Art Fair Insiders

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

MY FALL WRAP-UP OF SHOWS IN FLORIDA--not too exciting--can't wait for 2014 to come

I know, I have been quiet for quite a while.

Something about when you have over $3400 in booth fees due by December 15  and you have less than $1000 in your biz checking account, that scrambling for money becomes all-consuming, not a lot of time for blogging.

Well, that's over, I  have scrambled,dodged, diced and called in favors everywhere.  It was not easy, but I am surviving--barely.

The latter part of 2013 has been one of the worst years for me in eons.

Aside from Saint Louis in Clayton, there have not been a lot of highlights.

So, on with the show

OCTOBER SHOWS

Only did two, one was Louisville and the other a little seafood fest in the Carolinas.

Louisville was a flop, poor sales and lots of rain.  I find it hard to justify paying $550 booth fee for a show that is a pain in the ass to setup for, and teardown, runs one day too long and only brings in lowend sales.  There are too many booths competing for too few sales at that venue.

Enough said.

The seafood fest is just plain fun to do, and you get to eat lots of good hushpuppys and shrimp.

It is a closed little show, which does not take jewelers, so there is not a lot to discuss about it.

It pays the rent, or at least part of it.

Now on to Florida for November.

DUNEDIN ART HARVEST, Dunedin,Florida--first weekend of the month.

This show has been going on for a lot of time.  Easy Friday setup, show is the weekend.

Trouble is, they don't advertise it adequately enough, and it is too big--way too big.

But you know, they call it a fund-raiser.  Yada,Yada,Yada.  We all have been there, done that, and usually not liked the results.

Didn't help that it rained early, then looked miserable the rest of the day, and a slim crowd came.

It has way too many old people in attendance and not enough youth.  Sales are few and far in between.  Sunday, weather was gorgeous, crowds came, and sales were meager.  Some people zeroed for the show.

If you live within a day's ride it might be worth taking a chance on.

BTW.  Here is some meat.  Generous booth spaces with plenty of room behind and on the sides.

It is all on grass and you can stake down.  Nice prize money if you are one of the lucky few.  Most awards go to the tried and true.

Personally, if I didn't live in Ybor and be able to sleep in my own bed, I would never do the show.

NEXT, THE DISNEY SHOW IN ORLANDO--THE MOUSE-MISERS--OH NO, I MEAN THE "MASTERS."

I already blogged this show, just look back in the November blogs.  The show sucks royal canal-water for most of us.  Sorry folks, they come to see and buy from the Mouse, not decorate the house.

NEXT, GAINESVILLE FALL ART FESTIVAL

Very well run show, longtime pro director with a good support cast of helpers.

It is all on pavement with little room between booths but ample storage behind.

People come out in good numbers, too many with dogs, and usually sales are steady and good. This year it was not so good.  The show is still worth doing.

It seemed to me that 3-D did better than 2-D here.  Some people did very well, others only so-so.

I would do it again.

NOVEMBER'S END-SANIBEL ISLAND, THANKSGIVING WEEKEND.

This is a Richard Sullivan show.  You setup on Thanksgiving day and the show is Friday and Saturday til 4 pm.  Smart idea, no reason to stay til 5 pm--it gets fricking dark by then.

Richard has run this show here about four years.  It is small, only about 80 exhibitors.

There is ample room for storage behind all booths.  Setup is a piece of cake.  Teardown can be a little hairier since all 80 are trying to get out of a tight space at once.

The show is held on the grounds of the Sanibel Community Center, so it is right in the heart of the island on the main drag, Periwinkle Boulevard.

He does a good job of advertising and the crowds come early, by noon, it is slow-city for sales til closing.  It was that way both days for most of us.

Many exhibitors had a great show, both 2-D and 3-D. Local painter next to me cleaned up both days selling low and high end.  Well-known and loved glass artist kicked serious but.  Naples jeweler friends had their usual strong show.  My little Mississippi fireball and now a Fort Myers resident was a solid seller with her new work.  She is on a roll.

The only drawback to this show is that is still early in the season and not all the money is down here.  Granted, the island was packed with guests and residents, but that did not necessarily translate into big crowds.

Be prepared to ship, you sell to a lot of vacationers.  It is still a good show to do on that weekend, as opposed to dying in the fields of Saint Augustine or Cocoa Beach (same weekend shows).

THE LAST ONE-DECEMBER--ENGLEWOOD,FLORIDA

This one is always a sentimental favorite for me.

It is art show committee members run (by people who actually sell their work at outdoor shows).

It is laid back and is a distant reminder of why I started doing shows 38 years ago.

It is in a mellow little gulf coast town just past Venice.

Great little bars and restaurants to visit, world class beaches and easy-going populace.

Easy Friday night setup, then Saturday and Sunday til 4 pm.  Mostly lowend sales, people actually buying Christmas presents.  Artists with good loyal following always do well here.

I never make a lot of money at this one, but I would never give it up--it is one of my favorites every year--and I do 36 shows a year consistently.

Well, there is how I spent my fall in art shows.  Hope you enjoyed it, maybe gleaned a few pearls of wisdom from it, and maybe some of you newbies and lurkers will be motivated to do a blog once in a while.

In a while, I will do a year wrap-up and assessment of our industry for 2013, and my forecasts with hope and aspiration for 2014.

