly been a break-even arrangement. He is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, and he has been profiled in several publication primarily on the local level. He does maintain a studio / shop. However, the shop is in a fairly rural area with virtually no nearby traffic. It is only open during advertised open house events and by request or appointment.
My father is by an artistic definition very accomplished. Besides being a master at his craft, he is the leading scholar on the history of southern Appalachian pottery, authoring several books and articles as well as curating museum exhibitions on the subject. However, like a lot of traditional artists, he has struggled from the business and marketing side, particularly in the internet age. He is not very tech savvy. He has a basic understanding of computers, and he does maintain a Facebook presence. He is pretty adept at eBay (perhaps too adept at times), but has not found it a good place to sell. Most of his marketing is a bit old fashioned, with newspaper ads, direct mailing, or email lists. He has also been targeted for scams, which makes him distrustful of the internet in general. I have tried to help him out as much as I can from a technical standpoint. Unfortunately, I live on the opposite coast in California. He hired a company to create a website for him, which charged him a fortune for a site that would have been terrible in 1997. I created a new, modern website for him a couple of years ago, which I maintain and try to keep updated. It's more of a portfolio and a platform to announce events, like open house sales. It is not a direct sales platform but a showcase. The website is www.leftwichpottery.com.
I realize I'm asking for the moon here, but I hoping I'm can solicit advice. I realize the coronavirus world makes things all the more complicated. My father does not have the skill, energy, or patience for sitting for hours and hours in front of a computer. I help out when I can, but I'm very far away. I also own and run an archaeology consulting business and my own fine art photography business, so my available time is also limited. My father does not produce expedient pieces. Most of his pieces are very time intensive, often dozens of hours for really intricate ones. As he enters the twilight of his career, he is more interested in producing prestige and legacy pieces than simplifying. His style and brand are already pretty defined and established. He has also attended a few workshops on marketing crafts, but to be honest, the advice has been terrible. He is also in a saturated local art market. I have been trying to get him to join Art Fair Insiders, which he will hopefully do soon. Thank you!
Good luck to you. There are many experienced people here that could give you much better info than I can.
Just two weeks ago I "forced" myself to look into Instagram and figure out how it could help my textile business. I had a website with a store and blog that I built myself four years ago with Wordpress. No luck. I did not get traffic or one single sale. A few months ago I closed it down and made a new website with Squarespace. I have no illusions about sales there, however, I just don't want to deal with constant updates and changes with Wordpress and its plugins.
In the last two weeks I have focused on trying to understand Instagram, setting up a schedule for posting to the regular way and to the "stories." I researched all the hashtags others like me use and that could apply to my work and I found a way to get my pictures from my computer to my phone by emailing them to myself. I can use Photoshop Elements to size the photos correctly. I actually made a sale my first week. I am still in shock.
Most of my Instagram followers (being textile, I guess) are from the UK and Australia. Note of interest: I did a "promotion" out of curiosity and invested $30. My return wasn't great but it was a lesson learned. Maybe I'll try it again in a few months.
I've been on Facebook for years and have given up expecting results. On occasion I will copy an Instagram post to Facebook. Overall, I need a web page for a number of reasons, but it looks like Instagram is where the buzz is that will help bring traffic to my web page.
And, btw, I am your father's age.
We just did a 6-part podcast series on selling your art through social media, if either you or your father is interested: https://www.artfairinsiders.com/artfairpodcasts.
We would welcome his membership! I bet he could find some tech-savvy help -