Art Fair Insiders

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

Weather was great for this fair.  Fairly steady crowd but not a huge number of lookers/buyers.  For me, a woodturner, the show was disappointing considering the distance traveled and the $300 set up fee.  I did about $260-280 in sales each day.  The one highlight was that I won a 2nd place ribbon and $150.  This was a first for me.

I attended three Chicago area shows this season...an experiment. Given the set up fees and amount of sales among the shows, I will not likely risk going to this area again.

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Comment by Don Hyson on September 19, 2017 at 5:59pm

Yes. I am relatively new to this business.  I started out doing art and craft shows.  I came to the conclusion that my work is not in a 'crafts' category...too high end for the patrons that attend craft shows.  I have some items that sell for $20-30; I have other items I've priced at $80-150.  Given the amount of work I've done, I don't think my pricing is out of line.  Some people 'love' wood; others don't like wood at all.  I think I was the only woodworker at the Rockford show.

Comment by Connie Mettler on September 19, 2017 at 5:33pm

Don, are you relatively new to this business? If so, have you visited some of the bigger name shows, smaller ones also? We were always looking for new shows and often when we had a weekend "off" we'd visit one nearby to see if it seemed like a fit for our work. It is also the perfect time to see what other people are doing in your category and watch the patrons. Which booths were busy and which weren't and then figure out why. 

Comment by Don Hyson on September 18, 2017 at 4:21pm

Thank you for clarifying the difference between the two shows, Connie.  I appreciate your comments.

Comment by Connie Mettler on September 18, 2017 at 1:03pm

That seems a correct conclusion, Don, but it isn't so. The Riverwalk show has a reputation for higher end work, artists travel farther to participate because the rewards are there. This is sort of like in Kansas City there is the Plaza Art Fair (nationally ranked with artists vying for spaces) and nearby and competing the UNPlaza show. Not as high a profile, the Plaza is the star, people save their time and money for the Plaza. The same thing sort of takes place in Madison (WI). The Fair around the Square is the draw. Sort of a competitor is the "off the square" event. People looking for the best work go for the big one. 

At Ann Arbor, where there 4 shows simultaneously, few people go to the entire show. If they're looking for the very best art they go to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. If they have time or other interests they'll visit the other shows. If though, as a shopper you want to not visit the "high end" show, you might start in a different section -- depends on your pocketbook and what kind of experience you want to have. There are sales at all of them, but the crowd changes from one to the next.

Does not mean these other events aren't just fine, just saying usually the better promoted event gets the most buyers.

Comment by Don Hyson on September 18, 2017 at 11:48am

Thank you for your comments Kathleen and Connie.  I've had better luck at smaller venues.  My work seems to sell better in Freeport and Rockford than in Chicago.  This was my first foray into the Chicago area...maybe I picked the wrong shows.  I tried to pick reasonably priced shows that had been going for a number of years.  What doesn't make sense to me is that the Naperville Riverwalk show is supposedly better than the Naperville Settlement show...seems like Naperville would be Naperville.

Comment by Connie Mettler on September 18, 2017 at 11:28am

There are several shows in Chicago that can probably post better income depending on your media, my favorites: Old Town Art Fair, 57th Street Art Fair, One of a Kind Show, Naperville Riverwalk, Highland Park, American Craft Exposition ...

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on September 18, 2017 at 11:16am

I've been reading your posts about the Chicago shows. I make jewelry and although I've never lost money at a Chicago show, I've never done more than break even. I think that I've thought that doing a Chicago show was sort of a mile marker, like making it "big time"! I've discovered that many times the smaller shows are better for me. Hope that you find the best places for your art going forward.

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