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Naperville Woman's Club 37th Annual Art Fair .....just meh

Just a short review of the last show I did in Naperville, Illinois. It was the only show I had scheduled for this month and since I had done well at Old Town I thought that heading back to the Chicago area would be more of the same. That's the thing about this takes you high and then it BAM...slaps you right in the face. Ha! 

Naperville Woman's Club Art Fair is located in Naperville Settlement, a re-enactment of a early mid-west village with all the "feels".  Located in a very high end part of Chicago, it is a beautiful town with very expensive homes....and a great downtown with lots of unique restaurants and shops. It is truly a beautiful place to show. It is very well organized, having been around for 37 years and the booths have plenty of room with most having space on either side and lots of back space. You could drive up right behind your booth to unload and load up. It is laid out on the path you take to see the actual settlement, so you can't be missed by buyers. Plus, the weather was beautiful with both days in the 70's and a light breeze. There were about 140 of us showing that weekend.

So what happened? Both days had plenty of buyers walking through. "Walking through" is the optimal word here. Talking to other artist's... I kept noticing that there were a lot of us that were doing the show for the first time...I also noticed that none of us were doing much business. Was it the highest quality show I have ever done? be honest, not really, but it was nicely interspersed with those of us that were regulars and also some local artists. Judging was fine and it seemed like a lot of locals got awards...the big award however went to a fabulous photographer ( I am never good with remembering names) and it seemed to be as fair as could be expected. Judging is always somewhat subjective and I try to keep it off my radar. The dinner reception that accompanied it was so good we didn't have to go out to dinner that night.

I luckily sold one big piece that paid for expenses and left me with a little profit on Saturday. Sunday I did a whopping 175 dollars. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one, jewelers, photographers and most everyone I talked to had a rough weekend. If I am wrong, please correct me in the comments because I would love to hear of someone having a great weekend there.

I have to say for two beautiful days sitting in a lovely location listening to a great band was really nice. The ambiance was great, the show was also very well organized with cold water being delivered every couple of hours. I loved doing it- but i have to say I doubt I'll be back. Sometimes I think these older shows just need a new demographic. I felt like the people that came were true supporters of this lovely show and probably had all the art they ever wanted to buy. But honestly, that is not my call to say since I really don't know the in's and out's of what goes into delivering a show. I just know that personally, with a 9 hour drive there and back, it just was not worth it for me. 

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Comment by Kathleen V. Smith on July 22, 2016 at 9:13pm

Hi ALL~I basically agree with everyone! We didn't need hotel (thank GOD) as we are local, but the people that were there were just NOT buying. We made over expenses, but I could have thought of better things to do that week-end as the weather was pretty good(little hot, but it's SUMMER!). The Artists party-great-easy load in-load out-nice roomy spaces, but everyone I spoke to was their 1st year also (not a good sign). I guess being a Womans Club or ANY club for that matter having ART 1st, the "patrons" didn't support the ARTISTS just from "walking around." There were also about 46 Jewelers out of about 120 & we were NEXT & across from Jewelers. That usually doesn't matter as our rings are quite unique, but seems like people set a limit these days as to how much $$$ they will spend for one media. I knew this wasn't Riverwalk but thought we would give this a chance just once.  We felt there was NOT enough Artist support from the Club Ladies in sales, & I'm sorry, SALES are OUR 1st priority-all the other amenities are like the icing on the cake!  It's too bad because they had everything ELSE going for them, but we will have to brush this one OFF our list.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on July 22, 2016 at 8:42am

Excellent review, Margaret, too bad it didn't work out for you but now you and everyone else knows that the Riverwalk Show is the one to do in Naperville.  The abundance of new artists should be a red flag anywhere, I guess, the veteran artists know from experience that they're not buying there and don't come back.  Thanks for a good read...

Comment by margaret luttrell on July 20, 2016 at 8:35am

Might have Jackie.....It really is beautifully taken care of and a lovely place.....Seemed like a lot of regulars were there and it was a conservative buying crowd.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on July 19, 2016 at 10:57pm

Sorry Margaret about the show.  You tried it.  Did the Settlement part seem to bring more people interested in the history of the area instead of art?

Comment by Bari Tarmon on July 16, 2016 at 2:45am
What I meant by changes in my approach were my point of view and how I did business before and my results and how they were affected since I purchased and read Mckenna Hallett's "The E's of Selling System" and have employed the lessons I learned. I think it has helped me in my approach in that I focus more on the visitor and less on myself. I had a few conversations with show attendees who stopped by my booth that previously would have mostly heard me talk, but instead I turned the conversation to what they were experiencing and what they were looking for, what feelings they had when they saw a print that attracted their attention. I'd like to think that I made a stronger connection and made the viewing and buying experience much better for my visitors.

This approach will take time to become more natural as I practice more but if results are in the sales, I can definitely see an improvement in my first two shows this year compared to my previous years. Time will tell.
Comment by Bobby Weiss on July 15, 2016 at 11:25pm


Congratulations on having a good show.

You said something curious... would you mind expounding on what the personal changes in your approach were that you feel led to better results?

Thank you.

Comment by margaret luttrell on July 15, 2016 at 6:32pm

I agree with all the was a terrific place to show...but everyone said on Saturday the crowds were down and then Sunday they didn't engage...just out for a walk. I did see some packages go by but they were mostly small. I am so glad you had a great show...I went to Old Town and had a personal best... but others didn't know what the heck I was talking about.....their show didn't pan out this year...Just goes to show you Bari that there is no right equation to this business....sometimes you're the ceiling.... sometimes the floor....Glad it worked out for you!

Comment by Bari Tarmon on July 15, 2016 at 6:25pm
I did this show for the third consecutive year. I had not done well in previous years but this time was a charm. I made 5 sales and had the best show in my 4 years of shows. I can understand the disappointment other had. There is just no way to tell if a specific show will be a good one or not.

The organization is top notch and the setting is very nice in my opinion. I have visited Riverwalk years ago and it's a nice show but I have not tried to enter it yet.

The traffic was pretty good both days and many visited my booth. I think that some personal change my approach to selling was responsible for the better sales.

I like this show and will continue to do it as long as I can and they'll have me.

I feel that when a show is well organized, the setting is inviting, set up is convenient and there is much support, it helps in the overall attitude and enthusiasm towards the buying visitors. I feel this is a show that should be supported. I also like the vendor number: not too small and not too large. Booth fee is fair for what you get.
Comment by Elizabeth Kline on July 15, 2016 at 12:55pm

I was there too. The people who were there seemed very enthusiastic and appreciative of the art - but like you, I barely made expenses. They just weren't buying. I breathed a sigh of relief that I broke even, basically - didn't happen until Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect, the set up easy...I really wanted this show to work but it just didn't. And I did notice a lot of first time artists there. Super nice people too. It's too bad it didn't translate to sales for us. I am pretty sure I won't return either. :(

Comment by Slobodan Blagojevic on July 15, 2016 at 9:37am
A point about promoting: I live there and get weekly emails from local newspapers, listing events in the town for the week. In "what's happening this weekend" section, this show wasn't even mentioned. I also didn't make the fee (photography), as well as two other photographers I know. On the other hand, I did $1,600 there last year. Go figure.

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