Art Fair Insiders

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

Introducing myself and posing some concerns

Hi my name is Kara and well I have slowly tried to enter this site and learn some things about art fairs, including whether I want to do them. I have been preparing myself to do them by going to any fair in my area for the last few years. I am just concerned to be honest. Maybe someone out there can direct me down the right rabbit hole cause I'm not making much progress on my own.

I am a very sensitive person, and to be quite honest it makes me sick to my stomach when people are rude to me. If it makes me somehow not qualified to do shows, that very well might be true. But for now, since I have created work to be shown, I still need to earn some kind of wage. I keep coming up against remarks as opposed to helpful information. What I am asking for is helpful information. I hope I can get that here.

For some reason many people seem to be successful in the fairs, if there are some magic recipes please share. My intent in life was always to do fine art and sell it, but I kept changing directions when I came against a wall. Generally I would get a sense I was choosing an art I enjoyed but didn't want to have solely as what I was known for, so I would move on.

I found moving on as an unfortunate repeated offense until I found clay and sculpture. I had to work on my talent, then I had to work on a plan. Well, I am as broke as they get so I don't have room for guess work. When it comes to fairs and getting started, that seems to be just how it is, guessing. I have lost many years running in a circle. Anyone who has known me, knows how hard I have tried but, I just don't understand how to make a living at being an fine artist. There is some little piece of information in my head that is missing, I just know it, but I can't seem to figure it out.

Here are my concerns

1. I am a victim of two very violent crimes, because of this I have panic attacks. I have to have someone with me, so I feel safe. Is there a problem or does it generally cost more , if I have someone with me at all times? are there rules I should know?

2. I can't sell my work cheep and then slowly raise my prices as I get known. I need to be in shows where the buyers purchases are approximately $2000.00 not $200.00.  I have been told that I need to be in little shows before I can be in big shows. Not that I know what a big show is.

3. I won't be able to travel a lot due to the chances of breaking my sculptures, they are truly fragile.

4. If you were going to suggest a show in all of the states, where where higher price art sells, and you are accepted on the quality of your piece not how well you are known, what show would you suggest?

5. Are any indoor shows in the states that meet these criteria that you know of.

I realize these are confuse questions, but I am stressed. I'm beginning to feel like I have been going down the wrong rabbit hole again.

Views: 1940

Comment by Alan Anderson on September 10, 2014 at 7:47pm

Kara, I will give you what I know of these questions, happily.  Good for you that in spite of your personal challenges, you are taking the leap into unknown waters.  Know that most of your fellow artisans are happy to help, if you run into one that is not, don't let it dampen your enthusiasm!

1  I have never, ever seen an issue with a second or third person in the booth.  Many artists create at the show, and of course a booth helper is critical.  There are shows that will not allow you to share with another artist (most shows, actually) but a non-exhibiting assistant is not a problem.

2   Most artists at shows sell their art based upon the value of the art, not the artist's name.  If your pricing is in line with similar size and talent, you should be ok.  I will defer to others to recommend shows for higher end art though.

3   I would imagine you need to craft a plan to crate your sculpture for travel.  You will need to have the ability to travel, and your customers will need to take the art home, and in many areas, you are selling to tourists.

4   Most of the Juried shows are always basing acceptance on criteria you can manage, not the fame of the artist.  

5   Not my area of knowledge

Kara, you might want to share with us where you live it might help with show suggestiions!

Comment by Larry Berman on September 10, 2014 at 8:51pm

I see that you're from California. The major fine craft shows are in the east and Midwest, and maybe Florida. The major fine art shows are relatively more spread out throughout the country. In California there's the Sausalito show on Labor Day weekend. Next closest is Cherry Creek in Denver (July fourth) and Des Moines the week before. Those will involve more traveling. 

Whether or not they can support your price point will be trial and error. But never having done a show, how do you know what your work is worth to the potential buyer?

And, though those three shows I mentioned are considered top tier, they are also close to impossible to get into, even for artists who have years of experience doing shows. They involve having cutting edge work, and even more importantly, cutting edge photographs of the work and a display photo to kill for.

But you can also look for shows with an emerging artist category which means you stand a better chance of getting accepted and they provide the booth. Cherry Creek in Denver is one of those shows.

