Art Fair Insiders

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

What do you do when you need to get rid of your artwork but hate the thought of giving it away after all the work and money you put into it? My stomach flips at the thought of donating the thousands of dollars in prints I had made up when I first started.

I am a photographer and tried art fairs for two years with very little success. I got in great shows, won awards, but didn't make any money. I sold my tent and display last winter and still have bins of my photography full of packaged prints. I also have large canvases in boxes as well. I've moved to a small home with no garage and do not have storage for this artwork. My parents were storing some of my work, but they are now moving and can't do it anymore. I've tried selling on etsy, but it's very slow moving.

I need and want to live more minimally. I don't want to have anxiety every time I walk into my laundry room full of photographs that didn't sell. Has anyone encountered this? Should I bite the bullet and just donate it all?

Thanks!

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Keep at least one of each image. Pass them on to your kids / grandkids. This is part of your leagacy to them. If you were passionate about your art then it is an integral part of your being.  Giving them the prints is akin to leaving them your diary.

If the income from the art is not a concern, perhaps you can find a reseller who does not tdue the fine art shows (buy/sell would not be allowed) who wants to buy them for very little and sell them at lower end venues. (lower end only due to the buy/sell issue).

Donate them to decorate childrens homes, old folks homes...places that do not have the resources to purchase fine art.

Whatever you choose do NOT just try to sell them ultra cheap / dump them at a Fine Art show, unless you don't mind having other artists wanting to inflict serious anger upon you  :-)

We aren’t quitting but have a pile of work we don’t want to carry around anymore. My husband gets his healthcare at the VA and noticed the artwork in the rooms he is seen in is old, faded and outdated. We took about ten framed pieces there and the nurses, doctor and office folks were thrilled! Helped their mood during the government shutdown!

This is a great "feel good" solution. I really like the idea. I'd like to look for something like this to donate a few of mine to. Thanks!!

Sheri, I have the same issue. My inventory consists of handwoven wearables. I was on the show circuit for over 25 years. Due to low financial gain along with repetitive motion problems from doing shows, I decided a few years ago to not do shows anymore. Now that my husband is fully retired it is time for me to just have fun with my art and not worry about a business. Over the last few years I have been selling my work by having studio sales. I have drastically reduced the prices in order to recoup a small amount of the time and money invested in the work. My customers know they are getting a great deal and they are appreciative. I am happy that someone will wear and appreciate the work. It does me no good if it just sits in my studio closet! I have given work away to family and friends but there is a limit to how many people you can do that with. Any business will tell you that when you end, you should liquidate the inventory and gain as much as you can monetarily. Not sure it's good to just "dump" work but in the end a donation to a non-profit may be the last resort (maybe checking with an accountant might be a good idea which I should do also). I did have to deal with my ego in order to do this but my ultimate goal was to have the inventory go to a good home. I too would like to know what others do when the last ditch effort to sell it doesn't pan out. I still have more to get rid of.

There are two studio "clearance" sales that encourage artists to bring their work to sell at discount prices.  One is in Kalamazoo, MI. The other is in Columbus, OH sponsored by ODC.  If my memory serves there might be a third show....can't recall where.  

Thank you Judy. Getting back to having fun with art sounds like a joy. Isn't that how we all begin? I wish I had a studio to do a sale. I used to live in Detroit and have a big friend base down there, but now live in northern Michigan with very few new friends. I keep thinking if I still had a place down south, I could just have a big party at my house and offer my prints on the cheap! Enjoy getting back into the fun of art.

I know exactly where you are coming from on this issue! There is a point where all the hassle of trying to sell at shows takes a toll especially when the financial return no longer makes it viable to do. If you are like me, the show artist community is the greatest thing I miss. However, when you give one thing up it opens space for something else. I think you have come up with some good solutions given your situation. I wish you the space and joy of getting back to your photographic art. Best Wishes.

Hey Sheri,

Get with one of your friends in Detroit and host it at his/her house.  Great mini-vaca, too!

--Chris

I've seen your work and it is magnificent. The only thing I can suggest is that you may have been behind the curve on the choice of presentation. I've just about eliminated gallery wrapped canvases except for a few panoramas that are in sectional pieces. Most photographers have gone to metal prints, and the new hot ones are the acrylic mounted prints. Photography on the art fair circuit seems to be more of a decorator driven media unless you have a unique quirky style that transcends matching the sofa. I'd be more inclined to hang as much of your work at home rather than take pennies on the dollar.

Two years is not a long time to give this crazy business a try. It takes constant evaluation of your markets and assessing your price points to find the right sweet spot. Photography is one the roughest media to make a living at, and is constantly evolving with different presentations. I don't recall which shows you were doing, but the large prestigious shows can the toughest to turn a profit. There are many intermediate size shows where the booth fees are lower, lodging is lower, and the sales are higher. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful answer Robert. I appreciate that!!! I did see the acrylic coming in the last year I did my booth. I also saw the metal as an option when I first started, but felt I liked the softer more organic/painterly feel of the canvas on some of my prints. I just felt the other two mediums seemed too cold and modern for what my work was. I was flying under the guidance of a friend who had been in the business for 10 years and was making a killing off of his prints and canvases. The acrylics are also super expensive to purchase.

I could sit and ponder for days, as I already did, as I was going through the whole ordeal. Why did some people by other's art and not mine? My prices were similar, my presentation often better, quality was high. Tons of compliments, but not enough sales. I don't know. But the lack of profit combined with the high booth fees (and smaller show fees too) and then a final blow of someone scamming me on a square sale just made me snap. I also hated assembling my heavy tent at odd hours alone in poorly organized venues then sitting out for too long of days in 90 degree weather. (Yes, I'm looking at you Ann Arbor!) I don't have years to continuously drop money and time into something that I can't even break even in. I'd be even more poor than I am now. Art fairs were a gamble I lost. I sold my art fair tent and pro panels, so getting back into fairs isn't an option anymore.

I now live in a tiny a-frame in northern Michigan where I can not hang artwork. So apart from a few I have resting against the wall on the floor, they can't be hung on angled walls. I have a small, dirt floor crawl space and an almost full gardening shed for storage options. Which really don't suffice for storing canvases. I'm going to offer my packaged smaller prints at half off to friends on Facebook. Then sell my large canvases for $100 next. If I don't sell them, I'll look for a senior home or something of the sort to donate to. Beyond that, I'll just give them away to a thrift store.

Sorry for my ramble. Thank you for your input!

The other thing you could do but would take a little effort is find a few galleries or gift shops (even coffee shops) that have wall space that would be willing to take your work on consignment. You check back with them every 3 to 6 months and split with them whatever sold. That way your work lives on without taking up your storage space, people get to see it and maybe you make some $. It's apparent by Robert's statement you are talented, it would be a shame if you didn't share the fruits of your labor.

Hello Sheri,

I just looked at your web site.  All I can say is, "Damn!!".  I, too, am a photographer (close-up nature) and now I see that you really do have "it".

Regardless of what you decide to do with your inventory (many suggestions here are wonderful, positive options) please keep working.  Keep putting your remarkable imagery out into the world.  If there was ever a time we all need it...

--Chris Fedderson

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