Art Fair Insiders

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

Saturday I attended the Mock Jury held by the St. Louis Art Fair organization.  Two things I have to say up front:  (1) I’m not a beginner and; (2) I’m blown away by the effort expended by this organization solely for the benefit of the local artists.  Many thanks to Cultural Festivals!

So, if I’m not new to the artist community, why did I go?  Because I sell well at the shows I make it in to, but can’t seem to get into the ones I want.

Did I learn anything?  Absolutely!  Ironically, it wasn’t anything truly new.  I could have told you that your submissions must represent a “body of work”.  I could have told you that your booth shot can keep you out of a show.  What I couldn’t have told you was how to make my choices look like a body without being an iteration.  How to manipulate my booth image and when.  That the people who run these shows are there to help.  And just how important the words you put on your applications really are.

The single key to the success of the Mock Jury is that you can ask questions.  And, boy, did I!  Ironically, the biggest issue had the simplest answer.  Body of Work.  So the question was “How do I make my…” and the answer was straight arrow in one sentence – choose a central theme and go from there.  Simple, right?  It could be colors or patterns or shapes.  Don’t know why I didn’t see it before.  For me for this year it will be a set of rainbow colors that are in a couple of my favorite pieces.  I could hardly sleep that night for the creative ideas racing through my mind.

The booth issue was surprising.  First, did you know that some shows will reject your application if they don’t see your submission pieces predominantly displayed?  Do you really read the show application to see if you must have a frontal exterior shot or if you can use a more attractive partial shot?  And do you live by the standard “less is more”?  I got tired of hearing comments from the judges like “too much clutter”, “can’t tell what that thing is”, “don’t want to see the chair”, and “can’t have the name in the shot”.  They only liked the booths that were really Spartan.  I’ve known that my booth shots were weak but not how weak and why.  The judges explained that a poor booth shot will not keep you out of the first round of judging but easily can make the difference in the final round.

 A new concept for me was that show administrators can be your friend.  You can actually talk to them and get assistance.  They may call you if there is a problem with your application or something not allowed in your booth shot or just to clarify an issue which the judges may question.  They will not get you into a show – that’s up to the jury – but they will help you put your best foot forward.

And, finally, there is the topic of words.  Not every judge on every jury knows the secrets of your art form.  They see the image of the final product.  Little did I know how beneficial it can be to explain what you have done, exactly how it is accomplished, and why it matters to you.  If you are an artist applying to Fine Art Fairs, please tell me that you know that you only get about 15 seconds to make it through the 1st round.  So your images must be top notch professional.  What I did not realize, however, is that in the subsequent rounds more time is allowed.  Judges ask questions and discuss the art.  Your descriptions on your application to the show can make or break you.  It clarifies to the judge what was involved and where your passion lies.  It can tip the scale for you in the final competition.

If you get a chance to go to a Mock Jury – do it!  These judges reviewed every participant in depth – all 100.  What you learn hearing them talk about your submission is worth your weight in gold but I was also fascinated by the total.

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Comment by Robert Wallis on February 14, 2014 at 1:10pm

It's yours :-) I started a discussion thread yesterday dealing with this topic after Larry Berman had suggested it on another thread.

Comment by Weldon Lee on February 14, 2014 at 10:22am

First, the artist statement that I posted was in response to Brenda's question, "Where do I find an example of an artist statement?" It is not what I post on my applications. However, you will find it on my website. Second, my dilemma has to do with the limited amount of space and the question asked on the ZAPPlication . . . "Description of Material and Technique." Having said that -  Robert, I love your suggestion of what to put on the application. Although it has nothing to do with materials and technique (which is what I tried to include in the past), it appears statements like this are what other artists are putting on their apps. So, with your permission, I would love start using it.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 14, 2014 at 2:31am

Since the text box stops and won't allow more than the allotted characters to be saved, it's a moot point. You can put in more than the number permitted, but it won't save and it kicks the application back out.

Comment by Greg Little on February 13, 2014 at 11:29pm

Weldon...you have written an excellent statement but it is over 1370 characters. I don't know how a jury would react...negative or positive.. to one that greatly exceeds  100 or even 300 characters are requested.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 13, 2014 at 9:30pm

Weldon, the statement like what you've just posted is what you would post in your booth. What goes into the ZAPP form is actually a technique and materials statement. The technique or concept is what you would focus on;

My wildlife photography transports the viewer into the spirit world of my wild brothers and sisters.   (exactly 100 characters) That should get the judge's attention :-)

Comment by Weldon Lee on February 13, 2014 at 9:05pm

Brenda, I never had an artist statement until a couple of years ago when I read how important it was to have one. Then, I began searching for examples. Although I never found any, I did read somewhere that an artist statement should make potential clients want to buy your art. I'm not sure if what I came up with actually accomplishes this, but at least it communicates the philosophy behind my images. For better, or worse, here it is . . .

Artist Statement

Photography is not something that I wake up and decide to do. Wildlife photography, for me, is a lifestyle. It transports me into the spirit world of my wild brothers and sisters, where I find myself connecting with them and listening what they have to say. Whoever . . . whatever . . . created them, also created me. We’re made of the same dust. We share almost identical DNA. That makes us related.

When I look into their eyes, I feel as though I am touching their spirit. I feel their hardships and losses during severe winters. I rejoice with those that return safely from another marathon migration, or dodge the hunter’s bullet during hunting season.

They need no one to speak on their behalf. They can speak for themselves. My job is to teach others, through my photographs, to listen.

When you look at my photographs,
see what my wild brothers and sisters have to say to you.

Over the years, I have experienced tender moments in their presence . . . moments that I will treasure forever. I long for those opportunities.

I am confident that art is not only capable of stirring emotions, it has the power of motivating people to action. I pray that my images will be a catalyst that motivates individuals to speak out for the protection of wildlife around the world.

This is my philosophy. This is who I am . . . and this is what, so I am told,
is portrayed in my images.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 13, 2014 at 8:58pm

Weldon, go ahead and post what you have on the new thread, and we'll have a go at shrinking it down. One of the hardest things to do is write those little blurbs on your work, Another set of eyes may see a way to shrink it down. I had struggled with another statement I used before the current one, and another artist looked at my work and nailed it. I didn't even think about it the way he did it until I read it, then I just looked at it and went, "Well, I'll be darned, I hadn't thought of it that way." Parts of that are still in my present statement.

Comment by Weldon Lee on February 13, 2014 at 8:44pm

Thanks, Larry. I appreciate your input. Unfortunately, it's difficult to say much in even 300 characters . . . and when I do, I'm really not addressing what they want.

Comment by Larry Berman on February 12, 2014 at 9:06pm

Pictures are OK as long as there is no text, or the text has been removed for the jurying.

Start a thread in the jury section asking for people to post their 100 character artist statements. You know, show me yours and I'll show you mine.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

Comment by Brenda Cline on February 12, 2014 at 7:52pm
Where do I find an example of an artist statement? Also, since I am a jewelry artist I was wanting to do have some exotic Tribal masks and some orchids to give the feeling of where my art is coming from. I also was going to have a couple of black framed poster sized photos of model/customers wearing a piece of my jewelry. These were going to hung on the sides. Is this OK for juries?

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