Larry Berman

Comment by Jay McDougall on September 10, 2014 at 9:48pm

La Quinta is also in CA.

You are going to have to prepare yourself for rejection and rude comments, it just goes with the territory. And unfortunately there isn't much chance of staying close to home if you want to fill your schedule with the top tier shows that will support your higher end work. I travel from coast to coast with my closest show to home being about 600 miles away.

Having said that, it is a great life. To make something I love, sell it to someone who loves it, and have the money to do it again is a pretty strong drug. Good luck.

Comment by kara unland on September 10, 2014 at 10:32pm

Well thank you for all of the information I really need.

Comment by Savina Francisco on September 11, 2014 at 12:05am

Don't give up what you love, Kara. I'm just starting out too and I know it's daunting, but you have a lot of fellow Artists here who are amazing about helping each other out - we all want to see each other succeed (it gives one hope to see others making it, doesn't it?). From what you said, you've been dipping your toes in the pond for the last few years - unfortunately, in my short time working to sell my art in fairs, online and in galleries, this isn't the kind of work where you can dip your toes in; if you aren't all in, you're going to spin your wheels, creating a self fulfilling fear prophecy. I hope you'll share with us what you decide to do!

Comment by kara unland on September 11, 2014 at 2:33am

Allen Anderson Stated...


2   Most artists at shows sell their art based upon the value of the art, not the artist's name.  If your pricing is in line with similar size and talent, you should be ok.  I will defer to others to recommend shows for higher end art though.


 Well with that being said, Should a person like me who never seems to find someone who does similar work , just go by size. With ceramics I'm not trying to be rude just clear, a person who does smooth quick abstract is going to make art that doesn't  take as long to do, or does that even enter into the perceived value.  I feel my prices are very high, but when I figure my time and all, it's the price I come up with. I am willing to adjust, I just don't have a clue to what. When I go to shows, I almost never find someone who does what I do. Actually, I never do. But that just might be because of where I live. Is it realistic once you get to a show to assess the competition and price accordingly?.. Seems like that could backfire.


3   I would imagine you need to craft a plan to crate your sculpture for travel.  You will need to have the ability to travel, and your customers will need to take the art home, and in many areas, you are selling to tourists.


Okay, when you say crate do you mean a wood crate? Or just figure of speech? It  was suggested by another person, heavy boxes from Walmart . Lets say I pack my pieces,  is there any particular packing I should stay away from, like peanuts? How do customers expect to receive their packaged art? I can come up with lots of options, I just need to know what might be considered a big no...I assume newspaper would be a big no because it would leave ink on my pieces.


Possible shows to try...I do know these are difficult to get into, but hey it's a direction.



  1.   Sausalito show on Labor Day weekend. Next closest is Cherry Creek in Denver (July fourth) and Des Moines the week before.  La Quinta, which is close to me.

emerging artist category Cherry Creek.

Comment by kara unland on September 11, 2014 at 2:39am

Savina, I won't give up as long as I feel there is a possible market for what I do. Thank you.

Comment by Alan Anderson on September 11, 2014 at 7:56am
Kara, with the value of your art, I would use either VERY heavy cardboard boxes or make wooden crates for each piece, and invest in a lot of bubble wrap. If you are selling a $2,000 piece, it is not unreasonable to invest $50 to protect it.
Comment by Lisa Newton on September 11, 2014 at 8:17am

Kara your sculptures are beautiful.  I assume those are your pieces that you have uploaded in your profile.  Very nice work.  You should do well. I can't tell from picture about size but they don't seem like they would be too hard to pack up.  Good luck to you.  We are doing our first big 3 day show this weekend and we are just jumping in with no idea what to expect. We are fortunate we don't have to travel far for this one and can come home at night.

Comment by Connie Mettler on September 11, 2014 at 9:51am

Hi Kara, not to discourage you here but your concerns about finding the perfect work that is going to sell at the price points you need is an ongoing concern for most artists. I have a friend with solid talent who has been an artist for a long time and was constantly searching for what would work for her at the shows. After many years of traveling and trying and creating prizewinning work she has given up and is now a fine art framer with a paycheck. 

On our FB page I just saw this comment to your post:

 "4. Go on Wikipedia to find out per capita income before you book a show."

I never thought of that one ... but can give you a lead. 


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