Art Fair Insiders

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

One of the great things about my online business is that it requires some offline activity and my favorite activity is visiting art fairs. December 1 I was in Columbus, OH, at the Ohio State Fairgrounds to attend the Ohio Designer Craftsmen's Winterfair. This is a long established event and my husband participated in it for nearly 20 years, so I knew it well.

The show is held in a large exhibition space with spacious parking nearby. There are wide aisles and it is a comfortable venue to visit. There were over 400 exhibitors. This used to be a very fine gallery quality event, but as the show grew from 250 to this size (and it has been this size for a very long time) the quality has declined. Nevertheless, I spotted no buy/sell, except for the gourmet food area. It is organized by an artist's organization and they pretty much know what is in the show.

Glass display by Robert Coleman

The aisles were full when I got there at noon on Saturday and there was a lot of shopping happening. Artists reported good sales on Friday.

Who was there? I visited with Mike Barnes, Ray Becker, Amy Beeler, Scott Berry, Adrienne Blum, Don Bodenberg, Lois Bosworth, Joe Cyberski, Patty DeMaria, Tahmi Schepper, Bruce Erdman (aka Cherry Sphere), Jerry Farnsworth, Lynn Fisher, Nina Harris, Tom Harris, Denise Houck, Linda McGurn, Rebecca Nobles, Barbara Rubright, John Russell, Jim & Rombye Perry, Kathy Sheldon, Charlie & Paula Shoulders, Simon & Joy Tarasiewicz, Barbara Nelson, Neil Kemarly, Chuck Wimmer and many more.

Here's a video with quickie interviews with even more artists that will also give you an idea of this event:

Views: 2168

Comment by Jeanette Ivins on December 7, 2012 at 11:54am

Connie, thanks so much for taking the time to do this.  It's really encouraging to see so many upbeat artists that seem so happy with their lifestyle and shows.  I wish I didn't live so far from Ohio.

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 7, 2012 at 12:04pm

You're welcome, Jeanette. I was really pleased with all the upbeat attitudes AND that so many people said their best show was Ann Arbor.

Comment by Jeanette Ivins on December 7, 2012 at 1:09pm

I'm in New Jersey and for the most part it's just doom and gloom year after year although I've never done a high end show so maybe that's the difference?  Also, here in NJ there are far too many small craft shows that seem to have the same artists with the same merchandise year after year.  The mind set seems to be if the customer loved it last year, they'll love it again and want another this year but that's not always the case.  I've been doing craft shows for 13 years and for the first 9 years they were wonderful.  Unfortunately now that I've retired the bottom seems to have fallen out. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 7, 2012 at 2:18pm

Sounds like you need to spread your wings a little, Jeanette. Are you willing to travel a little farther?

I just now looked at the video all the way through and besides the interesting people and their varied experiences I was looking at the booth construction. There was a lot of individuality in the set ups.

Comment by Jeanette Ivins on December 7, 2012 at 2:59pm

I know I really need to branch out but I think part of the problem is my fear of rejection and I really do wish I could get past that.  Also I think I need an entirely new display.  Thepeople here amaze me with their creativeness and talent, not only for their crafts and art work but also for their displays.  Amazing stuff and my hats off to all of you. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 7, 2012 at 5:07pm

You can do it, Jeanette! You've got years of creating behind you and exhibiting also. Do you ever attend art fairs that you aren't participating in? That is a great education, walking the shows and looking at everything and picking up tips. Especially now that you've retired you need to take advantage of this. I still go to shows because there is so much to learn (and we did our last show in 2006). Heck, you live in an area where there are lots of interesting shows. I'm considering attending the Buyers Market of American Craft in Baltimore this winter, or the ACC show, just because I've not been to them and they are stellar events.

Comment by Britt Hallowell on December 7, 2012 at 10:59pm

Awww, I decided not to do Winterfair again this year - now I wish I had so I could have met you!

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 8, 2012 at 7:36am

It would have been great to met you, Britt! I looked at the list of artists when I got home and saw I missed a bunch of people I knew and almost wanted to go back again, but it is a 4 hour drive!

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on December 10, 2012 at 12:53pm

Charlene, there were definitely paintings at Columbus Winterfair and it is not a gift market or craft fair.  The shoppers do, however, have holiday gifts in mind when they're attending the show.

I was one of the artists who Connie missed -- too bad, would have liked to chat -- and am pleased with the show.  At almost $4000 I was a few hundred dollars down from last year, but still this show is far better than many of the other shows I've done in the last few years.  Friday is the big day and this year it was packed.  Many artists count on Saturday being half of Friday and Sunday being half of that, but this year Saturday was stronger than usual.

There's a good mix of media and a loyal following.  This show is run by the same folks who do the Cincinnati Winterfair, but the Cincinnati version suffers from lackluster crowds and a difficult load-in/out.

Comment by Britt Hallowell on December 10, 2012 at 11:55pm

That is a very accurate description of sales by day (Saturday being half of Friday, Sunday being half of Saturday).  Thats exactly how its gone for me.


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