Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I've reviewed Patty Narozny's HotWorks "Estero Fine Art Shows"at Miromar Outlets extensively in the past. You can read the most recent review (of the January 2013) here. It contains a link to even more reviews.
I spent this past weekend at HotWorks' annual fall show at Miromar Outlet, one of the three largest malls in SW Florida, halfway between Fort Myers and Naples. Although many of the seasonal snowbirds won't arrive until New Year's, there are many Canadian and European visitors around, and the new home sales figures in the local market are up. So I was looking forward to the strong sales I had here in 2010 and 2011, and hoping that last year's dive off the cliff was an aberration, driven by an especially early (late October) show date.
Sadly, it wasn't.
Part of the problem may have been the weather, which couldn't serve up the kind of comfortable clime that the newly-arrived snowbirds find to their liking. Friday (setup day) was just right, but clouds and rain moved in overnight and lingered through early morning. The local tv meteorologists had predicted they'd linger into the afternoon and suggested, repeatedly, that "Sunday is the better day for your outdoor weekend activities."
Showers did, in fact, linger into the afternoon in other parts of the Fort Myers area, but the high clouds and moderate breezes we saw should have been decent show weather. Crowds were light to very moderate on Saturday morning, then tapered off through the afternoon.
Skies cleared overnight, but it was an illusion: instead of the crisp, dry air that November is famous for in these parts, the air on Sunday was mid-June muggy, and temperatures rose quickly through the low 80s, topping out at 90 degrees in mid-afternoon. Attendance was light; heads were down. Through early afternoon I saw more patrons carrying stacks of slick, glossy lifestyle magazines (handed out for free at the gate by one of the show sponsors) than I did art purchases. (This isn't a minor complaint: Hands filled with freebies aren't going to browse through print bins, touch handiwork, or try on jewelery. At least give 'em a bag so they can be carried with one hand.)
I had a south-facing booth and the sun blasted it all day, making presentations short and interest minimal. Most customers preferred what little shade was offered by the rows of north-facing booths. When a few puffy clouds appeared mid-afternoon, it seemed to spike traffic and buying interest, but just a bit. I wound up, though, with a very modest customer count, no gallery wraps out the door, and barely $500 gross sales--just enough to cover the $395 booth fee and pay for the cost of goods sold.
Paradoxically, some artists with low-priced items sold well, but a few of those I spoke with who sold big-ticket items, waited for the "home run" customer, and found one were among the survivors too. Overall (based on the folks I spoke with), results were on the low range of acceptable to disappointing.
As always with a Hot Works show, the quality and mix of art is quite good. Patty's shows have a loyal following among artists from her home state of Michigan, and she recruits actively for artists from other shows. There is some loyalty among the visitors, too: I had five customers drop in to say hello and tell me how much they like the work they had bought from me at shows past (good!) but only one purchased from me (a $20 wall calendar) this year.
Pluses for the show include friendly, helpful show staff, easily identified by their red HotWorks t-shirts (hear that, show promoters??) who dispensed fruit and water throughout the weekend, and an easy setup. And Patty herself was around the show from beginning to end. Minuses include a long, long walk to the artist parking lot at the far reaches of the sprawling Miromar Outlets grounds (it took me over ten minutes to trek it on Sunday morning, and I'm a fast walker). And, though perhaps it's a personal-taste issue, the sleep-inducing music of the French-music crooner who, as he does every year, performed the same eight-song playlist all weekend long. (Note to the organizers: Everyone who listened to Edith Piaf music in the '40s and '50s is gone now.)
The mall security is on hand to help pedestrians, including show-goers, cross the roads between one part of the show and the other, but the narrow two-lane routes, a bit twisty in spots, are open to general mall traffic and the drivers aren't paying particularly close attention.
Is there a glimmer of a big-picture trend to be gleaned from this year's show? Maybe: I had a half-dozen folks tell me that they had just purchased a new home--more than last year--and I missed out on several sales because I didn't have work on hand large enough to be a focal point of a bare wall above a four-cushion sofa. So it could be that the mantra I was hearing toward the end of last year down here--"Go big, or go home!"-- is back in force. As I write this the UPS truck just delivered three 48-inch wide canvases. Maybe if they'd shown up on Friday, when I was expecting them, I'd be able to back up my conjecture with hard evidence in the form of hard cash. As it is, I'll just have to take 'em to Bill Kinney's Sarasota show this coming weekend, and, as they say in the real estate business, await developments.