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8869134475?profile=originalPicture imperfect
Taking aim at stealthy intellectual property theft at art & craft shows

by Gregory Strachov

This article was published in the current issue of Sunshine Artist magazine and is reprinted here with the permission of the publisher, Nate Shelton, and the author Gregory Strachov. Photos by Gregory Strachov.

In recent years, many professionals on the art & craft show circuit have noticed a conspicuous activity that poses a threat to the copyright of their intellectual property. Specifically, the issue involves professional photographers who are appearing at some of the nation’s most-noted art festivals — and we’re not speaking of shutterbugs who juried in.

Rather, these photographers carry expensive, sophisticated cameras — often two — as they stand in front of exhibitors’ booths. They boast  lenses that require no tripod to stabilize and high-resolution digital equipment that can pick up the detail of an artist’s signature from 100 feet away. And they usually pretend to focus on the ground or the sky while keeping a firm eye on the display. When the artist is not looking, though, or when the crowd in the booth thins down, these still-life paparazzi quickly photograph as much work as possible.

When confronted, they are often aggressive and use some variation of the excuse that, “This is a public place and a free country.” Unfortunately for them and fortunately for art & craft professionals, copyright laws only make an exception for works in the public domain, which comes into play once the creator has been dead for 70 years. It’s true that artists’ booths are in a public place, but the property within these booths is still private intellectual property that cannot be photographed without the express permission of the author.

Furthermore, no gallery or museum permits photographs to be taken of the work on display in those venues, although they too are public places. This is copyright law 101 — and an issue that every artist and craftsperson should be aware of before they head to their next show.
Spy games
8869134867?profile=originalArtists in general know that copying someone’s work is unethical, and the public generally knows this as well. Moreover, courts have found photographs of paintings to be copyright-infringing derivatives of the original. The only reason an artist would permit a stranger to photograph his or her work is for known reasons that the artist alone would determine as allowable. If the artist verbally expresses or posts a sign stating that his or her work must not be photographed, there should be no debate about it.

Nonetheless, stealth photographers who appear at the shows are insistent, pervasive and relentless. When confronted, they are often argumentative and offensive, because they know that an artist’s hands are tied as he or she attempts to remain professional and in good standing with the festival committee. No artist wants to be blacklisted by an event, and some shows would prefer to get rid of one troublemaker than consider alternatives. The photographers understand the show environment very well and use this to their advantage.

There are also “artists” who market their work in completely different venues than ours. For them, it is cost effective to go to a prominent, national show, walk into a booth filled with work that is selected by an educated jury and photograph it. They can easily gather multiple market-proven and edited ideas that they then bring to their studio, copy and send to markets that we never see. At the end of the day, they know that our venue does not provide the kind of income needed to afford an $85,000 legal fee to attempt to bring justice to the case.

Photographs are taken in a variety of ways at shows, too.   One common method involves asking if one can photograph a child in front of a booth while using a wide-angle le8869134663?profile=originalns setting. Another method is to set a digital camera to record video as the photographer does a panoramic sweep through the booth, and this can also be done with a cell phone. Most photographers use sophisticated equipment, though — some even use wand scanners that can immediately send images to an external party.

Take a recent encounter I had at a major Northern show. An Asian show-goer was photographing booth after booth. Her focus was on ceramics as well as on displays of blown glass. I went to follow her with my camcorder in an effort to document her activity. When I got to within 50 feet of her, though, she turned as if she’d been alerted to my presence in the crowd. I noted she was wearing earphones similar to a security agent.

As soon as she spotted me, she disappeared between two booths and was gone. When I turned, I saw two Asian men standing right behind me. They had the same kind of earphone and mouthpiece as the female, with wires leading to a small box attached to their belts. These certainly were no ordinary tourists. And it is worth nothing that China has shown a repeated interest in the reproduction or cloning industry, and that interest has been cited by the media as being a major concern of both the tech and fashion industries. It is should also be a concern to artists.

At another national, well-known show, in Denver, a man appeared and photographed all of the booths in the painting category. I approached him to ask what kind of cameras he was using. He responded as though he had a severe mental impairment and spoke as if he could only utter some sounds.

The following year, the same man appeared near my booth. He had the same two cameras and field jacket that he wore the year before. I said hello, and he replied in clear, spoken English. I went back into my display to ask him why he was photographing. But before I could say a word, I saw that he had a wand that he used to scan my painting with a methodical sweep. I asked him to stop. He smiled, said that it was “already sent” and quickly left.

Now, I always have “Do Not Photograph” signs in my booth. So I looked for someone who worked with security, but they were nowhere to be found. I felt helpless because my better judgment told me to apply serious restraint and avoid an incident that might damage my reputation or disrupt the show. But the fact is — and as many other artists and craftspeople can attest — these were not isolated incidents.
Solving the problem
I have spoken to various show directors about this problem, and the reactions fill the spectrum. On the proactive side, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival made an 8869134894?profile=originalinformative sign two years ago to warn the public that the art on display should not be photographed. The show committee announced that these signs could be used by artists on a voluntary basis. Two members of the committee also made every effort to inform the exhibitors of the availability of this sign.

Regardless, too many artists knew nothing about it, and the lack of uniformity diluted the intent as well as enforcement. When photographers were spotted at the show — and there was one who stayed most of the afternoon, posing as an “official photographer” — nothing that I know of was done to stop him.

Even more frustrating, several show directors I’ve spoken with did not seem interested in the matter. Many of them simply wanted to ignore the issue primarily because they knew very little of copyright law and did not want to make an error by enforcing laws they knew nothing about. Some said that the matter is up to each individual artist; however, this does not offer enforcement, since the artist alone cannot be effective in getting the message across without creating a disturbance. Other directors expressed interest but felt that their boards would not agree with taking any action.

Therefore, it appears that many show directors need to be informed about copyright laws regarding the copying and photographing of artwork. They should also have a plan implemented to help safeguard their exhibitors’ intellectual property in the same way that they have plans for medical emergencies and other human needs. Finally, committees need to know that they have a legal right and perhaps an obligation to have some plan in effect.

8869135893?profile=originalIn short, they need to understand that having intellectual property in a public space does not make it part of the public domain, and that acting as if it does is unacceptable behavior with potential legal consequences.

