Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
This was the first year for the PA Guiild show to be held in the new convention center smack dab in the middle of downtown Lancaster. The town thinks of itself as an arty destination and has lots of small shops and galleries and artists studios. A few years ago I was successful with this group when the show was held at F&M college on the outskirts of town. Construction and parking woes caused the end of that location.
The facility is quite large and attached to a new very nice Marriott which gave decent price breaks to the exhibitors although it did not honor the 10% discount we were to get on food and drink purchases during the show.
The load in/out facilities are totally inadequate for a show with 140 art/craft exhibitors.Set up was all day and into the night on 11/11/11 and I was going to space 111 at 1 PM - surely a good omen. We had timed access to the loading dock area and assigned 40 minutes to totally unload and then move to parking about two block away. The loading area could handle about 6 vans or cars and maybe three vehicles with trailers at one time. From the trailer load out area it was an uphill dolly through other vehicles trying to unload and then one large overhead door and then through a set of double doors that they kept closing. Some people were assigned load in times as late as 7 pm - I don't know how long it took them to get set up but it took me almost 4 hours with multiple dolly trips through the traffic jam.
Saturday there was a line to get in, admission $8.00 with some $2.00 discounts available, show hours 10 - 6. They advertise heavily: internet, billboards, local TV and radio and postcards. The crowd was good for the first 4 hours and then was pretty thin and almost non-existent the last hour. A very good blown glass artist from south Carolina was my neighbor with a striking display and he started out doing very well and sold a few of his higher end pieces and lots of his $30 - $60. pieces. He was very happy with his Saturday sales. A weaver/clothing next to me sold slowly but some, A potter friend had made her booth fee, booth fee $450 and up, but not the hotel cost. I had lots of lookers, lots of talkers, lots of artists wanting to figure out how I did whatever. I had two purchasers - both under $100.
Sunday there was no line to get in at the 10 AM open, show to close at 5. It was virtually empty except for the exhibitors, until after 12 PM. People in this area go out to church, then breakfast, etc. After 12Pm traffic was decent with people dressed in their Sunday clothes and ladies in their "arty" clothes. Fiber and wearables can do well in the area but a couple of my neighbors had pretty slow sales even in this category. Many of the potters still appeared to have lots of inventory even though I did my part by purchasing from them. Lots of jewelers in the show but I don't know how their sales were - across from me was a local jeweler that was busy talking all day but not sure how many sales she had - she seemed to know half of the town. My neighbor glass blower was selling $20 and $30. ornaments as people admired his work and told him how reasonably it was priced but wouldn't purchase his items over $100. He did finally have a "be back" come and purchase a nice piece, and it was reasonably priced for the quality. He agonized over a $275. sale for two full days. I had people agonizing over $85. beautifully framed reproductions, $3.50 notecards, The three hours or so that people were there on Sunday I talked until I almost lost my voice. Results were one sale and a lady who loved my work but it didn't match her sofa. There were also the artists who wanted to pick your brain. I'm sure some of the more traditional crafts people did well but most were disappointed overall.
By 3:30 or so most of the public had dwindled and we were "bowling in the aisles" and everyone you saw walking around had an exhibitors badge. We were all dreading the impending tear down and load out. At 5 PM we were allowed to bring in our packing materials and begin packing, tear down completely, find one of two people, drag them to your space so they could see it was totally torn down and then be given a load in pass. Now you can walk to the garage two blocks away and then sit in traffic on city streets blocks around the hotel and convention center for about 1 hour or more. Announcements pleaded with the local exhibitors to kill time, go have a drink, eat, etc. and let those with long drives have first access. Actually a fair number of them did and I love them all. I was facing about a 3+ hour drive in the dark on back roads. I ended up having time to go have a drink, eat or whatever as I waited almost two hours for my trailer to finally get a loading space after everything was boxed and on dollies. It took about 45 minutes still to load into the trailer with the same maze of traffic, vans and other dollies, shut double doors, and either a steep ramp or stairs to deal with.
It appeared that about half of the exhibitors were still waiting in vehicles, sitting on their boxed displays and waiting at 8:30 when I left. I was lucky.
I don't know the answer to the load in/out for this facility for 140 exhibitors. They eventually let us use fire lanes and go out the front entrance of the hotel lobby. Traffic was often blocked in both directions. I think the facility was designed without adequate access. If artists had all day to load out it would have worked but added an extra night of hotel costs. It should also have closed at 4 o"clock as the daylight savings time took effect and it was dark by the 5 pm close. It was a wonder that someone wasn't hit by a car in the loading area.