Art Fair Insiders

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

So, it was Chautauqua weekend and I have nattered on about what an awesome show it is in the past, so I won't bore you with superlatives. This is about an opening sale the likes of which I'll never see again.

I am a book artist, but with the economy the way it is, I had wandered into "trinket" territory, using my scraps to make collage cards and magnets which sold very well but made me depressed when I made them. It also rankled when customer after customer would wander in, exclaim about my wonderful creations and then leave with a five dollar card.  After about a bazillion of them told me they were going to frame them, I had one of those wowza moments and thought that if they were going to frame them, so could I.

With some encouragement and advice from the fine folks here, I started making "real" collage and framing them. I also bagged a bunch of matted ones. They started to sell. I love making them.  As Chautauqua rolled around, I made the leap and put away the card and magnet making paraphernalia and focused on "real" collage. This took courage because those trinkets pay my expenses. But, you know, if I wanted to spend my time doing something I hate, I would have stayed in the government job.

So, I had a lot of collage. (what is he plural of collage anyway?) They hung on the back wall and the sides and I had a come-hither set up with a few in the very front. I had about 30 unframed. (I am not charging a fortune for these things. $30 and $40 for the matted ones, 60-80 framed. They cost me pennies to make and I enjoy it)

OK, so here is what happened. Around 10:30 a gentleman in tennis whites strolled in, looked at all the framed pieces and told me he really liked them. I thanked him. Then he perused the unframed, smiling and nodding. And then, with a huge grin, he said "I'll take everything" I laughed. He asked if he got a discount if he bought them all and I laughed and said "sure, if you buy them all!". I was still laughing. This went on for a bit until he started to take the pieces down and hand them to me. He truly wanted to buy them all.

Turns out he is a doctor practicing Chinese medicine who is opening a new facility in New York and he thought the collage with their inspirational and amusing quotes would be a great decorating theme. Russell helped him carry the pieces to his condo on the grounds and they had a great discussion about herbs and ancient medicine and acupuncture. He missed a couple of pieces I had hung on the front wall, so I moved them to the back and re-did the display.

He came back a few hours later with his wife to show her some things in the next booth he thought she might like for their home and he stopped in to say Hi. Noticed the pieces he missed. Bought them. I spent the rest of the weekend studying the one framed and one unframed he didn't buy, wondering what was wrong with them. I know you understand. Both of the eventually sold.

You know the best part? Word of this spread through the show and other artisans either came in to congratulate me or stopped me on the grounds to say "way to go" Some wanted me to touch them for good luck.

I doubt I will ever sell 2 grand in the opening moments of a show again, but the memory of that morning in Chautauqua will make me smile for a really long time.

Views: 1524

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 17, 2012 at 9:01am

This is a wonderful story, Pat! Not only the Chautauqua sales part, but the whole journey from making work "to sell" at low prices to the upgrade to making work that pleases you and upping your price point. Good for you. It is so tough to make this decision away from the bread and butter to selling at a higher price point.

A friend of mine who was losing money at the shows in recent years trying to fill that low price point finally got fed up with it getting worse and worse in the sales department decided this winter to go the other way and go for the high end. I saw him at the Krasl Art Fair and asked him how this was working for him. His reply: "My best selling item is now $900," and he was smiling.

I also love Chautauqua. Did the show for several years. It is the creme de la creme. Small, intimate, informed patrons, a lovely setting. How wonderful for you in so many ways. Thanks for sharing your story with us. We all celebrate your success.

Comment by Pat Sorbini on July 17, 2012 at 9:52am

It is the Chautauqua Institution about an hour from Buffalo, NY. Amazing place

Comment by Pat Sorbini on July 17, 2012 at 9:53am

Thanks, Connie :)

Comment by geri a. wegner on July 17, 2012 at 9:59am

This is such a cool story. I hope your smile lasts all summer long.

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on July 17, 2012 at 10:01am
Here is another "scraps to riches" story. With leather, within a side ( half a cow split along the back bone) there are variations in thickness, firmness, stretch and defects. When you cut out projects you wind up with internal scrap (small pieces of good leather) and peripheral scrap (not so good stuff from the edges of the side: neck, head, belly, knees, legs). Most saddlemakers just pitch this stuff but I was taught that a business can fail or survive on how you utilize scrap. I started cutting this stuff into short strips and imprinting wildlife images on it with dies made for crafters. The difference is I imprint with a hydraulic press used for forming silver and get deep detailed images. These are made into napkin rings and are sold in sets of four with bandanas for napkins. My wife Jean handles these sales at shows. My saddlemaker colleagues would laugh at me behind my back as "there is old Dick, he makes napkin rings ha ha". Jean asked me how many we sold last year so I figured it out. Over 50 sets at $20 or we banked over $1000 on scraps. Guess who laughs now on the way to the bank.
Comment by Richard L. Sherer on July 17, 2012 at 10:22am
My last gasp scraps go to Boy Scouts, 4-H and local leather guild in 40-60 pound boxes. Pleased that the 4-H kids found further ways to make money off of their leather projects made from it. It's also being a good steward to the animals that have given us this material.
Comment by Larry Berman on July 17, 2012 at 10:42am

Great story. Congratulations.

Reminds me of something similar from about 30 years ago. I was doing a mall show in Bethesda Maryland and while I was packing up, someone came up and asked me if I was still open. Of course I said yes. Turns out he was a doctor that had just purchased a condo building and was looking to decorate inexpensively until the units sold. He purchased 28 pieces.

I've always wondered what would have happened if it was five years later and I was selling larger work and merchandising better.

Larry Berman

Comment by patti stern on July 17, 2012 at 11:11am

Pat, what a great story! Congrats! Was the Doctoe greek and does trigger point therapy and has his own clinic in Chautauqua and also in Pittsburgh? If it is, I met him last year at Chautauqua- can't remember his name, but is unusual...he noticed I was walking and leaning a certain way(from a bad shoulder etc. ) and came up to me and started jabbing me in all these trigger points etc...if it wasnt him, I feel like a real dufus!

Comment by Pat Sorbini on July 17, 2012 at 12:34pm

Well, I can't speak to your Greek Dr, but mine was Chinese. He didn't jab either of us, but we got some good advice :) His office is in NYC.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on July 17, 2012 at 9:36pm

Pat, your experience with this show sounds like an artists dream!!  We are always glad when artists do well, but this had to leave you giddy for days.  We are so happy for you.  Thanks for sharing.


You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders

Want to sell more online? Advertise with Reach over 60,000 fiber arts lovers.

Our 50 Best Art Fairs

Look Inside the 2018 Art Fair Survey:
Who Won and Why

Join the MasterMinds Group for personalized coaching on your Internet Lifestyle Business! 

60 Page Report - Best US Art Fairs

Click Here to
Learn More


  • Add Photos
  • View All

© 2020   Created by Connie Mettler.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service