The solution might be as simple as a commitment on the part of shows to inform their public, not only by posting rules but providing an education regarding this matter. This could be done very gently in the show literature as an ethical and moral understanding. Rules posted by the show would also arm exhibitors with an official stated fact if a confrontation occurs. And since promoters gain revenue from exhibitors, it would benefit show-runners’ relationship with the arts & crafts community if they elected to promote and enforce rules that inform the public about copyright law and the artist’s right to protect their private intellectual property.

Furthermore, by having these rules well publicized, the public might act as police simply by the default of peer pressure. The public does not get hurt, the artists will benefit and the show will reap goodwill benefits.

In the worst-case scenario, there should be some security personnel available to enforce the rules by escorting violators from an event or permit the artist to file a legal complaint. Most artists that I have spoken to are very aware of this situation and are angry, but they feel helpless because frequently no action is taken on the part of show committees to effectively address this problem. And make no mistake: Photographing art without permission is theft!

Everyone knows how to act at weddings and how to dress for a funeral. Yet the general public knows little about our industry. The few films that depict Van Gogh or Pollock ar8869136089?profile=originale hardly the representation needed to inform the public about fine arts and crafts and the dedicated individuals who create them.

However, the public can be educated about behavior that would be appropriate and respectful at a show. They can and should be better exposed to the seriousness and commitment that creators have for their work, in that they devote their lives and travel thousands of miles for the opportunity to make a living with their artistry. What these artists certainly did not agree to, though, is to provide an opportunity for photographers who are assigned to steal their work for the various markets that would benefit at the artist’s expense.

We, as working artists and craftspeople, should all be hopeful that our community and industry will agree to address this problem, and leave this sort of intellectual property theft on the cutting room floor — where it belongs.

Click on this link to print out the "NO Photography" sign pictured at the top of this article: DoNotPhotograph.pdf

Gregory Strachov has been a full-time working painter for over 30 years, during which time he has received numerous industry honors and awards. He can be reached at

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I just finished adding brakes to my 5x8 utility trailer, which turned out to be surprisingly easy to do. So I thought I would post a report:

I have been thinking for years that having brakes on my trailer might be a prudent investment, even though they are not required in the states that I use the trailer in. My trailer is a 5x8 utility trailer that weighs fully loaded 2200 lbs. I recently purchased a new tow vehicle that has an integral trailer brake controller with an anti-sway feature. So I thought I should investigate how hard it would be to add brakes to my trailer.

I found a 10”drum brake kit for sale at Northern Tool for $249, and used a coupon to reduce that to $229 plus tax. No shipping charge, since I picked it up at their store.

I discovered that if you have ever repacked your trailer bearings yourself, you have enough mechanical ability to install brakes on your trailer. All I had to do was pull off the old hub, attach a backing plate with the brakes already built in using 4 bolts that attach to a mounting plate that was already on my trailer, slide on the drum (which functions as the new hub), attach it they same way I would have attached the old hub, and the brakes were installed. They even came pre-greased with new bearings. All I had to do then was to attach wires, route them to the front, cut off the old flat 4 pole connector and attach the old wires and my new wires to a new 7 pole connector. That was it! I adjusted them and tested them, and they work.

One warning: resist the temptation to figure out how the brakes work while installing them. I could not resist, and partially disassembled one of them. That did not help my understanding a bit, and it took me some time to reassemble the brakes they way they were intended to be assembled. Instead, research it on the internet! The way they work is amazingly clever and non-obvious.

I figure that this minor effort and cost significantly increased my life expectancy as well as the life expectancy of my wife, not to mention innocent bystanders …

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Attending the Krasl Art Fair in St. Joseph, MI, last weekend I gave myself a photo assignment: find booths where the artists are not using standardized setups such as Pro Panels and see if I can find some that were designed by the exhibitors. Frankly I had trouble getting good shots -- way too many people in these booths :)

8871500283?profile=originalWoodworker Peter Czuk's, booth. He made these interchangeable panels that adapt easily to different sites. I wouldn't like this if there was a storm, but Peter's been in the business a long time and I'm sure he would set them up differently if the weather forecast wasn't so benign. I like also that he can repaint them a new color any time and change the look.

8871885058?profile=original8871885680?profile=originalJohn Gutoskey's mixed media assemblages -- he has the mesh panels on the outside but has used the velcro to add panels that really set off his work. The side walls are white and the accent walls are red.


8871885472?profile=originalJewelry booth of Kara Aubin and Daniel Juzwiak -- I know jewelers are always looking for good ways to display. What I liked about this booth was the different levels of the cases and the shadow boxes on the walls. It felt like a boutique that you wanted to explore.

8871342683?profile=originalFiber work by Ana Petercic - Another case where you could wander around and explore the different parts of her booth. Also, if you notice the gold panels they complement the work, plus have a function with the poles run through the tabs to display the hand painted work.

8871885882?profile=original8871885501?profile=originalWooden orbs from Daniel Keith - nothing manufactured here. Obviously Daniel has an advantage here since he is a fine woodworker, these are all finely milled wood panels. Nice presentation, isn't it?

8871886657?profile=originalLou Michaels' mixed media work. I'm not pleased with this photo -- but basically Lou had this very tall booth with about five pieces of work. It is a standard tent but he had these huge pieces of white fabric covering each wall and doing his best to make the booth look like a gallery. It really worked and the presentation was excellent, no Pro Panels, just plain clean walls.  (The work is bronzes on a shelf attached to vintage photos that replicated the bronzes)

8871886076?profile=original8871886269?profile=originalMetalworking by Jon Michael Route - a totally handmade booth, hollow core doors and pedestals that he made -- again paintable for when he wants to change his look.

8871886853?profile=original8871886296?profile=originalDigital art by Joy Wallace. Joy told me that many years ago both she and her husband were traveling in one van to shows with two bodies of work so she devised this set up. She bought canvas, gessoed it and then painted it in complementary colors for her work. The panels just roll up and are easy to store and carry. It was very pretty. I have done this also when we needed an extra wall for a special display.

8871886684?profile=originalDonald Shelton - metals: clearly a blacksmith and woodworker, Donald made these panels which look great with his work from galvanized metal with weathered wood framing. A most unusual booth with the perfect look for his work.

