Art Fair Insiders

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

My husband told me I'm a pain in the neck the week before a show. I guess I keep all the details in my head and fret and fuss and run around the house like a maniac...so he stays out of my way and says nice things like "what can I do to help?" I must be a horror to be around - here's why:

I worry too much.

I worry about getting to the site on time, or that we'll get there safely...

I worry about set up and where we'll park, and how far the hotel is from the show...

I worry that my neighbor will have set their booth up first - over the line and not have enough room...

I worry about the weather - setting up in wind, rain, tornado warnings [it's happened]...

I worry about the tent getting "broken into" [unzipped] overnight and my art getting stolen [it's happened]...

I worry about not making my "nut" - about a kid or a dog ruining my art [it's happened]...

But, really... we've all had disasters happen somewhere along the line, and we keep doing this. Because there are some amazing moments!

One of my high points is being approached by a gallery [who sells my work], selling original work to very nice people, seeing some of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. from Salem, OR to Washington D.C. and...

I get to be with my husband. Each weekend is part retail, part detail, part honeymoon.

I get to meet the people who like my work IN PERSON! And, make new friends [like some of YOU] on the way.

Take a moment to share with me some of YOUR high points... and worst disasters - that you've survived.

We can all use a good chuckle!

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A horror - being three booths away when the wind brought a majorly large tree in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, smashing several artists booths and sending a patron to the hospital.

A wonder - my husband winning a top award at the Milwaukee Lakefront Festival of Arts and on the way back to the hotel a deer leaped across the dark lakefront road. An omen, perhaps of more good things to come?

I'm a little frantic the week before a show, but usually don't worry about too much.  I do have a thing for finishing one last picture before I go.  Usually after the truck is all packed.   Tearing down in the rain used to worry me, but I have figured out a better way of loading my truck, so I can put my photos in before tearing down the tent.  Used to be the photos went in last because they sat on top of everything else.  Last year I put in a raised floor in the back of my pickup so I could load the photos first, then slide everything else under them. 


One of the best compliments for me is when a painter asks if they can paint one of the birds or other wildlife I have in a photograph.   My very first show I had a sculptor buy a print of a black crowned night heron because she was carving on and my photo had such good detail. 

One of the joys I have at shows is talking about the birds or butterflies, or other nature items in my photographs.   I've had shows where the sales weren't that good, but the show itself was so enjoyable that I'd do it again. 

Worst disaster:  I was set up in a park with an underground sprinkler system.  There was a sprinkler head in my booth.  I was personally assured by the promoter, the city manager, and the DPW manager in charge of the sprinkler system that it was turned off.  

You guessed right:  it wasn't.

I came in the following morning to find a POND in the middle of my booth.  Far worse, all of the clothing on one side of my booth - which I had left sealed in their vinyl garment bags just in case - was completely soaked.  (Those zippers aren't completely waterproof, especially when they've been hit at point-blank range.)  I was, understandably, I think, close to hysterical.  Okay, I WAS hysterical.  Here I was, less than an hour before the show opened, and half my stock was drenched.  I make children's clothing, and all of it can be machine washed and dried, but I don't like to PROVE it!  

Here's the bright side:  Within five minutes, the promoter was in my booth, cash in hand, refunding my fee, apologizing profusely and offering whatever assistance she could.  She and her volunteers helped load my soaked stock into bins, offered to take it to the local laundromat and, when we declined, handed my husband a fistful of quarters and gave him directions.  She and her volunteers stayed behind and helped my rearrange my half-empty booth to make it appear fully stocked.  She was there when the freshly laundered clothing made its way back to me and helped rearrange again.  By 11 o'clock that morning, it was as if nothing had ever happened, and I went on to have a great show.  

So I guess I can't really call that a disaster, can I?  That's due in large part to a promoter who was a class act from start to finish.  I didn't lose one piece, but if I had, she would have been good for it.  (There were others booths that were "hit", too, though mine seemed to have had the biggest impact.  She refunded us all and compensated for the few pieces that were lost.)  I've returned to that show year after year because she's so good to work with - and I make money, too!   

Talk about your silver lining!  So sorry that this happened to you.  There's enough stress participating in a show as it is.  While unfortunate, it sound like you had a wonderful group of people who came to your rescue.  Not to mention that your art could be salvaged.  Imagine if you had been a paper or mixed media artist in the same situation! 

I love stories about artists helping each other.  A couple years ago the Ocean View Art Show had strong winds Friday night that tossed several tents.  Fortunately, we don't load inventory in until Saturday AM, just set up tents.  One new jeweler was in tears on Saturday, but a committee member came up to her and said she had an extra tent at home.  She couldn't get it until Sunday AM, but Sunday turned out to be beautiful, and the Jeweler had a trememdous day sales wise.  A couple other artists had similar experiences with artists lending them tents, or helping fix their bent ones.  Others were allowed to set up without the tents on Sunday and did well.   (Saturday was windy and rainy so not much could be done that day).

I've seen similar good will acts at other shows,  It's one of the things that I like about the artists at the shows.  We're kind of like a big family.  

Agreed.  How can you not?  Especially when you tend to see the same people over and over again.  My very first show, I forgot my table.  A kind woman had brought an extra and lent it to me for the entire event.  Saved me a frantic drive and soothed my jangled nerves. 

Sandhi, GREAT TOPIC!!!

