Art Fair Insiders

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

It's been a long time since I started my own discussion, but this summer I've had such great experiences in smaller towns!  

In July, I was at the Three Rivers Art Fair in Fort Wayne, IN.  It was a busy place.  I didn't have enough time to walk around much, but did see an art fair friend, and Connie Metler showed up IN MY BOOTH!  That was such a surprise, and a nice one at that!  She told me that Nels Johnson was there, so I walked down the row to say "Hi."

It helped that we could stay with my son instead of having to get a hotel.  I wasn't able to count how many jewelry people were there, but the arrangement of booths seemed unplanned to me.  I was right beside a jewelry booth, and kitty-corner from another.  I was in a group of booths arranged around a square fountain and could count at least 5 more jewelry booths.  On my other side was a photographer and next to him another!

We did very well there, however.

The next week we drove to Marshalltown, Iowa for the Linn Creek Art Fair, a 1-day show.  Again, a small town, the show run by volunteers from their Art Center.  What a delight!  They were so hospitable.  They provided a delicious meal the night before including gourmet soups, wine, and homemade cookies.  The morning of the show there were so many volunteers, we hardly had to carry anything from the car.  The row captains were attentive, and more volunteers brought water and more food throughout the day. The town businesses supported the show with sponsorships for "prizes."  They had an ingenious plan for moving people through the whole show.  They spaced public service booths throughout the artists.  Customers had the opportunity to carry a ticket with them through the show booths, and have it stamped at each public service booth.  They would enter those in a drawing for a $75. voucher which could be redeemed at any booth.  They would not receive money back.  If they spent more than the $75. it was on them.  The artists then redeemed the tickets for money at the end of the show.  We had 2 of them and in each case, people spent more than the $75.  Neat idea.  It was a long drive home, but we'd happily do that show again.

Our next show was in Bozeman, Montana, the Sweet Pea Festival.  Again, totally run by volunteers.  Not quite as well organized, but again, very friendly people and we did well.

Finally, last weekend we were in Michigan City, IN for the Lubeznik Artist and Artisan Fair.  Despite the weather, we did very well.  We are coming out of this summer with good feelings about small towns!  I will try to do show reviews on these show when I have more time

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Replies to This Discussion

What a nice discussion. I hear a lot of complaining, and it's a delight to encounter such a positive posting. 

One of the most fun shows I ever did was the Winnsboro Art and Wine Festival in Winnsboro, TX. The year I did it, it was a two-day show , Saturday and Sunday, with regular hours. It's changed now to be Friday afternoon and Saturday, but not on Sunday. I think this change is probably smart, as between church and football, there was not much attendance on Sunday (though I did sell a big painting on Sunday). 

The town is tiny, but treasures art, and plenty of people came out and bought. Volunteers helped me set up and take down my tent - I barely broke a sweat. The group that puts on the show gave us great meals, snacks all day, all the water and coffee you could want, and they were friendly and welcoming and kind. 

I tried to go back the next year, but two shows I had scheduled in Texas got rained out, and I canceled out of Winnsboro and headed home. It was to be the final show of the year, and it was OK to let it go. 

But if anyone is near Texas, and looking for a November show, I'd recommend this one. You will have a lovely time - and very well might sell stuff, too. 

Carrie, thanks for the response.  I have had trouble getting into the larger and more prestigious shows (re-designing my booth this year), but managed to get into Penrod which is 1 of 3 major Indianapolis shows and has more than 350 artists in their 1 day show.  I'm excited to be accepted into this show, and will see how it compares to the smaller shows.

Nice small town show,waiting for your show reviews

Thank you for your encouraging review on small towns.  I'm new to art shows and plan to start small and local here in Ohio.

I am so new to the art show biz that I haven't even done my first show yet. I am so pleased to find this positive thread! I spent last night reading some of the other threads and was so discouraged to find a good deal of negativity. I know that it must get tiresome to hear the same questions and comments throughout a long show. But, since I have to admit that I am one of those dreaded "art league ladies", I will say that I have tried to come up with some comments to artists at their booths that are not entirely obvious and niave. There are some of us who rever the masterful work done at shows. We do want to be complimentary and hospitable. I am so glad you have had good results at small shows. I would be so happy if I could one day meet you! I am sure I will be doing the small ones for some time.

Hi Kris,  Don't know where you have planned to do your debut, but another nice small show is Shireen's An Affair of the Art in Southbend, IN.  There have been quite a few positives this past week on AFI about that show which was held last weekend.  I'm always looking for AFI people. It would be fun to meet you, too.  There usually are negative things that happen an an art fair.  It is so easy to let something littlish become biggish when I'm tired (just spent 72 hours trying to get ready for a show that I should have started working on more than a week ago;  got up early to drive 3 hours to set up on the day of the show instead of paying for an extra night in a hotel; the GPS quit working 1/2 hour prior to arrival and darn it, I needed those last miles and blocks of directions more than the first ones; etc, etc), stressed, and probably having a sugar let-down after eating those ever-present doughnuts handed out during set-up.  So I have to be careful not to let those things jump in the way of working with the people attending the art fair.  I think that most artists/artisans are happy to talk to people who are  really interested in what they are creating.  I'm glad to meet "art league ladies" and I hope that I have never inadvertently given the impression that I'm not.  My husband and I take it as a compliment when someone asks about what we do. I sometimes joke to people talking with my husband that I'll be glad to run interference for them if they want to get away!

Thanks for your kind reply. I am looking forward to this new world. See you at the fair!


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