8871887261?profile=originalLeroy Bayerl - Wood: all wood display that Leroy built to showcase his work, note all the levels, which lead the eye from piece to piece


Ceramics by Glynnis Lessing - really pretty display that showcases the work beautifully. All hand made at very little expense. They bought the galvanized pedestals at a nursery and figured that if they didn't make it at the art fairs they would have some nice pots for the garden! Don't you love that picture window (that has an actual screen it it!) that accentuates the view of Lake Michigan?


Candra Boggs - Mixed Media 2D: This work which is created on wood, looked pretty cool in the all wood paneled booth -- not something you'd want to haul around the country, as it would be pretty heavy, but it was a nice presentation.

8871887489?profile=originalBrian Jensen paintings - lightweight plywood panels set in metal frames. Brian said the metal frames are really easy and inexpensive. He designed them and had a welder put them together. He can paint the panels to work with his color palette.

8871887292?profile=originalBut I am admitting that this display on Pro Panels was quite nice - photography by Chris Dahlquist


Do you have a booth that you have made yourself? I'd love to see it. Post it below.


Do you "like" this post? Let's move it around the web and share this good work with others. Click on the "like" button below.



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On Purchasing a Fair/Festival Tent

Well, I finally bit the bullet.  I bought a tent so I can go to art fairs and festivals.  It was a pretty penny, to be sure, but I plan on having it for many many years, and I got a lot of features that I find appealing.  Thought I'd share what I went through to make it happen...


There have been a lot of different things said about different types of tents, and everyone has their favorite brand.  There is a huge variety of different kinds of tents to choose from when you're thinking about making a purchase, and there are a lot of people out there willing to tell you exactly why you should choose their preference over another.


Being in the "clueless boat", I had no idea where to start.  There are a couple of great blogs that I started following, but Michelle Sholund's Quick Craft Artists Tips You Need to Know seemed to be the most interesting and helpful.  I also joined a forum, Art Fair Insiders, and found a helpful group of posters that were very willing to assist newbies as long as I took the time to explore the site for answers to my questions that had already been given numerous times.  I had an unfortunate run-in with a flamer who tried to stir up trouble, but the forum proved her completely out of character and really stepped up to make me feel welcome.  I wrote about it in my blog post, here.



So today, I just had to put my money where my mouth is and dive in.  I bought a 10x10 TrimLine tent from  I'm very happy with my choice.  I had lots of alternatives--Light Domes, Craft Huts, EZ-Ups...  I decided that I was going to potentially have a lot of weight mounted to the walls of the tent with gridwalls, etc, so I opted to go for something a bit sturdier than an EZ-Up which can sometimes be a bit flimsy (I've read).  That, ultimately, was the motivating factor behind my decision to purchase a TrimLine tent instead of other brands.


Ease of assembly was not an issue for me--I was a Boy Scout for a while (albeit a short while) and I'm quite capable of putting up tents.  And as  long as I'm organized, I'm pretty sure the tent assembly process is not going to be a burden.  I'd watched the videos.  I'm feeling pretty good about it.  So that meant the ease of assembly for an EZ-Up tent was a non-issue, and their main selling point was moot on me.


It really boiled down to whether a Light Dome was my choice or a TrimLine.  And the TrimLine simply seemed sturdier and had more features that I could choose.  I got more structural stability, a semi-translucent roof so I don't have to worry about lighting too much, and some awnings that are really going to be nice.  And I was able to purchase it at a height of 8 feet, not the standard 7 feet.


Yes, I'm sure the Light Dome has all these options, too, but I would have had to ask in a phone call how much they cost, and I didn't want to have to debate things with a salesperson.  Instead, I simply called up TrimLine in Florida (a far cry from San Diego--shipping is going to kill me), talked with Luke and told him everything I wanted, and it was done.  Luke was nice, affable, and extremely helpful.  He offered some great advice, and walked me through the whole thing.


Ultimately, I don't anticipate that there is much price difference between the Light Dome and the TrimLine when you add everything up. And both are in Florida, so I couldn't save money on shipping either way...


So.  It's done.  I'm sure there are lots of people that may say, "You should have done this or that or the other thing," but I refuse to have buyer's remorse!  I have been planning the layout of my tent for a long long time, and I'm really excited about having the opportunity to practice packing everything into my little Nissan Cube and assembling it all, then disassembling and packing it all away again...  I have been contemplating display mechanisms for a while and fleshing out the "look" that I want.  I still have a lot of exploring that I want to do (mirrors, hanging display forms, battery-powered lighting) but I'm not worried.  I feel like I have a starting point to work with now.  And that makes it less conceptual and more real.  Buying the tent has provided some limitations which I can work within, which in the end actually become "de-limitations" because they allow me to move forward.


Whew!  Now to start exploring local farmer's markets and street fairs--the next steps toward actually getting myself out there, and then on to bigger and better art festivals.


Time to get back to the studio!  Live Life with Relish!

Image from

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Here is the long and short of it--the show royally sucked--I was off by sixty per cent--and aloha, can you say "sabbatical", cause I am taking one next year, and probably will never come back.


OK, here is some real meat.  God bless Ruth and her review, lets just say it left you wanting to know much more.

I will give you the "much more."


First a little history.

I have done this show for 23 years since 1988.  Was in the State Street show six years and have been in the Guild's Show, always on Main Street, the rest of the years.

The merchants of Ann Arbor control what goes on at all of the shows.  They are a greedy bunch, who don't really care much a bout the arts, as they care about lining their pockets and getting rid of surplus goods.

The shows started, eons ago, as a way to attract people into Ann Arbor in the middle of summer when most of the college kids are gone.  They figured if they held an "Art Fair" it would attract a crowd--plus--and this is really the key--it would give them a venue to move excess goods.  They would set up booths right out on Liberty and State Street, right beside the artists, as is well-evidenced at the State Street Show.

You notice the shows all end on Saturday.  No Sunday biz.  Why is that?  Because the merchants are not open to ,

make money, so they won't let the artists make money.

Of course the "party line from the merchants" goes something like this.  We gotta close the shows on Saturday, so the cleanup crews can get AA back in shape for Monday.  I say "BS."

On any home football weekend in AA they have just as big of crowds as they have for the art shows.  Yet they manage to cleanup on Sunday so things are good for Monday.  Bottom line, if the merchants can't make any money, then they won't let the artists make money.


History lesson 2.

