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

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a trunk sale in my home.  I had mentioned it here on AFI and Connie mentioned blogging about it so here I am.  Specifically Connie had suggested blogging trunk sale vs. a craft show.  This is my first blog here so try to be forgiving if I don't pull it off well.  <smile>

I have been doing my craft, making travertine tile coasters, trivets and plaques for 3 years this month.  I actually got into this coaster business somewhat accidentally.  I had taken a class to learn how to make coasters in December 2012 and ended up with 2 sets to give as gifts.  When delivering a set to my nail technician, one of her other clients asked whether I sell the coasters.  Up to that point, just a week or so after the class, it was nothing more than a new hobby and skill set.  But I said yes and the rest, they say, is history.  BTW are live in Houma, LA, about an hour out of New Orleans.

In the spring of 2013 I did some very small shows.  They were mostly local shows.  My first show was at a church.  It was a place to get my feet wet and test the waters.  I had NO idea what to expect.  Our tent was one we had already at our home.  We pieced together the rest of it---tables, table covers, backdrop, and so on---mostly using what we had already.  Surprisingly we enjoyed it and made a little money!  I say "we" because my husband and daughter make up my support team.

Dh works for food and the freedom to walk around and chat up the other artists and crafters once we are set up.  At least until time to tear down.  DD works is smart and works on commission.  <vbg>  They both help with set up and tear down.  I could not do shows without their help.  Daughter is actually pretty good at selling my work and even trying to upsell.

We have pretty much gotten a system down for setting up from a tarp covered by turf (outdoor shows) to the tent, pipe and drape system, table coverings, product placement in the booth, and so on.  We pretty much have our duties divided up on how many of us are needed for the particular task, the degree of difficulty, and how many of us are available for set up ... dh and me, or all three of us.

We have come a long way in better understanding what shows to pick for us and our products.  We have progressed to bigger shows in our area.  We are limited in how far we can travel due to owning a brick and mortar store in our town.  We have traveled up to about 2 hours one way for a show.  We have not done any of the nationally known shows that are presented and discussed here.  We have applied to a couple of more regionally or nationally known but have yet to make the first cut.

The things I have mentioned are to help anyone reading this to better understand where we started and where we are now.

The trunk show I did this year was actually my 2nd annual trunk show.  It is a one girl show, just me.  My trunk sales runs the Saturday of Black Friday weekend through the following Tuesday.  I set up in our home and it has run for a few hours each day.  Once it is set up it stays set up till it's over.  I have products in the living/dining room, den, and last year I had some set up in the enclosed patio.

I generally do not make up extra product for this event.  The only time I do is if some of my best sellers are sold out.  This event is meant to help move out product left over from the year.  I had one table with mark downs.  The rest was regular prices for craft shows.  Besides my travertine coasters, trivets, and plaques I had some home décor that I had painted.  This year was the first time I have offered the home décor.

I have our home decorated for Christmas.  This means that we get our tree on Thanksgiving day and get it and our home decorated by Friday evening.  I also have to get product set up as well.  It makes for a packed couple of days.  As far as time goes I am considering getting our tree on Wednesday if I continue to do this.  It will allow me a little breathing room as far as decorating.

Hours for the Trunk Sale

Saturday, 10:00-2:00

Sunday, 4:00-6:00

Monday & Tuesday, 5:00-8:00

On Sunday I work the hours around the New Orleans Saints because so many people watch the game.  This year they played at noon local time so that is why I set the hours later.  I had it in the evening on Monday and Tuesday to allow people to come by straight from work.

I usually serve light refreshments.  It is usually something that our family would eat in case it is not eaten up by the customers.  <smile> 

Advertisement has usually been email and Facebook announcements, and word of mouth.  Since I am doing this in my home I am not to the point yet of just inviting total strangers.  Now if a friend I've invited brings a friend of hers that I don't know that is okay.

This year I added an incentive to my invitations.  I told invitees that if they brought a friend they would get a free gift valued at $5.00.  It cost me about $1.00-$1,50 in materials to make it.  It is junior legal pad that I cover with double sided heavy card stock that is printed on both sides.  I can get the junior legal pads in bundles and the same for the cardstock from the scrapbooking dept. at Michaels or Hobby Lobby.  If invitees RSVP for a certain day and attend on that day they were offered a 10% discount.

Though I did allow RSVP's that garnered a discount for the customers, it was really set up as a come and go thing.  No appointment or RSVP required.

I did a little better last year than this year as far a $$.  The economy is harder hit this year more than last.  I believe that had something to do with it.  I made as much last year as I do in some shows but did not have to pay a booth fee, hotel, or meals out!  This year was not as good but still made $$ so I was happy.

I find it easier to set up because I don't have to travel.  I also don't have to tear down while tired.  I can save tearing down till Wednesday morning.  Due to having a retail store that we cannot leave at this time of year, it gives me the opportunity to have something similar to a show without the travel by myself.

In all honesty the shopping was sporadic, a few here or there.  I am considering condensing it down to one day.  I am thinking about having it on Saturday only next year like from 10:00 AM-4:00 PM.  Possibly I might have it on Sunday from noon to 5:00 PM.  I am also thinking that next year I may have it the first weekend of December.  It would allow them to get paid on December 1st, and for payroll on Friday.  I am thinking that by condensing it down to one day that it gives the impression of scarcity ... that they don't have the option to shop another day.  I feel like I could help me concentrate better on a better experience.

A friend of mine is having one on December 19.  She is a canvas artist.  I am probably going to attend and try to support her.  I also want to see if I can learn anything for next year's trunk sale.

