Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
2014 has been off to a much different start than we ever expected. After getting waitlisted for 2 January shows, rejected / waitlisted for our Feb shows it looked like our first show of the year was going to be in March in Albuquerque before we continued on to Texas. Well, that all changed as we left Tucson AZ for Dallas TX in a hurry due to an impending death in our immediate family. We ended up cancelling a few shows and rearranging our travel schedule. So after a much longer break from art shows than expected, we’re finally starting our 2014 show.
Instead of starting our spring shows in AZ/NM and TX as expected, we finally got back to our regularly scheduled art show life when we arrived in California, both of our May shows were new for us so it’s always fun and challenging to discover how things work for each show.
Our first show was the El Dorado Hills Art & Wine Affaire that was held on Mother’s Day weekend (May 10-11). El Dorado Hills is an upscale community that is an eastern suburb of Sacramento. The show is held on Town Center Blvd right in the center of town with great restaurants and shops, with very few chain restaurants / stores on the main Blvd., although many of the customers used the Target parking lot that was just behind the Town Center area. This show is put on by the Chamber of Commerce and has been running for 14 years.
Weather was great on Saturday, sunny, high 70’s, got a bit breezy in the afternoon and we had to tie down a couple of our displays, other than that we had no issue. However, it quickly became apparent which booths didn’t have adequate weights, many, many artists were hanging onto their booths by Saturday afternoon as the gusts hit. Volunteers came around on Saturday afternoon to warn everyone that a wind advisory was in effect and the weather people were predicting 40 mph gusts on Sunday and warning everyone to be better weighted down.
Volunteers put the tents / tables up for the wineries and the volunteers took those tents down on Saturday night to prevent loss or damage. Our artist neighbors, who were very poorly weighted, took all their products home Saturday night and removed the walls from their booth in an effort to minimize damage. So we were left with our booth set up but no booths on either side or behind us. Luckily we survived the night, we have 57 lb. weights for each corner and the glass cases were placed on the ground overnight.
Sunday AM set up took a long time as we were trying to roll up walls, fasten things down as the wind was gusting, blowing and stirring up all kinds of trouble. I heard that some of the artists lost their booths or some product, but honestly we were so busy rearranging and tying things down that I never got out of the booth to know how much damage was done. The winds continued all day and we heard a few crashes further down the road, but I really don’t know how much damage was done.
Load in / Load out
Very easy, although tiring. This is a same day load in show, so we were there at 0’dark thirty Saturday AM. There was a bit of confusion caused by the paperwork the Chamber sent to the artists. Paperwork stated you had to be set up by 9:30 but the postcard and website indicated the show started at 11. I called the artist liaison and the real story was that cars/trucks had to be off the road by 9:30 but the show started at 11 although the organizer said we’d see people wandering through before that so our goal was to be ready by 10. More on this later, but we could have slept in another 90 minutes and not missed anything.
The load in / load out was from 2 different directions depending on which side of the street you were on. There was NO micro-managing the load in / load out, the volunteers managing the entrances just validated your booth number and sent you on your way. You can drive right to your spot and load / unload, artists worked amongst themselves if there was a vehicle in the way or someone needed to shift a bit to let someone else have access to their booth.
Sales / Fees
Saturday – fantastic, Sunday – mediocre, but overall we had a pretty good show. It felt someone "flipped a switch" on the types of buyers we had. Saturday, big items, many customers with multiple items including one lady who came back twice along with her daughter.
Sunday – 2/3rds the quantity in sales but all low end price points, only one sale over $100 and no sales of multiple items. Not our best show, but far from our worst and a nice final sales number to start the year. Booth fee was only $210, but with a 10% commission, it becomes a pricey show to do. We did well enough to come back, especially when so many artists were telling us that Sunday historically had been a better day because it was Mother’s Day but everyone felt the foot traffic was really light this year due to the winds. Sales didn’t really start until after Noon each day, which is when the wineries start pouring wine.
None, with a low booth fee I didn’t expect much but given that they were charging a 10% commission you would think they could at least better communicate with us. As I mentioned in the Load in / Load Out section, there was confusion on the start time, they could have at least let us know that the show really didn’t start until 11 and wineries didn’t start pouring until noon. Would have been nice to have a little more sleep on Saturday AM.
Because the show is held in the Town Center, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, public restrooms so no need for Porta Potties, Yay!! That was a plus in my book. Of course, the public restrooms were also great for being able to wash up a little after load in and change into show clothes after we were set up, it was nice not to being trying to change clothes in the truck or back of the booth.
A few other observations, this is a small show, around 80 artists plus 25 wineries, so patrons can easily walk the entire show and then shop. We were off the very slow sales both days, but Saturday between 2-4 we had enough sales to make up for a very slow start. We had several sales that were multiple purchases and one customer who came back twice with her daughter, they accounted for almost one third of our Saturday sales, they really liked our jewelry.
It is a commission show, they state in the paper work that they will come around to pick up the checks and evaluation forms but no one ever came by and we were told to mail it in. Very trusting and somewhat unusual for commission shows. Will we come back? Perhaps, but only if we’re going to be back in this same area next spring. This isn’t a show I would travel very far for, but it was a very pleasant show to do.
