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Did my first show this weekend (Corn Hill Arts Fest in Rochester, NY) and thought I would share my experience (Sorry in advance- this is going to be long!). I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts/advice.

It was a HOT weekend, and thunderstorms were forecast for Saturday. The storm didn't actually hit, but apparently the forecast scared some people away. A few other artists said the show seemed slower than usual (Which, to me, was a shock, because there still seemed like a TON of people there).

This is what I brought, and my prices (I'll say right off the bat that I think I should have framed all my smaller originals -thoughts, anyone?-  I plan to do so for my next show)

-(12) 8x10 wildlife paintings, matted but not framed- $75 each

-(10) 5x7 matted ink drawings, also not framed- $35 each

- a couple 5x5 matted paintings, not framed, $40 each

- 4 larger paintings, matted and framed, ranging from $175- $350

- Several different selections of reproductions, 8x10 and 11x14 ($20 and $25 respectively)

Some things I observed/learned:

-Lots of people looking and complimenting, not a ton of people buying (This was also confirmed by a couple of the artists near me). I sold 5 print reproductions over the weekend, the most popular of which was of my panda painting (see image attached). I also sold 2 originals (not sure yet if I really count that, as they were purchased by people I'm related to!). Seemed like a lot of people where there for the food and to just look.

-Kids LOVED my art. As my husband put it: "Boy, if kids carried around $20 bills, you'd be making a killing on prints!". Not really sure how to capitalize on that -LOL.

-Several people had very specific animals they were looking for paintings of. Unfortunately I didn't have what they were looking for. 

- I did actually see the judges come through and it looked like they paid close attention to each booth.

Overall: I think it was a positive experience. Didn't quite make back my booth fee, but I felt I learned a lot, got a feel for what shows are like, and have a bunch of things I'd like to improve upon in my booth setup.

I think that my next 3 shows might be a bit different than Corn Hill, as they all charge admission, and have a strict focus on original art (the amount of reproductions you can bring are limited). So I am interested to see what types of buyers those shows will bring in. 

One of my artist neighbors gave me some really good advice:  It takes a while to find which shows have "your people" (aka your buyers), so don't get discouraged if not every show is for you. 

I have taken that to heart.

If you made it all the way through this, thanks for reading!

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Hi Kristy...I have done the Corn Hill show for over 20 years and it draws much less people than is used to back in the '90's and early 2000's and the buying power in Rochester isn't what it used to be. That said, it can still be a decent show. I sell 2-D are as well (repros) and sales were down 40% from last year I feel primarily because of the heat. Rain and heat are usually killers for art sales in my opinion and I have a booth without any shade. It wasn't pleasant but made the best of it. Love your work and know you will be successful once you find the right show mix...good luck!


Heat ... that is a big show killer that is held outdoors.  We typically don't do summer shows for that reason unless I can get one indoors, which is rare here in south Louisiana.

I have a show next weekend, and the forecast is calling for much nicer temperatures...So I hope that helps! It is definitely frustrating to be at the weather's mercy!

Thanks for your reply! Glad to hear a perspective from someone who's done the show for a while.

I got lucky with my booth, and if I do Corn Hill in future years I will definitely ask for the same spot. I was on Frederick Douglas Street, in the shade, and between a fire hydrant and a tree so I wasn't smooshed up against anyone else's booth. Still very hot though!

I love the panda painting.  Very pretty.

Congratulations on completing your first show.  We find we learn something at each event we do.  So my advice is ... don't ever think you've learned it all.  Keep looking for ways to improve.