If any of this is not clear or you have questions about things I tried or did, please feel free to ask or make comments.

Views: 1002

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on December 10, 2015 at 1:34am

Cindy it looks like you found a great idea with low over head costs.  Good for you.  It is all about being creative and not just in making your art.  It sounds like you are making this work for you. 

What kind of a store do you have?  Do you sell your work in your store, too?

Comment by Cindy Welch on December 10, 2015 at 9:36am

Thanks Jacki.  Our store sells oilfield related work wear such as fire retardant (FR) clothing and standard work wear, steel toe boots, western boots for men, women and children, etc.  I have a few of my items in a couple of glassed in corner cabinets at our front counter.  For those who are interested it is Joe's Boots of Houma.  We do not have a website at this time but here is our FB ... https://www.facebook.com/joesbootsofhouma/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

Comment by Christina L. Towell on December 10, 2015 at 9:37am

Whew...good job! This has given me an idea and perhaps I'll try a trunk show myself next year. Yes, I'm curious, too, about your brick and mortar store, what do you sell there? I think paring the trunk show down to one or possibly two days is a good idea and less stress for you. Thanks for sharing this with us, enjoyed reading it and getting to know more about you as well.

Comment by Barbara Pitorak Bloom on December 11, 2015 at 9:10am

I hand dye silk (shibori), and quickly learned that there is a completely different audience that attend trunk shows, and nicer juried art shows compared to who attends church craft shows.  I hate to say i wince when i hear the word craft show.... and usually run the other direction because my market is not those folks.  And my experience with church craft shows reveals that attendees are not the "art market 5%", nor are they educated on the work involved in any given artistic work.  They come to buy Aunt Gert's homemade jam, and cousin Bill's latest woodworking project.  Nothing wrong with that, but for me it feels so much better to be around people with an educated appreciation for art.  We do several trunk shows leading up to Christmas, and find it is very relaxed shopping with a festive hint of fun.  We love when other artists invite us into their studio show or trunk show... and it becomes a little boutique.  Simple eats, good music, perhaps a bottle of wine, and the patrons come. 

A couple thoughts on trunk shows from my experience:

  • Invite 1 or 2 other artists to join you  - making sure their work is complementary or that the work is different from each other.
  • Make up flyers to advertise, including a photo of the work to be displayed.
  • Hit social media relentlessly.  Advertise
  • Send an email blast to your mailing list, and encourage any other artists participating to do the same.
  • Have food - or do an artists pot luck  
  • Make a facebook event page - and post photos of your products there.  Invite everyone you can to that event.
  • Keep the hours short - and make it an annual exclusive event... Perhaps offer some of your items that you dont usually have available... this tells your patrons that you have set aside something special just for them.
  • Are you on etsy?  Advertise the event in etsy.
  • at the end of the sale take 10 minutes and evaluate the trunk show - what sold, who came, what didnt sell, how could you improve attendance, or does anything need to change?  

i think you discovered a great way of marketing your work.  Best wishes for continued success.

Comment by Cindy Welch on December 11, 2015 at 12:41pm

Barbara,

Thank you for the suggestions.  I will look at what will work for me.  I am glad you have found your target audience.  I am tweaking the shows I do too.  It is a process and I know for some events I just have to try them and see if they work for my product and personality.

I must say that what I do is more craft than art.  None of my work is kit style crafts, it's all original.  But it is work that even by price point is NOT high art.  My work sells for $28/set of coasters as an example and most of my work is between $10 and $50.  A very wise person on this forum has repeated to me several times, there is NOTHING WRONG with being a craftsperson.  I had it in my mind that it is a step down from art.  I am learning that it is NOT a step down but just different, that's all.

I am all for the 'art' experience if that is what one is into, whether as an artist or as a buyer.  However that is not 'me' as a person nor what I am talented with.  Don't get me wrong I get plenty of compliments on what I do ... I have heard it at almost every show.  However, it will never be the type thing that sells for $100 and up per item.  At least not any of the things I am doing now.

I am trying to find a source for some lessons I want to take in a particular field of art that is beautiful but rare.  Those pieces could sell for more, depending on how large it is.  Even though it is art, I believe I will remain a craftsperson at heart.

To get an idea of what I do, you can see my work at www.customcoastersbycindy.com and www.summerfieldchantilly.com

Thanks for your suggestions.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on December 15, 2015 at 9:13pm

Cindy, Barbara has some great ideas, too.  I think using her ideas will also help you to have an even better show.  So glad you shared this with us.  I hope many people give this a try next year.

Comment by Cindy Welch on December 16, 2015 at 8:59am

Yeah, there are several ideas I plan on "stealing"!  <smile>

Comment by Tina Pietsch on December 16, 2015 at 9:40pm
I attended a country quilt show hosted by a group of quilters, set up in a finished barn, garage and another small building. They had a great variety of quilted items. How did I learn of this sale? On craigslist! I mentioned it and they said a niece posted it for them. Gotta love free advertising, and they had enough people helping to watch that nothing left that wasn't paid for. Something I think you have to be cautious of these days.
Comment by Cindy Welch on December 17, 2015 at 9:01am

Tina, sounds like a fun event.

Comment by Sandra J. Atkins-Moran on December 28, 2015 at 8:18am

Re: artists v. craftsmen.  I am both a fine craftswoman (collage art clothing) and a painter (photorealism as well as intricate design). I believe than a fine artist must be a good craftsman and that a fine craftsman must have an artistic spirit to create beautiful work.   I take great pride in being part of a tradition that stretches back 4000 years.  Good work done well brings great joy to both the creator and the person who possesses the art.   Pat yourself on the back, Cindy.

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