Art Fair Insiders

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


Well, drove home from Texas in raging rains for two days last week, then cranked like hell for two other days to be ready for Mainsail Art Fest in St.  Petersburg.  So there was no time for blogging.

Here it comes. I realize there has been an excellent piece written by an emerging artist.  I just wanted to give a more finished perspective--and a few, Nels' insights.

It is a long journey from Tampa, FL. to anywhere in Texas, especially Ft. Worth. Most times it is two days with a stop-over in Baton Rouge or Lafayette,LA.

This year, I cranked til late Monday afternoon and made it to Tallahasee that night.

Next day it was a mellow ride thru Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to Shreveport. Then I was in FW before noon for setup on Weds.

Most of the show, booths are setup in big covered tents, high enough for you to set up your natural booth with roof.

The tents usually have a corner booth, a middle booth and then another corner.  Then the pattern is repeated behind.  So there are six booths to a tent, crammed in tight, back to back.  There is maybe a two-foot common area behind to share.  Storing inventory is always a challenge.

People love the corners--when the weather is good-because of the extra exposure and room for some browse bins.

Trouble is--the weather is Rarely ever good at FW.  This year personified it.

There is one area of the show where tents are out in the  open, called the Artist Square.

It replaces what used to be a parking lot where artists set up.  There was generous storage areas here--but the winds could be extra fierce here too.  The new Square is beautiful.  All on concrete with nearby restaurants and a specialty pavilion.  Storage here, is alas, tight now. But artists there seem to love it.

So, if you do this show, you bring your booth, you bring great weights and you bring electricity (lights, they supply the current).

This is a tough show to get into.

Many are called, few are chosen.  Only a couple hundred exhibitors.

Your customers have ample disposable income.  Lots of gas, oil and tech money.  You even see young people with money,  which is sadly missing at most shows in Florida.

The show runs four days, Thurs-Sunday.  Starts at 10 AM and runs to at least 8 PM and then artists can choose to stay open as late as they wish--and many do, especially on the weekend.


Weatherwise we were challenged two out of three days we were open.  We never got to open and sell on Sunday.

Thursday we had strong 20-30 mph gusts all day that shook booths all day and send inventory every which way.

Friday, we had perfect weather.  Clear, not too humid with gentle winds.

Saturday was okay with growing gusts, the front was expected to hit us that night, and there was an almost 100 per cent chance of bad storms forecast for Sunday.

Sunday morning, I got an ominous call from the show around 7:30 AM.

"Mr. Johnson you better hurry over to your booth in the 800 block.  There has been several booths over-turned and art damaged."

Well jeez, you never want to start your morning hearing that.

No Starbucks coffee, no NY Times for me.  I galloped as fast as I could from my hotel which was two blocks from the show.

I rounded the corner of ninth and Main Street (where the booths are) and saw up-turned booths everywhere.  Even those long v-shaped food booths were lying feet-up on the pavement.

I approached my tent area with great trepidation--yeah, I was worried too.

Both the corner booths by me had been hit.  Some damage to the art, but not major.  My middle booth stood intact, my canvas covers were still zippered, my walls were straight up and no photos were on the ground fast becoming watercolors.  I instantly threw trepidation out the window.

I saw  a van about four booths south of me in there loading up.  I thought, shazam!, I am gonna get my van and do the same.  Ten minutes later, I had my van in there and started the load-out.

The lovely Rhonda, our block captain, came over and told me the show was not cancelled at that time.  I understood, and kept packing.  I figured at worst, I would get all the framed work in the van and leave one table with print bins in my space--to make a showing.

About 30 minutes later, Rhonda came over and told me the whole show as cancelled, and to continue packing.  I did, and was out of there an hour later.


Put it this way.

On Saturday, I made more sales there than I did in three days at the recent Winter Park show.

My work was appreciated, and so did my bank account.

I think most artists did their usual very good at this show.  I did not hear anybody complaining.

I would go back in a heartbeat.

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Comment by Jay McDougall on April 29, 2014 at 12:42pm

Just to keep things in perspective. There is always wind at MSFW on at least one or two days of the four day show. This year was no exception and certainly nothing extraordinary. There was very little damage on the whole (don't tell that to the few that did have damage!). And in a world of crystal balls Sunday would have been a great day. I'm pretty bummed I didn't get Sunday because historically that has been my biggest day in Fort Worth. Sunday notwithstanding I had a great show and MSFW retains it position as my most consistent top producing show, impeccably managed and terrific buying crowds.

Comment by Greg Little on April 28, 2014 at 9:10pm

It'z good to hear that overall it was a good show for you and you were fortunate enough to avoid any damage. It is always sad to hear about the misfortunate experiences of those who had damaged tents and merchandise. I would imagine you don't use a pop-up tent. We did a show last year that had 27 pop up tents turned into twisted rubble by a Saturday night storm. We were fortunate to avoid damage.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on April 28, 2014 at 4:07pm

Congrats on the good show Nels.  You didn't mention food.  What do you like to eat when you are at this show?

How many of the artists had damage to their tents and inventory?

Comment by Paul Flack on April 23, 2014 at 11:21am

Nels, concerned for you health, stop with the NYT and start enjoying life...I'm just saying...

Comment by Nels Johnson on April 22, 2014 at 7:49pm

Thanks, Annette, it is always nice to hear from "Down Under."

Comment by Annette Piper on April 22, 2014 at 6:43pm

So glad you had a good show when it was open and that you tent withstood the weather!    A good show makes everything in the world seem right, don't you think!?

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on April 22, 2014 at 12:27am

Nels and Kay - glad you both had good shows.  We didn't get into FW this year and weather stories like this always make me wonder if I really want to be in TX in the spring.  Having lived in Dallas for 11 years and going back this year in Feb and staying for 6 weeks due to a death in the family changed a lot of plans for us.  But, as we sat at my Father-in-law's one night in early April watching the weather people talk about the tornadoes bearing down on Denton TX, knowing our home on wheels (aka the RV we now live in full time), all inventory, raw materials, etc, etc. was parked on Lake Lewisville 10 miles away has me almost swearing off even thinking about TX shows in the future.  Something to definitely think about......

Comment by Nels Johnson on April 21, 2014 at 9:54pm

Thanks, Kay.  Glad I was helpful.  Feel free to add your insights of the show to here.

Comment by Kay Cummins on April 21, 2014 at 8:07pm
Nels I'm back at it too. It was my first time there and I hope to be there again. I was in the 500 block and didn't see the damage but know you don't mess around with TX weather. Your blogs and others really helped me be prepared for this show. Kudos and thanks!
Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on April 21, 2014 at 4:47pm

I am very happy for you Nels

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