For years, for most of us pros, who make a living at this biz, this was the biggie of the summer.  You had four days to sell, you had crowds with moola to spend.  We are talking pre-recession, before 2006.  Many of us made $15K-$25K in those times.  Some artists could live off their sales from the show for six months.

Those days are gone.

Then the merchants did an ironic money squeeze in about 2006, just as the recession started here.  They made it so that booth fees doubled.  Booths that were under $500 were now almost $800.  Double booths and 10'x17' booths were nearly $1500.

Plainly said folks, the show costs are not worth it.


Let us talk about "NOW"


Here are the facts plain and simple why this business model does not work for 90 per cent of us.( Of course there are going to still be success stories out there, but very few.  And for every one success, I can show you fifty others who barely made expenses).

You have more than 2000 booths at all of the shows, including the scab booths, chasing a paltry turnout of buyers with disposable income.  Too many booths, too little buyers.  A very thin slice for most of us.  The model is broke folks.


Michigan's economy is not going to turn around for years to come.  Disposable Income is almost an artifact in this state.

The only real remedy to help us make money is this: Reduce the number of exhibitors by one-third in all the juried shows.  Make it a three-day show, drop Wednesday.  End the show at an earlier time.  Reduce the booth fees.  They are excessively high for the return on your dollar.

I can tell you right now, nobody is going to do any of the things I suggested.

The merchants want more.  They would love to push the Guild Show right off Main Street so that they can run their own show--with of course, ala State Street, their booths right out there next to the art.

Let us now talk expenses, or should we say investments, that the artist takes on to do this show.


Most of us, who have to travel to AA and stay in lodgings have a minimum of $1500-$2000 in operating expenses.

Booth fees--$750 for a 10'x10'   10'x17' are $1300  Double booths are double the 10'x10'

Auto costs: A minimum of a full tank of gas each way--so about $200-$275

Auto parking: $100

Lodging: A minimum of $50-$125 per night times six: $300-$750

Food: At least $50 per day or higher.

Sales;  Ah, thought we ever get around to that.

Average exhibitor this year barely made expenses or a little over.  In the past many people have had an"OK" show by doing around $5-6K.  Other pros have cleared $8K or better.  I am talking recession-era now.

Sorry folks, but that almost $2K in operating expenses could be better invested for a return on money, rather than AA.



Excessive heat way beyond the norm (It is always hot at AA) but this went beyond that.

People were fainting in their booths on Thursday with 100-degree temps.  Crowds were almost non-existent. At times, you could have thrown a bowling ball and a cinder block across the aisle and not hit anybody.

When the crowds did show, they bought very little and very mediocre.  Low end sales.  I was off by 60 per cent over last year.

This is show in a death spiral.  Things will get worse.


Take your money and invest it elsewhere.  Ann Arbor is a bad gamble.

That is all I am saying.  Aloha, Nels.  You can fool me once, but you won't fool me twice.


Postscript:  I am in the Guild show on Main Street.  They run a professional operation.  Plenty of help for the artists, water, food , booth-sitters.  They do a creditable job.

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Moderation and Censorship

Life gets lonely in the studio, or sitting here at the glowing screen of my computer. This website has become a place where like-minded people can hang out, learn some new skills, make some new friends, pick up some tips and make plans for the future. There is a constant inflow of new people and information. But I've got a problem today and am asking for your input.

It has repeatedly been brought to my attention that some members' remarks make others uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that they leave the site and/or won't participate in the discussions any more. We have banned some members from the site and others have not been banned even though they appear to be breaking our "code of conduct." Most of the time, in the middle of some of the "rants", there are some excellent ideas and things to think about. Not always. In order to have an interesting community it is necessary to talk about things besides what kind of tent to buy and should I take credit cards. Right?

I do not read everything that appears on the site and often don't know if something is happening unless I see lots of comments on a topic. I do not want to moderate other adults' conversations. I want to keep this site alive and full of helpful information and entertaining discussion and I want you here.

The question is about censorship and moderation. 

What is true censorship?

  1. Moderation that expects everyone to "be nice" and is enforced, or
  2. a site where members can say what they want and effectively silence others.

And, just in case you think this is something new here, visit this link from a year ago:

I am interested in your comments. Comment on the site or here.

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Before I do any reviews about the shows I went to this weekend, I had to talk about this.

Over the past several years, there have been discussions here about buy/sell, franchises and mass production works all showing up at art festivals.  After finding out that the stone ducks were made of parts supplied from China, one member was threatened by a lawyer.  I guess she couldn't be sued for libel because if it is true, it may not be nice but it isn't libelous.  (that must be a word, spellcheck didn't underline it).

It was discouraging last year to see the ducks at Art at the Glen, one of the better shows in the Chicagoland area.  I mentioned them last year when discussing the show.  Then, I had to see them again yesterday at the Promenade of Art in Arlington Hts, IL.  Today I went to The Art Center's Festival of Fine Craft, one of my favorite shows of all and there they were again. 

Under normal circumstances, this can happen.  The recycled yard art people were at the Festival of Fine Craft and Evanston's Fountain Square on the same weekend last year but that was a little different.   What was the difference?  They are run by two different promoters.

Both the shows I attended this weekend were produced by the same promoter.  I realize that there are different standards for different shows, ie, bead stringers are allowed at some shows but at others the jeweler must make their own beads, but it is fairly standard that the work that is shown was made by the person in the booth and not a shop full of elves pulling parts out of boxes from China and putting them together.   Maybe the stone birds are franchised, I didn't pay attention to the names on the booths at either show because I like to pretend I didn't see them.  If they were the same family, there has been discussion on another website about the allowability of a creative 'team' splitting up and doing two shows the same weekend.  That is also generally frowned upon.  If two people made the items, they are both supposed to be at the same show unless the show accepts a medical excuse if one becomes sick.  (and not all will do that).  But to have the same promoter accepting the exact same 'art' at two festivals at the same time, to put it semi-bluntly smells.

It seriously irritates me that the art festival playing field is so heavily tilted toward the promoter.  I know there are a lot of expenses, time and aggravation that goes into a festival but the bottom  line is that a promoter can find a way to make money on a festival whereas an artist cannot and to ask artists to live up to certain requirements  and then not follow them as the promoter, is kind of shoddy in my opinion.  In this short summer season, about the only good thing that has happened is the price of gas has not sky-rocketed as feared.  So far there has been a repeat of last summer's hot temperatures and/or rain.   The economy is still tough and there have not been a lot of rave reports from artists.  More and more of my favorite artists are not able to make a sustainable living and are not doing shows.  

