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

Thanks and Giving Artist Market - Pleasant Ridge, MI

This was my first real show and I didn't really know what to expect.  I was attracted to it because it's close to home, the booth fee was only $30, which included one 6' table and two chairs and I was able to bring along another table of my own.  The show hours were also appealing, 6 to 9 on Friday evening and 10 to 4 on Saturday.  So, not a huge investment, great location, affluent area...all good, right?

So, on Friday evening they had appetizers and wine for show-goers and artists alike with a ticket price of $5.oo which got you in free on Saturday should you decide to come back.  This all sounded great but I only sold one $20 item to this "social hour" crowd.  But I figured the weather was kind of crappy that night and things would be much better on Saturday when it was reported to be sunny and not as cold.

Okay, got there early...didn't bring along my knitting or a book as I was still optimistic and assumed I'd be too busy for any of that...ha!  My neighbor in the booth next to mine, who was also a fiber artist, (we were all kind of lumped together) brought her knitting along as she was a more seasoned craft fair participant and must have had an inkling about how this show would play out.

I had several friends come to visit,some that I hadn't seen in many years and a couple of them bought some things and then it did start to pick up a little with a few sales here and there but it certainly wasn't as well-attended, overall,as I had hoped it would be. There were some other competing art & craft fairs going on in the area the same week-end but my complaint, which I shared with the promoters in my feedback summary, was that I don't think they spent any money on advertising.  Sure, they put up a few signs in the immediate area and had a FB page but I never say any mention in local publications or other media.

My suggestion was that instead of spending money on eats and wine (they even fed us on Saturday) which was nice but I'd be glad to bring my own lunch next year if they could do a little better on shining a light on the event itself.  Overall, it was a good learning experience and I made about $200 but for a fledgling show (only it's fifth year), they've got some tweaking to do before they can truly be a success.

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Comment by Jane Savage on November 23, 2015 at 10:16am

Christina,

Sounds like my second show.....My friend and I are artists and had 2 booths next to one another. The show was about the same as the one you mentioned. Over 2 days....an evening and then a 10-4 the following day. It was a craft show but not juried (Mistake #1 I feel). When looking around, the show wasn't particularly one that would attract the type of customers for our works. ( One booth had turkeys made out of corks and chicken wire. ) :)  We have since been more selective about which shows we wish to sign up for. The best part of any event is the vendors and people you meet. We were able to help a couple of vendors with info about upcoming shows in the area that they might sign up for. Look forward to reading these blogs for hints, tips and contacts. I am sticking to entering shows in New England as there are many listed that seem like the venues I am looking for....Thanks for the info you post....Warm Regards, Jane

Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 23, 2015 at 11:59am

Thanks, Jane...yes, this wasn't juried either and that can be iffy, I know.  You're right about the networking and the experience in general...I made some new friends, contacts and relationships, truly a good thing...plus, I've got my first show under my belt now and I'm ready for anything...ha,ha.

Comment by Tina Pietsch on November 24, 2015 at 9:45pm
It's all part of the learning curve. I sew purses, quilted table runners, and am now working with machine embroidery for totes and handbags. So not perhaps fine art, but nonetheless made with quality materials and solid construction. And yet there is the shopper asking me for my pattern or wanting to take pics. 30 certainly not a bad try it price; one summer I passed on an event as they had raised their fee, instead doing a two day event nearby. Big mistake, locals at this one, not tourists, and they were not spending. This summer I paid the higher fee and had one of my best shows. Hang in there....you have survived your first show!
Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 25, 2015 at 8:02am

Tina, thank you for your insight and support...I really appreciate it.  I have some things scattered about town in various venues, so I'm hoping I'll make a little money from that and then it's on to next year and new adventures in marketing...thanks again and Happy Holidays!

Comment by Connie Mettler on November 25, 2015 at 9:46am

Good for you, Tina! You did it, got out and bit the bullet. If this is a 5th year show they should have their stuff together by now, hardly a fledgling. As Tina P. said, the fee will often tell you what to expect from the show organizers. For $30 there isn't a lot of $$ to use for advertising -- but if it is a grassroots group, there is a lot of guerrilla marketing that can be done. This is your neighborhood, you know your customer, the demographics for success are there -- you have a LOT of retail experience. Any chance you want to cozy up to these organizers and work with them to improve all the deficits? 

Are you attending the Detroit Handmade market, which I believe is coming up soon?

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on November 25, 2015 at 9:37pm

Each show you do is a learning experience. You now know more than you did about shows a month ago. After your next show, you will have even more knowledge of what to look for and what to expect. You have gotten your feet wet and you did have some sales. As you have probably seen on these posts many people zero out. You didn't do that. Here's to your next show.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 27, 2015 at 8:31am

Thanks, Jacki!  Yes, overall a pretty good experience for my first time, which is exactly what I thought it would be.  Looking forward to next time, hopefully it'll just get better from here on out. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 27, 2015 at 10:09am

Thanks, Connie...well, you raise an interesting thought, perhaps I should get involved...I'll think about it.  It was a wonderful experience and I'll definitely give it another shot next year.  Are you thinking about the Detroit Urban Craft Fair?  Yes, I plan to go again this year...it's held at the Masonic Temple and it's fabulous!  I attended the Ridge Fine Art & Craft show last Saturday and that's one I'll surely try to get into next year as well.  It's right next door, which is pretty amazing and they have a quite a following, the parking lot was full all day.  I found several creatively unique gifts that I may, or may not, give to family members this Holiday Season.  Of course, The Rust Belt Market is an ongoing Art & Craft bazaar where I'm selling not only my baby things but also my women's hats and handbags now, as well.  I certainly couldn't be happier in my new surroundings...

Comment by Connie Mettler on November 30, 2015 at 9:49am

Good, Tina! Beats having all that inventory tied up in other areas getting dusty. I hope to get to that market one of these days.

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