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After months of building inventory and putting together my 'outdoor exhibition gallery', I finally did my first art fair.

It was Houston's First Saturday Arts Market -- 2 miles away from my house; 40 artists; 11am - 6pm; good weather for the most part (being hot & muggy this time of year).

My inventory was decidedly light for two reasons:

  1. I had another show that evening where I had a 12' x 8' wall to fill with artwork, and as I started all this only in February, I don't have a huge supply.
  2. My medium is encaustic (hardened beeswax), and although I tested everything a month earlier with a booth temperature of 110 degrees, I did not want to risk the majority of my show pieces getting dinged during transport or sitting in hot cars.  So half my stuff was at the other show.

Sales-wise I only sold one thing, but it was the most expensive piece I brought, which more than put me in the black plus give me a shot of encouragement and satisfaction.

This art fair has been going on monthly for a very, very long time, and most of the artists were regulars.  Therefore the operation went very smoothly.  There were music groups that played a short distance from me throughout the day, so I was never bored.

The crowd was decent I guess, I have nothing to compare it to.

We had a brief rain.  It was just enough for me to see that the only place water was pooling on my tent was on the awning.

I was positioned with the rear of the tent flat up against a building, so I had no good place to hide away my packing/supplies.  Underneath the table was mostly coolers.

Lessons learned (in no particular order):

  • Figure out a better place to sit, a place that doesn't block the artwork.
  • My labels were constantly falling off, get them to stick better.
  • Booking the earliest setup time in order to ensure a spot out of the afternoon sun was a smart choice.
  • The temperature in the booth hit a high of 100 degrees.  I did not have any problems with the wax becoming tacky, nonetheless I think I will forego future outdoor shows in Jun, Jul, Aug, and Sept.
  • I had electricity but my cellphone charger was bad.  Bring a spare one next time.
  • Hide away all the non-art stuff better;
  • My display table turned into a work table.  Keep the tape, scissors, water bottles etc off of it.
  • I did't have any prints, just original pieces, and nothing was less than $150.  I guess it's time to think about prints and other lower-priced items.
  • My first-thing-they-see pieces were pretty good eye catchers I think.  And every piece got at least one compliment.
  • The husband & wife team across from me were really pulling in the people with their combination of unique art (alcohol ink), colorful display, branding, and chatty draw-you-in banter.  Not me.
  • Be grateful for the one sale.  I think some of my neighbors had 0.
  • Practice my artwork wrapping skills on various sizes of pieces.
  • PayPal Here is A-OK for the customer sales experience, but I think I left it in a state such that the app was draining my smartphone battery.
  • Pack plenty of fluids.
  • My do-it-yourself make your ice cooler into an air conditioner was a flop.  Just use the fan as a fan.

Thanks for everyone that critiqued my home made display panels.  They worked out pretty well.

Views: 1020

Comment by Heather Jordan on September 9, 2014 at 11:09am

Thank you so much for the review! Good Job!

Comment by Tina Pietsch on September 9, 2014 at 11:15pm
Did your booth really have to straddle those parking bumper blocks? Crazy. But your panels look great
Comment by Christina L. Towell on September 10, 2014 at 9:13am

This is great advice for all of us who haven't done a show yet or are first timers...I really love your list!  Thanks.

Comment by Alan Anderson on September 10, 2014 at 9:51am

A few possible suggestions if I may?  If you MUST have a chair, it should be out of sight.  Also, if you have a panel all the way to the front, so customers can see a couple of pieces without entering your booth, you could put the chair behind it.  We have found that customers will stop to look more often if they do not have to "commit" to entering your tent.  It's a psychological thing, I think.

I know this is a volatile point - but unless you are disabled, you really don't need a chair for a 7 hour show.  YCSNSOYA.

Your medium is pretty cool.  Can you find a way to make a very nice sign (framed, etc) and display where people can see it and understand what you are doing, especially when you are busy with another customer?  Might engage more folks.

You will do shows with no power.  We have 2 - 10,400mah Power bank battery packs that are only about the size of a wallet.  You can keep any phone or tablet running all day with one of these.  Less than $20 each and worth a lot more for us!

Your Panels look terrific, by the way!  Good job!

Comment by johnnie dobson on September 10, 2014 at 10:32am

joel, the only thing that i would have done display wise would have been to shorten the display so that the bumpers werent in the way. cant believe they didnt let you scoot out past the bumpers. awkward.

Comment by Anne Raczkowski on September 10, 2014 at 12:44pm

Thanks for the post Joel!  This is my second year participating in Art Fairs and I have to say your tent looks so much more professional than mine did last year.  I kept cost low the first year to see if this is something I wanted to do.  After I decided yes, I really like doing Art Fairs, I took the advice from members on this site and invested some money in how I display my work.  Photography is my medium so I invested in mesh walls for the tent.  I love them and it actually makes me feel more confident if I am interacting with customers in a space that I am proud of.

 

Alan, what is the name of the battery packs you mentioned.  I have a lantern that acts as a battery for my phone but it was $80.  I would be interested in purchasing a back up to the back up.

 

Comment by Joel Anderson on September 10, 2014 at 1:10pm

Good ideas everyone.  @Alan: I was about to spend > $120 on 6 replacement 12v batteries for an old UPS weighing 50lbs.  I like your idea much, much better.  I'll sign up for that art fair again, ditch the chair, and pull in the back wall in front of the parking bumpers.  That will also give me room in the rear to store my supplies etc.  And start thinking about a eye-catching poster about encaustics.

Comment by Alan Anderson on September 10, 2014 at 1:11pm

I got mine on 1sale.com.  Can't find the same one but this is similar.  http://community.1sale.com/2014/08/xiaomi-10400mah-usb-portable-pow... 

Comment by Cindy Cherrington on September 11, 2014 at 11:23am
Joel, Welcome! I do this show off and on from year to year depending on my schedule. I've been attending this show (off and on) over 10 years. Like any show it can be good one month and not so good another month. I stick to the spring shows when the weather is usually not so hot and is much more tolerable. The crowds are better when not so hot, except of of course their white linen nights. Mitch is a great promotor. Your hand made panels look great! Hope to meet you in the spring next year. I'm signed up for 3 months. Congrats on a memorable first show!
Comment by Camm Kirk on September 12, 2014 at 2:59pm

Joel, your panels look great. Did you make them or where did you get them?  Congratulations on your first show.

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