How could it get worse?  The watch people could be running around buying double booths at art shows.  Oh wait, they were in Salt Lake City, Utah  AND Evanston, Il this weekend.  I guess it can get worse.

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While I am happily typing away this morn I wanted to address one of my pet peeves about street shows right now.

The escalation of booth fees at shows on all levels is really getting out of hand--especially in this economy.

I just did my app for the Milwaukee Lakefront show on Zapp this morn.  They want $500 for the booth fee.  I have done this show many times over the years and it is not the show it used to be for sales.  The economy there is not good and sales are off.  When I last did it three years ago I barely cleared $2K in sales for a show in the old days where I could do $5-8K.  So now they want $500 for a booth which will account for 25%  of my total.  And, this does not include gas, hotel, food and the cost of replenishing goods sold.  Sorry folks this is not a good business plan for any sole proprietor.

I know, show directors are going to say,"Well we gotta pay for security,police, porta-potties so we need that kind of money.  BS.  We are also paying for nice large salaries that these show directors now make.

How do they expect most artists to make a living with these kind of fees and our meager returns on sales.  Most people are off by 50-40% on their grosses over past years because of our economy which is worst we have seen in our lifetimes.

These fees kill the chances of most newcomers to get in our biz.  Too high of cost for too little of return.  Only the well-off and most successful will thrive.  These fees will kill the street shows.

Naples, an already over-saturated market has routine booth fees of nearly $500 and most artists are not gettong a five-fold return on their money.  It is a recipe for failure.

Love to hear some feedback from those 6000 lurkers of you out there.  

I mean doesn't this rankle your feathers a bit.  How can you sit back there blase and think well that is just the way the biz is.  Guess what, we are all on the way to the Poorhouse with no salvation showing on the horizon.  Show fees can not continue to escalate like this in these times.  Nobody wins.

OK now I am off to play golf, with luck I will do better on the links than I did on the streets last weekend.  Come on folks, chime in and stop being lurkers.

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No Paragon Shows for me

I would just like to say I will never enter another Paragon sponsored show again.

I am new to the Art Show business and have had only three shows to date. Paragon put on a show in Sarasota last November that I was invited to attend. I found the show producers rude and not at all accommodating for the Artists.

We were supposed to have a free breakfast, coffee and bagels, fresh fruit etc. The vendor didn't show up until the show began at 10 am, no time for coffee and even those who were lucky enough to have someone watch their booth, the coffee was ok, but the bagels and fresh fruit turned out to be packaged cinnamon rolls, that was it, yuck. The only "pay for" offerings were beverages, no other food at all. The only restaurants were blocks away.

Parking was blocks away and a lot of the other artists parked in spots considered "for patron only" even though they were behind a building close to the tents but not being used. If you got caught you were rudely asked to move, even when the spots were clearly not being used by anyone else.

The portable potties were in one location only, at the opposite end of the street.

I saw al least two buy and re-sell vendors, one across from me that used a blow torch to "melt" wax off stone, a ploy to attract attention. This vendor receives stone statues in bulk from African workshops then re-sells them as his own. He even got into the "Fort Myers" show, how does that happen?

I was at the show by myself, no one to help set up or take down, I am a 58 year old female. When we started break down Sunday evening about an hour into it the show producer, on bicycle smoking a cigarette, rode up to me and asked " Why is it taking you so long to pack up?" I was the last to leave and even though there were plenty of show people around no one offered to help. The producer and his crew watched me load the last piece into my trailer and drive away.

I heard the producer bad mouthing Howard Allen shows, my second show in Venice was produced by Howard Allen and I will say it was much better organized and the people were 100% more friendly. Never again Paragon!


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Square Horror Story

I am in my second year of art fairs and have been using square since the beginning. This weekend in Chicago at the Highland Park Fine Art and Craft show I had a disaster happen. I had a $510 sale which looked like any good sale I've ever had. The payment authorized. The signature line was given,  the people signed, they declined to give me an email and they accepted a paper receipt. I pressed the "no thanks " for the receipt page and continue, and we were done. Off they went with the art. That evening I went thru my square payment activity and the sale wasn't there. I thought maybe because it was after a certain hour on a Sunday. I called square to ask about it, as it never appeared, and the reality is the horrifying part. The sale was voided apparently during the authorization process. Square said it could be an incoming call, a text or questionable wifi which may have faded for a brief moment and that's all it takes. The authorizing process failed but you won't know that until long after your buyer has left. I didn't do a good job on my end getting the buyers info which I should have done as a part of doing good business, but I didn't get contact info and now I have no recourse. There is no way to tell when a payment is voided. Square does not notify you. This is a truly sickening live and learn experience . I hope this information saves someone else a lost sale in the future. 

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I scored a "1" at the Krasl Jury

Quite a few artists posted about their Krasl jury scores on some of the Facebook art show forums. I even received two phone calls from artists asking me to check to see if something was wrong with their images.

So many artists posted about receiving one or even two of the lowest possible score of a "1" out of "7" that it makes me wonder if the people doing the jurying knows what that means, or what instructions were given by the director.

Years ago I was interviewing a show director about how their jurying worked. I was told that any scores of 1 were required to be justified by the jurors. The reason for that was because a score of 1 meant that the artist was so unqualified that they shouldn't even be applying to a juried show, probably knowing nothing of the medium they were applying in.

Larry Berman

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This is no hoax, exaggeration, fit of hysterics, or roll of doldrums.


"Dan and I are thinking of quitting the Art Fair Biz."


No, some might exclaim!

But is this the same woman who was so creatively and emotionaly transcendent after Amdur's Promenade of Arts?

"Yup", I answer.

(I can ask and answer my own questions. Pretty advanced for my age, hey?)

Well, what happened this past month, you wonder?

"It all hit."

What? Tornadoes, tsunamis, bankruptcy, the plague, creative block, depression, menopause.......well, tell us?

"Every single thing that this blog has warned me about.............and MORE."

Come on. You're just feeling sorry for yourserlf. What actually happened?

