Pandemic Rebound? at Art Fairs too?

9735653059?profile=RESIZE_180x180Just when we thought WeWork, Hertz, Airbnb and the XXX Festival of Art had been killed off by COVID, here's the news:

  • WeWork last week became a public company worth $9 billion — after spectacularly imploding in 2019
  • Remember Hertz, the #1 company in car rentals? Their stock tanked at $6.09 a share, yet today up over $100 a share.
  • Airbnb was on its knees as people stopped traveling. Right? When is the last time you booked an Airbnb on the way to an art fair? Their stock hit a low in early August ... but wait! Here it comes back again. 

9735638500?profile=RESIZE_400xNow I can't say for sure about the XXX? Festival, but this we do know, this pandemic nearly killed off the art fair business, the art festival treasuries and the floating income of artists who must float with the economy, let alone the art buyers.

I am hearing of fairs and festivals with empty coffers laying off staff. I am hearing of artists who are hanging it up. I'm hearing of artists at least semi-successfully doing many fewer shows because they have been able to transition online at etsy, virtual events, etc. I also heard them saying, "wow, look how much less money I have to make when I just stay home!"

Are you hearing glimmerings though of really decent sales at the real events that have occurred in the last six months? Are we all emerging stronger afrer the quarantines made us reevaluate? Where do you stand on this? Inquiring minds want to know. 

Death? Resurgence? Hanging on by your teeth? Getting a "real job"? Selling your tent on What about you? (Me, hanging in with all my might).

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  • Jean and I will be 75 and 78 respectively for this summer’s resort area shows in Colorado. Because studio saddle orders increased during COVID and I am now booking orders for 2023, we decided to only do 3 or 4 shows next summer: Estes Park on Memorial and Labor Day, Carbondale in July (north of Aspen), and maybe Golden in August. All are dependent on jurying in, but I have done several of each and generated good tax revenue for the towns. It will be interesting loading the truck and setting up after two seasons off, but I have lists and photos to review. Pre-Covid I would not build any saddles between June and September. Now I plan to build two bringing the total for the year to eight: Three orders for January-June, Two June to September and three September to December. I also build one or two during the year that I just want to do and then sell them on open market. (I didn’t get to take auto shop in HS because of Sputnik and being on a college science track, so I have a brown quilted trick saddle going with gold-orange-red metallic flame inlays). I am building exclusively for trick riders (Acrobatics and gymnastics on running horses) and besides the saddles there are lots of strap orders. I need to keep doing shows to build down the inventory I built up pre-Covid. I did this to avoid having the crunch of rebuilding inventory between shows. I raised prices 10-20% on saddlery and will probably do the same for art show belts. My tannery has announced current price increase of 10% with 10-15% coming in next 2-3 years. One foundry that cast the tall trick saddle horns went out of business and only one source is left.  My source for 1-2 sides of heavy wet rawhide dried up so I am begging another one to get back in the business (Rawhide is the dehaired hides that dries hard like sheet metal and is used for handholds on saddles. It is shipped frozen as an 18” cube. If it thaws, the box gets wet, and shipments can be lost. Its dead cow, and UPS may throw it out because it stinks). There was a shortage of stainless-steel rigging dees for about 6 months and one outfit was price gouging charging $27 each for a $8 dee. Saddle trees, the rawhide covered wood forms we build on, are up about $50 to $500 each. That about sums up inflation in my business. I’m not looking forward to paying housing costs for this summer’s art shows.

  • I'll be doing less art fairs for several reasons.  Mainly we have been extremly lucky that my husband's tile business has been booming with everyone staying at home.  I have also been able to get more sales online.  It was actually an Art Fair Insider's podcast that gave me the idea to post "time lapse" videos of my work and try to get attention of content companies.  A year later that is starting to work- no real money yet but some awareness.  Tiktok has been really good for me!    

    I doubt I will ever entirely give up art fairs because it is the best way to get work sold and I love the travel and the people!  Two of my shows this year were stellar.  I felt the buying energy from being quarentined. 

  • We did a 3 day show a couple of weeks ago in Louisiana.  Crowds came out, spent $ and seemed happy to be out and about.  Even had one customer say she was just "over it", meaning all the covid restrictions, etc.

    • Well, Cindy that had to be a relief to have that happen. Your area has been hit so hard with Covid and bad weather, its good to know you are still out there!

      • Yes, in addition to all the covid mess, we have dealt with hurricane damage.  Lake Charles, which was hit 2x last year has still not yet recovered.  Comparing the Ida damage in Houma, where I live, to LC got last year ... we will be a couple of years or more completely covering.


        The show we did, Vintage Market Days of Southeast Louisiana was about 2.5 hours north of Houma.  We could see evidence if Ida even that far, but not as bad as further south.  With all the recovery assistance from out of state, line,en, first responders, etc., it has made finding lodging difficult.  We had to go north of Amite (show site) to McComb, MS to find lodging.  At a 40 minute drive to MComb from Amite, it was still less than half the distance to home each night.


        I will say that our set up has gotten more extensive also.  Dh has started making art on his CNC machine.  Got it back in April or May.  He is doing American flags.  The ones with the most draw are the distressed flags and those thst are military or first responder tribute flags.  Anyway, he had his own 10 x 10 booth and I had my 10x20.  We now go up on Wednesday to start setting up for a Friday-Sunday show.  Actually took about 1.5 days of set up.  Dh went through prostate cancer radiation tx back in 2020, and hormone therapy.  He is not the same now as he was before.  However, he does not want to sit home and mope or feel sorry for himself.

        • I am just back from a trip to Lima, Peru. That country had no PPP loans, no unemployment insurance, no stimulus payments -- essentially no strength in the economy to do those things. Made me feel very grateful for what our government did to help.

          OMG! You are really working hard --- I can't imageine setting up the equivalent of 3 booths, let alone getting all of that into a vehicle. 

          My husband skipped the radiation but the hormone therapy kept him going for nearly another 20 years. But you're right, not quite the same.

          • We use our Surburban to pull a 6x12 cargo trailer.  It's pretty full but we still had a little room left.  Dh used black grid walls to display his art so they took little room.  He used gray drapes to dress up his walls, taking up little room in the trailer.

            We have done a double booth for me for a number of years.  It's the only way to make it feasible to show/sell the furniture I do.  A 10x10 would allow only 1-2 pieces of furntiure at a time, instead of 3-6 pieces at a time, depending on size.  I had 4 headboard benches (double bed sized headboards) and 2 side tables.  Plus displays for small and medium home decor pieces I've painted, repurposed, made from scratch, etc.

            The radiation he did was 42 treatments over the course of about 6 weeks or so.  No surgery, no chemo.  He could have done surgery instead of rad but didn't want to deal with surgery.

  • Can anyone explain the exodus of art shows in Northeast Florida? They all seem to be vanishing. I'm talking about Duval, St Johns and Nassau counties. There seems to be two maybe three left. 



    • What a good question, Laurel. I don't have an answer for sure. Will you ask this question in the discussions so it will get more exposure? and maybe some answers. Where have they cancelled? St. Augustine??

  • We stopped doing shows until March and only did outdoor shows.  By and large, the shows have been good since then. It seemed that people were happy to be out at the shows and enjoyed spending their money.  It will be interesting to see if that trend continues now that more shows are resuming.  Travel expenses increased as mentioned before. We try to connect art fairs to the areas we were planning to visit anyway to decrease the impact of the higher expenses.  As we have gotten older, we are committed to taking regular breaks as we drive and taking an extra day to drive what used to be a 2-day drive. That adds an extra day's lodging and food, but at least we can stand up when we get out of the car!

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