Art Fair Insiders

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

After not having participated in art fairs for several years, 2011 was the year that I jumped back in headfirst and although I felt a bit lost at times, it ended up being a fairly successful adventure.  So I just wanted to share some of my lessons learned...

1. Trading in my Caravan for a Trimline was the best investment I made all year.  It's intuitively easy to assemble and the weight is manageable.  I was happy to have it for my last three shows and thankful to the couple who showed me some tips to make setup/teardown easier...which leads me to my next lesson learned...

2. I had to learn to not be afraid of asking questions or for help.  People tend to be generous with both and I'm most grateful for that.  

3. No need to pack the kitchen sink.  Streamline, streamline, streamline....

4. I overbooked this fall - as my grandma used to say, my eyes were bigger than my stomach...too many shows, not enough inventory and not enough time to create more than a few pieces in between shows.  I've spent a few hours crunching numbers (which is a painful but necessary task) so I have a better idea of what my minimum show inventory should be based on this year's sales plus added 10% for my sunny day growth outlook.  If I want to do more than 10 shows in 2012, I either have to find a more efficient method of creating without sacrificing quality or artistic vision, cut down on my commission work or add another kiln which means a larger studio...

5. All ratchet tie downs are not created the same.  Never having used them before, I didn't realize they came in different lengths, widths and that none of them seem to work the same...this may seem trivial to some but I am SO mechanically challenged at times...

6. I'm more comfortable with and therefore have had better sales doing shows where there are between 65-150 artists and where art is the destination in higher end markets.  Not too small...not too large...just right for me...

7. My sweet spot price point for this year was $245.  I ended up creating a mid-size piece during the course of the year based on customer request and it has been selling well... My smaller pieces don't sell as well so I need to revisit that design over the winter and my larger pieces take a bit more persuasion...My overhead cost is high even though I buy my glass at wholesale pricing but I knew going into this year that my pricing was fair so it was good to find this niche...

8. I started getting what I consider to be bonus sales once I began gathering contact information from strong Be-Back candidates and following up with them via phone or email after the show.  It turned around my last show from a negative into a profit.

Between adding the Trimline and a larger kiln, it was an expensive but rewarding year.  I have the foundation I need to move forward into 2012 so we'll see what the new year brings!  I don't post here often but I do pay attention.  My sincere thanks to all of you for the nuggets of knowledge that I've picked up this year.  I'll do my best to pay it forward in the future whether on the board or in person.

 

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Comment by Connie Mettler on December 6, 2011 at 2:44pm
Thanks so much for sharing what you've learned this year. This is an excellent post with lots of info for many.
Comment by Winthrope Hiers on November 25, 2011 at 3:55pm

Kathy, your greatest asset is your sunny disposition. Even in the face of adversity you have a smile on your face and a kind word to offer. You will do well in 2012. I look forward to seeing you down the road.

Comment by Annette Piper on November 25, 2011 at 2:44pm

Kathy, a great summary of your year :)  I'm sure we can all associate with some of these things!   I'm glad to hear you've done so well that restocking is an issue.

Comment by Kathy Oda on November 24, 2011 at 10:59am

That's what I noticed, Geri!  If the piece is to their taste, the price doesn't seem to be an issue in that range.  I have better luck with my larger pieces through the interior designers with whom I've forged alliances...

Comment by geri a. wegner on November 24, 2011 at 10:33am

Your price point is interesting.  Among my friends who purchase art, we are all most comfortable with purchases between $200-$300.  We occasionally go over that amount but the piece has to be exceptional.  I don't know why, but that is the way it is.  

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