Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
After a six-week homestand doing shows in and around Fort Myers, my winter schedule finally kicked me out of the house and sent me three hours east to Hobe Sound, on Florida's so-called "Treasure Coast." Couldn't be a better place for a show than that, right?
This was a very good, but not great, show for me last year, with good crowds and lots of buyers of smaller bird photographs (only one wall canvas, but lots of 8x10 and 11x14 mat sizes). My hope was that the crowds would return and be undeterred by the larger sizes and lack of 8x10 mats that I was bringing with me for this year's show.
Well, some dreams came true: Despite some iffy morning weather both days, and potential competition from Super Bowl parties, crowds returned in full force all weekend. But sales (for me, at least) were spotty: Folks bought small again this year on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, they browsed but hardly bought at all. I wound up with just over half the sales total I had last year.
But my results might not have been typical. Among my neighbors, a 2-D artist who zeroed at last year's show sold at least two pieces at $800 to $1000 price points. Another mixed-media artist sold a $2400 piece. Longtime friends on the American Craft Endeavors circuit who sell fun furniture fashioned from white shutters nearly sold out their stock. Jewelers I spoke with briefly (the crowds were too big to walk the show for long) did OK to well. The photographers I spoke with weren't quite so pleased.
Setup/teardown logistics were as easy as it gets. As I reported on Friday, there was an "unofficial" Friday setup (Howard Alan explained to me that that had to do with jurisdiction issues along this particular stretch of road.) Security wasn't provided on Friday, so many artists just chose to set up their tents and display furnishings and bring their artwork on Saturday morning. The show venue is a narrow two-lane road flanked by a grassy berm and railroad (on the east) and a sidewalk and service road (on the west). Tents were arranged pole-to-pole, along each side of the road, rather than back-to-back, giving the many patrons just enough room to walk the show. There was lots of storage space behind each tent.
Artists on the west side could park in diagonal parking spots right behind the tents during setup/breakdown. East-side artists could drive onto the grassy meridian separating the show from railroad tracks for tear-down parking. (Shockingly, one despicable artist wasn't satisfied with that, and actually spit at the show manager--thankfully, missing his target--when she refused to let him in early on Sunday. Surely we won't see him again at a Howard Alan show. Hopefully, we won't see him at any other, either.)
If you do this show, note that there aren't any chain hotels in Hobe Sound. The dot-com hotel sites will find you plenty of places in Stuart (about 10 miles due north along US Route 1) or Port St. Lucie (about 15 miles). A number of us stayed at the Best Western "Plus" in Stuart, with recently-modernized rooms, a flat-screen HD TV for Super Bowl watching, and one of the most sumptuous free breakfast buffets I have ever experienced. Several of the restaurants right behind the show were gracious hosts for the artists, and there are lots of good restaurant choices in Stuart, too.
Though I was disappointed in my own sales, I gave out a bazillion business cards to folks (you'll be asked often if you're doing upcoming shows in Stuart and Jupiter--among them, Alan's Stuart show in two weeks, his Jupiter-by-the-Sea in March, ArtFest Stuart, and ArtiGras in Jupiter. Yow, it's almost like Naples!). Interestingly, most of the folks I spoke with were year-long local residents; to the best of my knowledge I didn't speak with a single resident of deep-pocketed Jupiter Island. So I'm crossing my fingers that I'll see many of my be-backs over the next month on my return trips.
There was some good news:
* I was invited to have a large one-man show at the nearby Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which has hosted wildlife art shows from some very well known artists and at least one National Geographic photographer. So that gives me something to shoot for (pun regrettable but intentional). I'll be back in two weeks for ArtiGras, and stay the week to photograph in and around the park, then wrap up my Treasure Coast swing with Alan's show in Stuart.
* And I can't write this post without sharing a wonderful moment: On Saturday morning I was visited by a young lady, 10 years old, and her mom. The youngster rattled off the name of every bird on my wall as she looked at my canvases, and spent about 20 minutes chatting with me about her new camera as she browsed through my matted prints with fascination. At times, her mother helped her ID any unfamiliar birds (of which there were darn few). I offered her my child's discount on a photograph. With her mom's approval, she pulled out her own coin purse and handed me cash for the purchase (her mom supportively chipped in $5 to make up the shortfall).
That made my day on Saturday. Then, imagine my surprise when she returned on Sunday to hand me an 8x10 photograph of a Blue Jay that she'd snapped at her bird feeder on Saturday afternoon--perfectly captured, carefully printed, signed in the bottom right corner with a felt-tip pen, and sealed carefully in a plastic bag!
I've given child discounts to many youngsters over the last four years, I told her, but never have I received such a gift in return. It's already framed (in an 8x10 frame I bought last week, without really knowing why) and hanging on the wall next to me as I write this.
What a great reminder that sales may be great or small, but every visitor represents an opportunity to touch a life...and have ours touched in return. Thanks to young Jenna and her mom for delivering the message!