Art Fair Insiders

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


Anyone can read it without being approved or pay a fee


Any post has the potential of silencing others from expressing their opinion


If everyone can read what is posted even non-members can learn information and can take action from the ideas shared on the forum


Sometimes you don't want the "outsiders" to know what you are talking about, or is this a "Pro"?


It can be a melting pot from a wide variety of opinions


You can't speak your mind without possibly getting in trouble with some vested interest

The first popular online open forum in our business was the NAIA forum which was a very dynamic forum until a few obstreperous people continually derailed the discussions and the group voted to make it members only. This really slowed down the discussion and participation dwindled.

In the beginning of AFI all different kinds of people joined and I was pretty clueless about managing it. It was pretty interesting to watch my friends and many strangers show up and debate the questions of the day. People could post anonymously and there were (to my mind) some fists flying. People joined and resigned and rejoined. Many sent  me emails wondering why I was letting such uncivilized behavior occur. At one point there was a mass defection. We changed the rules about anonymous posting, set up a vetting process to allow members into the site, and rewrote our Code of Conduct. Early on some show directors joined and they were attacked and they left, silencing their voices here.

Some of these early voices determined who was on the site and who was not and set the tone.

One thing I have learned is that every comment has the possibility of encouraging someone else to speak and someone else to be silenced. I've heard "well, if they can't interact on an Internet forum how can they expect to prosper at the fairs?" You've got to know the purpose of this site is not to toughen people up.

I don't pay attention to the statistics of the readership or the "hits" and am often surprised when I'm at a show to have someone I know say they read the site regularly and their name isn't even on the membership list. It makes me wonder who is reading the site besides the people who post and comment and what function AFI has for them. My hope is that open discussions can influence people's behavior at the shows and in running the shows.

I can edit everything on the site. I have banned people from the site who came into the forum only to attack others and who never had a constructive point to add and who were just plain mean and rude. I have removed a few that were deliberately attacking another person in a personal way, but probably not often enough.

Many comments and posts have disappeared from the site (including a very recent discussion) because when a person resigns from the site all of their content (comments, discussions, blog posts) disappears with them. I have no control over that.

I've allowed others to stay because sometimes they are very good and sometimes they are very bad and I like to believe the good they contribute outweighs the other. Mostly its a pleasure to get up in the morning to see what is going to happen here today, as there is a solid amount of useful content and I am surprised by the generosity of many of you, but let me tell you folks sometimes it keeps me up at night.

Looking for your input ... is this a fair place to post your views? Got any suggestions on making this a better place for all?

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Comment by Karole Bowlds on June 19, 2012 at 1:15pm

Good that they are paying attention, we and they don't always have time at the shows, or even feel that confronting a promoter AT the show in front of all those people is professional. I have many promoters send out feedback forms after an event. They ask questions like how was our experience as an Artist, what, if any problems or issues we had, and ask for suggestions to improve those problems. I have made it a practice to send them feedback, in a professional and courteous manner. Glad I took those business courses in college! Fortunately, most of these promoters are very serious about their contracts with us, and realize without the Artist/Crafters, they wouldn't HAVE a show or business. I have only had the odd, bad experience with two promoters, way back when I first started, and now have no contact with either- lessons learned! 

Comment by Shelley Finance on June 19, 2012 at 10:30am

I think as long as you have moderators who can shut down the "trolls" quickly, you'll be able to keep it an open situation and we can all benefit from many points of view. Honest criticism is one thing, people who are just nasty are quite another.

Perhaps a copy of "Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior" should be part of every signup, because it seems like the internet has bred a plethora of rude behavior! ;o)

I think it's of benefit for the promoters and show coordinators to see what artists post, so they can improve and adjust their shows appropriately. We all win, in that case! On the other side of the table, it's good for them to have a forum to say, "Hey, I tried to make it right and you were having none of it," too! We artists can sometimes be a high-maintenance, low-on-people-skills bunch (Oh, wait! Maybe that's just me! :oD), and we need to be kept honest as much as the next guy.

Since I am just starting out in the art fair world, and have a VERY low budget for shows, every review helps me out enormously! I simply can't blow $500 on a show that is not a "real" art show, because that crowd is not my market, and I won't even come close to making my booth back (let alone all the other expenses involved).

In any case, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! 

Comment by Joan Tweedell on June 19, 2012 at 9:36am

I like it the way it is. Lively and not too negative. I have left some other forums when they turned into online shouting matches, and others when they dwindled away to almost nothing. Obviously there is a large community here that enjoys posting and commenting, and it is always fun to check it all out. The art fair world holds all sorts of people, and most of us are friendly and civil to each other and that is reflected in this forum. Keep it up, you guys!

