Art Fair Insiders

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

AB@E--This is Royal Oak Michigan-about Saturday--new info about Sunday--new info about Labor Day

I am going to add new info for Labor Day right here so you don't have to go thru the whole dang thing. Monday was the nicest day, though very chilly. Think heavy wool sweaters with chilling breezes.  People were out early, sales were being made.  I had the most fun with people on Monday, did not make as much as Sunday, but I made a profit.  When interviewing my fellow artists about Sunday sales, a number had done $4-5K on that day,a small number of artists.  Most others if they did $1K they were lucky.  Many unhappy campers who will not be coming back.  We head home for Saugatuck today.  Give me a day to unwind and I WILL REPORT A NEW BLOG WITH THOUGHTFUL OBSERVATIONS, MEANINGFUL EDITORIAL ADVICE AND GIVE THE PLUSES AND MINUSES TO THIS SHOW.  Too bad Webbie could not make it here, he could have said a big load of things.  Later Gators.

Below here is where I started my Friday report.


I have added new info since Fri. morn,Well, we are here.

Weather forcast absolutely sucks.

Today, heat at 95 degrees with 30% percent chance of rain.

Tomorrow, 90 degrees with 40%.

Sunday, mid-eighties with 30%.

Monday, sunny--high of 66 degrees.

We will do our best, but frankly, this is going to hurt attendance.

Pray for us.  Nels and Ellen.


New Info.

Returned to hotel Fri. nite, exhausted from 96 degree heat most of day.  Guess what?  Looking forward to a cool shower and a cool room.  AC was busted, in the Westin, they moved us to a new room.  That just about summed up the day.


Show is well organized.  But, we are just one small part of this whole affair.  It has the feel of a giant eight-block country fair with loud music booths and food boooths everywhere.  Oh yeah, then there is some art, us.

We were mostly ignored.  Most people did not do even $300 for the day.  I made $236, Ellen made zero.

New info about Saturday


Just a few quick notes before leaving for show on Sunday.

Read the comments below especially on second page--they tell ya about the bad weather, again, that hit nthe show.

There was no warning about high winds when we decided to buckle up for the night at 7:30.  But, it sounds like shades of Columbus all over again. One tell,Richard the Wooden Spoon Maker told us thet had done a manutory evacuation of the Ann Arbor Stadium earlier around 7 PM. 

When Richard isn't wrapping a spoon every five minutes that tells you a lot about sales.

All I know is that in our section on 7th which is like the beginning of the show, sales were pretty abysmal for most of us.  The Angel guy was killing them with lowend prints.  Aaron from Georgia with great African folk art paintings made several big sales during the day.  Ellen sold one small one for $295--that is her only sale for the whole show.  Me, I didn't even do $1400 for the day.  These people were wandering in La-La land.  Very few interested buyers.

Weather is a factor, went to a high of 95 degrees which kills most sales.  Economy in Royal Oak is not good.

On the other hand, out on the main drag, Washington Street, there were bigger crowds and a lot more successes.









Cooled down finally to low eigthy, crowds werew larger and sales were somewhat larger.

Trouble is, most people were still unhappy with sales for the day.  Lots of them did less than a grand, some were lucky to do $1600, and then a lucky number did outstanding sales.


Most exhibitors who were there last year agreed that thus was not the  buying crowd they saw last year.

They are a blue collar crowd and they dont seem to want to spend much money.  They reminded me too much of being like the Ann Arbor crowd we saw.

Ellen tells me we gotta go now in order to get our parking spot.

Will continue tomorrow where I left off.


Parker, others, feel free to jump in.

Aloha, Nels and Ellen.






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Comment by Kristin Perkins on September 8, 2011 at 7:17pm

Hi Martha. It was great meeting you this past weekend and I am also wanting to support this event and I hope they work out the logistics better for next year. I'm glad to hear from Barry Bernstein in his post that they did work out the problems over the years in Pontiac. I was also in the parking lot with you. Taking everything into account that was out of the control of the show promoters - the weather especially, we were at a great disadvantage in our location and this cannot be denied. I personally would not want to be in that location again next year. I tried to have a "wait and see" attitude (even though my heart sank when I saw the parking lot prior to set up - it did look better on paper), but I have a customer base in the area and as the days went on I was getting emails from customers who could not find me and had given up even though they had my booth number. Others stopped by and told me that their sister or friend had tried to find me yesterday and couldn't. Others who did find me said they had a hard time doing so. The whole block of 7th was obstructed by the fudge truck as mentioned. Customers told me this was a problem over and over. We never got a sign directing traffic into our parking lot or letting customers know it was part of the art fair. We were promised one, but one of our neighbors had to make one because what showed up was a thank you sign for the company that provided the parking lot. I know there were a lot of other problems that the promoters had to deal with than get us a sign....but next year should be different if they ever plan to use that parking lot again and I hope they don't.

