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A second try at Gig Harbor, WA 2013

If I had a $1 for every compliment or every business card I passed out at this festival I’d be one happy artist! This was my second year at the Gig Harbor Summer Art Festival. Last year I sold one original and not much else, this year I sold a number of smaller items and only one very small original. In both cases my total sales and the outcome was the same. I broke even, give or take a little. I really like this show. The town of Gig Harbor, WA is beautiful, the show is well organized, easy to do and the booth fee is reasonable. However, unless I get some follow-up orders, it doesn’t make financial sense. In talking to other artists at the show I got, "just OK" to not so good. Since the show I’ve heard reports of good sales.

I had some good moments at the show, like the one woman that really wanted to buy some original work, but couldn’t afford much. She ended up purchasing  a little 5x7 and a box of note cards. She was so happy it warmed my heart. And then there was another local artist, not participating in the show, that introduced herself  by saying that she had liked my facebook business page and how much she loved my art. She was just starting to do shows and was looking at doing this show next year. We talked and she bought a couple of boxes of cards... and there were others. The bad moment came near the end of the show when a woman was trying to get even more off a framed metal print I had. I had already discounted it quite a bit because it was a size I decided not to carry. I was happy to get it out of inventory. But she wanted to pay cash and skip the sales tax. I told her I wanted to stay above board. In the end I took another $5 off. It left a bad taste to what was an otherwise pleasurable show (even though I wished for higher sales.)


About the show... Gig Harbor is a nice little upscale town outside of Tacoma, WA, just west of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. As the name suggests it’s a harbor. The show has easy set-up and tear down, They give you a set-up time for Friday evening depending on which side of the street you are on, drive to your spot and unload. Spaces are EXACTLY 10 ft. wide but there is storage behind the booths. Fortunately it all worked out and everyone fit. They provide coffee and doughnuts on both days and a number to call for booth sitting. I had some pot holes in my space which I was mostly able to cover with my table and I filled the rest with sand. The art was variable in quality and type. There was soap and oils mixed in with the fine art. There was also some amazing work there. To me the mix seemed a little heavy on pottery and landscape photography. The attendance seemed down on Saturday from last year but picked up on Sunday.

I have learned from this show... it’s probably not the right fit for me, maybe I need to tweak my artwork, which I’m already in the process of doing, I need to work on my sales technique which I’m also doing and I need to learn to not let customers get to me. I’ll give this one a rest for a couple of years and re-evaluate. On to the next show...

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Comment by Elle Heiligenstein on July 22, 2013 at 5:59pm

Great review, Lisa and thanks for all the info.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on July 22, 2013 at 6:59pm

Gig Harbor was generally a good show for us, in fact, when we were very new to doing shows we hit what felt like a major milestone for us, it was our first ever 1K day on a Saturday. 

Over the few years that we did that show and then started doing the TideFest show during the holidays we built a good following in Gig Harbor.  There are definitely people who attend who have a high disposable income. 

We didn't do the show in 2012-2013 because it conflicted with another show we finally got into and had wanted to try for quite some time.  After 2 years at the other show we're definitely reconsidering and trying to decide if it's time to return to Gig Harbor, a less expensive 2 day show vs. the more difficult 3 day show.  Decisions, decisions, decisions...

I did see some great comments on our West Coast FB group, some artists had a great show this last weekend.  I do agree that the event is more heavily weighted to painters than most of the shows we do.

Comment by Lisa Foster on July 22, 2013 at 7:32pm

Ruth, that's why I mentioned that some artists had reported good sales. I was referring to those commenting on the West Coast FB page. And people were carrying artwork. If I didn't have to travel for it I might consider giving it another go and reconsider my product mix. I definitely had people come back from last year, it's just that they bought small. The good news is I had a much larger number of sales than last year.

I'm trying not to ask too many other artists about their sales this year unless it comes up naturally or they asked me. I want to stay focused on my space, customers and sales, learn and stay happy. So the feedback I got at the show may be skewed in favor of those that came up to me and asked how my sales were because theirs were bad.

Comment by sheila rood on July 22, 2013 at 9:32pm

I am new to the pnw and was wondering what the Facebook page you refer to is called?

Comment by Carol Caldwell on July 24, 2013 at 1:16pm

Finally, news about a northwest show! Can you tell me what the fee is for the 2 day show in Gig Harbor? I live so close and didn't know about the summer art fest.

Comment by Lisa Foster on July 24, 2013 at 1:39pm

Hi Carol, I think the booth fee for Gig Harbor is $215 (or right around there.) Also see my review of Edmonds and Trout Lake. Note: Trout Lake is a very small show and I've heard that they like to keep the artists fairly local, however they do refund fees if you are not accepted. I've done well there and not so well. Ruth Finkenbiner has also posted several reviews of NW shows.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on July 25, 2013 at 1:28pm

Lisa - have their booth fees decreased?  Last time we did it the booth was around $260, although that might have been the rate for a corner booth.

Carol - I have not written any reviews this year, we've been busy selling our house and becoming full time RV'ers.  However, I've reviewed Gig Harbor and several other NW shows in the past so you might want to take a look at some of my older blogs.  I got tired of being one of the few to write show reviews for this area, glad to see Lisa is taking over:)

Comment by Annette Piper on July 25, 2013 at 7:23pm

Thanks for the review Lisa, its a hard call to know if to return and give it another try when you only break even.  The fact that the show is enjoyable helps though :)

Comment by Lisa Foster on July 25, 2013 at 7:35pm

Hmmm... I thought I had responded to you Ruth but it's not here. I checked my account and the booth fee was $215. I know they do charge extra for corners though.

Comment by Lisa Foster on July 25, 2013 at 7:45pm

Annette, if it were local I might give it another shot, but it's a 3 hour drive. That's not a lot, I know and I was able to drive up on set-up day and drive back right after the show. But it does still require lodging expense and more time and a little bird keeps telling me that next year might be different, I might lose a bunch.

The weird thing is that last year I had very few sales but one big sale that saved it for me and this year it was the opposite, quite a few little sales but only one sale over $100. The total sales amounts for the 2 years were nearly identical.


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