Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
THE A2 art fairs are in a slow descending death spiral.
Very few exhibitors are selling high end work--very,very few. Just look at John Leben's blog, and he was in the best show to sell high end at, and it went nowhere.
I have done the A2 Guild show for 27 years. Have been there for the glory days and now am there for its death throes.
The bottom line is this folks.
The show is too long and too expensive for the return on your investment.
You are looking at 11 hour days (Wed.-Fri) and nine hours on Sat.
This year we caught a break with the weather, it was unusually cool. Had to wear a wool top while setting up on Tuesday and then again on Wed.
Most years this show is during the hottest week of the summer--usually accompanied by various rain.
This year we lucked out--we may never see this again.
Guess what? The cooler weather did not really help sales. It did not increase attendance.
The expenses for the average artist with a single booth are anywhere between $1800-$2400.
It can vary, depending on far you had to come from (gas) how much you pay for a room, how little you choose to spend on food, and whether you have to pay someone to help you with setup, breaks, sales or teardown/loadout.
All four art fairs charge the same price for a booth fee. With a corner spot you are looking at nearly $800 for a booth.
So, when you figure in those expenses, the time to travel and the time to do it, you better be hoping to make way more than $5K at the show.
Guess what? Most people I know this year were lucky to do $5K. And most of it was all lowed.
In my case, I did about 10 percent better than last year, which was my lowest ever in 26 years.
For the whole show, I only sold two 16x20 frames for $150 and one frame for $450. All other sales were precious little pieces of paper from my browse bins.
I am on Main Street under a beautiful tree. Restaurants are behind me and across. I had a good vantage point to observe the crowds and what they were holding onto.
It wasn't very much.
Only saw a few gallery wraps go by me the whole show.
At times there where huge empty gaps in the crowd. That used to never happen.
As glass artist Susan Gott sharply observed, it was a river of people walking down the middle of the street. Very few looked inward at booths. Even fewer bothered to enter and check out the walls or the bins.
They do like to use our booths as phone booths, so that they can text whatever to their friends.
The crowds love to congregate in front, with dogs and carry on in conversation.
Probably Leben's show is your best chance to be in if you are there to sell original art.
One other observation. I did not see the usual preponderance of squatter booths. The tie-dyes and bonsai booths were not there anymore. Betcha, the landowners raised the booth fee on them and they knew it wasn't profitable to do. Also restaurants were empty at times.
I could go on with more, but I have said plenty about the sorry state of affairs of these shows.
As long as the A2 merchants think they can draw in crowds, via us, to sell their castoff items, they will continue.
I don't look for any creative fixes to this situation.
If you have never been, then I guess you take your chance and find out.
Sadly, many great artists have stopped doing A2 because of the sparse sales. More mediocre stuff gets in, the smart buyers kiss off the show and there you are--THE DOWNWARD DEATH SPIRAL.
The A2 merchants think they can get away with this forever.
I got news for them--they are wrong.
This show will cease to be anything more than a glorified county fair the way it is going.
Gee! Can you say, "Sabbatical?"