Last year, I was located on 7th across from the booths that were there this year but because booths were on both sides (this year the side I was on was removed to the parking lot I guess), the people from Washington Street could see us and traffic flowed into the area very well. Nobody complained at all about our location that I was aware of last year. I'm guessing they had to move the booths because the street was too narrow and it did get so crowded that I could not see the booths across from us most of the day. I had a fabulous year last year and I was very much looking forward to coming back to ABE - I recommended it to everyone who asked and those who didn't ask! I know it is a festival/carnival, etc. but this did not bother me despite the concerns of this type of thing. The event was highly anticipated in the Royal Oak area and was well supported in the community. This year, some of the customers who found me came to make very generous purchases so I think the support is still there. I have to wonder how much better it would have been if I had not been hidden.

Because my sales were reasonable for being in such a disadvantaged location, I do want to give the show another chance and I believe Connie, Lisa, and Jon have heard our concerns and will fix this problem.

There really is a lot going on at this show (art, music, food, business booths, carnival, etc.) and the art needs to be kept together without obstructions and we need good signage for all areas. A good map showing artists names and booth numbers would have really helped.

Comment by Martha Bennington on September 7, 2011 at 12:48pm
Bonnie, I have to disagree with you. We were two booths from you in the same parking lot extension of the show. Friday and Saturday we terrible show days due to weather. No bodies fault. Saturday was packed, as was Sunday. I knew exactly what I was getting into doing this show. The promoters and the website were very clear that this was a festival of music, food and art. Yes there was buysell. And I would very much like to see much much less if that next time. But it was also kept far far away from the art section. This show is not an art exclusive event, and not necessarily the show for every artist...but I think that can be said for any art show. We did well, I will definitely be returning. We are traveling home, but I'll try to blog more detail when we get back.
Comment by Bonnie Eastwood on September 7, 2011 at 12:32pm

Shawn you were obviously "in" the show, I was in the parking lot with the load music backed up to.  I have a reat ART SHOW this weekend and every other until I head to my home in Florida.  I have left 2 other shows in all these years.  To answer your ? yes it was that bad.  I think it was the flashing necklaces and 3 days of loud music that finalized my decision, I never leave a show I will ever be back to.  I make every piece in my booth and am doing that now to get ready for shows, I was so happy to cut my loses and gain my day.  I definitely made the right decision.  Fool me once

Comment by Shawn Malone on September 6, 2011 at 4:16pm
Did the show a couple years ago, had a good show. Did not apply this year. From the angle of being an artist that might re-apply in the future, look forward to any input from any artists that will be back or re-apply as we've heard plenty bad.   Can't imagine this show taking such a nosedive that artists would be leaving a day early and air it out as such in this forum, was it really that bad? As far as the carnival feel, was it any different than in years past? The AB&E website seems pretty clear on what the show is. When the main acts start in the evening, sales are pretty much done, from a window of about 5-close. Makes for some pretty long hours and days.
Comment by Bonnie Eastwood on September 6, 2011 at 1:33pm
I was never so happy to be on my way home to get ready for a REAL ART show, by the way I do one every week, I weave on gourds and am able to work at the shows.  I feel lucky to have been in this business for over 30 years and disgusted with myself for being fooled by EATS BEATS and arts.  Live and learn, I wonder how foolish Connie thought I was to have been in this business all these years be positioned basically out of the show in a parking lot.  THe only time a parking lot is good, is if the whole show is in the parking lot, it was evident to me that I was totally ripped off and then lied to.  Connie shame on YOU!  I always try to maintain a positive attitude but really Connie, you would have been better off just fessing up about the very poor layout. Anderson Window and the food had better spaces than the wonderful artists in our lot next to RAT alley, which was very condusive to the theft.  Tell all your friends.
Comment by Jonathan Shuff on September 6, 2011 at 1:01pm

And to think that I was disheartened that I couldn't get in off the waitlist AGAIN this year.  I am very happy for all my friends that got in and did well.  I posted a comment on Connie's thread earlier this year when they were desperate for more applications which is why they keep extending the deadlines, and then almost no one gets in.  Last year they invited artists who "supported the show for years".


