Art Fair Insiders

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

Reading through the various posts, it seems that Reviews of Shows are a sought commodity. Thus, I thought I'd do a little blog-journelling, as I am getting ready to jump into the Art Fair scene for the first time. Might be worth a few laughs for you, the experienced artists out there, as you read about the various shenanigans I get into as I go along. Here's where things stand today:

1. Who am I? I'm an old retired guy who has been a closet artist for life. A few years back I started participating in local  juried art shows with some success. But it seems that the big problem here is distribution and exposure. The juried art show (not fairs) arena is loads of fun but awful for sales. The Gallery setting seems like the totally wrong environment. 50% commissions? Absolute exclusivity? Yikes! It's like my piece could, maybe, be seen by a few dozen folks in a whole year. Not too promising. So, I rejected that and decided the best way to get both exposure and feed-back was on the Art Fair stage. This remains to be seen but, at least, is logical. Galleries and Art contests? Not so much.

2. So, I went out and bought a tent. After checking around for something economical I found that there is no such thing. Only flimsy vs. solid. Or: cheap vs. expensive! I bought a Show Off Canopy which will likely take me a couple of seasons to pay off. But, it looks like it'll stay put in a rain storm, so you do what you gotta' do. This ain't my cub scout pop tent. Heavier than you know what and just about that clumsy to cart around as well. I've put it up a couple of times now. First time: 5 hours and that's without placing art! Second time was more like 2.5 hours and with the art hung also. I've put the right corner in the left corner and the up in the down. I've put the top on upside down and the back door in the front. I forgot to put the center bar attachment in for the half wall and had to fake it in with a piece of PVC that I lashed on. I've fallen off stools, rammed my head through the netting and punched holes in my skin with various pitcher hanging devices. I'm pretty bruised and battered and my first show is this Friday! Still have my right ankle wrapped in ACE after nearly breaking it stumbling around trying to get set up. Whatever!!

3. My first show will be the Maitland Rotary Art Fest on Lake Lily. Beautiful looking park, but I really have no idea of how to judge it for the stated purpose. Sure looks like they know what they are doing however. I've gotten plenty of good communication from them at this point and have confidence that the management of the event will be professional. I'm hoping because I gotta' believe I'm going to need help at some point over the weekend. Thank you Kelly Feist for all of the great effort in my behalf so far.

4. I thought I had the inventory issue handled but it seems like no matter how much effort one has put into creating art, there is always a lag on the production side. Those 10 or 20 prints of pieces that seem just "sure" to sell, turn out to be 2 or 3 finished pieces as time and energy run low. I keep telling my wife that we'll be the tent that sold everything! She says: "Yeah, cause we got nothing to sell!" Well, it's not quite that bad but I can see that working on that inventory (which doesn't sound that much like an "ART" word) is going to be a big deal each season. I think by the time we get to the second show, Cape Coral in January, I should be in good shape.

5. Of course I had to plunge in on a Card Reader. For all of you who are pros at this, the Card Reader thing is kind of intimidating. It seems like the one key thing that could spell disaster for an artist. My first one didn't work right, so I'm on issue #2. While it has processed a couple of fake purchases that I ran through, I'm not going to be a believer until that first transaction succeeds. Everyone says this is no big deal but being a typical artist with math and technical skills that sometimes don't come along for the ride, I'll have to wait and see. Definitely an area of anxiety, though. Gawd! What if I run off without it?

6. All this art of mine fits in a big DEWALT container-cart which is very convenient. Except that it weighs about  200 lbs! I'm going to roll it into the SUV with a ramp. It's sketchy. The tent weighs another ton or so. Hope I have some punch left after set up! Hope the excitement of doing the first show will carry me.

7. Okay! Just back from Office Depot where I bought business card and brochure holders. I'm printing up a bunch and hope to start that "on-line presence." I'm also trying to solve last minute problems like I didn't realize Daylight Savings Time was going to make it dark at 6 PM. Need to come up with some kind of lighting pronto or I won't even be able to take my tent down at night. They have told me that electricity is available within 30'. Probably lug along an extension cord and 2 or 3 clip on utility lights. I guess if things get rough, there is a Home Depot somewhere close. 

8. My next post will be an actual review of this show. What kind of things should I cover? Additionally, I'll be attending Cape Coral, Hyde Park, St. Pete, and possibly Coconut Grove (#8 on wait list presently), and have applied to a couple others that I haven't been informed about yet. I'll review all of these and continue with side notes about what the entire experience has been like so far. I'd have to say I'm very complimentary of the Maitland Rotary folks at this juncture. I'm pretty sure this is going to be a good show and a good time.

Cheers, the Laugh's on Me!

Rick Plummer

Views: 730

Comment by Barry Bernstein on November 23, 2018 at 12:03am

Only use your phone network for CC sales. Using wifi or bluetooth uses a minuscule amount of data. The phone network is the most reliable especially if you have Verizon. The only time you'll use your data is when you are bored and spend all your time on Facebook or You-tube. I've only needed a fire extinguisher at two shows in 35 years. I've never seen anything close to a fire at an art fair. Leave it at home unless the show requires it.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on November 23, 2018 at 11:27am

What I meant to say was using your phone network uses a minuscule amount of data.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on November 23, 2018 at 11:37pm

Hello Rick,  I don't know if you know but we do have a website for art show reviews - www.Artshowreviews.com

We are always looking for new reviews.  I know you haven't done any shows yet but when you are able, please write a few reviews yourself.    If everyone wrote one or two reviews a year it would really give our website a nice boost.  The reviews are very helpful when putting your show schedules together.  It is a great way to give back and do your part to help out.  

All reviews are welcome.  

Comment by Rick Plummer on November 24, 2018 at 10:03am

Thanks, Jacki. Do you think it would be appropriate or useful to re-post the Maitland Review on Artshowreviews? Or it that pretty much already covered by the original posting on Art Fair Insiders?

Comment by Cindy Welch on March 22, 2019 at 10:36am

Love number 5.  Let me say the struggle is real!  LOL

Comment by Rick Plummer on March 22, 2019 at 12:00pm

Thanks Cindy. Of course, after running a few (very few) sales through the cube, no bigee. Only problem is not using it enough! So, I agree, the struggle is real. I'm more of a "snuggler" than a "struggler" so this tough start up is a PIA. But: "Eternally Optimistic!"

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