Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of doing the Royal Oak Farmers Market Holiday Show. It was a winner for a first time event and it has the potential to be one of the better shows in the Metro Detroit area. This show is put on by the Guild. This is the same group that has its own Ann Arbor Show, the two Birmingham shows and a few others within a hundred miles of Ann Arbor.
First a little history. This show was started a couple of years ago as the Ann Arbor Holiday Show. It was held at the Eastern Michigan university arena where Eastern plays its basketball being part of the MAC. It was a strange place for a show because of the location. The arena is built into the ground so as a customer, you enter at ground level and walk down to the floor. This was not so good if you were old or had a hard time walking. If you ever attend a sporting event you know what I mean. And, yet, it was a good show for most of us. I was looking forward to doing it again last year until I looked at the dates and saw that it was the week before Christmas. The reason for this was that EMU had home basketball games the weekends leading up to Christmas and The Guild couldn't get the arena and earlier. So, I skipped it last year.
This year, they decided to move it to Royal Oak at the Farmers Market building the week before Thanksgiving. My first thoughts were "not another show in Royal Oak, bleech." Then I went to the web site and looked at who was already in the show and I was impressed with the quality of the artists who were doing it. Plus, if I did the show, I could have Thanksgiving and spend time with my brothers. So, I did the show. I had very low expectation because I don't really have holiday items. I thought that maybe I could pay for my trip and have some fun. Surprise, surprise, I did twice what I expected to do. I got to hang out with my brothers and their families, went to a Red Wings game, watched Michigan lose to Ohio State (lol), took a side trip to Ann Arbor to see some friends, dropped off some pieces to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association gallery that I sell out of year round, and had a generally great time.
The Guild tried some things with this show that was somewhat new and different. The show was held on a Thursday and Friday, probably because it was in use on Saturday and Sunday with farmers coming in to sell their produce and the other stuff that gets sold at farmers markets. While it wouldn't be my choice days to have a show, I think it worked out. Another thing they did was run the show from 12-9 PM both days. The reason they gave for extending the hours until 9 was that they wanted to take advantage of all the people that come to downtown Royal Oak to eat and hang out at the bars at night. Those people didn't come to the show and the few that did were not buyers. I had no sales after 6 both days and the people who did come, were there just to be entertained. I'm not a fan, anymore, of entertaining people with my artwork. If I have any influence, it would be to change the times to 10 AM- 6 PM.
The one thing the Guild did above all else that made this show work is that they sent some targeted email to specific zip codes from their database of loyal customers. They sent a listing of all the artists at the event with a thumbnail of their work. Since the show had a number of top quality artists, that email was impressive. I know that worked because I had customers who told me they came because they knew I was there. Two of them bought multiple pieces to give as presents. It wasn't crowded, but, that didn't matter. The people who did attend were knowledgeable sophisticated buyers. It was my kind of crowd. There were not many walking zombies except maybe in the evening. Many shows like to tell you how big their crowds are and most of them are there just to look or to see the music and all the other distractions. If you eliminate all those people, most shows would look like this one. I heard that many of those people who attended called the city to tell them what I nice show it was and how impressed they were with the art and the artists.
This show has earned a good reputation and should be better attended in the future. Hopefully, the Guild will keep the quality of the art high. I liked that there were only 85 booths. I hope that stays the same. Also, the art was the focal point of the event. I've pointed this out many times, that the best shows only have artwork and very little, if any, sideshows like a music stage. There were a few food vendors and they were high quality too, including Slows Barbecue.
Setup and take down were are easy as it gets. Setup was on Wednesday or Thursday before noon. There were plenty of people on hand to help unload and load back into your vans. Nicole and Allan did a great job of helping artists with any problems that might have occurred. Their crew was impressively friendly and helpful.
In conclusion, this show could be a gem for years to come as it gains a reputation. It is imperative that the quality remains high and the number of artists stay low. There may be a temptation to make it bigger, charge more for booths, and add things that take away from the artwork. There may be a temptation to add more food booths, too, which would be ok if the quality of the food stays high. If the Guild could get the building for Saturday and Sunday, that would help. I'm assuming that the booth fees would have been higher for a weekend event because the building rental would be higher. That would have to be taken into consideration. Thursday and Friday were ok. And, I would change the times to open earlier and close earlier, especially at the end of the show. By being open Friday night from 6-9, there were assuming that some of the best sales would have taken place at the end of a show, which, almost never happens.