Art Fair Insiders

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

What's the Worst Art Fair Mistake you've made?

It's taken me a few weeks to get over my worst mistake ever.  Here's the story:

I spent all week thinking maybe I should cancel out of the Fall Festival of the Arts in Redwing that weekend.  The weather was looking cold, I had my parents coming into town on Sunday, I needed to spend time with my 16 year old and my husband was out of town.  I have never in 23 years of doing shows canceled out of a show so I felt super guilty about the prospect.  On Wednesday I actually went to website and was about to call when I decided to check the weather one more time and saw it was supposed to be in the 60's on Sunday so 50's on Saturday would be worth enduring.  Then I was able to work out some other scheduling glitches and I felt good about going forward with the show.  

Saturday morning I was up at 5:00 am and driving the hour or so drive down to Redwing.  Finally as I was rolling into town I suddenly thought... "Did I ever get an email about this show?"  Suddenly my heart was racing... "Did I actually apply to this show?!"  The app is out in the middle of the summer and I've always worried I would miss it.  It was on Zapp so even as I was driving into town I was trying to go to my Zapp account and scrolling.... NO!  It wasn't on there!  AHH!!!!  I am so used to doing this show the last 10 or so years I was just on auto pilot.  They don't usually tell you your booth ahead of time so I didn't even have a reason to look that up before I left.

Sure enough my name was not on the list and I had totally not applied!  I waited an hour for the volunteers to show and talked to them about the possibility of picking up a no-show space but eventually it was evident that even if there was an empty space they wouldn't let me have it (past award winner or not- they were new organizers and didn't know who the heck I was) I totally understood - it's really not a good precedent to set.  

I drove home and tried to enjoy the beautiful fall leaves but mostly just "yelled" at myself for being so stupid!  Lets hope that is the last and only time I ever do that!  I will be applying super early next year!  All in all though- it could have been way worse and hey- I was actually thinking about canceling.  And on Sunday I had a great day with my 16 year old!

So has anyone else every done this?  Any other terrible mistake stories to share? Love to hear them (just so I know I'm not the only one!)

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Comment by Layl McDill on November 16, 2016 at 12:45pm

Marc- man that's tough! But at least you were stocked up for the next show right?  Hope to run into you some time out there (annual New Year's Party at Kyles?).

Comment by Marc Lamm on November 16, 2016 at 12:42pm

Hi Layl. I was at the Red Wing Show. Sorry I missed you. Fun show. Nice people. Last summer, after four years applying, I got into the Ann Arbor - The Original Show. Exciting. Heard there's a million people go there. Artists sell out the first day. Highest per artist sales of any show. Well, I was ready. Worked to build up inventory, found a cheap Airbnb place four blocks away with parking. I was ready. Got there Wed. 95 degrees. Heard that is normal so I didn't care. Finished loading in at 8, went to the airbnb place. It was in a basement. The bed had stains on the foam pad and no sheets, at least not on the bed. Dirty ones were on the floor. Called the guy. "What do you expect for the price," he said. I paid a fortune for a motel 4 miles away. The next three days it was between 95 and 100 with very high humidity. On Friday morning, radio and TV stations were saying, "Stay out of the heat. Don't go out this weekend." They didn't. In four very long days, I estimate there were no more than 1000 people past my booth and I sold NOTHING. I spent $1400 to do this show. I've had bad shows before but never so disappointed. Fortunately, my next show was the best I've ever had.

Comment by Barry Shandler on November 6, 2016 at 9:18pm

I once did a show in Ontario Canada. I had a good bit of cash.  The waitress would not accept it as payment for the bill.  I demanded to see the manager. He explained that my cash was not Canadian currency but Canadian Tire Co  ( similar to Wal- Mart)  bonus bucks.

Comment by Layl McDill on November 2, 2016 at 5:42pm

I've always feared messing up my hotels.  My worst experience with hotels was way back when online booking was just starting up and I booked online and somehow lost the info.  So when I got to Des Moines I was driving all over trying to figure out where I was staying.  I got lost over and over (this was pre-smart phone days) and l finally just decided to stop at the next hotel I saw which was a very expensive hotel with only one room left - their most expensive room!  I learned my lesson about online booking the hard way!

