Art Fair Insiders

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

  My last four shows have not been as profitable as I would like. I am new to the art show world, and I am trying just about every show that I think may be a possibility in my area.  I live in Texas, and have decided to stay in my state for the first few years to get my feet wet, and figure out which shows work best for me.  My fall shows are all new to me, and each have been within at least a four hour drive. 

  What is interesting for me, is that for my past four shows, if it were not for men surprising their wives for either a Birthday or Christmas, I would not have made profit.  These have all been large paintings, and one commission, that have been purchased as a surprise gift.  The wives perused the booth first, and then a few minutes later, here come the husbands ready to buy, and practically whispering just like the knock-off rolex dealer with a trenchcoat on a major city corner.  I love to be a part of this, and I have decided that romance is not dead after all (slight nudge in my husband's direction, bless his unromantic heart...). It made my day, literally and figuratively.

  It does make me wonder though, if this is a common occurance, or if people are waiting to make large purchases for special occasions instead of outright buying something that they like. Since I am still new to this business, I am wondering if this is common?

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Comment by Elissa Brown on November 6, 2012 at 10:12pm

I think you are lucky they come back and actually buy. I have many people come back with the exact same whisper and ask if they can contact me later to buy this or that piece for whomever they had come with... Surprise, surprise... I never hear from them again... :). A sale is a sale!

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on November 6, 2012 at 11:52pm

Kimberly - can't comment on paintings, but as jewelers we have several of these surprise purchases every year.  Just got a call from a client at an April show who placed an order for Christmas after he consulted with his wife's best friend.  Other shows we're handed a credit card as the husband is leaving the booth with the promise that he'll be back if we'll just take care of the transaction and wrap it up!

Comment by Annette Piper on November 7, 2012 at 1:54am

I'm jewellery too - I get men buying for wives at Christmas time (usually late!) but rarely at other times of the year. 

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on November 7, 2012 at 1:54am

I do get that at about 1/4 of my  shows, but it is almost always the women buying for the man.  One time I had to actually give the cold shoulder to a man because his wife had already bought the man the piece on the side and he was adamant with his family that he wanted that piece and couldn't understand why his family was giving him a hard time.  He had to wait until fathers day though:)  I definetly don't count on this happening, but just enjoy the suprise.   

Comment by Alison Thomas on November 7, 2012 at 7:15am

I've gotten that a few times recently.  At one show a man and woman were in the booth a long time and on the way out the woman very surreptitiously handed me one of my cards with the name of one of my pieces and "Birthday present - call me" on it.  She came back later in the show and bought the piece.  

One weird one is three times I have had a mother buy a piece for her son upon getting married or moving into his own place.  The first time was rather comical since the mom and son were together and he picked it out.  When he said that yes, he would like it as a housewarming gift she gave him quite a talking to.  "You will not get tired of this and sell it at a yard sale", "You will not give this away to your roommate or girlfriend", "You will not put this in the closet and not hang it", "This is real art and you need to take care of it".  The second time the mom came alone and picked out the exact same piece after the both of them had been in earlier.  The third time the mom came in alone with no idea what to buy and I just pointed to it and said "young men seem to like this one".  At my last show I was telling a patron about this strange occurrence and he said it was perfect for a young person moving to a new part of their life.  He renamed it "Uncertain Future with a Guide". 

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on November 7, 2012 at 9:01am
Agree that women buy leather birthday and Christmas gifts throughout the summer. I would also add young adult women buying for dad.
Comment by Kimberly Merck- Moore on November 7, 2012 at 9:19am

So judging from the comments, is is somewhat common.  I really enjoy being a part of the "conspiracy", these kind of surprises are fun.  

At one of the shows, the woman came back by after I had sold it to her husband, with him, because she guessed! I put a sold sign on the hanging painting and she walked by and saw it. In this case it worked out better because I ended up not having to ship the piece. 

Comment by Brian Billings on November 7, 2012 at 11:34am

I'm a painter and this rarely happens. Paintings aren't usually something you switch out whenever you like, it usually stays on the wall for years. Especially the larger, more expensive pieces. Now I think it's different for prints under $100, as these are easy to store. Of course we all hope they put it in a frame and display it in their home but thats not always the case. I'm guilty of having a stack of prints that I've purchased from artists from all the shows I've attended.

Comment by Cheyenne L Rouse on November 7, 2012 at 11:37am

I am new to the Art Show world as well...on my 1st show I had a Mother buy her son (as a surprise for his new apt) one of my matted 11x14 photographs from Sedona, AZ that he was ooohing and ahhing I'm hoping it is one of my BIG $$ pieces! 

Best of luck at your shows! 

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on November 7, 2012 at 12:15pm

Brian I am a painter as well.  I don't do prints.  It suprises me that people are willing to give suprise gifts for such an importance piece in a persons life.  It stresses me out a bit, what if the receiver is not $1k happy?  Usually it is a couple though, and like I said the women is doing the buying, and as long as the women is happy then all is well IME. 


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