Art Fair Insiders

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

Another view of the Bayou City art show.

I am excited that Melanie Rolfes had such a great show. And wrote such a great review.
She is a really good writer who gives great Insights and I was so happy to meet her.
She is a pistol. We had a lot of laughs.
I was worried about how she would do at this show with her color abstract paintings. Obviously, she blew them away and went home with a lot of moola.
I felt I should write from another point of view--the artist who needs a lot of customers to make a good show.

That said, let me give you my five cents worth, and then those of you who have thought about doing this show will have two balanced perspectives to judge whether it is worth your time and money.

First, let us talk about the time involved doing Bayou.
It is a typical two day show with a prior day setup and you can set up early on the morn of the show.
For most of us, unless you live in Texas, this is a one to two day trip to get there, or go home.
I was coming off Louisville. And it was still a long one and a half day drive. I broke it up, being a photographer, and stopped in Mississippi and Austin. The bottom line is that you are going to spend nearly a week on the road. Consider that, is it worth it? Oh, it is an expensive show to do.
Now we will talk about expenses.
You have a single booth show fee of over $500, multiply by two for a double booth.
Hotels near the show are $100-plus. Gas, food, parking, good booze drinks, with a single booth you are looking at a minemum of $1500 to do this show. If you can't make at least $3500 here, it is not worth doing.
You good do local shows on successive weekends and be better off. Just saying.
Next, Houston is a bitch of a town to drive around in. Miss an important exit Nd you could be in south Mongolia.
I stayed at a Red Roof Inn thirty minutes northwest of downtown, it was in the $60 range which saved me $40 from staying downtown--hey, it covered my tequila bill.
What I am saying, if you are a newbie, you will probably want to stay downtown, but it costs and you still have to pay for parking. Plus the restaurant scene around the show sucks.
Reason is, Houston is a commuter town and on weekends most places close. The neighborhoods have great restaurants like the Montrose district.
The hotels where the artists stay have adequate food (nothing to do a Tequila Report about).
Now, I will talk about the show itself.
If you can do what I am about to tell you it will make your Friday setup go so much smoother.
The show wants everybody to lineup in parking lot H and come in assigned order. Trouble is you will have to wait til 9 pm before first vans come in. They give you a limited time to unload and then go park your van and then go setup and stock. Good luck with that.
Here is the easy secret.
Since you know where your booth will be(the spaces are already marked) drop off you booth and tarps during the day. Put them behind the curb off the street. Go park somewhere, then come back and setup the basic booth off the street on the grass. Rental booths are already up like this. Then when they close off the streets around 7:30 drag your booth over the curb and unto the street. You now are an easy hour ahead, and only have to stock it. I did it, others did it. Easy peasy.
The show started slow on Saturday morn for me. It went slow all day. I barely sold $500.
Sunday was not much better.
Very conservative crowd, not much into avante garde or cutting edge.
I will not be back, not worth the time for me.
If you have high ticket items you could do well. If you need quantity, it is not a good gamble for a lot of us.
Overall, many artists were disappointed.
The knives guy next to me did very well. The painter next to me, who did safe images of flowers did very well. A noted mixed media artist who does iconic images died. He barely made $300 the whole show.
Personally, I think their booth fee is not worth it. Coupled with high travel expenses, this show is a big risk to do if you are traveling great distances.
You now have two personnel experiences from both Melanie and me, hope it will help you in the future. Might do a Tequila Report about a great place in Memphis.
Aloha, Nels.
BTW my birthday is this Tuesday. Do not spend a lot on presents for me, a simple Golden Margarita will do nicely.

Views: 1035

Comment by Barry Bernstein on October 19, 2016 at 7:49pm

I did the spring show for the first time. My experience was much like yours Nels. Houston has 10 million people in the greater Houston area. They only get a tiny fraction of those people coming. Why? Because they charge a $15 gate fee. It was $17 in the spring at Memorial Park. Parking is extra. VIP parking is $75 for the weekend. Who in their right mind would pay that? If they charged a $5 gate fee, they would get 10 times the amount of people and make a lot more money. Guess who would, also, benefit from the increased attendance? The artists, of course. This is how it was once upon a time. Plus, they would get a much bigger amount from food and junk sales. I had a....discussion.... about this with one of the executive directors. He didn't want to hear it. He took my card probably to make sure I wouldn't get in the show ever again. I will never give him the chance to boot me, at least until they lower the gate fee. Too bad. I would go back in a New York minute because the potential is so great.