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 18, 2012 at 9:42pm

Thanks for all the comments above.

It is the balance that is the trick. It is great to have the new artists here but participation by more experienced people really helps keep things moving and I know they appreciate it. I am sure that many of us were helped in the beginning of our art fair lives by information freely shared by others, now it is our time to pay it forward and you guys have been great.

Comment by Jim Parker on June 18, 2012 at 8:30pm
Having a fair and balanced viewpoint, especially when posting about show-related information or reviews, is definitely more useful than totally flaming a show. I have flamed a couple, but only when the bad far outweighed the good, IMO. And moderation, in moderation, is a necessary evil. Fair warning before censorship is preferred by most. A useful resource, especially for newbies, but requires input from all.
Comment by John Leben on June 18, 2012 at 6:21pm

The promoters are, definitely, following the posts. Last winter when I wrote a series of reviews on a seven show Florida tour, I was approached by Barry Witt the Bonita Springs promoter, Howard Alan, the Las Olas promoter, and one of the committee members who organize the Winter Park Art Fair. All commented on my blog posts and did their best to make my shows at their venues successful. They are listening.

Comment by Mary Anne Maslanka on June 18, 2012 at 6:07pm

I read here more than write.  But I really appreciate the show reviews, and discussions found here.  It is unlike any other I have found, and we artists need a place like this.  As to "open" vs "closed"....toss a coin.  If the promoters are listening (whether or not they are responding), that can be good for us, the artists, because somewhere down the line, we will see the results.....Thank you, Connie, for a great place to hang out.

Comment by Annette Piper on June 18, 2012 at 5:34pm

I'm a mod on a jewellery forum down here in Australia and we have a closed situation for MOST areas.   Some general areas are open to anyone to browse but they don't have much content.  To post you must sign up (automatic approval).  To access the majority of the forum you have to have been manually approved - usually after an introductory post.   We have had some nasty things go on, but the mods are there to keep an eye on things (like you do Connie) and if there is a situation where flaming is going on, the comment is either edited or removed and a private message sent by the mod or admin to the offending person asking them to think before they post and to the person attacked.  Notes can be made on profiles but only seen by mods/admin.   Repeated flaming and you're removed from "Active" status - i.e. you can't see most of the forum.    It creates a very cosy, warm place but in a way it is a bit too cosseted and some members take any sort of critisism (even if its constructive) too much to heart which causes headaches in itself.

That forum has also been in a very slow growth phase the last year or two, possibly because we're all becoming used to instant gratification - and waiting to be approved to see the "good stuff" (content) takes too long - people leave the site, perhaps find somewhere else and don't always come back when membership is manually approved.

I love AFI - its vibrant, alive and colourful.  I wouldn't say some of things that some members say but I haven't been too offended ... yet LOL.

Comment by geri a. wegner on June 18, 2012 at 5:21pm

The only con of this as an open forum is the fear of blackballing preventing a lot of people from posting the truth about some shows.  I know of several artists that will not post about shows because of this.  

Don't know if it is true but if it is, why can't we get the watch guys out of shows??????????

Comment by Karole Bowlds on June 18, 2012 at 2:32pm

I value this site...TREMENDOUSLY! As a relative newb.....less than 10 yrs in the biz, this site has been the SINGLE, most VALUABLE informational tool I have for my chosen craft. The information is spot on, the stories are entertaining, and the Vets have all been great sharing their knowledge with me and the rest of the "new Crop" of up coming Artists/Crafters. To be truthful, I probably would have given up my second year without the insights, advise and expertise I have gained from AFI. Connie, some of the discussions can be a bit...lively. But we are all adult individuals...we are able to communicate with those that are truly here to be a part of this, and avoid those that might not be the best interactions for us. THAT is LIFE.

I think of AFI as my school for Art fairs, a source of knowledge that I NEED, quite a few great characters that make life interesting and make me THINK, a few truth sayers who tell it like it is to make me re-evaluate my own position, and a VERY FEW uncomfortable people, who while may seem rude or disturbed about something to some, still manage to get others to see a different point of view. As adults we all have the choice to participate or not- with each and every other adult here. My job as parent wasn't to bring my daughter up to wear rose colored glasses and think the world was absolutely wonderful. It was to make her a functioning member of society. That's what AFI does for me, hard knocks and all!! And we creative types NEED that- POSITIVE and NEGATIVE for balance! Otherwise we would all still have the rose colored glasses on. Instead, a dose of reality is ALWAYS a good thing, in my book. I love the forums, blogs and chats here. I like being able to immerse myself in MY world, communicating with others WHO KNOW EXACTLY what I am talking (sometimes griping) about.  I appreciate, GREATLY, having this site to turn to when I need a boost of confidence, a bit of commiseration, a question answered. 

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