Art Fair Insiders

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

Okay, so maybe I didn't rush to post this but the shows over anyway! I've done this show three previous times and you can see my last comprehensive report at:

What was different this time around? After reading my own previous posting not much has changed!

Buying energy: Way below previous years. Friday was mostly lookers for me but not so for the guy next to me. Remember Shields and Yarnell? They had a TV show in the late 70's with many other appearances in popular TV at the time. Long story short, Robert Shields is an artist who does many Arizona shows and he was selling some on Friday. I was as close to zero as I could get without actually being there ($25 sale for the day).

Saturday is typically the best selling day of this show. As expected it turned out to be a decent (not great) selling day. Robert was busy most of the day while I had fits and starts.

Sunday, fah-ged-a-boud-it, no buying energy at all. I could have worn balloons on my head, done a really bad mime act and still done better! Robert is a really nice guy he might have given me a few pointers if I asked!

What else may have effected sales? Well, ASU made it to the PAC 12 championship against Stanford and the game ended up on that weekend! Although there were lots of people on the street on Saturday not many were looking for art to take with them to the bleachers. In addition to that, someone reported that the local news was actually discouraging people from going to downtown Tempe because of the game! That didn't seem to quell the crowd but who knows?...

Weather: I was hoping that we'd at least break into the 60's, not so. All weekend long it stayed in the mid 50's. Not bad if you had a sunny spot but anything on Mill Avenue (runs north/south) gets limited sun as it makes its way across the sky. The weather last year was the exception and in 2011 the weather was pretty much the same as this year.

Most of the artists I spoke with reported sales that were off about 50% for them from previous shows here. I did about the same as last year but well above 2011, which, by-the-way, the weather was just as bad.

Anyone considering this show with a long drive? I'd suggest passing unless you've done it before and it works well for you.

What else was different? Usually this show has had control of a parking lot to the west of the show for artists and they only charged $25 for the weekend. This year it was reported that the City of Tempe took control of the lot and were charging $10 per day which is a little less than the going rate at other lots around the venue. The lot closest to my location was $12 a day.

Quality/Range of art: Seemed to be a little below the level of last fall's show. The range was very wide with consequent quality on either end of that range represented. There seemed to be a lot of stuff in the middle of the range.

Load-In/Out: It has usually gone fairly smoothly and on time. This year there seemed to be some mysterious hold up and the 9 o'clock vehicles didn't start to load in till 9:30 which pushed all the other time slots back quite a bit. Good news was, again for some unexplained reason, there was none of the usual frenetic rush and throng of vehicles coming in to set up at the same time. Things seemed to be calm and well organized and there was a lot of street space during set-up.

Oh, I almost forgot. Saturday night they hosted a wine/beer and h'orderves reception for the artists after the show! Apparently they've done it before but this is the first time they had it when I attended the show. They handed out tickets for redemption for bebidos and you queued for the food which they were pretty restrictive with. The fact that they controlled the handing out of food didn't bother me as I got enough to eat its just that they ended up with a lot left over at the end of the shindig and they had restricted the number of artists that they let in through an email reservation sent out early on. Perhaps they could have let a few more artists in to finish off the treats!

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Comment by steve appel on April 21, 2014 at 3:30pm

I know this post is late and i feel sorry for those that did not do well and yes i froze my butt of during the dec. show but this spring i moved into a booth area that was in the sun and i am glad i did.   Fri was soso, for me but i was happy with the results.  What made this show good for me was that my neighbor i think got sick so ended up with a corner.   The place was packed at least at my end of the show.  Sat. and Sun my booth was crowded most of the day.  I really did not go in with any great expectations but came out smelling like a rose.  I was in tucson several years ago when a fire broke out in a tent cause of a space heater.  So better safe than sorry.  It is called layering.   Sorry you all did not do that good but i was more impressed this year with the layout especially on 5th.   The east side of 5th it looked like they cut down on artists.   oh well come with layers in the fall. with our luck it will be 90 degrees

Comment by Christina L. Towell on December 28, 2013 at 9:53am

Interesting overview of the Tempe show, thanks for posting it!  

Comment by merritt m menefee-johnson on December 23, 2013 at 12:18pm

As an AZ festival artist...I took a break from applying and participating for a few years to this show after having a HORRIFIC LOSS spring show in 2011.  After scraping ice off my window and driving my 20 miles from home into the show...Friday and Saturday were decent days for me, surprisingly...Sunday was slow.  My first two days are opposite of my other artist festival comrades....

I was hoping for stellar sales, but had no expectations other than to at least cover my fees this time.  I was wait-listed and placed on 7th street near the huge Christmas tree.  I was SO RELIEVED that ASU had lost the a win may have created a fan frenzy, as it has happened more than once.   I was concerned about general safety and my fellow artists tents overnight.  For once, I had very nice neighbors and made a small profit.  I would consider doing Winter again, IF I CAN BE ACCEPTED (one never knows with Tempe)...but I'm terrified of the Spring show sales....and I live here.

#Connie- we are not allowed to have heaters as it is against the fire code marshall made artists take heaters back to their car...and HA...AZ artists don't even own raincoats, umbrellas, OR space heaters...we had an unusual cold snap that weekend.  We're back to wearing t-shirts.

parking is a real challenge down near ASU anymore...people don't want to pay $10-$20 to park and then buy art...they just browse...and buy ornaments.  I sold a lot of ornaments.  I tell my friends and collectors to park at the church parkinglot so they have a donation/ tax deduction for parking fee...a win/win.

Honestly...I had a man come into my tent, get right up too close to me, and take a picture of one of my nightlights, told me he and his family lived in China...and that he was opening an art store in China.  He said..."it's sometimes really hard to recreate artists work, but we can make it cheap in China."  As I'm trying to make a living, paying ahead of time and preparing for 6 months to create inventory OUT OF POCKET to be there...

Maybe sales are down because our creative work is now being offered at the dollar store...

Western/cowboy art is disappearing because it's not in vogue for the demographic in's a hip, modern area with college students and grad students.

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 19, 2013 at 9:16pm

What are we going to do about college football? It is ruining Saturdays at art fairs. How dare they extend this season with these championship games when there are still art fairs going on?

It sounds very cold to me to be doing shows in 50 degree temps, especially if you are in the shade all day. Are you allowed to have space heaters? We used to carry this little propane "barn heater" to our fall shows.

Got any idea why you think the sales were down, besides the game? or does that get most of the blame?

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the Western/cowboy art is disappearing?

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on December 18, 2013 at 6:56pm

This was our first year at Tempe and we were disappointed with sales.  Our best day for sales turned out to be Friday, Saturday morning started oaky for us but by about 1 PM the crowd seemed to only be there for the game.  Sounds like we didn't miss much at the party, we had signed up and then told our booth neighbors they could take our place. 

Comment by Brian Billings on December 18, 2013 at 4:33pm

I noticed a lot more contemporary and "tatoo style" art this year and much less traditional. Southwest and Cowboy art is quickly disappearing from this show, as it is in lots of other shows as well. This crowd typically averages between ages 30-60, younger than other AZ shows.

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