The patrons were appreciative of our being there, no price haggling, an affluent community and while it was an art and wine event, we didn’t see anyone who had too much to drink. The focus of this event really was on the art and the wine, the wineries weren’t selling their wines, just tastings were occurring, but they were promoting their wineries and upcoming events such as the spring barrel tasting, etc.
Now, on the road again, to the Bay Area for our double header of new shows for us this year. After a frantic week of trying to do a little restocking, carving out a little time for RV maintenance that had to happen, we headed into Los Altos for the show that is organized by the Rotary. After 2 previous years of driving into the Bay Area with our RV, we decided to leave the RV parked where we are paying a monthly fee and get a hotel for this show. The cost of RV parks in San Francisco is very high, not very many to choose from and traffic is a nightmare, especially when towing a large 5th wheel and having idiot drivers cut us off at all major freeway interchanges. So, we left the RV parked in the Sacramento area and drove into the Bay Area for our 12-2 pm set up time.
Los Altos is a community close to the Silicon Valley, we previously had done a show in Mountain View which is a neighboring community and had done well at that show so went into this one with what we hoped were reasonable expectations.
Los Altos Art in the Park is put on by the Rotary Club and is in Lincoln Park just off the Foothills Parkway. This year the number of booths were reduced to 175 artists, primarily in the jewelry category. The reduction was an effort to give the individual artists more visibility and increase sales per artist. Booths were generous, 12 ft deep, 13 ft wide so plenty of storage behind the booths, booth size increased from last year, another positive sign for the artists. The quality of art at this show was pretty high, there were a couple of booths that I suspect were buy/sell or at least made only a small component of the art they had for sale.
The big news for us at this show was that after 9 years of participating in shows, Dale won his first award!!! So very proud of my husband, I must admit! He was one of two jewelers who won the “Juried Favorite Award”!! We did not know he had won an award until Saturday morning when the volunteers were handing out booth signs / numbers and the director came by to tell him he was getting a special sign as he was one of the award winners. Given the fantastic jewelry we saw at this show, we were both honored and humbled, and yes, very, very surprised to win an award.
Setup was staggered on Friday with assigned times between noon and 6 PM, trailers were not allowed in until after 6 PM. We had the noon – 2PM time. Arrived about 12:15 and drove to a spot close to our booth. The park is a long, skinny park with 3 rows of booths, the center row features artists that are able to be open on 3 or 4 sides. Our booth was located on the row furthest from the road, so we had to hand truck everything to our booth location across numerous tree roots and around other artists booths that were also in the process of setting up.
It wasn’t too far or difficult, just took a little extra time. We were done with our set up by about 2:30 and headed off to check into the hotel and relax for the rest of the day. Load out on Sunday was a free for all with the usual issue of people bringing vehicles in before being packed down, but overall it worked pretty well. Our biggest issue was trying to find a path to hand truck our stuff where we weren't running over tree roots or other artists belongings as we had 2 rows of artists booths between us and the curb where we were parked.
Sales for the weekend were okay, not as high as we had hoped for. Saturday the sales seemed to come in waves. It was never a very large crowd, but an affluent crowd with no haggling on prices, several sales were multiple items to the same customer. Our first sale of the day paid our booth fee, so that was a nice way to start the day. Overall, sales on Saturday were pretty good, but nothing spectacular.
Sunday started really slow, we sold one large piece on Sunday with just a few small sales. Sunday ended up being about 2/3rds of Saturday’s sales and overall sales were okay, a little lower than we wanted for a show with a $379 booth fee and a 10% commission.
This was a show with added expenses for us as we left the RV in Sacramento and had hotel expenses, so our profit was a little lower than we had hoped for with a show in this area. Other artists that we talked to reported varying success with sales, some were having outstanding shows, some just okay. No one that I talked to said it was bad, just average to good.
While our sales were okay, we had the pleasure of watching a metal sculpture artist who was across from us “hit it out of the park” on Sunday. He sold 2 very large pieces Sunday morning, then several small pieces and ended the day with a large sale at closing time. Not sure of his total sales for the day but I know he had an awesome day.
Lunch was provided each day, 1 boxed lunch per booth, coffee and muffins were available in the morning, dinner was provided Saturday night. Booth sitters were available if needed. Overall, the Rotary went out of their way to support the artists and the volunteers were happy to have the artists there.
Other notes: Weather was perfect for the show, sunny with some occasional clouds and temps in the 70’s. This show did not have any of the distractions that we’ve seen at larger shows, everything was well organized, Lara Pai did a great job communicating, compared to many shows, it was very refreshing to have someone so organized making sure every detail was taken care of and that the art was the ONLY focus of the event.
Heading north over the next couple of weeks as we make our way back to the Pacific NW to return to summer shows where we’ve had success in the past. It’s always fun to try new shows, but right now we are also looking forward to going back to some shows where we know what to expect, catch up with some artists friends who don’t venture outside the PNW and feast on the Copper River Salmon that will be arriving at the docks around the same time that we will be arriving in Seattle.