Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
OK!! So maybe it wasn't the perfect show. The perfect show would pay us to be there because of all the money artists generate by coming. That's not going to happen any time soon. However, there were so many things to like about this show that it is as close to being perfect, in 2014, as a show can get. I complain a lot that shows are not like they were in the 1980's and 90's. Most of you don't know what that means because you started doing shows after 2000.
The whole time during this show, I thought we had time warped back to the '90's and not just because sales were good. There was so much to like about this show, it should be the model for all shows. I think Cindy Lerick is the best director in the country and all shows, especially the mega shows, should hire Cindy as a consultant to fix their shows. More on that later.
The SLAF is a 3 day show. Setup starts at 11 AM on Friday. The show runs from 5 PM to 10 on Friday, 10-10 on Saturday, and 11-5 on Sunday. You have to register before you can start setting up. You can register Thursday evening or Friday morning. A lot of people registered Thursday and that turned out to be a good idea.
It pays to show up the day before, at this show, and get well rested for Friday because it can be hot and humid, in Clayton in September and setup can lead right into the show start. You want to be fresh for opening. Each 10' x 10' booth has 2 feet between each booth, and two feet behind for easy access to storage. This also creates a stress free, casual, environment that puts us in a really good mood.
Contrast that with Madison where they pack people in with no space between booths and a constant subtle tension the whole weekend. Setup and take down is really easy. You can drive right up to your booth. Booths are back to back in the middle and you park against the curb leaving the middle free for vehicles to come in.
Every section has its own entrance, so, there are no bottlenecks. Also, they leave it up to artists to work it out. So, there are no problems. We do this a lot and know what to do. I hate the shows that control setup. It seems that if we are allowed to manage things, setup takes 2 hours and there are no problems. If they control things, it takes all day to get in and out. Also, the police are extremely friendly and relaxed. At lot of shows, the police act like they are doing us a favor and treat us like the street people we really are.
The show opened at 5 PM and the serious buyers came out. There was nothing for the first hour, as people perused the show and then I started selling. I almost couldn't keep up with selling and wrapping, at the same time. I couldn't believe it. That hadn't happened since before 2000.
And then... we got a text message that they were closing the show at 7 PM. NOOOOOOO!!! There was a storm coming in. Unfortunately, it only lasted for 5 minutes and it was mostly huge gusts of wind. To be fair, the radar looked ominous and there was thunder and lightning.
The worst part missed us and why take a chance. So, the decision was the correct one. Three booths blew over. This is a show where every booth was properly weighted, so, it wasn't as if the booths that got destroyed were the $200 Costco specials. I know one booth was a Light Dome.
So, Friday ended 3 hours early. Too bad. Some of the veterans, who live in St Louis, mentioned that the Friday night people only come on Friday night. So, those sales were lost. The weather was good on Saturday and great on Sunday. My sales were good on Saturday, very steady, and great on Sunday, one after another. $200-$225 is my sweet spot.
Overall, my sales were very good, not great though. I don't want anyone congratulating me for selling like "gangbusters." It wasn't like that. However, if I had a full Friday night, I might have had a great show. The significant thing, here, is that everyone had a solid show. I know that some people had great 5 figure totals but most people had solid 4 figures. Most shows that I do have a few people who do great and the rest of us barely make expenses.
Here, everyone made money.
Why do I consider this show to be so great? It isn't about the money even though it was, by far, my best show and a lot of other artist's best show financially. There are so many things that make this show the best show in the country. We can start with the fact that they limit the number of artists to 150 and that 1 in 10 get in. This insures that the quality of the work is good and that, in turn, brings out the real buyers.
There are no reproductions allowed. Everything must be made by the artist and they have quality control people who walk the show to make sure this is adhered to. I didn't see one S on a Stick go by me. Do you know how frustrating that is when it seems that everyone who walks by me has SOS? Broad Ripple had 5 SOS sellers. I will never go back to that show again. My customers do not buy SOS. It really feels good knowing that everyone who comes into my booth or even passes by, is a potential customer.
Another thing that makes this show great is that people thanked me for coming and hope that I come back next year. Do you hear that Cindy? This only happens at one other show and that is Smoky River in Salina, KS. The people who attend this show love it. They are proud of the fact that the SLAF attracts really good artists and they have a lot of quality choices.
Another reason why this show is so successful is because it hasn't forgotten what has made shows so good. It's still about the artists and the art. There are no beer hawkers, no stilt walkers, no loud music, no miles of unhealthy food booths, etc. There are some sponsor booths but they are limited. Cindy told me they turned away plenty of sponsors who didn't fit the image. Think about that one.
Parking is free and plentiful on the street. I did see parking for $5. Contrast with the money grubbers in some cities who charge $15 and up per day. And, the show is free. I guess when you don't have to pay for name brand music and other crap that passes for entertainment, you don't have to charge a gate fee and you get plenty of sponsors knocking on your door to underwrite your show because when art is the main focus, the show attracts people who contribute to the economy, people who may buy their products.
Any show director reading this should read this two or three times. It's the thing that makes this show great and is the same thing that is killing your show.
There are many other things that make this show great that I left out like the Artists Showcase, where you send a piece and it is on display in a gallery setting weeks before the show with directions to your booth. And, the great staff that works tirelessly to make the experience great, like Yehuda, who has to deal with all of us, making sure all the paperwork gets in on time. I want to publicly thank Yehuda for his time and effort.
Earlier, I mentioned that Cindy Lerick was the best show director in the country. She is ultimately responsible for all the policies that I mentioned that makes this show great. She's the one who keeps the quality of the art at a high level. She's the one who makes sure there are not too many sponsor booths and their placement. She's the one who sets the tone for this show, the one who makes this the classy event that it is.
I talked to her at length because I knew I was going to write this review and I wanted to know some things. And, btw, she will take the time to talk to any artist, not just at the show, but, during the year. Unlike other directors, she is available and accessible. I asked one simple question: Does the SLAF make money or do they lose money? After all, some shows, and we all know who they are, charge a gate fee, have up to 450 artists with a substantial booth fee, sponsors who pay to have the prime spots and they still lose money. Cindy tells me they make money.
I guess spending all that money to be a mega show doesn't pay off. I believe if you really want to be successful then go back to the roots of your show and make the art and the artists your focus. I think you should hire Cindy to consult with you to make that happen. She's proven she has the winning formula. While you're at it, bring me in, also. We can work as a team. I've done this long enough and have the training to help you make your show a success, like it once was.