Time to decide – May Shows  - Go South or Stay Home?  The rainy season has definitely started in Seattle and we are thinking we really wanted to cut the rainy season short with a road trip to Northern CA.  Earlier this year we decided that staying in the Pacific NW for all of our shows didn’t make sense, too many months with marginal shows, too many gloomy months, time to head south and enjoy some sunshine while working!!


After lots of research using this site, Art Fair Calendars, AFSB, FNO, etc. we’re more undecided than ever before. We keep hearing that California shows are not worth the drive (over 1000 miles from Seattle), Arizona is still economically depressed, Nevada has few good shows, so what do we do for May and September?  We’re tired of setting up for rainy Seattle shows, but we don’t want to waste our time or energy heading to Northern CA only to be disappointed and feel like we’ve wasted our time.


Here’s our dilemma, I’m still working that “corporate job” while trying to help my husband as much as possible establish his niche in the art show markets.  I have quite a bit of vacation leave, but it's quickly used up with travel to shows.  He’s the primary artist, I’m the “class A” personality with a few pieces of art, but my contribution is more in the bookkeeping, organizing, business planning, etc.  BTW, did I mention my corporate jobs have been in finance, accounting, process re-engineering and sales support?  So no, I’m not a full time artist, but totally supportive of my artist husband and trying to do everything possible to make his art career a success.


We started doing community art shows / art walks in late 2005, graduated to a few fine art shows in 2007 after we spent a few frustrating months realizing the community events were NOT our market.  We have  a  reasonably predictable schedule in the Pacific NW after the past 5 years of participating in fine art shows, but have a few months a year with few or no show opportunities, hence our idea to expand our market and try a few shows in Northern CA.    We’re a bit tired of the “gloom and gray” of Seattle and the thought of an extra month or two (May and September) of sunshine was worth the travel.


Are California shows really as bad as I’m hearing from other artists in this area? Do we take the risk?  How much vacation time am I willing to burn on this experiment?  Or do we decide to use our airline miles and just have fun on a quick getaway to the sunshine?


Trying to decide if we need to try a different direction for 2012 and would appreciate any feedback or insight.

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  • Thanks all!  I think we have our list of shows to apply to through August figured out.  We have a couple of different options as we plan the longer road trips.  Can't wait for some sunshine and warmer temperatures.
  • Ys, great to hear about couples working together and making it work.  Ruth, I hope you are able to put a great show schedule together for 2012.  Good luck.

    Jacki B

  • Ruth, it all depends on the show and its promoter, your art work, and how the weather turns out for the day.  I've done shows throughout the west for 20+ years, and our experience has been we do about the same at a decent California show as we would at a decent northwest show; the main difference is the weather as you already noted.  There have been enough good shows in the northwest to keep me here.

  • Mernie - guess I need to do some more research, didn't realize I was looking at 5 different markets, I was thinking 3 at the most. 

    Tracey & Bob, thanks for the encouragement, I really like to help build my husband's business and hope someday to get rid of the corporate job.  I know I'm very fortunate and blessed to be able to travel with him and work from the RV or in some cases, the booth. 

  • Ruth - You're looking at five separate markets without much overlap as there are so many festivals that people tend to stay in their areas except for some big ones (like Sausalito)... North Bay (Marin/Napa), San Francisco, Peninsula/South Bay, East Bay and Sacramento. With two of you one could work a show while the other did research in another area. Concentrating on two might be a better way to built that base, but then what do I know. Festivals certainly haven't made me rich - well, monetarily that is.
  • Yes, husband/wife working teams are a genuine blessing when they work. 

    I've been hove been home-officed for over 25 years.  My wife Patti has been a stay-at-home wife, soul-mate, help-mate (support group), and business partner.  We are together 24/7 and are never apart overnight.  After will these years we are still in love.

    Gotta go.  Another show in the morning.


    Bob Kehl

  • Congratulations to both of you for 1). having such a supportive, generous wife and 2). enjoying one another's company so much you can work together.  It really is special.  I have no advice here, just wanted to let you both know how fortunate you are.
  • Thanks Mernie, that's kind of our plan.  We were looking at a total of 7 shows in May and September in the Bay Area to start building a client base.   We did have one question as we were looking at maps / shows, if we participated in shows in the Bay area and Sacramento, are we looking at 2 different markets?  The distance isn't that far, but knowing how the traffic flows are in Northern CA got us to wondering if that would really be 2 separate markets.
  • Being a cagey Californian with a generous heart, I'll help artists with recommendations to worthy promoters if I believe their work will help raise the bar for all of us. In this 'climate' one must work to establish a solid base of patrons & enthusiasts, and connect with them over time. Most of my sales come from my huge mailing list for both postcards & email I've built over the years. Shows succeed when the majority of vendors put that much effort into promo. I tried going out of my Bay Area comfort zone. In the past two years I drove to the Coronado Art Walk in San Diego and did about the same as I do here, which didn't make it worth travel time & gas. Fortunately I stayed with friends. My lesson is to pick a few counties within 100 miles and really concentrate on building those markets over time. I'd suggest you post a photo of your husband's work if you'd like more detailed suggestions, do a lot of pre-show marketing work before just showing up & setting up and be prepared to do about six shows in a single area to build that base. My experience is that works best. Gone are the days of snap decisions about substantial art purchases. California art buyers are even cannier than us artists at present.
  • so this is just my 2 cents but wouldn't it be better to take the plunge and find a small handful of shows in your target area while you still have your day job to subsidize the trip?  If they work, great.  If they don't, lessons learned.  While it could be an expensive way to go, it could possibly pay off.  Could it be that the reason you haven't gotten much information on shows in your target area is that those cagey Californians don't like to give up their favorite shows?  I don't know...just my morning musing..

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