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

As an oil painter, realism landscapes, I had moved to SW Florida and just started to do these winter shows, Naples, Estero, Bonita Springs, Sarasota. Had some success my first year and last year was on my way to success. What has happened this season? Almost all the oil painters have done just awful, barely any sales whatsoever for us. I've seen other more decorative art being sold as well as sculptures. Sure looks like our Fine Art Market has disappeared here.

Anybody have any idea where to go from here? Opinions?

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Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on February 22, 2017 at 10:28am

I think that's just life, Mary. I experience a lull sometimes and other artists with whom I'm well acquainted do, too. The fine craft and decorative art is often less expensive and thus has a wider market, and it can be less personal which is easier for gift giving since recipients can warm up to it easier. But those folks don't have it that easy. Just think of what it's like making multiples the same thing season after season. That's how to keep prices lower, certainly. So there are downsides for all of us.

I can't speak to the market in South Florida since I never went south of Tampa and Orlando after my two years in Sunfest 2004-2005 where I did well despite others complaining about it. It was too hot and more expensive to operate in South Florida. But I would see differences in the market from Central Florida to Tallahassee to Pensacola area all in the same season as well as from year to year. My loyal patrons followed me wherever, however since they were usually interested in experiencing new climes and making connections with art they hadn't been exposed to.

Once an artist fills a void there's a period of time we must wait until a void reappears. It's a numbers game, really. I've just kept my focus on my work, getting it back in front of patrons, and lowering expenses.

So, where to go from here, you ask? Just keep doing better work and get it in front of patrons. Keep expenses low. Do something with your palette, like a series minimizing color or focusing on a specific color family. Which is to say explore some art principles that maybe you haven't explored. Discover something new. Think like a beginner. Shunryu Suzuki said it like this: In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's, there are few.

I like your FASO website. Very nice work there. I have an old FASO template on mine and probably should update and modernize. Good luck to you!

Comment by Mary Taglieri on February 22, 2017 at 11:02am

Thank you Barrie. I do appreciate your point of view and what I can do to accept times as they are. Wise words.

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on February 23, 2017 at 12:09pm

I've found that many times when I'm not doing as well as I'd like I really can't figure out why.  So I work on a few things, maybe booth display or product line or pricing.  Just about the time I get something figured out everything changes and it's back to the drawing board.  So I just try to be comfortable with the ambiguity and accept that change is constant and I'm on a constant quest for improvement.

Comment by Mary Taglieri on February 23, 2017 at 4:23pm

More wise words. Thank you Karen. You are so right.

Comment by Peggy Crago on February 23, 2017 at 4:31pm

I agree, Karen.  You just described my life.  I continue out of love of the craft, almost a compulsion.

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on February 25, 2017 at 4:29pm

I personally believe that it has to do more with the mess with Trump. The fact he was not expected to win, liberal heading to protested, the fact that each weekend Trump is in Florida, ACA in the air, health care when up, etc, had created a concern in consumers. I am looking forward the retailers report for this month. My family told me that should scarify the booth fees and not go to any of my Florida shows. My hope is next month things calm down enough that people with money start spending money on us. Until then you will only see low end and friendly disposal art, moving in the regular bases. There always will be highend sales but the number will be lower. I will suggest to lower expectations and added more shows to off set the lower income per show.

Comment by dennis william stuart on February 25, 2017 at 5:46pm
I am affected by no sales too. We don't have a clue as to why the fish aren't biting. Perhaps a prayer to St Joseph might help.
Comment by Barry Bernstein on February 26, 2017 at 10:54am

The people I have seen at art fairs are mostly upscale and are not concerned with the ACA or Trump. I think Florida has more Trump supporters than non-supporters. I've talked to a lot of artists while in Florida and it seemed like all the 2-D artists were selling paintings and doing well. Same thing with anything that went on the wall, including clay. I saw a potter sell a $7000 wall piece. Having said that, clay seems to be the one thing that people don't spend much on. It still was uneven though. At my first show, I sold in every price range. At Ft Myers it was strictly $225 and under. At Sarasota, it was nothing under $225 and at ArtiGras I sold the most $600-$800 pieces. While I didn't have a great show, I had 4 solid shows and went home with more money than usual after expenses. I already have a 20 piece gallery order and expect to have a great April. 

Since you might do better at one show than another, it may be that you need to do 3 or 4 shows in a row to have a successful Florida trip, Oscar, or whomever. Every weekend in February there are choices. You have to pick the show that has your customers. I only know Oscar's work so I can only comment on his photography. Your work, this time, was better than ever, but, I question the shows you pick to do. I would pick more and some different shows. For the rest of you, it may take a few years to establish a clientele. I hardy ever do a one and done. I did Coconut Pointce two years in a row and only made my booth fee. I had to do it a second time because I thought the first time was an anomaly. I found out on the second try that wasn't my audience. You, also, need to pay attention as to what sells. If I see that people mostly go to a show to buy jewelry and nothing much else, I drop that show. To further complicate things, shows change. One year, I may do great and the next year I lay an egg. With Florida, it may come down to who is vacationing there that week. That's why I do a few shows in a row. All I need is one good show to make my trip worthwhile.

Comment by Dennis Shattuck on February 27, 2017 at 7:15pm

Comment by Dennis Shattuck on February 27, 2017 at 7:28pm

I'm experiencing the same thing you are Mary and so are a few that I talked to at the shows, and as you said the sculpture artist are doing very well, so its not the economy or the election. Everyone has an opinion but who knows the real answer. There are more picture artist at the shows than sculptures, times may be changing.

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