Art Fair Insiders

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

Ferndale is a north Detroit suburb that is going from a decaying old town into becoming a very "now" kind of scene.
It happened last weekend. You do an early Friday setup and then the show runs 3-7 that day and10-7 Sat. And 11-6 on Sunday.
It is a tight setup on the Main Street there. Most booths are back to back with zero storage. There is a wee bit of storage on one of the sides. Artists can store on sidewalk in front of them.
It is run by a savvy Detroit area promoter, Mark Loeb, can be found on Zapp under Integrity shows. Booth fee about $250 with $75 extra for a corner.
He supplies water and snacks and throws a real nice artist breakfast on Sunday morn at a nearby restaurant. He cares about his artists and is easily accessible.
OK. There are the basics covered. Now let us talk about the show and whether it wil be a good fit for you.
I did it four years ago, literally right after my open heart surgery. I barely made $1500.
Then, there were lots of closed storefronts on Nine Mile Road, the main drag.
Now, four years later, I saw a different revitalized Ferndale.
There was a great mix of new retail biz and many new restaurants--all filled to the brim at night.
I will even have a Tequila Report at the end of this blog.
OK, Nels, but tell us about the show.
Thought you would never ask.
The Good and Bad about Ferndale Funky Art Show

First off, I have never seen so many smokers like there are at this show. The pavements are littered with butts.
Also this is a dog show. About every fourth person is walking one or two of them. As you know, dog people are too busy showing off the pup and holding tight on the leash. They rarely buy anything. Unfortunately, there were more of the dog people than art buyers.
This is a north Detroit suburb and they are proud of their city. Lots of Detroit outer ware clothing. They love images of Detroit--buildings in disrepair, old landmarks, urban grit. Tropical images do not sell here.
Besides urban grit, they love European stuff. A well known, longtime photographer, who does French images sent a surrogate here while he was at Carmel. I saw many large canvasses go out of the booth on Sunday.
They bought funky hats, they bought old oval fans remade into funky interior lights.
My neighbor did woven needlework f colorful yarns made into hats, arm bracelets, necklaces, etc. she did very well.
A talented lady all the way from Gatlinburg, Tennessee had funky dolls heads on funky bodies. She died. She kills them back home.
Many of the photographers, including me, could only sell our most low end item.
This is mainly a blue collar crowd. Not a lot of good shoes, totally the opposite of Birmingham, just up the road.
We had perfect weather but the crowds, in number, were pretty mediocre.
Football is king in Michigan in the fall. It is their religion. Art pales against football.
I made only a little better then what I did four years ago.
Will I go back? Depends. Have to see my lineup next year. If I get a St. Louis or Kansas City, forget Ferndale.

This show is worth doing if you live nearby. If you have to hotel it I would think twice, unless $1700 is an OK show for you. It is not, for me.
If you have Michigan images you will do well.
Low end stuff sells best here. I saw very few high end items go by my booth. Loeb, the promoter, said there were lots of sales like that. They must have exited the show before they got to me because I hardly saw more than one.
Face it, this is a filler show. You could do worst.
The promoter try's hard, I like his spirit.
Now-- How about a Tequila Report
Thought you had forgot.

The Public House Restaurant on Ninemile, right in front of my booth.

This place is two years old and packed all the time. With good reasons--great adventurous foods and equally adventurous beer and liquor drinks--at very reasonable prices.
How about a 16 ounce Pilsner Urquell in a can for $5.
How about brisket sliders for $5.
How about barbecue carrots appie for $6 with smoked lamb ribs, as an entree for $16.
How about a choice of 50 brews on tap or bottles, cans, most $2.50 to $9.00. The Belguim beers are always the high ones.
How about innovative cocktails using whisky, vodka or tequila for $8.00
I hit this place for a late lunch after setting up my booth on Friday.
They had lobster mixed with quacamole on toast, three toasts, for $6. I ordered it with a Makers Mark Manhatten, shaken and served in a martini glass with unusual aromatic bitters for $7. It was so good, I had two. I took an early afternoon nap.
This place is deal. You gotta go there.

Well folks that is it.
I am off to Louisville then on to Houston, then back to Michigan, pack up the place and head home to Florida.

Views: 469

Comment by Connie Mettler on September 27, 2016 at 4:46pm

PHew! Well, I'm certainly glad that you ate and drank well in Ferndale, Nels. Almost your best tequila report ever. I'm a little wondering though about "barbecue carrots apple" ??

This is a young people's town, lots of young families. It looks better than it did four years ago and in another four years (will you still be out there busking?) those folks will be four years older and ready to buy Walken and Caitlyn. 

Two weeks ago I was in Fort Wayne for an historic home tour and this is what I found in a wonderfully restored 1850 house:

I'll be in Houston too. See you there!!

Comment by Christina L. Towell on September 28, 2016 at 9:10am

Good stuff, Nels, and so glad I finally got to meet you!  Good luck in Louisville, Houston and beyond...

Comment by Mark Loeb on September 28, 2016 at 11:26am

I'll report back with more results after I get the survey results from the show.  

This show is in its 14th year. For the last seven years, we were adjacent to the DIY Street Fair.  

This year we were independent again, and it did have an impact.  

I had six artists tell me that they had either their best Ferndale or even their best show ever.  

One difference seemed to be that those with $300 and up work sold more than they had in recent years.  Some selling work that appeals mostly to young adults were down.  

Makes sense- the DIY event is a young adult audience.  

Parking was much better without two events, and I think that was helpful.  People are more likely to buy something substantial when they have not walked as far, and they know their vehicle is close by.  

One of my favorite stories from this year- A large-scale metal sculptor sold three five foot tall pieces and was asked to load them in the buyers Porshe.  Somehow they all fit, but she sure was nervous.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on September 28, 2016 at 12:43pm

Wow, Nels.  Love the report, as always.  You have an ambitious few weeks ahead of you.  Good luck down the road and hope to see you at Sanibel in November.

Comment by Sandra J. Atkins-Moran on September 28, 2016 at 4:06pm

Hey, Mark, sorry to have missed your show this year.  I'm staying closer to home  (Dallas)these days but I do remember how nice everyone was and how Detroit is renewing itself.  A lovely city with great folks.  Wish I could be there.  Best to you and your staff.

Comment by Lin Chamberlain on September 28, 2016 at 8:48pm
I did this show a couple of times and did quite well[i sculpt fiquritive sculpture] I just didn't like the 4-6 block walk back to my car with my art [I never leave my artwork in the tent over night] and my cash drawer by myself. Just didn't feel safe being female walking by myself that far to my car,alot of scary people . I usually do my shows alone.
Comment by Christina L. Towell on September 30, 2016 at 9:42am

Well, Lin, I guess I "resemble" your remarks as I live here in Ferndale and I don't think I've ever resided in a friendlier or safer feeling city in my life.  I have yet to encounter anyone I would deem "scary" and I'm sure that if you had asked anyone for help, they would have been more than happy to oblige.  Sorry you feel this way about my hometown but hope you'll give us another chance...

Comment by Lin Chamberlain on September 30, 2016 at 9:57am
Well,Christina, I guess you had to be there with me,walking to my car . I'm sorry I offended you,that wasn't my intent. Mark puts on a great show and I made good money and the first time I was there I won an award for best in fiber. Ferndale's a neat town and I have considered trying it again,but next time I will bring my husband with me. Again ,I am sorry.
Comment by Christina L. Towell on September 30, 2016 at 10:13am

Lin, not offended, just felt like I should come to Ferndale's defense...glad to hear that you might give us another go round.


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