It's great to hear everyone's stories- I guess if anything it always makes a good story in the end!

Comment by Christine Lush-Rodriguez on November 2, 2016 at 2:08pm

About 6 years ago I did the show in Annapolis, When I went to check into my hotel, they informed me that my reservations were for the weekend before. They wondered where I was, and were nice enough to give me a room for free.

Then last spring, I forgot that I had already booked a room for a show so I booked a second room. Luckily I caught in with time to cancel the extra room. UGH! I need a secretary to keep it all straight...

Comment by Savina Francisco on October 29, 2016 at 9:43pm
I'm still so embarrassed about this, even 2 years later. I was juries into the Kayenta Arts Festival here in Utah 2 years ago - it was my very first show. I'd found out about it and applied on the last day possible, which was only 2 months ahead of the show. I'm a very new artist - at that time I'd only been an artist for 3 years, so I didn't have much inventory (in fact, practically nothing). When it came time for the show, I only had 7 pieces finished and a few prints. My booth was practically empty. It was so humiliating. I've never reapplied because I don't want to remind the judges of what a terrible booth I had (and because I'd bet I wouldn't get accepted again). Lesson learned: don't apply for a show if you're not prepared. Ugh. When I look at pictures of my booth I cringe!
Comment by Barry Bernstein on October 25, 2016 at 4:14pm

Connie, that is the only reason why I don't do Charlevoix. I only did it a few times and always had to truck my work down the hill. Too much work for a two day show let alone a one day event.

Comment by Connie Mettler on October 25, 2016 at 2:47pm

Norm and I fought over whether or not to go to Cherry Creek when he was invited. Like you, Barry, I said "no way" driving all that way for a first time show. Norm would say, "but look how hard Bill Charney is working to get this show going." My reply: "that's his job. He's just doing a job. He is getting paid to do that." Probably one of the few times I said NO. But he decided to go (he had some other errands on the way) and I consented to fly out to meet him for the show. 

It was excellent. We did not sell out. I believe earned about $6000. (Not our best selling first year show. A few years later did over $12,000 at the first Arts, Beats & Eats). But you're right about the other part. We were juried in/reinvited for five years. Better sales each year. Then Bill left and we fell into the hit or miss getting in. 

My mistake story: I never make mistakes. Right? But for many years we got into the Charlevoix Waterfront Show, mid-August, in Charlevoix, MI. It was always a winner for us and we got to pretend we were on vacation just like the affluent people who attended the show staying in their second homes or on their boats. 

Setting up was hard work because half the show was down a hill and up again. After a few years seniority got us a space on the sidewalk at the top. Then one year we showed up to set up (a 4-5 hour drive away) and our space was down the hill again. Norm was not happy. He talked to the committee, then got back into the van and drove home again, taking me with him. That never happened again, I can assure you. Was that a mistake? 

How many people in this business have shown up at a show on the wrong weekend? A week early or a week late usually. I believe I know several. Ah, I see that story already reported above. You aren't alone, Chris. Sorry to hear about your error, Layl!

Comment by Barry Bernstein on October 25, 2016 at 1:48pm

If we were giving a prize for the worst mistake in Art Fair history, I would win it hands down. There is nothing that comes close to this. I was invited to the first Cherry Creek Arts Festival and turned it down. I think we were guaranteed in for the first 3 years. I may be mistaken about that.  I remember saying "1600 miles for a first year show? I think not." That first year was the best year of any year in any art fair. Everyone sold everything they brought. 10K, 20K, 30K, it didn't matter how much you brought it was gone by the end of the three day event. It was the year that solidified the reputation of Cherry Creek being the best show in the country. Based on how hard it is to get in, even after 20 years, that reputation still holds true among artists.

Comment by Joel Lockridge on October 24, 2016 at 11:48pm

That's great! I travel all over the place. My biggest fear for a show is to head to the WRONG one on the wrong weekend!

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