I am having breakfest with Elvis at Nickos Diner later in the week, here in Tampa.  I will get his insights too.  

It ought be an interesting finale.

Aloha, Nels.

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Comment by Candyce Moreland on December 26, 2013 at 12:15pm
This year I was accepted into several of the better shows, only to be disappointed with sales. I was not alone. Was eager to go to Las Olas for the first time this winter, now I am apprehensive about returning this spring. I was in the red. Maitland was a bust also. But the Fall Winter Park show was a winner, also my first time there. I am rebranding and rethinking my whole business. I am fortunate that my husband's job pay the bills, so I am going to do fewer shows and I will be more selective. If I don't get accepted in some of them, I will take advantage of the time to restock inventory and develop new designs, something I have trouble finding time to do when I am in a show very weekend.
Comment by Annette Piper on December 25, 2013 at 4:03pm

Its felt like a tougher year downunder too Nels.  But I'm still to add up all receipts (I leave it till New Year's Eve in case I get a last minute sale to add in!) I've certainly been busy but not all shows have been worth the effort so I will be cutting them in 2014.

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 19, 2013 at 8:56pm

Thanks for the kind words, Maryllis, and thanks for your honest financial figures. I think many people starting out would agree with you on the climb into the black. Every show is a training ground for figuring it out. The intermittent nature of the business is indeed an addiction. Artists must be optimists: I hope I'll get into that show I covet, I hope my customers will like my new work, I hope the crowds show up, etc.

I have to agree Nels about getting those show fees paid. Our art fair year was always credit cards, decent sales and then all caught up after Ann Arbor in late July. Then starting fresh saving money to get those show fees paid in January and getting through the lean months of December and January until we headed to Florida.

Nels, what was the name of that seafood fest? Shocking that you would leave out such a detail.

Comment by Maryllis Wolfgang on December 18, 2013 at 7:53pm

I am happy to report that 2013 has been my best year to date.  I started doing shows in 2009.  I don't have figures at hand for 2009.  I just remember how excited I was that strangers actually paid money for my prints.  In 2010 I did 7 shows; losing money on two, making $6. on one, $31. on another one and the other 3 made just over $200 each.  In 2011 I did 17 shows; lost money on 3 and made a little profit on the rest.  One of which was a >$1K show.  Whoopie.  2012 did 16 shows; made almost $2K on one, over $1K on two and only lost money on only one show.  2013 is my best year yet.  I came out in the black on every show.  I have some money in the bank and a smile on my face.  Wish I could say I made a living doing shows but alas they pay for my toys and all expenses.  I do not get paid and don't pay my ever helpful hubby.  It is tough work and a lot of time away from home and family.  We are cold or hot or wet or tired.  It is long days and cheap hotels.  Breakfast at the grab 'n go, lunch of potted meat wraps and sometimes a nice restaurant for dinner.  Sometimes we have McDonalds ice cream sundays for a special dessert splurge. But we have a new family of artist brothers and sisters that I have grown very fond of.  I am addicted to the intermittent rewards of cash and compliments.  And the trend is in the right direction.  My hat goes off to those who really do make a living at this business and have done so for decades.  And thanks for your support and reports to help guide us newbies down the road.  Thank you to Connie for providing this venue to keep us all connected.  And Merry Christmas to all….

Comment by Paul Flack on December 18, 2013 at 12:51pm

Nels, if you hold that up to the mirror, you will get both sides of my whole year...Good to hear from you friend. If you want to make money, go to a Pink concert, wait until the show starts, put on a ski mask and steal the $ from the t-shirt sales people. $75 a pop, mostly cash, they move around with boxes of money...

Comment by Wayne Hayden on December 18, 2013 at 10:24am

Thanks for the wrap-up Nels. 

I think many of us are re-thinking next year and what to do, so your insight goes a long way toward helping.

Hope you have a good winter season down there in sunny Florida. 

Comment by Nels Johnson on December 17, 2013 at 5:08pm

Great response Robert, look forward to seeing your new work.

Comment by Robert Wallis on December 17, 2013 at 12:01am

Nels, if you were hurting, then I no longer feel like the Lone Stranger. Paraphrasing Scarlett O'Hara, tomorrow is a new year. Two years ago I dipped into the credit cards to pay for booth fees. I won't ever make that mistake again. That year I did 25 shows, this past year was 15 shows, and next year may be fewer as I stop sending money to the shows I don't have a chance in hell in getting into and dropping the ones that were total disasters.

It'll definitely be one less as I declined the reinvite to St.James Fourth Street. I sent a nice reply back to Elaine Steele explaining why I wouldn't be back. No snarky response was given as I've talked to her in person several times and I respect what she's doing. It's just not my crowd. Hell, at this point I don't think I've got a crowd. I figured next year might as well be an experimental year as continuing on the same way isn't working. I'll be putting up some new work in a few weeks and inviting opinions as I'm going way out on a limb with a different genre. I forget who the writer was that said if someone moves your cheese, move your butt to find some new cheese. I think my cheese was eaten up about 4 years ago.

Here's hoping you do well next year, and hoping we all do well. It's a changing market, and many of us need to hop on the new train to prosperity as we sing "The times, they are a'changing"

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