Art Fair Insiders

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Cincinnati Summerfair: Does it Match the Couch?

Cincinnati SummerFair last weekend was the beginning of  back-to-back shows in June. Big show, some 300 artists on meandering paths in Cony Island right on the River. Immediate confusion coming in, as I feared my GPS was taking me on an "adventure" when I crossed the bridge from Ohio into Kentucky. Can't be right...but heard a  voice in my head, "Trust the GPS Thomas". I  forged on, and sure enough  the highway curved back into Cinci, right to Coney Island. Happy I was.
During setup I got to watch all the cowgirls and guys make their way to the Lady Antebellum concert. Big thunderstorm interrupted my setup and the concert, so I hid in my (new, sturdy, well anchored, waterproof) tent for an hour until it let up, listening to the screams of concert-goers streaming back to their cars (to get their raincoats? cause the concert paused, then continued). The main complaint I read about with this fair was how hot it normally is. Not a problem this year, thanks to the rain.
 Friday; I think they got visitors got their moneys worth. Common to see them checking their maps, making a plan on where to go next, so as to not miss anything. A bit of concern when I saw so many walking around with beers, often in what seemed a really big cups: they pay to get in, then pay for alcohol, for food, will there be anything left for arts and crafts? Worst two fairs I have had were festivals mixing these elements.... This means, time for the Bag Check: Lots of people walking around with bags, a good sign sales are happening. All OK.
 I didn't sell as much as I expected (that guy Paul, when I told him I was going to Cinci said "you're going to make a lot of money!" -more on him later) Suffice it to say it didn't meet my (or his for me probably) expectations; I didn't sell a large number of pieces, but I did sell some higher-priced pieces which made up the difference.

 My biggest attraction was something I wasn't selling, but a sign I posted (because of Paul):

I had to put this in my booth after what Paul said.

 I swear, thousands pointed this sign out to whomever they were with. Only one mom replied to her son, "yes it does". There was no 'kidding' in her delivery. Some thought I made the sign and wondered where I found the license plates: Smiley Face: its a picture a friend posted on Facebook. But I am going to make it into a ceramics piece (cause that's what I do) and sell them by the thousands. When patrons  talked to me about it, I told them The Story:  "This guy comes up to me at Indiana Artisan, last March, raves about this piece:

Paul said it was the best piece in the show. That's like a major award.

 He really loves it, stands there a long time, then leaves, saying he will be back. He comes back at the end of the show, more raving, even says it is the best piece in the whole show (gosh, blush). hand on his chin, he then adds, 'but I just don't have anything green in my house anymore'."

You know how it is when you say the same thing over and over to people who come into your booth, the tag lines, the hooks, the conversation starters? Clearly this is one of mine. The patrons love it. But when I got tired of it, I began to add to it, telling them the guys name is Paul, and, See, over there? (point),  by the Tilt-a-whirl?,  well he's right there! Why don't you go over and ask him if he STILL doesn't have green in his house, o,r is he sure he doesn't have ANYTHING green, or, wouldn't this bowl then GIVE you something green, or, funny and I thought you were Irish...You get the idea, and patrons make their own suggestions too.. I like Paul. I'll see him at Woodland, do the same thing. Smiley Face. He's probably getting business from it.

I could tell every time the photographer next to me made a sale. He would unfold a bag and pop it open with both hands with a large snapping sound. Heard a-lot of those, so I think he did quite well.  They had a record 10,000 on Saturday alone. So, 30k for the three days? Possibly.

 At break-down I looked at where the jeweler tent to the left of me had been , you could see how much traffic had been there. Looked like a cattle drive had taken a detour through the booth. The photographer said the jeweler shouldn't have been there because it was "beads". I stayed out of it. She was nice, she was juried in, she there. Art Fair can be a misnomer; it isn't always art or fair.

It can be one thing to get into bigger shows, and another to sell well at those same shows. I spent some  time  looking  at ceramists/potter's booths. At some, I was amazed, nay, awestruck by the floor-to-ceiling inventory (have I even made as much as they are displaying in a year??) .  Beef up inventory, yeah. Checked out the Ceramics prize winners . Exact opposite. Like a gallery, with, seriously, maybe 10-15 pieces on display, closer to what I do. Both probably did well.

Organizers did a great job, helping setup,take down, providing amenities; a breakfast bar where they charged a nominal fee- (really was cheap, probably just covered expense of food), award banquet featuring two, count-em , 2- 10.00 coupons to redeem with the food, beer/wine vendors. Large Holy Trinity bourbon chicken, rice and beans got both my coupons. I saved the second one for lunch the second day. And J.D, he didn't have to, but he used his left-over money from his turkey wrap to buy me a corn-on-the-cob. Buy one of his pots next time you see him, will you? Say Thomas sent you. Say the same to Paul, he'll know what you mean. maybe we can get him to go green.

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Comment by Kay Cummins on June 13, 2012 at 11:48pm
Great post.
Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on June 11, 2012 at 11:04am

I enjoyed your post Thomas.  You do a great job of getting out the ideas and making it fun to read.  I also like your now famous quote.

Comment by Maria Oliva Tyra on June 11, 2012 at 9:54am

No it doesn't always have to match the couch….unless you're 'The Bag Lady' then is has to be colored co-ordinated and fit into the color gradation scheme  across the living-dining-kitchen area of the house….LOL

Where was that sign in Novi might I ask? 

I hope you're coming back up here to MI sometime….and let me know if you do 'cuz even if we don't do the same Art "Fair-or-not" I'd love to drop by and visit. :-) The girl we bought your dragonfly tea light luminary for was absolutely thrilled with it! 

Hope the rest of your shows go great this season.  Maybe I'll see you at Novi in the fall? You're juried in already…..just sayin'

Comment by Britt Hallowell on June 8, 2012 at 10:16am

"Art Fairs arent always art or fair" is my new favorite tag line! 

Comment by Marti McGinnis on June 8, 2012 at 8:48am

Well done! Hey if it's matching the couch we need to concern ourselves with - perhaps we need to focus on images of potatoes, heh heh.

I hope I get to set up next to you sometime at soem show somewhere, Thomas - because people with good attitudes and a sense of humor absolutely make a slowish show a ton more fun. :) Except, of course, when this happens - we'll be outrageously busy!

Comment by geri a. wegner on June 7, 2012 at 2:36pm

Best line ever on this website---It isn't always art or fair.

Comment by Katherine Graham Sarlson on June 7, 2012 at 1:15pm

Excellent!  Okay if I steal a copy of your license plates image?

Comment by Kimberly Merck- Moore on June 7, 2012 at 12:04pm

Oops, I meant "fair".

Comment by Kimberly Merck- Moore on June 7, 2012 at 12:03pm

Blew my iced tea through my nose laughing at "Art Fair can be a misnomer; it isn't always art or far".

Funny review.

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