"I foresaw the death of Art."

Linda, you are so melodramatic....who can take you seriously anymore.

"Seriously. I started a blog once before about Art Fairs being Dinosaurs and no one listened. Now I have more proof. And I don't want proof.....I WANT Art Fairs to be the Big Daddies that they used to be. "

Is this the start of a whine?

"Nope. Just what I saw and heard. Honest!"

Okay. Dish.

"Here are some sad but true things that happened this month:

1) I paid out $1,200 in fees, travel and food and made (drum roll) $979. We were rained out of two of the four days of Shows. At one Fair the directors ran around hysterically shouting "There are 75 mph winds headed this way folks. You're on your own. I advise everyone to leave." We scrabbled to load the custom uphostered jewelry cases, the jewelry, curtains, rug, etc. home. (Oh, BTW, the carts that they said would be available to help us load/unload MAGICALLY disappeared right before the storm. A fellow artist who drove down with two tents and a lot of creativity lost everything. And ONE hour later the sun came out!!!

2) Both Art Fairs  were jury entry only and had had excellent reputations. Last year we met wonderful artists who became our friends and we sold well there. This year both fairs were BUY/ SELL.  Two booths down from me a man opened boxes from India with whatever DOG you wanted to wear on your T-shirt and rawhide bones to match.

Across fom him, was an Hispanic couple selling a store of cheap earrings, bracelets and clothes along with purses, purses, purses. The couple to our right were busy all day selling combs that we watched him take out of shipping boxes when she ran low after fixing girls hair in tricky ways all day.

The couple on the left were already selling Haloween decorations which he admitted they buy at a local store and go all over the state to sell...every day of the week.


As I walked up and down the path of both these country Art Fairs I knew I would never be back. 


Art was gone from Watertown's Riverfest and Lake Geneva's Venetian Festival. I do not see it returning in this economy. RIP

3) I was talking to a wealthy friend of mine about getting out of this business. He said he remembers that five years ago everyone went to buy some art at The Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwaukee. Now he can't remember the last time he heard any of his friends talking about their latest aquistion. "Funny." he said.

4) I'm exhausted trying to sell to people who want value for the least they can pay. I am not a flea market. I am not the local ATM machine.


There were so many empty booth spaces at both events.


I don't think I'm alone in contemplating quitting. I think many artists already have quit.






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Yes, I just received a surprising email that said my jury totals weren't high enough for me to be asked to attend a show. It also said: "We had almost 300 applicants this year and the competition was tough. We choose jurors who have expertise in craft and design but as all artists know, you never know what they're going to like from year to year."

I'm not here to whine. That's not me.

Let's find a creative solution for these Jurors.

1) I am sure they want our entrance fees. Do this by dividing "Jewelry" into the categories it deserves.

After all, photography and oil painting both result in images to hang on the wall, albeit by differrent routes.


Why should Metal Clay and Wire Work, although they may both hang around the neck, be lumped into ONE category????

2) Any good executive could find more space to meet the need.

3) Saying that you can only have "x" amount of jewelry artisans in a show is not a natural law of the unniverse. Change.

4) Find Jurors more in tune with the new processes of jewelry.


Any Jurors out there?

Fight my logic....make my day....LOL



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I have been corresponding with a director at a large, well-respected art festival (she would prefer to remain anonymous, noone wants a reputation as being out to "get" artists) regarding Mistura, the watch people.  She has received numerous questions about them and their veracity as artists but has been unable to come up with concrete facts.  

Their website doesn't give enough info and they claim to be the artists.   I know they were at the art festival in Lake Forest, IL today.  Were they at your festival?  Do you have any information about them proving that this company has a factory where the watches are produced?

This director will notify a lot of other festivals and perhaps this vendor will finally sell at the appropriate venues and a real artist can use their booth space at an art festival.  

Thanks for your help.

One small step for artists.............


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Each year subscribers to Sunshine Artist send in ballots from the magazine ranking their 10 top-selling shows. On these ballots they indicate their gross income for each of the shows. No other influence is used to determine the winning shows. The staff simply applies the math to determine each event's score. This year nearly 1000 shows received votes and the top 200 with the highest scores were ranked.

This is entirely a subscriber based ranking. So, if you're not a subscriber you had no input. The results of every poll, no matter what the subject matter, are open to discussion and questioning, nonetheless you can't argue with the facts:

  • subscribers only vote
  • gross income only is used for the rankings

Congratulations to these Top 20 shows:

  1. St. James Court Art Show, Louisville, KY
  2. Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, State College, PA
  3. Art on the Square, Belleville, IL
  4. Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver, CO
  5. Port Clinton Arts Festival, Highland Park, IL
  6. Bayou City Arts Festival Memorial Park, Houston, TX
  7. Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Coconut Grove, FL
  8. One of a Kind Show and Sale, Chicago, IL
  9. Naples National Art Festival, Naples, FL
  10. La Quinta Arts Festival, La Quinta, FL
  11. Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, Ann Arbor, MI
  12. Art in the Glen, Glenview, IL
  13. Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville, FL
  14. Bayou City Art Festival Downtown, Houston, TX
  15. Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival Balloon Fiesta Show, Albuquerque, NM
  16. Sausalito Art Festival, Sausalito, CA
  17. Plaza Art Fair, Kansas City, MO
  18. Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, Winter Park, FL
  19. Allentown Art Festival, Buffalo, NY
  20. Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, St. Joseph, MI
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Properly weighting or tying down a tent

Like many artists, my biggest show fear is WIND.  Give me rain over wind any day...

So with wind and bad weather being such a huge concern, can someone please explain or diagram the proper way to secure a tent?  Often we can't stake into the ground, so when you are only able to attach weights, what is best?

I have 8 weights (homemade pvc ones) and they each are about 40lbs.  Some people have told me the weights need to hang, and not rest on the ground, but then others will say the exact opposite...  So what is the answer?  How do you do it?

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Two gutterballs in a row...

I am licking my wounds right now and avoiding my credit card statements after the last two shows where I didn't even make expenses.  Two shows which by all research should have been at least paycheck shows, and I'm all out of Xanax.  What is an artist to do?

