Art Fair Insiders

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

This was my first large show and what an experience. Thursday night was early set up, went pretty smooth except for the pick up truck that decided to block the path to exit. Other than that it was pretty easy. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the vendors. Of course there was buy/sell but even the hand made items were very "swap mart" like, for instance there was a booth selling marshmallow guns. Friday was the first day, it was a high of 64, that's cold for us near Phoenix. The crowd was probably 90% over 70, don't know too many people over 70 that's looking for wall art. I'm an abstract painter that uses bright colors and my market is around the 40-60 age, so this was not a good start. Many vendors have done this show for many years, so they had their followers come first thing in the morning to buy their goods and saw people leaving the show with quality art. After that it was lots of people buying canes, wind socks and cheap jewelry. The day ended with $0.

Saturday was warmer and good weather. I was hoping for a younger crowd but it was about the same as Friday. Pretty good crowd but not what it has been in recent years, as told by other vendors. Some quality art were seen in people's hands but again mostly small stuff. Many vendors were puzzled by the crowd. One vendor told me to count how many shoppers were smiling, most people look like they were not having a good time. Sales were slow for most but jewelry under $100 seemed to be selling well. Again I ended the day with $0.

Sunday was the experience I was talking about. Apparently there was a micro-burst in the middle of the night and when I walked up to where my booth was, I saw a tent and debris scattered in the middle of the road. Luckily it was not my booth, but my heart sank when I saw this. It was my neighbors double booth, he sold jewelry and their merchandise was not damaged but it was a big mess to clean up. He had home made weights, probably 20lbs per leg, obviously not enough. Everybody was great and helped him clean & pack up. I'm so glad I found this site and learned about tent weights, I had bought some sand bags that were 40 lbs per leg and that seemed to have worked. My tent or art was not damaged at all, so thanks to all of you! About 10 booths were destroyed, it's too bad they didn't listen to last weeks podcast. I had heard there was also a chocolate booth that was invaded by Havalina's and tore up there tent and everything in it.

So it was finally ready to start and it was cold and very windy, people were literally hanging onto their booths. Even with the bad conditions, people came out and was a younger crowd than previous days. Vendors who stayed had good spirits and people were buying. It was the smallest crowd of the 3 days but the people were more serious buyers. I made some sales, so it wasn't a total loss as I had expected at the start of the day. To sum up the show, I will probably not do this show again for 3 reasons. #1. A few Long time vendors of this show that I talked to are no longer happy with the show and are not going to return. They are finding other shows to take its place. #2. I don't have a following at this show as it was my first and most the sales vendors made were from previous contacts.  #3. It was one of the most expensive booth fee's in AZ at $450. All in all it wasn't a good show but learned a lot and was happy to start doing these bigger festivals. Hopefully my next show in Tempe April 5th is a better experience!

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Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on March 3, 2013 at 10:38pm

Brian thanks for your show review.  It is great to get a western show review.  Good luck at Tempe.  I look forward to another review if you are up for it.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on March 1, 2013 at 12:28pm

Brian - you've confirmed what I've been hearing about that show as we've considered AZ shows.  What I've heard through the grapevine from the artists that I know in WA/OR that travel to AZ for shows each spring/fall is that it is definitely a "real estate" show, they've added more booths the last few years, show has gotten too big and unless you have one of the prime locations making decent money at that show is "iffy" at best.  Thanks for the report.

Comment by Sherry Salito-Forsen on March 1, 2013 at 12:20pm

I think they should mention in their prospectus that they allow buy and sell. They charge a "JURY fee"  I would expect more quality. Don't call it juried, just say we will let anyone in who gives us money.

"I was VERY disappointed. I tried that show 2 years ago and will never go back. I have talked to artist who say it used to be a decent show.

Comment by Annette Piper on February 28, 2013 at 1:22am

Sorry you had a dire couple of days but so glad it picked up (sales, not the wind!).  As Connie says, lots of experience gained which will hold you in good stead in the future.

Comment by Virginia Dauth on February 27, 2013 at 6:05pm

So Sorry Brian, Wishing only Good shows for the rest of the season.

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 27, 2013 at 3:42pm

Good review and I know you got $450 worth of experience out of it going forward. Right? Better $450 in your pocket, but what you gonna do? This show used to be a honey, oh there we go again "used to be." A friend of mine said he only found himself at shows any more where the artists all had the same refrain, "you should have been here last year." It sounds like you were well prepared and had done your research. 

Glad you listened to the podcast too! When I'm doing them I wonder if there will be listeners. This one and all the discussion of weights on the site were really helpful to you. Pretty strange about "your" customers showing up on Sunday. The pattern I'm used to is the people who rally love the shows are there first thing, first day and often Sundays only bring people who have nothing else to do -- unless it is in a Jewish area where the families come together and make group purchases. 

What's your next show?

Comment by Brian Billings on February 27, 2013 at 10:54am

Thanks! Yes, the show was this past weekend

Comment by Geoff Coe on February 26, 2013 at 9:18pm

Hey Brian, thank you for posting a review of the show...it takes some nerves of steel to write for an online audience about your first big show.  Congratulations, and good luck in Tempe.  Keep 'em coming, there aren't a lot of reports on AZ activity.

Was the show last weekend? 

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