I'm looking for any input you all may have about how to make a transition from craft shows and farmers markets into art shows/fairs.

A (shortened) bit of background..

I make jewelry, and have done so since I was very little. I'm in my 5th year of business, and it has progressively gotten better and better over the years. I started out selling to co-workers, then online, and branched out to doing shows including many farmers markets. As the new year comes along, my aim is to keep my momentum going and venture into a new direction. My work is in a couple of galleries, and I have been featured at said galleries. Long story short, after speaking with a few artist friends, I would like to give some bigger art shows a shot. I've been browsing Zapplication, but am quite intimidated by the way they speak of booth set ups. Currently I use a 10x10 pop up, but have seen talk of artists using Craft Huts. Is is necessary to purchase one of these down the line? My artists resume also isn't that lengthy in regards to fine art shows I have done in the past - could this hurt my chances of being accepted?

I know that many artists out there have been in my similar situation, so how did YOU make the transition from crafter to artist?

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  • I wish you had had your sides down! but aside from that someone with photoshop can blur your sign to make you legal. I have done this for several friends.
  • I'm in the same boat! My company has been around since 2012, but I'm been making jewelry since I was a child. Now I'm full time doing this, and I've realized that Art Fairs are where we do best. I spent most of last year in the Farmer's Market and local show syndicate (I realized pretty quickly craft shows were a waste of time for us, my customer just doesn't shop them).

    Now that I've gotten serious about applying to art shows I'm in a tiz over my booth too. We have a really nice commercial grade pop up, and I have some OK photos of it... but almost all of them have branding in the shots! I live in North West Ohio, and it's winter right now. That means snow, and sub zero temperatures. I don't have the capability to reshoot my booth photos until spring, by which time it will be too late for most of the summer shows.

    So any advice?

    I'm thinking about just biting the bullet and applying for shows with the photos as-is anyways, but I don't want to throw away the jury fee if it's going to be a bust because of sub-par booth photos.


    • Can you beg/borrow/steal some garage space for the afternoon? Other folks might have some better ideas about lighting the shots, but I'm sure that someone in your area would be willing to lend you some indoor space for you to get the photography done.

    • It's not just blurring out your name, which in itself is a distraction. It's taking the banner off for the picture as well as a number of other things.

      Tape, staple or clip the table cloths so there are minimal wrinkles. Don't shoot in direct sun. have all three sides of your canopy there so you don't see the garbage in the parking lot behind your booth. Once you do that, then it will make more sense critiquing the placement of the objects in the booth.

      Learn how to reduce your images so you can embed them in a post. Always start a new thread asking for critique and please do it in the forum specifically for booth image critiques:

      Larry Berman

  • 1, dont let zapplication intimidate you!  And dont let the sight of expensive tents leave you feeling less than equal to others.... some people have the funds for such major investments, and if you are like me you invested in what you could afford.  Over time it may be possible to find another artist selling a trimline or craft hut tent at a discounted price... but use what you have.  I agree that the festival planners just want you to be sheltered from the elements, and safely staking/weighting your tent in preparation for any event.  

    2.  Do investigative homework on shows - We have applied to a half dozen zapplication art shows... and have been accepted to most.  My business is a confusion to the "serious art fair folks" because it is two different genres - I do fiber, my husband does cold processed soap.  A lot of the art world snubs their nose at soap in an art fair.  I dont think they realize the amount of skills that are needed to produce great soap, plus he works to educate, get credentials, and is a member of a guild.  Back to the point, not every zapplication listed event is wonderful.... and i have even read the theory that zapplication is a way of revenue generation, where some events turn down large amounts of applicants, but ofcourse they are making money taking the jury fees.  Know what you are applying for, including what demongraphic they pull from, and ask artists of their experience.

    3. Be bold, take some risks.  If you never risk you will never know... i just suggest educated risks. 

    4, as to resume - My education is not in art.  My life career was not in art.  My interest and 5 years of resume is art focused, and rather than banking on what is in the past, rest on what you are building now.  There will always be a few people who are MFA or art school grad snobs, but the majority of the art community is opened, accepting and value your fresh approach. 

    Look around your area, and find out what big events will be coming up, and apply to one or two.. and go from there.  Keep us posted... love to hear your updates.


  • Sammi,

    I too went from farmers markets to craft shows and finally art shows. Making a booth is a constantly evolving thing. I change something/everything every year. When I think what I started with it is embarrasing. The good thing is I didn't know enough to be embarrased and most people are super nice.

    Don't worry about producing the ultimate set up. What works for some people doesn't work for others. A lot of jewelry people use cases. I only use two for my most expensive pieces. It is a process. look at other booths and take bits and pieces and ideas from them. I'm not saying copy them. But they will get your head going in the right direction.

    Good Luck!

  • You've done a great job of preparing to be in this business, Sammi. Starting local and small, honing your techniques and ideas, selling face to face where the overhead is low and learning what not to do. Congratulations!

    Don't worry about the tent. As Michelle said there are lots of images on this site to help you get an idea of what to do about that. If you're concerned about the booth shot search around here. Post what you've got already and we'll critique it. Craft Hut/Trimline/EZ-UP ... most outdoor shows just want to know you are ready for bad weather and rarely will your not having a top line canopy keep you out of a show. If that seems to be a problem any self-respecting show director would contact you before they'd not accept you if they love your work.

    Looking for shows? Visit our site BestArtFairs.com for some solid ideas of what some of the best shows are. Most importantly, visit art fairs whenever you have a chance. Travel to a desired show (write it off) to do your research. Take notes on everything: tents, crowded booths, other jewelers, traffic flow, what types of customers, how much inventory in the tents, display, advertising. 

    We attended lots of shows and took notes and then replicated what we thought was working. The first time we attended the Ann Arbor Art Fair we got caught in a storm that took down several tents and the glass was breaking around us. Undaunted we applied to it next year.

    This is a high risk business in many ways, but the payoff can be good financially and psychologically if you're smart, work hard, are persistent and are lucky. Talent helps too.

    • Thanks Connie!

      Bad weather is usually pretty rare near me (San Diego) and the art shows I'm looking to do are in Arizona, so once again not typically a place you'd find bad weather. 

      The high risk is worth it in the end I've found too =]

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