Setauket, a little village of wonderful demographics right next door to my hometown on Long Island, sorely disappointed in many ways, especially with the nighttime booth robberies.  But I'll address that in another blogpost.  I did well as a rookie art show artist here in 2008, and expected (perhaps delusionally, in retrospect) a sort of prodigal-daughter-returns-home kind of show.  It was a dogwalk.  There are some shows that urge me to take up pet portraiture again, because THAT would have sold.  The shoes were here.  The weather was perfect.  The wallets stayed firmly out of sight.  And every breed in the AKC was here too.  I had some maddening nibbles from two interior designers, who of course  did not have their business cards on them, one said she had a client on the Gold Coast who"didn't want a landscape, but something beachy" and my giant conch "was perfect".  Now I know how guys feel with a case of blue balls. 

Well, ok, I thought, this whole trip so far has been one good show, one bad show.  Onto Montclair, NJ.  Let's go wrangle this monster RV over the Cross Bronx Expressway and the GW into the well-heeled Jersey suburbs.


Did I say my prayers Friday night?  Did I neglect St. Luke, the patron saint of artists?  Should I have conducted a small animal sacrifice? Should I have bought far more cheap wine and cigarettes to numb the increasing panic as the hours ticked down to five o' clock Sunday?

Oy vey. (I can say this, I just back from Long Island and stuffed myself on good bagels and lox)

Howard and Rose did everything right.  They advertised prolifically, and are wonderful people to boot.  The show is in a great area.  The weather again cooperated.  But the dogwalkers ruled the day.  Munks described in a recent post the vacancy in peoples' eyes, the absence of hope.  My booth buddy neighbor said, "These people could walk off a cliff."  I was not the only artist who didn't make expenses.  I'm stymied, and more than a bit anxious.  And I don't like the cheap red wine I'm drinking.  I'm second guessing my decisions made earlier this year (completely sober, thank you) on where in New England to show my very New England beachy work.  If it's true that it takes three years for an audience at a particular show to accept that you are here for real as an artist, well then, I'm screwed, because I'm basically unemployable at anything else.

So how do YOU prop yourself up after falling face first?

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This week’s blog is focusing primarily on how I price my polymer clay sculptures for sale. It isn’t an exact science and I’ve played around a lot with it. I have found that pricing my art fairly and within market value range is extraordinarily important.  

I really shot myself in the foot when I first started out. I waaaay over priced something to someone who very easily could have been a long-term client. Big mistake. My problem?? Was ignorance.

It was right around the time that lots of local people were seeing my work and I was tinkering with the idea of charging more than just the cost of materials. A lady saw my work and she wanted a logo made. {She owned a business of her own} She explained what she was looking for, we brainstormed and she seemed to love my ideas. She wanted to own the rights to the artwork and put it on all of her apparel. She asked me for a price, and I told her I would think about it and get back to her. Sounds pretty good so far doesn’t it?

On the drive home I spoke with my husband and told him of the opportunity. He being married to me thought as highly of my work as I did and saw first-hand how much effort went into them. He saw how many sketches I did before I ever put paint on the brush. He told me that I should look online and see what people charge for exclusive rights and logos. Still sounds pretty ok right?

This is where it goes wonky. I wish I could blame it on bad fish or temporary insanity, but nope. It was me being me. Darn it. I looked up logos and exclusivity.  What I found was an agency in New York who had created logos such as Nike and Abercrombie and Fitch. So those logos cost somewhere in the range of 4,000.00 to 10,000.00. I was blown away. I showed my husband and did a little dance around the living room. {Seriously… can I just blame the fish?} When I spoke to this lady again, I brought up what I had seen. Keep in mind I never looked past that one page. I never once checked out local artists, or even stopped to consider the fact that the lady I was speaking to was not any different than you or me. She was an everyday lady trying to be in business for herself, doing what she was good at. I sometimes wish future me could go back in time and slap past me.

{Deep breath…} I told her what I had found, and what ‘people were paying’. Not once did I actually give her a quote. But by bringing it up, the damage had been done, absolute and irrevocable damage. Fish anyone?

I have since tried desperately to regain them as a client even offering ‘freebees’ but to no avail. I had stepped outside of the trust circle. I had to accept what I had done and learn from it. It was a tough lesson and completely avoidable, had I done more research before biting off more than I could chew.

Ok. So, here is what I have so far, and so far it seems to be working for me. I am borrowing several bits and pieces that I have learned from others and adding a few changes that I have found that work very well for me. I want to share this with you in the hopes that you are able to figure out a pricing system that not only works for you, but also for your clients. They can be hard to come by. So we, as artists, want to take very VERY good care of them. We want to be able to explain why our art costs what it does. Just in case we are asked. At some point…they always ask. {insert wink}


EXPENSE    {we must count our expenses. This is okay. Don’t feel bad, because this is a business and people do understand and even expect it} 

Let’s say my monthly expenses are 1000.00, I divide that by 4{weeks}=250.00 I divide that number by/40{hours} giving me a base rate 6.25 per hour. {This number will vary depending on your expenses.} If your monthly expenses are higher and this is your primary source of income than you will have to adjust your expense rate. If you are just beginning to build your business and you have help or additional income to help you with your expenses then you can be a little more lenient. Your base cost should be this number and you should build the remainder of your piece’s cost from there

  • {rent, electricity, gas, etc, I add my etsy/paypal/advertising fees into this amount }


Materials {always pay attention to what you use and how much. This will give you a great idea of what it takes to produce your art, and in my case helps me to avoid wasting}             

  • {clay, glaze, metals if you’re making jewelry, paints, resin…etc, glass eyes I buy or resin eyes I make.

One standard sized sculpted figure typically takes me 1 1/3 block of Sculpey Premo clay. These are between 2.77-3.00 each {depending on where you are-I don’t account for sales or promotional costs because I can’t guarantee I will always be able to get them at that price} if I gloss the piece, I add .30, if I paint it or do detail work with the paint I add .30 {Remember this is just materials and not time.}

  • Sometimes I will add little ‘trinkets’ to my pieces, for example miniature items or charms. These are things that I will make in batches. For example, it’s Valentine’s Day, and I have made a bunch of chocolate covered strawberries to add to figures. I can make a batch of 25 strawberries from one block of clay. So I will divide 3.00/25= so each strawberry will cost me .12 to make. The chocolate costs me .04, the headpin for the strawberry charm costs me .03 and the lobster clasp for the charm costs me .11  do you guys see where I’m going with this?

