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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 strachovstudio@gmail.com.

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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.

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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

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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?

8871887460?profile=original

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.

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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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REQUIEM FOR AN ART SHOW--ANN ARBOR

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.

 

WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?

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: http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/this-is-your-mother-speaking

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
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

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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.

 

RIP

 

 

 

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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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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.

THEY ARE seperate CATEGORIES!

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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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.

Aaaack.

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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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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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: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/louisville-arts-bureau/2014/10/02/theft-keeps-artists-out-of-st-james-court-art-fair/16603711/

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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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SCHLEPPING OUR WAY TO ART SHOW OBLIVION

My recent Winter Park blog got me thinking about the sorry state of affairs we artists face trying to make a living at the shows.

Evidence the disdain that the Bayou City board has shown towards the originally invited 300 exhibitors.

Witness where committees, at most shows, put us at the bottom of the pile in regards to respect. Heck, food vendors are higher on the chain than us.  They always get nearby parking for setup, teardown and restocking.  We rarely get the same.  Ironically, without us, the foodies would not make dime.

Witness the ignorance of the supposed buying public who think we are a bunch of gypsies who sleep in our white tents, or our vans.

It is a sad state of affairs when many buyers think A/P stands for arty photo rather than "artist proof."

Many don't know that 1/1 means it is a one-of-a-kind.

And we won't even get into the issue of everyone with a cellphone camera who think it is their God-given right to take images of our work without asking.

The sad state of increased buy/sell showing up at our venues and committees not willing to give them the boot.

In most professions, people with a long history of that profession, are treated with respect. People value their knowledge and insights.  But not ours.

Repeatedly shows will not listen to valuable insights and opinions we might offer.

I don't know how many hundreds of times I have seen a show with a messed-up patron flow not listen to artists, on the surveys.  We know how a show should flow.  We have been to many good shows that get it.

I just worry a lot about our future.

It seems that having a pure art show where the art is the main event is not ENOUGH for too many shows these days.

They all want the event.

Which translates into high gate fees, seven-dollar beers and diminished sales for the artists.

Without us, and our original works of art, they would be nada.

See how much Kettle corn you sell without us there.

Once upon a time I went to shows and felt appreciated.

People knew we were a special breed and we were rewarded for our hard work and creativity.

Not so much anymore.

It is like we are barely tolerated.  "Here's your space, set up and be grateful.  Don't make waves--and, God-forbid, don't complain about anything.  We don't want to hear it."

The issue of increased booth fees is another sore spot with me.

Mediocre, midrange shows now dare charge $400-$450 booth fees, and exhibitors are lucky to break $2K  in sales.  

Ever since the big blabber-mouth from Sausalito came thru Florida, years ago, and told the Grove, and others et al, that their booth fees were too cheap, we have seen steady booth fee-creep.  Fees went up, sales went down.  

That don't work.  It is not a viable business model.

Once upon a time this was a beautiful, enviable profession to be part of.

Shows were held in mellow parks with easy setups.  You were surrounded with like-minded, talented neighbors.  People came and really appreciated your work.  A lot of them bought it.  Artists were able to save money and build their own studios.  The show people left us alone.  They knew we could get in and setup on our own.  We could do it at teardown without micro-management.  It was a win-win proposition.

Now, we go to shows, sometimes at 4 am in the morn to setup.  We spend three hours in a distant parking lot waiting to get in to set up.

We go to shows where the vast majority of the roaming public walks down aisles at the show and barely looks at anything.

Or better yet, they duck into your space to use it as their private phone booth while they chat away on the cellphone.

I would love to figure out how I could charge them a cellphone-boothfee for every minute they chat away inside the booth.

And we wonder why we don't see more young people jumping into our biz.

I am worried.  Seriously worried.

I gotta make a living doing this.

Been doing it for 39 years now.

This October, I turn 69.  I figure I am good for at least ten more, and then I will retire and become an art show promoter.  "Pirate Art Shows.  Come share the booty of our beauty."  Look out Bill Kinney.