Hi Kristy,  I had to laugh reading your review - I am also new to this, and it sounded like almost everyone of the few shows I have done so far!  Lots of compliments, kids love my animal paintings, the weather is either too hot, too wet, too much snow, and the more experienced artists all complain how the traffic is down over the last few years.  I started off doing smaller art & craft shows, and found that that market just wouldn't support buyers of original artwork.  My only sellers were matted prints that I sell at $ 15 for a 5" x 7" and $20 for an 8" x 10", and notecards that I sell at $3.00 each or four for $10.  Even my originals are on the smaller size, most are size 8" x 10" unmated. The booth fees are lower, but still very hard to make much when people aren't buying higher priced items.  I just did my first higher level art show this summer, and was very excited to show there.  But even though the crowds were much larger than anywhere I previously showed, it was ungodly hot and the old timers said it was slow compared to prior years.    I sold two originals and some matted prints, and covered my booth fee, but not a killing by any means!  Speaking with some of the veteran artist at these shows, I think unless you can start to sell some larger, original pieces consistently, even the best shows may not bring in a lot of profit.  So I am going to start producing some larger pieces (16" x 20").  Other artists have recommended having at least a few big pieces, and hanging them on your back wall to help at least draw in visitors to your booth.  Framing the artwork also makes it appear larger and more professional, and shows you value the piece.  I frame all my original artwork that isn't on canvas, and only offer matted prints. Do at least one large piece that highlights your work, frame it nicely and put a big price tag on it, and if it sells you might make your booth fee with just one sale! 

I'm glad I'm not alone! I am definitely hoping I do better at  the higher-end shows. I also am working on some bigger pieces to bring to those!

Congrats at doing a first show! You will find at every show there are positives and negatives. I have been doing shows for 39 years(its in my blood)..... they are a lot of work but I love them! I will tell you about my worst experience......I did a thanksgiving show about 20 years ago in ft Wayne, in. It was terrible, only a few people came. I was really disappointed....on the last day of the show a woman came through an she was looking at my booth. She got so excited....I paint on anything I can get my hands on, tin, canvas, wood. I consider myself a folk artist. she just loved my style and gave me a card and took one of mine. She runs a show in September in ft. Wayne. Personal invite only. I told my husband lets do it. So I applies and got in. It was the bests show I ever did. I am still doing this show and it is still my favorite. It was my positive from a negative show. It was a great lesson for me because I always look now for the best in every show. This may be a few calls after the show for sales or more ideas for different art that I would not have thought of. Some of my customers have great ideas! 

My advise.....don't get discouraged......keep on and have fun on your journey! 

Love your work, it is just beautiful!

Debbie, I love your story about the lady who invited you to her show years ago.

I did Corn Hill for a number of years until I started getting a better show on a regular basis. It is a fun show, but it never was my audience. I agree with that advice. You need to find your customer. He/she may not be at Corn Hill. I believe that if you barely make booth fee at a show, chalk it up and move on. Next year might be better, but would it be better by that much? We all spend time schmoozing and analyzing attendance when a show is bad. Weather/the economy/the Bills are playing/the jury let in too much crafty stuff/show was not promoted well/too many other events in town that weekend and on and on and on. I tend to believe what an old pro told me when I first started this gig. Shows go in cycles. They ebb and flow. You will never figure it out, so just bring your best work and lots of it and hope for the best. My initial hit was that your inventory was too small. The more you have for them to choose from, the better your odds for a sale. Especially when you are selling repros. I started to make prints of my collage a couple of years ago and they sell like crazy. So I make sure I have tons of them. I do 8X10 and 5X7, not matted. $8 and $10. That may be cheap, but if I can make $500 on 50 prints that required little effort once the original was done and the print perfected, I'm OK with that! I also do mini original collage (matted to 5X7) for $20 that sell out. I have large framed pieces on the walls and large matted pieces in a browse bin, but the majority of my money comes from the prints. Is that depressing? A little, but it's the bottom line that counts in commerce and they are still buying my work. I tend to think Corn Hill is on the downslide from what I hear, but you never know. It is a sweet show. Good luck. Keep on plugging. Let us know how you are doing! (your pandas are lovely)

I DEFINITELY did not have enough inventory. That is my biggest takeaway so far from the 3 shows I've done thus far- i need lots more stuff, more for people to choose from, more to look at to keep people in my booth longer. Although each show is getting better for me, I think next year will be a big improvement overall because I will lots of time to prepare more work to bring. However, I will most likely be trying a different show instead of Corn Hill!


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