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

A Tale of Two Shows: Part I, One of a Kind Show and Sale

One of a Kind Show - Merchandise Mart - Dec. 5-8

Chicagoans love their art fairs and flock to attend in big numbers. The first big one is 57th Street Fair in the Hyde Park neighborhood (think U. of Chicago and Obama home) and finishes off with a bang the first weekend of December. If you live in this area you will have a long withdrawal period between December and June.

December 5-8 heralds the best overall shopping weekend for the city. The One of a Kind Show draws huge crowds of shoppers. There are over 600 spaces full of interesting gifts, including sculpture, large paintings and designer cheeses and everything in between, all price points represented. 

A large section of the show is the "Fashion District" that has an amazing array of beautifully designed clothing in fabrics from silk to recycled cashmeres. You know there was jewelry including everything from crocheted to gold and gems.

This event is "juried by check". If you as an artist have the wherewithal to spend a minimum of $2500 to be there then you can be in the show. What you get in exchange (besides a warm heated building, carpeted floors, good lighting and signage, coat checks, a 10 x 10 space, unlimited free passes for your customers, a professionally presented show, a great website that promotes you all year, amazing PR and news releases, etc.) is a crowd that is happy and excited to be there and ready to shop. 

Here's what we found:

When we arrived on Friday morning there were long lines waiting for the elevators to go to the 8th Floor. We took the stairs and upon arriving were caught in another long line that wrapped around the core of the 8th floor as people patiently waited to check their coats. My thanks to jewelers Robert Trisko and Ian Lieberman who stowed our coats behind their booth ... otherwise we'd still be in line.

I attended with my friend Sandy and within 10 minutes of our arriving she said, "let's come again next year." It has that kind of feeling that you are seeing and being part of something special and that the next booth will not disappoint but be even more interesting.

What is missing: any pretense that this is anything but a buying opportunity for the attendees. Do not expect children's activities, bands to entertain the young, or sponsors that are anything but classy (a nice Toyota booth near a bar was a nice touch.)

Besides artists we all know and respect (printmaker George Raab, glassblower Paul Willsea, doll maker Lucia Fredericy, photographer Mikel Robinson, painter Carla Bank, jeweler Christine Bartling, printmaker Marina Terauds, digital artist Chuck Wimmer, quilt maker Kelly Marshall, Mimi Damrauer, photographer Oscar Matos Linares, jeweler Robert Trisko and metals Elaine Unzicker) you will see artisanal baked goods, soup mixes, chocolates, pasta, salsa, etc.Booth with a view: Laurie Freivogel took advantage of the natural light with her glass and the show stopping view through her window of downtown Chicago.

Here is Jim McCollum's booth. Nice color for his work, isn't it? You get hard walls and then can have them painted any color you like. This is a union facility, so don't show up in your painting clothes.

Here are a few booth shots to give you an idea of the variety of the work.This booth in addition to the mobiles had a case of jewelry in the same designs, beautifully displayed (the crowds were too large I couldn't get a shot). That is another difference at this show, you are free to show work in different media within your booth.

Wood pieces by Angelica Montoya

Exhibitors were from across the country and  many had simple but dramatic booths, just a few props done in an unusual way, lit well, and they were ready.

We enjoyed meeting Angie Consalvo whose work was all a collage of recycled fabrics made into bags, wall pieces, jewelry and had a very cute booth whose background and flooring was all painters drop cloths that added that looked great with her work. She kindly posed for the camera ;)

We made a return trip on Sunday morning and the crowds were there again and the buzz was on and some booths were noticeably emptier of work, although I did speak with a friend who said, "I'm still in the red." My summary: great place to shop, a wonderful place to expose your work to people who understand the value of one of a kind handmade work, but you have got to know your market do all the preparation and roll the dice.

On the El platform going home:

Not only were we happy shoppers but the people on the other side of the tracks heading to the northern suburbs had obviously been there also.

Did I mention that it was 9 degrees in the city that Saturday and it got as high as maybe 15? On Sunday the snow started and we got out of town just in time.

We will return.

Here is a video from 2011:

If you "search this site" you can learn a lot more, including a post from Steve Cebula and a lot more.

See Part II of this post about the Lambs Farm Craft Show right here:

Views: 1488

Comment by Jennifer Johansson on December 20, 2013 at 11:44am

I got accepted to OOAK this year but chose not to do it because of the fees. I'm glad to hear that there are artists out there who have had good experiences doing this show. I've heard mixed reviews and the amount of money I have to shell out up front scares me! Pondering it for next year.

Comment by Annette Piper on December 25, 2013 at 3:57pm

Sounds wonderful *sigh* ... if only we had something like that downunder!


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