I also am unlivable before the show. I may have dragged my feet on replacing some part of the inventory, I may be running back to back shows and FEEL I am on that treadmill or I am scared of:pick a subject.

After year ONE, Dan begged me to attend a marriage councelor. He said his perfect marriage had disappeared. I agreed. The stress of setting up a business just blew any fun time. Who felt like donning a black satin corset and fishnets after gestapo spreadsheet mandates all day!!

THAT YEAR we didn't know how much weight to put on the corners of the tent.

You guessed it!

It was a drinking/food festival. I WAS SO LUCKY THAT THERE WERE SIX YOUNG GUYS IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA. A strong wind came around the river's bend and caught and lifted our ENTIRE TENT twelve feet off the ground.

I did my best Southern Belle cry for help (ladies of the South, I hold you in awe) and 12 strong male hands reached out to heed the call. Thank Heavens. We would have caught up with that pop up in Canada, I think. I just kept selling. Although I did profusely thank my rescuers (I really only like two kinds of men: foreign and domestic.)

 

My very best memory happened at Amy Amdur's great Art Fair at Arlington Heights. I was accepted again this year but couldn't go because I'm having my hip replaced in three weeks.

 

It was a beautiful second Fair day with great ambiance, as always. I had been having a very lucrative weekend. It was almost shocking. A lovely elderly couple entered to shop.

This lovely lady tried on every single necklace/earring set I had left....I swear. Then we narrowed it down and started over. Just as I thought my one nerve would snap, the husband whispered to me, "It's our 49th wedding anniversary this weekend. I told her, we're not going into one of those mall jewelers. We are going to a REAL ARTIST."

 

I had to turn away quickly.........the tears were welling up........I was so humbled and honored.

 

She found a lovely heart-shaped druzie with a soft pearl and Swarovski crystal necklace. Yes, I gave him a discount. The story doesn't end here. As we were begining to close up, I noticed the couple had been sitting on a bench outside my tent. I thought, Oh no, problems?

The husband tentatively approached me and I closed the distance quickly.

 

He said," I want you to know that we will always CHERISH your hard work. Thank you for sharing your gift."

Well, I just let loose crying and hugging that man until his ears were purple.

 

I smiled for weeks and yup, somebody got very lucky that night!

 

Good luck with the hip replacement Linda.  A few years back my husband had both done within 6 days, one on Monday, the second on Thursday.  This was in early December and he was back at work on light duty by the end of January and full duty (climbing ladders and all) by March.

That is a great story, Janet! I'd like to recognize this person and give them recognition on this site. Do you care to share who this is?

... And for all those whom think that promoters / show coordinators don't care, there is always proof they do. Like any segment of our population, unfortunately, a few bad apples give the whole tree a bad name.

This is a great topic...my story is actually not a show story but rather a "road story". In December we were on our way home to Arizona from a show in Texas. When we hit West Texas there were some snow flurries which seemed very unusual but nothing really to worry about. We passed through El Paso and Las Cruces and it was snowing harder but we decided to press on as we only had another 4 hours to go. We reached the top of the hill and knew that was the wrong decision. Cars were spun out all along the highway and the snow was really coming down. By the time we were 30 miles out of Deming it became clear that we were not going to make it home that night so we started calling hotels. Every single room in town was booked because they actually had diverted traffic BOTH directions off at Deming. So we start calling all of our friends to see if anyone knows somebody in Deming....but no luck. So we decide we better get gas (while they still have some) because we have resigned ourselves that we are probably spending the night in our car. At the gas station my husband starts talking to a family (mom and 2 teenage kids) and they invite us into their home. We had a lovely evening with the Madrid's, had a great Chorizo and egg breakfast and left them with some glass treasures....and reminder of the kindness of strangers....

First, I love how you put it (as I am lucky to have a husband who supports me and my work) "I get to be with my husband. Each weekend is part retail, part detail, part honeymoon."  Amen!

This past year has been both horrible and also amazing and have been counting my blessing. I was diagnosed last May with breast cancer, but decided it wasn't making the decisions in my life...I was. I had been accepted into Central PA Festival of the Arts, and there was no way I was going to miss it. I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction 3-1/2 weeks before 'Fest, and with the help of friends, got my booth set up and did the show...and started chemo 3 days after.

I still did shows through chemo. I had my bandana on for setup and take down, but donned my wig and false eyelashes for the show. I only cancelled out of one show, but it was in the 40s and pouring all weekend, and I couldn't risk getting sick with my lowered immunity.

So instead of letting cancer run my life, I was there at shows, and got the affirmation of seeing new customers discover my work and fall in love with a piece. Old customers were supportive and it gave me such a high to be there, and to have not skipped a year of shows. All the annoyances and frustrations of doing a show became much smaller because I wanted so badly to be there.

That being said, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. I was often exhausted and it wasn't a great year creatively...I ended up pretty much following my previous years designs and making any big creative advances personally in my work. But ultimately I think it was the right decision.

This year is going to be great. After a big artistic lull and 3 months of exhasted vegetating after chemo was over, my artistic side is kicking in again. The elegant linear, classic, symmetrical designs I've always done have been joined by some artsy, fun, swirly, unsymmetrical designs that I have been getting great response to.

It was really funny, though, at my first show this year when I greeted a previous customer with a "Hello! Great to see you again! How has your year been?" and she looked at me blankly and said "Do I know you?". Yeah, my long straight blonde-brown hair is gone, and I have very short curly brown hair now (thanks chemo)... :)

 

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