Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
This is not a show for everyone. First of all, it lasts 6 days, from Tuesday thru Sunday. Day 1 goes from 7:30 AM until 9PM. The next 4 days the hours are 11AM until 9PM. Sunday goes until 6PM. Secondly, this is their fund raiser and they take a 20% commission. Thirdly, they handle all the sales and then send you a direct deposit into your account, which they try to do within 7 days, but, 14-17 days is the reality. So, you have to pay all your expenses for the show before you see any cash flow. Fourth, this show never closes early, so, if it is snowing and 32 degrees, you have to be at your booth even though there are no customers.
Loading in and loading out is really hassle free and easy. We can drive right up to our space and we get all day on Monday to unload and set up. The show provides 36 16' x 16' tents. Each tent is divided into 4 sections, so, each exhibitor gets a 16' front. The show lasts until 9PM so you need lights. Most people brought their own lights, but, they had lights if you needed them. And, they provided ladders, so, you could attach the lights to the top of the booth. I got there an hour early and they let me right in. That was cool. What wasn't cool was that they eliminated a couple of tents right in the middle of the street that had the best location for traffic flow. Unfortunately, I was in one of those tents. They ended up cramming those tents on the left side against the curb and facing away from the main traffic flow. In addition, I was facing some trees that had really annoying birds crackling loudly throughout the show. And, they ended up perched on the electric wire right next to my space, pooping along the curb. I was supposed to be facing the afternoon sun, but, I was mostly in the cold and dark. I went from having one of the best spaces in the show to one of the worst. Because of a numbers mix up, other people were not in the spaces they thought they were in and I heard that some people complained. The committee was apologetic, but couldn't really do anything about it, this year. Having said that, the booths for the most part were arranged well and spaced so a customer could get to every booth. There wasn't really a bad location in the show, except that nobody would trade spaces with me.
There were no awards for best of show, etc. but there were plenty of purchase awards. There was a pretty good dinner for the artists and a pretty good breakfast one day. A donut shop that has been in existence for 80 years(I'm guessing at the age) donated donuts in the morning and cookies in the afternoon. They provided very good coffee, soda, and water. Unfortunately, the donut booth was right near my space and I gained back all that weight I lost eating really well in Florida. This show has an excellent helper system and instead of just booth baby sitting, they would run and get us anything we wanted. Someone actually went to a restaurant to get my lunch for me. The artists also had access to a couple of really good clean bathrooms that were close by.
The artwork ran the gamut from really good to "what is that doing here?" I thought that this show had some of the best painters I had ever seen at an art fair. Much of it had a Southwest look which was refreshing to me because I usually stay in the East and Mid-East. There were a lot of California and New Mexico, etc. exhibitors there. Something I found shocking was that there was a booth with watches that got in as jewelry. The person in the booth called himself a rep and he talked about the fact that they had 6 "designers" who designed the work. I don't know where the watches were made but they weren't made by the rep in the booth or the so called designers. I heard that the jewelers all got together and complained about this booth. I, also, had a conversation with a committee member who said they would kick them out of the show if it could be determined that the people manning the booth didn't make the pieces. However, nothing was done. There was some other so called "art" like a booth with clocks that appeared devoid of any human qualities, but, most of the booths had really excellent work.
Most of the exhibitors I talked to, in the end, had a really good show. They invite back 2/3rds or so, of the top selling exhibitors. Since this is basically a 2-D show and a jewelry show, most of these people are jewelers and 2-D people. This show also tends to be a low end show, to some degree, so, if you had work below $60 you could have done really well. Consequently, functional pottery tends to do really well. Doug Becker did an excellent business with his glass selling ornaments and paperweights. He calls them "birds and balls." The show could be divided into 2 parts--the first part is Tuesday thru Friday afternoon and the second show starts Friday evening and lasts until Sunday at 6. The show opens at 7:30 AM on Tuesday morning. There is a heavily supported program where individuals and corporations pledge to spend at least $500 in purchase prizes. The early opening allows the corporate execs to come through before work on Tuesday to get first crack at the work. I've been told that at one time, the streets would be full of people Tuesday morning and every artist would have a number of purchase prize cards in their booth. I've done this show twice and both times there were hardly any early buyers on Tuesday morning. They could easily eliminate this part of the show. It's really taxing on the exhibitors to be out there for a 14 hour day when there are no buyers in sight. The rest of the Tuesday-Friday part of the show had people checking out the show for later purchases and a lot of low end buyers. By Friday afternoon there were a lot of people complaining about extremely poor sales. To be fair though, there were a few people that I talked to who had really good early sales with their high end work. Then came Saturday. The weather was excellent on Saturday and people started showing up early. It was definitely a different crowd. People came to buy. I sold steadily all day long and I believe the majority of exhibitors had the same experience. In the end, I had 2 purchase awards and a pretty good show. Almost, everyone I talked to was happy. I did talk to a couple of people with really excellent work who had bad shows but I think this was the exception.
The weather had a lot to do with how well sales went. There was only 2 excellent days out of the 6. Two days were extremely cold. I figured the high was 50 degrees. Friday had extremely high winds gusting to 40 mph. This was stressful for anyone facing the wind. There was some breakage. I think this was the reason why sales were no existent on a couple of the days. Two years ago the temperature was in the low 90's every day and no rain. I sold at least one big piece every day. This year I really only had 2 days of decent sales--Friday, the high wind day and Saturday, when the temps were around 80 degrees and sunny. The worst day of the show for sales and weather wise was Sunday. The temperature was in the 50's and it rained most of the day. There was even hail for a few minutes. Hardly any customers showed up. It was too bad because I'm sure Sunday would have been as good as Saturday, but, no one with any sense was out on Sunday. Except us, of course. The committee should have had more concern for the exhibitors and canceled the show on Sunday which every other show I do would have done. Every exhibitor I talked to would have packed up and left. The top picture has me standing in front of my booth on Sunday with 2 sweaters on, my winter coat, a silly plastic bag over my shoulders, and my wool hat. AND, I was still cold.
Would I do this show again? I would. Unfortunately, I probably wasn't in the top sales that get invited back so I have to apply again. Decorative ceramics doesn't sell as well as paintings or jewelry. Personally, I think they should take that in consideration and invite me back. lol.