Art Fair Insiders

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!

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Comment by Geoff Coe on October 29, 2015 at 9:48pm
Hi Jackie, I no longer do any shows on the east coast. It is getting a little late in the game but check Howard Alan website art festival.com for both fine art and craft shows on his schedule pages. His jewelry usually closes early but most other things will still be available.
Comment by Jacquelyn Zajac on October 29, 2015 at 3:23pm

Hi Geoff, I was looking for good options for Feb.2016 and yours was the only one I found and it's older. Got any advise on what you're planning for Feb. 2016 on the FL East Coast, I haven't done any of the ones that you mentioned in this blog, are you still doing any of them? I am only looking for one and have Jan. & March all set but nothing for Feb. Jackie

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on February 12, 2012 at 11:43pm

I also want to congratuate you Geaff on your ome man show.  How great is that?  That is one of those unexpected rewards you can get in life.  I also loved your story about the little girl, too.  What a sweet moment.

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 10, 2012 at 2:32pm
  1. Congrats on the show at the State Park, Geoff. That is a lovely place and such a cool thing for you.
  2. Loved the story about Jenna, the photographer and bird lover. You just never know who you will meet at an art fair and this is one of the best stories. It isn't all about the money, is it?
  3. Excellent description of the layout of the show and the parking. Should be helpful to anyone contemplating applying.
  4. I really like the way you talk about the sales -- they weren't what you hoped for exactly, but you "get" it and told your story in a way that is helpful to the readers.
  5. Melanie, always love your input, and especially your suggestions for a party. This possibility may help increase the applicants for this show next year. I'd love to attend.
  6. Great tips on the hotels in the area, both of you. One of my least favorite jobs was finding the lodging for a show and now we know where to go in Stuart. 
Comment by Del Calhoun on February 9, 2012 at 8:19pm

Great review as always.  Congrats on the one man show.  Sounds like quite an honor and a great excuse to do some shooting. 

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on February 6, 2012 at 10:06pm

Nancy I don't know much about the Fish House.  A group of us were going to go for Lobster after the show, but everything was closed, including Manatee Island.  We just stumbled on the place and so glad we did.  Very old school Florida and a perfect spot to unwind and hang out in a beautiful setting. 

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on February 6, 2012 at 9:08pm

http://www.fishhouseartcenter.com/

 

That wasn't hard to find.  The Fish House Art Center. 

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on February 6, 2012 at 9:06pm

It is in Port Salerno on the harbor behind Manatee Island.  Very chill and great fish tacos.   Everything is served in to go boxes, wether you are eating there or not.  You can pull tables onto the dock or hang out near the big screen.  The yachts and sailboats light up the water.   It so beautiful.  I would love to have a party there next year.   I know of a few artist that will be back.  Plus it is MUCH nicer then the Clarion Inn Tiki bar ;)  I will try to find my receipt for a name. 

Comment by Geoff Coe on February 6, 2012 at 8:52pm

Thanks for the add-on info, Lori and Melanie!  I forgot to mention the no-see-ums, they weren't in my tent (maybe because I had a rug?), but I think it was Lori who first pointed them out to me while I was chatting.  You should mention the name of the artist gallery/bar, Melanie, maybe we can plan a party there next year. 

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on February 6, 2012 at 8:46pm

Excellent review as always Geoff.  I just got in to Atlanta after driving back from Hobe, flat tire on the turnpike and all.  

 

I really like this show.  I don't think I met any tourists, and tourists aren't my market.  I did meet many people that claimed to have tons of wall space and they were there to buy art.  How often does that happen?  Friday set up is worth a lot.  It was great to be able to park behind our booths this year.  Sunday morning I arrived to a lake, no seeums and mosquitoes in the middle of my tent.  I swept and swept the water out, just for it to fill back in.  You're welcome to all the other booths that were up river from me.  If you were wondering why your booth dried out so fast or didn't have any water in the booth when you arrived Sunday morning, it was because of me.  There were about 4 of us in a row that had a couple inches deep of water.  We couldn't agree if we should race sticks or leaves with ants on them, so we just kept putting on bug spray.   Since we were able to park behind our booths, most of us could get our rugs up and hang them over trucks to dry.   The lake turned into a pond by 2pm, but the bugs kept on bitting.  I have been scratching the whole drive home.  Most of that day stayed dry with a very light breeze, so everything was dry by the time we had to pack up.  Never a dull moment at an art show. 

 

I stayed at the Clarion Inn just across from the Best Western.  Lots of artists stay there as well.  They have a Tiki bar and restaurant at the pool so it is nice to meet up with old friends and meet some new artist after a long day at the show.  I am not a big fan of the rooms though.  Maybe I will try Best Western next time.   Both are really close to downtown Stuart.  Lots of great options for a nice dinner and a place to relax besides a motel room.  Port Salerno is also a great option for dinner, and is between Hobe and Stuart. 

 

The crowds were very good both days.  I couldn't believe that folks were willing to come walk through the puddles, but they did.  I am a fan of Super Bowl Sunday sales.  I have found  that the husband just want the wife to make up their minds and hurry up.  They will buy whatever the wife wants as long as they get home by 4pm to start making munchies for the game.  I usually have to make deliveries because my paintings are large, but both years the husbands have found a way to get the paintings home on their own so I am not arriving with a delivery during the game.  It is a special treat for me to make sales AND to not have to deliver after break down.  Ending the night on the docks in Port Salerno with friends and watching the game at an artist gallery/bar made it a very special weekend. 

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