Art Fair Insiders

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

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 Carol Caldwell on July 26, 2013 at 5:15pm

Thanks Ruth! How's the security for leaving your product set up outside?

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on July 26, 2013 at 12:07am

Carol - I'm sitting here in very HOT Richland this weekend, you might consider this an option to Bellevue.  2 day show, $80 booth but a 16% commission.  We did Bellevue 6th street once, no way could you get me to go back.  3 shows in one area in one weekend = 800 booths.  Yes, it's Bellevue, but still, 800 booths, about 20% jewelery???

Instead, while it's a very HOT climate over here, rumor has it we'll hit 100 tomorrow, it was 102 today during set up, looking forward to Saturday when it's supposed to only be 91, this is a show to consider.  The locals are used to the heat so it's only those of us artists from the West (aka the wet side) of the state who really suffer.

Our sales in 2 days at this show have been very, very good for us.  It's the ONLY big summer, "real" art show in this region and with Hanford in the area, there is disposable income here plus a low cost of living. 

In our mind the booth fee with the commission is a reasonable risk / reward, I can say it's the only show we've ever done where we hit more than 20 x booth fee and in fact one year exceeded 40 times booth for a 2 day show.   The commission takes a bite, but we consider that as part of our risk / reward.  We'd rather deal with that commission than $700 for Belleuve and hope we make 3-5 times booth. 

Here's a link to my blog posts, I've reviewed several NW shows.

http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blog/list?user=3bj7rhxo1v278

Comment by Lisa Foster on July 25, 2013 at 10:46pm

Carol, you might want to think about a low cost commission show like Trout Lake, which I reviewed, although it might be quite a drive for you. There may be other commission shows near you.

 

Comment by Carol Caldwell on July 25, 2013 at 10:09pm

I appreciate your reviews Lisa. I don't know if other artists are caught in the same "catch 22" situation as I am. I'm a 'poor starving artist' without excesses funds to pay for some of the western Washington shows. I need to sell more product, but I can't afford the fees. $695 fee in Bellevue for 3 days? It seems outrageous. Even $215 is a stretch. I have been a vendor at the Proctor Art Fest in Tacoma for about 6 years. Their fee has gone up from $50 to $100 this year, but no commission. I always sell well there, but I'm not talking in the thousands of dollars, just the hundreds. I love what I do and others like what I do. It's just hard to get it before the public. I've even thought of 'home parties' like Tupperware. Has anyone done that?

Comment by Annette Piper on July 25, 2013 at 7:50pm

No pattern there Lisa, which might indicate luck.  I tend to give shows 2 tries and if they're not worth it, it pains me, but I don't return.   One show I regularly do I was advised that the odd year off doesn't hurt either - makes them want you more the next year, but I've not been game enough to try that theory out yet LOL.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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