I couldn't get Lisa to return my phone calls or emails about the waitlist policy and where I stood with my chances to get in this year (very unprofessional), so I called up a little craft fair on the lake shore here in Michigan and did great.  Beautiful weather, great customers, $150 booth fee, and more than a couple of Chicagoland buyers who mentioned they were "on their way back from ABE".  They left the show early because they didn't like the atmosphere.  They spent their money at the little craft fair on the lake with very few artists, but a great atmosphere.  


I received a few phone orders over the weekend from a handful of my regulars that were surprised they didn't see me at ABE, so it didn't hurt me that much after all.  


Here's to better weather at Arts & Apples this week!



Comment by Jim Parker on September 6, 2011 at 11:48am
@Pat, the booth fee is $475 I believe, with a discount for previous exhibitors who are juried in again.
Comment by Jim Parker on September 6, 2011 at 11:46am
Right on, Barry. Lots of good things about this show. It is unique to the area, and, as such, it has a lot of appeal to a broad spectrum of people. I'm beat from four days on the street, but after I've had a chance to digest, I'll try to add some comments. Aside from Friday, it was a decent show for me sales-wise. As you pointed out, there are a lot of problems to work out, but it's all fixable.
Comment by Barry Bernstein on September 6, 2011 at 11:29am

I read all the posts and I have a few comments.  They've always made it clear that the event is music, food, and art.  In Pontiac, it took a few years of tweaking to work out the problems and I'm sure that will happen again.  That's why, at the breakfast, Jon asked everyone to address the criticisms to him.  He really wants to know what people think so they can make things better for us.  AB and E has always made sure that the Arts part was special and separate from the rest of the event.  I think they took a step backwards this year regarding this and I think those issues will be rectified in the future so make sure you email Jon with your complaints.  Part of the problem is that there was too much electrified rock and roll. Usually the music is evenly balanced between rock, blues, country, and jazz. Last year there was only acoustic, jazz, and folk on the stages near the booths.  In the past I never heard the music.  This year, I constantly heard music and when I walked by a stage, the instruments were amplified and very loud.  Then there was the case of the radio station spewing out annoying drivel all day long. That was new. Jon told me they constantly were told to tone it down.  I guess they never listened to that.  Also, there were people hawking their crap, walking up and down the streets where the artists booths were.  When I complained to Jon about the Mondavi people doing that, he immediately made them stop.  All these things led to the carnival atmosphere that creeped into the art section.  Usually the art section is purposely separate from the rest of the event and it wouldn't take much tweaking to fix that.  Sometimes, you try something and it looks good on paper, but, it doesn't work.  They added booths to the show and the layout didn't work very well because traffic didn't flow as much to those areas.  That happened in Pontiac, too and they fixed that problem.  I'm confident that will be the case with this location, too.


For me, the first two days were bleak, at best, but, I did ok the last two days.  However, the real buyers never showed up, just like in Ann Arbor. That was different, this year. The crowd was very strange. Perhaps that was an understatement.  I didn't realize Michigan has so many obese people and when did Harley-Davidson attire become the norm?  I remarked to my neighbor that this crowd made Walmart shoppers look sophisticated.


Another thing.  I got the impression that Pontiac let Jon, Lisa, and Connie alone and let them create a nice event.  I get the impression that they constantly had to battle the City of Royal Oak, whose idea of a successful event is to run it like the carnival it has become.  I know for a fact, that at another art fair, held in Royal Oak that the city suggested they let clowns on stilts and jugglers walk the show.  They have no idea what makes this event successful.  I would like to warn the city officials here that they should not underestimate the impact the artists have in making AB and E successful and it would be in their best interest to create a more sophisticated event, like it had been in the past. Let me talk to them.  I'll educate them.

Comment by Ruth Jellema on September 6, 2011 at 9:14am
A few years ago I wrote off this show as just not the right type of show for me, although I know some who swear by it.  So, not having seen the application in some time, here's my question: how does the application describe the show? Did someone like Bonnie really have no idea what she was in for?  It has always been a big extravaganza, not just an art fair.  Was it somehow misrepresented?

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