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on October 20, 2016 at 12:27am
Great to hear your view of the show Nels. Wish it would have been better for you. These big shows in big cities with big expenses really need to be studied from all angles before you decide to do a show like this. For most of us Houston is a long way from home. The artists were a good mix of west coast and east coast and inbetween. Makes sense since it is some what in the middle. Like I mentioned in my review, the gate fee has pros and cons. If a patron is there to buy multiple smaller items they should have a chance to go drop off to their car and come back. Unless they bought a weekend pass they couldn't come back in. There wasn't a place inside the show to sit down and catch your breath. Except maybe the kid area. The show did offer the art drop off/pick up booth. Since it was my first time I actually read and printed out all the info from the show. Many of the artists and patrons didn't know about this option. A patron can only carry so much and for so long before they just want to go. I had many conversations with people who had waited to buy because they didn't want to carry it around then forgot where the booth was and just left. Also met many folks overwhelmed with smaller purchases. We had the volunteers pick up the work to take to the pick up tent for them so they could continue shopping. For those that need a higher volume of sales it would benefit all the artists to take advantage of the drop off/pick up booth. That isn't an issue for us because of the type work we do but I watched a lot of potential sales leave. Have a great birthday Nels.
Comment by Nels Johnson on October 20, 2016 at 6:56am
Thanks Melanie, you always give insightful comments.
Barry, that show has a "tough love" mentality on how they treat artists, it will never change, I fear.
Once more, I still think this show is a bad fit for artists who need to make multiple sales because of lower price points, and I am saying this from the point of a 2-D artist, not as a craftsman.
Comment by Christina L. Towell on October 21, 2016 at 9:42am

Thanks, Nels, always nice to get another point of view...sounds like you'll be crossing this one off your list.  Happy Birthday, belatedly!

Comment by Cindy Welch on October 21, 2016 at 10:05am


My favorite line of your whole review is ....

Next, Houston is a bitch of a town to drive around in. Miss an important exit Nd you could be in south Mongolia.

There are at least 2 cities I do NOT drive in, Houston and Atlanta.  We have been through both of them several times.  Before we get too close, if I am driving, we switch and dh drives.  They are both crazy for driving and I am afraid I'll end up in Mongolia!  LOL

Thanks for your view of the show.  I was glad you pointed out that if someone sells smaller items that it would be a tough go.  I sell smaller items that are mostly in the $7-30 range.  I would have to work myself to death to make the $3500 you mention for making it worthwhile.

We live in Louisiana about 5-6 hours from Houston so the drive would not be horrible, except for in the city.  Like you would look for lodging under $100/night.  Lodging for multiple nights at a show can be our biggest expense, since most shows for us are $175 or less, usually shows are around $150.

Thanks again for all the info.  I love living vicariously through all of y'all!

Comment by S Brian Berkun on October 21, 2016 at 11:56am

Thanks for the report Nels. Nice for me, at least, to know that I made the right decision to stop doing Houston, both spring and fall, for the same reasons you pointed out. They kept upping the gate fee which literally drove people away ( i watched a few say, "no way") The fall show was beleagured with rain the last two times I was there along with the high gate fee driving people away made it impossible to recoup the high expenses. Although I found a Super 8 at a "downtown" address on the Wyndaym website was cheaper by far then downtown with easy access. It's a nice show but just can't justify OR rationalize it!

Comment by Paul Flack on October 24, 2016 at 10:06am

Nels, my good man, you are spot on. Very conservative crowd. Not worth the hassle.

Comment by Craig Roderick and Sara Beck on October 26, 2016 at 9:48am

We were looking at the spring show on Zapp and noted that they require wall pieces to be "suitably framed".  Is that really the case?  I cannot remember the last time I saw all hung pieces framed.  

Also, it seems as though if they made a few simple changes it would greatly improve the show from everyone's perspectives.  Hopefully they are reading this post.  

Comment by S Brian Berkun on October 27, 2016 at 10:28am

Just got Bayou's "aren't we great, and didn't we have a swell time" email blast. They were celebrating the fact that they had 16,000 people show up! Really! In a city the size of Houston that's all they could come up with? Like the previous comment, maybe, if they lowered their gate admission they could still do well and get many MORE people into the show FOR THE ARTISTS! Just say'n.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on October 27, 2016 at 12:40pm

I just got the same email, except my email account had the sense to put it in the spam folder where it belongs. I check the spam folder periodically in case an acceptance letter goes there by accident. I came here to write about how outraged I am that Bayou City could only get 16,000 people to come to their show. Houston has 10 million people in the greater Houston area and boasts they have more executives, with executive salaries, and corporations based there than any other city in the USA. I do small town shows that have greater attendance than Bayou City. The sole reason for such low attendance is, of course, due to the ridiculous gate fee. I already complained about this. The decisions made at these two shows come from the executive committee. Let's do some math: at $15 they took in only $240,000. If they charged $5, they could easily get 100,000 people to come, with a giant upside. The take would be $500,000. Just a few years ago the gate was around 80,000 people. And, with all the extra attendees their take from food, posters, and t-shirts would be a lot more. If this was any corporation in America, the committee would have been let go years ago. In the very least maybe they should have to attend grade school math refresher course.


You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders

Want to sell more online? Advertise with Reach over 60,000 fiber arts lovers.

Look Inside the 2018 Art Fair Survey
Who Won and Why

Top 10 Reviewers on for January and February

Join the MasterMinds Group for personalized coaching on your Internet Lifestyle Business! 

60 Page Report - Best US Art Fairs

Click Here to
Learn More

© 2019   Created by Connie Mettler.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service