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:

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Comment by Connie Mettler on December 14, 2012 at 3:58pm

oh, oh --- I missed a buy/sell at the show? I am sure this organization would like to know about that. It is always such a relief to do a few indoor shows and this one was always full of friends and people who have it as a required event on their annual calendars.

Comment by Rick Paldino on December 14, 2012 at 11:19am

This was my 4th year to do the Columbus show. Other artists along with myself thought this year had a better quality of displayers. I did a little better than last year but not much. Only one person in 3 days tried to talk me down in the price of a piece. Only one person in 3 days asked if I made all work myself with an astonished look on their face. These two activities define the customer knowledge and quality attending a show. The booth directly next to me was a buy/sell product, and they did a ( lot ) better than I did in sales..... I hope I get invited back next year, It is very well organized and operated. I always look forward to hearing over the intercom, " the owner of the blue truck must move ,,, you are blocking the entrance".

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 13, 2012 at 9:37am

Sorry to have missed you, Karen! Heck, someone emailed me who said if they had known I was there I'd been included in a party!

Charlene, to my mind, it is definitely a gift shopping marketplace and you need to have something for sale under $50. In fact, it is a terrific gift shopping place. That being said, we used to show photography at the show (black & white handcolored) and it was the only time in the year when we came to Columbus and were able to build up a loyal clientele. There is not a lot of 2D work, but it holds its own. In the video I tried to include some 2D people, but now it looks as though I only talked to Chuck Wimmer.

The atmosphere when we arrived on Saturday was lively, lots of people and booths full of people. The event is run by an artists organization and it is another one of those shows that may be worth a try to check out your viability there.

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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.

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