Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I was thinking of Mexico to climb Chichen Itza, or Florida to visit friends and great art fairs, but the siren's song lured me to Philadelphia for the Buyers Market of American Craft, presented by the Rosen Group, at the Philadelphia Convention Center, February 16-18.
For nearly 30 years the BMAC has provided a professional, trade-only setting for buyers and the makers of fine craft to meet, producing the nation's pre-eminent wholesale marketplace.
Mark & John Schlabaugh's wood booth
I hadn't been to Philadelphia since a NOW Convention when Betty Friedan was its president so was totally unprepared for the beautiful skyline and eccentric mix of historic and modern buildings. Couple that with the first class Convention Center and the enticing Reading Terminal Market (a huge bustling farmers market) between my hotel and the show, and I knew I'd chosen the perfect destination for a fine art and craft show aficionado.
What I found:
Security is careful to check for credentials on the people who come through the doors as there was a big problem a few years ago when counterfeiters were discovered roaming the show floor with cameras, stealing ideas. As I was doing a video of the show floor on Monday I was suddenly surrounded by security and escorted off the floor! "Get that woman in the white blouse," was the cry. As a result I got to see the show office and meet Rebecca Mercado, the show director. Then I got credentialed for my camera.
If you are interested in being part of the show the Arts Business Institute, run by Carolyn Edlund, presents two days of seminars with authoritative speakers to get you ready. A part of this service is an opportunity to showcase your work to the buyers at the show for a critique. To me, the best part is the access to the show floor for the newcomers. As we well know "walking the show" is the best way to learn.
An order being placed at Eartha pottery, a common sight throughout the show
One of the people I wanted to meet was Stacey Miller who was on our recent podcast about wholesaling, doing her first show. I visited her on Saturday afternoon and then again on Monday. This show offers mentoring to first time exhibitors and in the meantime her mentor had been there, completely rearranged her booth and it had gone from "okay" to "obviously ready for business." It was a major upgrade. Kudos to the mentor.
Having been immersed in the retail side of fine art and craft events I didn't expect to see many people I knew but did meet folks who are regular visitors to AFI. So great to meet Michael and Victoria Terra, Lance and Amanda Taylor, Susan Crow, Kathy King, Laurie Eskenazi, Laurie Leonard, Stacey Miller, Susanne Lorraine, Paul Willsea, Diane Wright, Jennifer Merchant, Jeannette Payne, Deb Karash, Kathy King, Courtney Gillen ...
AFI members Michael and Victoria Terra
Dinner with my friends Joanna and Richard Rothbard of American Art Marketing was a great catch up time. Similarly, Saturday night with fiber artists Barbara Poole (B.Felt.com) and Ping Wu was stimulating and reminded me of why I miss not hanging out more with artists. Thanks for the fun!
Biggest thrill was to find Loretta Eby and Jeff Jackson who I haven't seen for years but who were our neighbors at art fairs for years. I was afraid they were selling insurance or working in IT, but no, they've just gone wholesale!
It was a pleasure to meet Wendy Rosen, the American crafts advocate; Carolyn Edlund, a solid crafts business writer; Bruce Baker, consultant for craft artisans, Ryan Jones (publisher) and Travis Manney (sales manager) of the Crafts Report.
The most frustrating thing about the show was that I couldn't buy anything as this is strictly a wholesale show. I surely could have spent my allowance and more, if only!
This busman's holiday suited me just fine.
(A photo essay about the show is coming soon)
YouTube video with interviews and an overview of the event:
See more photos from the show floor at this link: http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/photo-essay-buyers-ma...