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

Review of the 2014 Southwest Arts Festival in Indio, CA (near Palm Springs, CA). This is a good looking 3-day show with 281 artists in attendance. It was well attended, by my view. There is a gate fee of $8 and parking is $5 for patrons. The organizers take 15% of your gross sales. All sales are logged into a sales book provided each day to the artist then turned in each evening by the artist. This is my second time participating in this show.

Load in was easy and mellow all day Thursday before the show. You can drive right up to your space and unload. Load out was just as mellow on Sunday night. My booth space was perfect and so was the weather. I brought along my latest series of work and was proud to show.

I guess I just did not have what the patrons wanted at this event since I sold $0. What I did see selling were both large and small items. By small I mean items around $20-$40, and by large $6,000.

The artist next to me was probably able to pay off her mortgage with her sales. Amazing.

The selling items had a lot of color! Seems that bright colors were the secret this year.

Will I go back? I should. It's a great area with a lot of snowbirds and gulf-birds (if that's a word).

I'm hoping I get some comments on this post (good and bad) so that I can gauge whether I should try and return in 2015.

Thanks all!

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Comment by Sue Kroll on February 7, 2014 at 5:08pm

Hi, Jeff. I was there too, space 361. Were you the one with the Good Bad and Ugly ringtone? I have done this show for about 5 years now. I do not make scads of $, and this year was extremely hard for me due to arthritis in the knees. This year's director had it wrong with the way things were handled (ie, the unloading times on Thursday and the gates being locked before the time stated so you could not drive up to your booth in the a.m. Shawna (the past year's director) had us getting lunch, perks, etc. This year there was none. The crowds were substantially down this year. I heard the advertising money was slashed, and it truly showed. Will I apply next year? probably because I am not a quitter. But I will definitely think twice about it. (I am sure since I complained to the director about things, I will not be accepted next year.......)

Comment by Jeff Owen on February 5, 2014 at 11:16am

Re: The 70+, I sort of have to disagree - a little. There were lots of younger people (40's - 50's) at the show. Many of the older snowbirds are cutting back, but also, they are moving on and making room for younger snowbirds, who buy their old homes, gut them, and go shopping for the treasures to last their lifetime. About costs, I am fortunate to have a collectors' home to stay in while I am in the Palm Springs area, so that takes care of housing costs. My expenses are booth fees, fuel, and food. When I do have a $0 show I chalk it up to marketing (some call it a vacation). I did hand out about 10 business cards and actually talked to about 20 patrons during the 3-day show. If any 1 of those people were even thinking of purchasing my art in the future, then I did ok. I just never know when that 1 person will walk up to my booth and find that one sculpture they have been looking for - that's why I go. If I don't go, it's a missed "marketing" opportunity. In 2013 I did not apply for the show, because of low sales I had there in 2012. I believe I was wrong in not going (or even applying) to the 2013 show, I missed an opportunity to "show" the public what I have to offer.

Comment by Brian Billings on February 5, 2014 at 10:54am

I'm a painter so you can't exactly fit my stuff in a suitcase. So as soon as I hear the words snowbird or tourist, I stay away from that show! I agree with Steve, the retiree's are downsizing and not looking to buy new stuff, so I try to stay away from shows that attract people 70+ (which unfortunately is most AZ shows). Also, I won't return if I zero on a show.

Comment by Jeff Owen on February 5, 2014 at 10:12am
The person next to me was selling beautiful and large hand made glass arrangements, like a bouquet of abstract flowers. Each had its own pedestal and they were beautiful. They sold for between $900 and $6000. That said, the people who purchased did not blink at the prices.
Comment by steve appel on February 5, 2014 at 9:57am

Maybe I should not comment but thought i would throw my 2 cents in.  Two business associates told me a long time ago that if you do a show and do not make any money it was time to dump that show.  I applied to that show twice and yes was wait listed and the second time it took the promoter 6 months to return my show fee money.  There used to be a norm years ago if you do not do 10x's the entrance fee forget it.  Well i am sure the norm has come down a bit.  But  to go back next year I think you are wasting you time and money.  the other point that i have noticed is that the Palm springs area draws a lot  of snow birds and most of them are retired and sizing down in what they own.  I did  a show that same weekend a one dayer in phoenix area and the snowbirds said they were sizing down not up.

Comment by Joanne Daschel on February 4, 2014 at 11:59pm

Jeff, thanks for reviewing the show. If you don't mind saying, what kind of work was the person next to you selling?  Medium, price point, style. Thanks!

Comment by Lucia Friedericy on February 3, 2014 at 4:23pm

Hi Jeff--I did this show last year but did not re-apply this year. It is frustrating because it is pretty close to me and easy to do, but from talking to patrons last year, I get the feeling that many go to all the shows in the Cochella Valley but tend to finally spend at La Quinta which is in a few weeks. I did both last year and it was true--most of my sales at La Quinta were from people who saw me at Southwest. This year I didn't get in La Quinta, so I skipped Southwest too. Last year was strange also because it rained all day Sat, but Sun was beautiful and yet we still only just barely sold enough to cover expenses. It is a nice show with good artists, I can't figure out why it doesn't do better. That being said, inexpensive stuff around me did seem to sell pretty well.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on February 3, 2014 at 2:23pm

Jeff - thanks for the review.  Like you, I will be waiting for other comments on this show, I know Tamara Kelly was there.

We were waitlisted so hoping for more feedback to decide if we're applying again next year.

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