Let’s review what we have so far…

Say that I make a standard sized figure {glossed and painted} with an accompanying charm

4.00 + .30 + .30 + .30 = 4.90 {just materials} add that to your ‘expense’ 4.90 + 6.25 = 11.15

Let’s say that minimum wage is 12.50 an hour. I want to pay myself at least 12.50 an hour for labor. Add this to the amount above:

11.15 +12.50=23.65 Multiply this amount x2 and that will give you the wholesale price of 47.30 this is the base amount I must charge to by the skin of my teeth justify all other expenditures.

Theoretically for retail price it is the wholesale x2 so 47.30 x 2= 94.60

Ooooh… but here is where it gets a little sticky, because the more time it takes you to create a piece the greater its value, right? Not necessarily. I have not yet been able to charge what I am calculating retail to cost to be. I auctioned a piece off, and got close. In the meantime, wholesale lets me stay in business. Replenish what I have used and hopefully put money back into my business.

When I am trying to figure out what to charge, ultimately I have to take into account….’factors’ {seriously, that should be a four-letter word.} “What is a factor?” These are those annoying little things that effect what we can charge vs. what we want to charge.

Some examples of factors would be: Competition {take a look around you… see what some artists are getting for their work. I’m not referring to Picasso or Dhali… but you and me. The little guy with the great big dreams {encouraging look of…encouragement} Find work that is similar to yours. If you are using an internet based storefront, browse around and check out the other stores.

Don’t look skin deep. Really get in there and see if they are making sales. There may be one person charging 150.00 or higher for one piece but if they are only selling 1-2 pieces a month. This is not the way to go, for me at least. On the other end of the scale, there may be an artist selling pieces for 10.50 and has 100 sales in a year. Still not going to cut it, I mean great for them =) but I personally want this to be a monetarily successful business, so I want to find out what people are willing to pay for what I have on a consistent basis.

I’ve looked all over at everyone I can find… I’ve checked out as many online stores/sales that I can seek out who carry anything even similar to what I have. I write to the artists. It is probably one of the most educational and simple things I can do. Most of them are extremely helpful. Only twice have I run into artists who are so fiercely protective of their methods they’d sooner plaster their eyes closed than to give me information. But no worries, life goes on. I fell in love with the majority of the artistic community and I want to pay it forward.

Back to competition. I’m not going lie… there are a couple of people out there who can’t have their stuff up for 5 minutes before someone snatches it.. I’ve seen customers have bidding wars over their art... I’m talking 3-400.00 for one piece! This is my goal…seriously.

I know it sounds terrible but on more than one occasion I have just been beside myself wondering ‘why aren’t these same people wanting my stuff and paying that price? My art is just as nice as theirs.’ The answer is semi-simple. These people have worked their tushies off and in the process gained a fan-base {nothing but respect for these amazing artists} we’ll get into that later… back to factors.

Buyer’s Remorse… that’s an icky one. The more money a person pays for something, the higher their expectations, as they should be.  If they buy something from me and this ‘something’ shows up at their door in anything less than perfect condition, then the buyer will lose faith in me and I will have lost that customer for life. You don’t want this to happen. Word of mouth can go a long way, especially in the art world.

No worries!! Your talent and beautiful artwork captured their attention. So much so, they gave you money for it and that is a wonderful thing! Now it is time to capture their hearts. Because this is an area that we can really shine!  There are so many little touches you can give your packages for very little expense, and this can mean the difference between one time buyer and repeat customer!! There are lots of factors that can apply. It is up to you to figure out which ones will impact you/your business the most. In the long run, it will be the little things that keep people coming back. Be sure that you don't skimp on the little things. Take the time to talk to people who have questions. You never know who you are talking with or what connections they have. If you make a great impression, chances are they will get your name out there. That is exactly what you want. 

When I package my pieces, I use gift boxes. I get them in bulk either from the dollar store, or great shipping stuff in bulk by-the-way. I decorate my gift boxes, something simple like glitter-tape that color coordinates with my business cards, a ribbon or seasonal fun from the dollar store… I love the dollar store… I add fun tissue paper and a personal hand-written note, and ‘TA-DA!’ It feels like a real treat when they are opening their packages. What a nice surprise for them! I like opening gifts..Don’t you?

I don’t add the cost of the shipping materials to the purchase price of the piece itself. I add it into the shipping cost. I add the box < 1.00 depending on where I get it, .05 for the tissue paper {if I get a box of 20 from the dollar store} .05 for the ribbon or glitter tape. It is inexpensive for me. It is a little extra effort on my part, but this is what I want to do. I am sending a small part of my soul that I created and I want the new owner to treasure it as much as I do.

I hope this is helpful to those of you who are struggling with the idea of pricing your art for sale. For me, this venture has been a most humbling journey. I hope that in some way you will have benefited from my mistakes, and found this material useful. Your feedback is always welcome.

Remember, you are a beautiful and creative soul, truly a gift among people. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful week full of fresh ideas and inspiration.

As always, until next time,

XO ~Alicia, LDA


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Long time member Kathleen Caid, a jeweler from California, had her entire stock of jewelry stolen from her van before the St. James Court Art Show opened today.

8869146669?profile=originalMore info:

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Can the System be Improved?

Several artist friends and I are dedicated to modifying the jury system as we know it.  We are emailing every show that rejects us and asking for our score and how it relates to the acceptance score and the waitlist score.  We explain that this information is essential for our growth in this business and besides, we paid for it..

The result has been mixed.  Some have embraced the concept and some have been completely pig-headed.  The most recent response was from a show I've done many times over the years and always have rated as a top show.  It is also held in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI.

I was rejected for the third year in a row and inquired about my score and my category.  The return email blew me away!  I'm sure it revealed more than the respondent intended.

It started off with a completely ridicules statement.  It said the scores were confidential.  Confidential?  From me?  I paid to be juried.  The score only applies to me.  Who are you protecting here?  The rest was all designed to assuage me and get me to apply again next year.  Then, in answer to my question about my category he dropped the bomb.  I had entered in the Digital category.  He said 2 artists from last year were re-invited and there were 22 applicants in my category.  Of the 22 applicants ... wait for it ... 1 was accepted. There will be 3 Digital artist in this year's show!

I don't know about you, but something doesn't seem quite right here.


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