Well, I think I am sufficiently vented.  

Would love to hear from some of you lurkers.

Whadda Ya think?

Are we headed for oblivion in our Magline carts-- or there a rosy future?

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Let's All Vent....

Who the hell are you to walk in my booth and ask for a discount? Do you have any idea how long I worked on this piece? Are you that self absorbed and greedy to expect me to take a pay cut so that you can enjoy a nice work of art? Go to hell!!That is just a bunch of junk! Really? My work is just a bunch of junk? Are you seriously saying that out loud to my face? Do you know what an antique is? Do you know anything about art at all? Why are you here? Do you value your teeth?I don't have room for another thing in my house. Then go the f@@k home and stay there. Enjoy your house full of treasures, hoarder!Where do you find all of the things to make your sculptures? Oh, they just fall out of the sky and land in my workshop in mint condition. I go out to antique shops and buy them, you damn fool!Oh, you have to pay to be here? No, it's free, we all just show up and pitch a tent and wait for the money to flow in.So, you fly to all your shows? Sure, me, my rig and all my art just hop on a plane and jet across the country. Nope, I drive!I am in a mood today, feel free to vent.....
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"Art is making something out of nothing and selling it." - who said this?

You're at the show. People are interested in your work they are about to leave (empty handed!!). And they turn and say,

do you have a card?

Your reply: Sorry, I don't want to be bothered when I'm not at the show. I'm here now. What can I do for you?

do you have a website?

Your reply: the show is my livelihood, what can I do for you?

how can we get in touch with you for a piece for our anniversary/new family room/cottage when it is time?

Your reply: how about now?

I have seen this scenario many, many times. The people walk away dazed and confused, and empty-handed. This may seem extreme, but you know it is factual. Do you have business cards? Do you always have them on you?

At the show they can carry them off and have a tangible piece from you that may bring them back today because you've written your booth # on it. Away from the show they are a visual memory jog about you and your work. A good card is the cheapest viral marketing and advertising you can do.

Here are a few cards I've picked up recently that show some very good basics:

What's missing from this card? Nothing I can think of. How about you?

8869142867?profile=original

Front of Wendy Bedolla's card

8869143078?profile=original

Back

8869143099?profile=original

And, we need to have our house painted - great card, no?

8869143855?profile=original

Do you have a business card? Can you show it to us here?

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$250,000 prize to one of our gang!

September 22-October 10 there was a fine exhibition of art throughout the downtown public buildings and museums of Grand Rapids that brought thousands of people to stand in line to view art and talk about it with their friends. It is called ArtPrize. ArtPrize is a radically open competition. Open to any artist in the world who can find space. Open to anybody in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who wants to create a venue. Open to a vote from anyone who attends. There was almost $500,000 in prize money at stake and is sponsored by the De Vos Family, founders of Amway. 2010 was its second year.

Over 1700 artists displayed their work in over 300 locations. Anyone could vote to choose the prizewinners. You had to go to Grand Rapids to register, then you could vote at your leisure on your computer or at various balloting places around the city.

So why am I telling you about this again? The winners were announced last week and it has just sunk in on me that the big prize winner, Chris LaPorte, winner of $250,000 is someone I have met! Where? at an art fair!! Don't you just love it? The public speaks and who do they choose? Someone who draws portraits and caricatures at art fairs. Granted this was not caricature, but rather a huge graphite drawing 8 ft. x 4.4 ft., a pretty amazing drawing.

Read about Chris' life as an artist and learn about the drawing at ArtPrize.org. Here is 90 seconds with Chis LaPorte, a video: http://blog.artprize.org/2010/10/05/90-seconds-with-chris-laporte/

Read a little more here: Democracy comes to the art world

Yes, I am telling you about this because Chris has lived your life, but also because maybe, just maybe, you'll start thinking really big about where you are going with your art next...I can't wait to see it.
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