Art Fair Insiders

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

We only did one summer show this year.  It was Northville's Art in the Sun.  The weather on the first day about took out the tents and unfortunately about 30% of the artists packed up and left.  Too bad for them because the rest of the weekend was beautiful.  Two tents over from me was a woman who was selling all sorts of boxes and trinkets obviously buy and sell.  And people were buying from her because her prices were understandably premade tiles.  Even though the organizers knew these people were hurting the sales of real artists, they did not ask them to leave.  The more I think about it the more I feel the rest of us are owed a refund on our jury fees. I won't do this show next year even though the people in charge were helpful and very nice.  I felt cheated the whole time I was watching this woman rake in a profit and cutting into the sales of legitimate artists around her. 

It is my feeling that if you are caught doing buy/sell that you should be removed from the show immediately.  It usually states this in the contract.  How do you feel about that?  Should we insist on jury fee refunds if a buy/sell participant is not removed from the show? 

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Comment by Kathleen V. Smith on September 9, 2013 at 2:34am


If the producers have a good jury, & the pics. are of high quality, & there is continuous jurying throughout the show (I call it baby-sitting), it would eliminate a lot of the buy/sell. Pictures of Artists making their jewelry is useless~videos may be the answer with periodic jurying until the show ends!  We sign contracts, & if it says in the contract (they all should) that if someone has buy/sell they MUST LEAVE.  I would have them leave at the end of the day if I were running a show~(hopfully it's not a 1-day) ~that way if the other buy/sell hear of it, they won't go to this show anyway, & it would keep quality Artists in it. There are two men out there STILL selling jewelry with large glass cases(that SO impresses the jurors~how sad~LOL) that had sent in large 8x10 glossys to a promoter in Michigan. They were pics. of a guy just holding a torch among other jewelry equip.  He probably used someones shop...?  I know because several jewelers came to my booth & said you have to see this booth!  I saw tons of ladies buying rings for $1200.00 to at least $3,000.00. These guys really had a line..."For YOU, you can have it for half price, ect.  I asked one of the guys if I could see a ring, & I asked him, Oh my, the sticker says made in Tawain......He grabbed it out of my hand & said "I don't know HOW that got there!"Well, we reported them, but I recently saw them & saddly with the SAME kind of bands they had before, & he said (not remembering me I'm sure) "It's $1200.00, BUT FOR YOU, I'll sell it for $800.00!  I used to tell promoters, but really...there are promoters & there are promoters~what can I say!  If they get rid of these guys, there will be others to replace them if it isn't juried properly and "babysit" until the end of the show~so sad for the REAL Jewelers as well as the Real Other Media Artists everywhere.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on August 5, 2013 at 11:41pm

Sorry, no picture.  They're really thin and light weight.  In the earrings, the pieces making up the patterns are so small that I couldn't imagine cutting, sanding, staining and then gluing them together!  Especially not for $15 per pair!  Interesting about them being part of the Moonies. 

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on August 5, 2013 at 11:54am

Kathleen - do you have a picture?  I think I know who you are writing about, were they out of New York?  If so, it's an organization with a lot of "apprentices". We were next to them at a show in Silverton OR several years back and the guy in the booth got into a huge argument with a potential customer.  My understandng is that they are part of the Moodies cult.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on August 4, 2013 at 11:48am

I saw something yesterday at the Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman, Montana that had me curious.  Have any of you ever seen wooden marketry products made of dyed wood glued together like intarsia?  This artist had wooden items that were incredibly intricate.  There were jewelry items as well as larger pieces.  What made me wonder were the prices.  Almost all items at this show were pricey, but his earrings were $15. or so.  I just couldn't see how they could be so intricately done at such an inexpensive price if they weren't buy-sell.  I'm getting suspicious in my old age! 

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on August 4, 2013 at 11:39am

Robert, that's a good idea about building a buy/sell reference.  Maybe it could include tips for identifying the manufactured stuff, by product.  For example, list the telltale signs of  manufactured needlepoint, how to spot buy/sell jewelry, how to identify buy/sell clothing (the label inside the collar should be all the clue they need), etc.  I think a database like you suggest would be incredibly helpful.

BTW, where can I get some of those mean pills?  ;)

Comment by Carolee McReynolds on August 2, 2013 at 4:29pm

I've shown promoters buy sell stuff on my I phone, if they don't ask them to leave,  I leave and tell all my friends this show is a flea market along with the promoter.  We work to hard as artists to be set up next to scam artists.  Yes, I've lost some money, but I sure feel better!

Comment by Robert Wallis on August 2, 2013 at 3:46pm

Since it was mentioned that it's hard to know what is buy/sell, why not have a section on here that is a  resource to the buy/sell catalogs. If it's felt the links would encourage more of the same, scanning the pages of the catalogs and posting them without addresses or email links.

Not every page needs to be copied but the more common ones, or the ones you see can be posted for reference. I would start with the Chinese needlepoint, the tiny ceramic potted flowers, the wooden watch bands. It takes diligence to catch these cheats, and having a database of their products would help the promoters either weed them out in advance or boot them out quickly if they do get in.

Comment by Mark V. Turner on August 2, 2013 at 2:08pm
When you apply for a show, you agree to be bound by its rules. That's a "contract". The organizers usually have specific rules about buy/sell and specific penalties. Those are contract stipulations and clauses. If you word your contract properly, you as a promoter are free to eject just about anyone you want for any reason and use your security to back it up. I am doing a show next weekend with specific language which allows show management to have you pack up immediately without any refund and have security stand right there to enforce it. They also catch folks tapping the electric if they didn't pay. The fine is 4x the fee if you asked for it and payable within one hour. If you don't pay, you go the way of the buy/sellers

Promoters usually won't allow controversial work to be displayed and have clauses to back this standard up. I was at the Haddonfield Crafts and Fine Arts Festival two weeks ago and noted someone forced to fig leaf a drawing because of frontal nudity. Contract had clause and it was enforced.

Given all that, I have never seen a promoter with the minerals to eject blatant buy/sellers. Most talk a good fight to scare them into not applying, but won't eject them once they are in place. Promoters need to grow a set and put them into action.
Comment by Suzanne Beavis on August 2, 2013 at 10:05am

I did that show for 3 years awhile back. The organizers were nice but seemed very interested in the buy/sell items. I make jewelry using the beads I make, so very hard to compete with all the buy/sell jewelry or cheap jewelry that was there. For the first time in my life I barely covered my booth fee. It used to be a nice little show. But to fill spaces show organizers took anything. I heard recently that the show has new organizers so perhaps they will do things differently.

The Michigan Guild asked someone to leave the Levis Commons Show in Perrysburg, OH when they learned of a buy/sell artist. I applaud their efforts.

Another comment on the Northville Show. It does not need to be 3 days long.

Comment by Gloria Irla Marlow on August 2, 2013 at 9:51am

I agree it's a very difficult situation.  I know the Northville people are going to keep records on the buy/sellers so they make sure to turn them down next summer.  I do think that if they make their way into a show, the buy/sell items need to be removed or at the end of the day the vendor removed from the show.  Let them make a fuss if they want.  Better they go then any number of legitimate artists who pledge not to ever do your show again.  I do like the idea of requiring pictures of the artists producing the work.  Not a perfect solution but better than nothing and just might keep the cheaters out.  I've seen this done by a few of the bigger shows.

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