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Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part Two:

I have some questions from readers who have read my book Art Fairs: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started.

Here are some additional questions I received on art fairs. I hope they too are helpful to you. Thank you again, everyone who has purchased the book. I very much appreciate it! (To see Part One of the Question & Answers click here.)

Q: Regarding booth design and what makes customers feel more welcome / comfortable with entering – did you notice if it made any difference if the artist was posted at the front or the booth – or the very back?

A: Me personally, I never want the customer to feel they are being pounced upon. I vary my approach. Sometimes I sit in the back of the tent. Sometimes I stand to the side out front. Sometimes I sit across from it. Sometimes I busy myself in the booth, or on the print rack, so I have something to “do” while talking with a potential client. This way they don’t feel the artist is going to eat them. : ) Every setup for shows is slightly different, so I just stay flexible. And I like to mix it up if for no other reason than 8 hours is a long time to stay in one spot.

Q: Excluding price – Did size make a difference? – ie – did people tend to buy items based on how easy they were to carry away? for example with canvases, did people mostly purchase canvases smaller than say 18 x 24 inches…

A: This really depends. If you are doing a show that is in a tourist area, then things that can fit into a suitcase or carry on are good to have. But on the same token, anywhere there are tourists there are also locals, possibly looking for something for their living room. So I have a mix of art. But I also do a mix of art because of price points. This way I have small paintings under $100, and larger paintings for more.

You can always offer to ship bigger items to people (although it helps to have an idea of the cost prior to shipping, so buyer’s are too shocked at the cost of professionally packing and shipping art).

Side note: In this economy, I have noticed that large pieces of art will move if they are really inexpensive (ie under $100). My issue with this, is that it then devalues an artist’s work. And by default, the value of the art around them. I do not feel that selling a piece of art for less than it cost to create (painting, materials and time) is good business sense. However, I know artists and galleries who are taking this approach and are somehow talking themselves into considering themselves profitable. It’s all in perspective I guess. For me, if less is coming in then going out, it’s not profit. And for those artists who’s parents or spouses are supplementing their career by buying all of their supplies. I think it’s not a good idea to forget about those costs when pricing art. Because these artists are then devaluing their art. And training those who purchase it to do the same. But that is again, simply my opinion.

Q: Have you had anything stolen? During the open hours of the fairs, has anyone slipped a print under their shirt and walking off when your back was turned?

A: Theft is always something that is on my mind. And the last show I did, I specifically didn’t bring jewelry, even though in this current economy, art isn’t selling as much as jewelry at shows. And so I have started a line of jewelry to supplement my art income in a new way. I didn’t feel that I had the ability to watch small items enough. And given the cost of silver, theft is easy.

That said. I don’t think I have ever had a print stolen from me. I did have a small painting stolen once after a show closed. (And it was at an art fair with security, so the sad thing is – it would have had to have been another artist who stole it. But that is really the only thing I ever lost. This past fall I had someone steal a pair of sterling silver earrings I had at a local store. But, the owner of the store felt that it was her responsibility to have kept those items safe and she paid me for them the same amount she would have paid me if they had been sold.

Q: Do you have any business related books we can read?

A: I am currently working on a business related book for artists. In it I combine my background as a management consultant with my art background. So hopefully I will create something that is unique, and very helpful. I am currently testing out the advice and the templates for this book with other artists as well as one of my galleries. Once I feel that the information has been field tested sufficiently, I will publish it. I intend to have both a book and working templates in both PC and Mac friendly files available for this book. Stay tuned for more details.

And of course, feel free to check out my book on Amazon for only $8.97.
PDF version on Etsy ($8.97)

Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part One:

I have some questions from readers who have read my book Art Fairs: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started.

First off, for those who have read it, thank you for reading my book. I’m glad you found it helpful!

Let me say that each art fair, and what works for each artist is going to be different. This is because locations, and shows vary, as do what works for each artist and their unique brand of art. So I can’t really give specific advice to you, in that I don’t know where you are, what your art is etc. And also because what works great for 1 person won’t work great for someone else, because what they are selling is different. But I can give you my opinion on what I have found most useful to everyone about getting ready for the art fairs, displaying your work and price points, etc.

Q: My first juried Art festival coming up in a couple weeks and have been trying to produce lots but find myself continually creating pieces that can’t be “mass” produced. Any suggestions on how much material to bring? They expected 6,000 people over a two day event.

A: I think the beauty of your work is that it’s not “mass” produced. It will stand out on it’s own as different and unique because it’s you.

I looked at your work on Etsy again – it looks like it is competitively priced. Are you looking to have items at a lower price point as well? if so – are there any shows you could go to in between now and your show for some ideas?

Your question about how much to bring is always one on everyone’s mind when starting out or doing a show in a new location. Create a nice pleasing to the eye display, where things don’t get lost because there is too much product out. If you have items left over, then put them in a safe place that you can access them to refill your stock. It took me 2 years to figure out how much to take to fill my tent in a way that works best for me. And I still switch things up and re-evaluate during and after each show.

Just because a show says that 6,000 people are coming, does not mean that 6,000 people will stop by any one particular booth. Not everyone is looking for the same thing. So just bring what you can, what will fill up your booth with some backup stock as well. Make a note to yourself as to what you brought, so you will have a benchmark to go off of for your next show. I have never met any artist who sold out during a show. But hey, if you do – that’s cool too! What a way that would be to start an art fair career!

My first shows I had artist friends who came by and gave me tips after I was setup on ways to make it look better, flow better etc. And I was able to wonder around a bit and see what other people were doing that seemed to be working.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t worry about getting it perfect. Know you will continually change your booth, maybe even during the day – see what people are drawn to. See what maybe isn’t getting the attention you think it deserves – switch it up and check out other people’s booths if you have time.

For jewelry you want to make sure that you have someone who can watch your booth/area when you have to take a break. Because otherwise it is way too easy for someone to steal your work. And the one thing I have forgotten when first selling jewelry – have one or two mirrors on your tables so people can see what they look like with your jewelry on.

Q: Did your sales revenue from fairs meet your expectations?

A: Some shows I do well at, and others I don’t. If they don’t do well for me, or I feel they are too much work, then I don’t do them again. Although I normally give a show twice before deciding. And I always try to remember that outcome for the show (for me at least) takes up to a year to really figure out based on after show sales and contacts into other local area venues.

I do shows for a variety of reasons, including making a profit. However, I normally do shows in a new area, with a bigger goal of helping me penetrate that market. And whenever I have done this, it has gotten my work hung elsewhere in that city on an ongoing basis. Which is much better for me, as then I don’t have to setup or watch the art, and yet it is still selling in that city. And that is also therefore where it is more profitable for me to be. So the art festival for me, is never just about the show. It’s about what comes after it. Which includes online sales stemming from that show, as well as getting into new locations in a new city.

As I stated in my book, I am not a full-time art fair artist. If I was, I’m sure my answer would be different. However, being a full time art fair artist has never been my goal. Being away every weekend is not my life’s plan/path. I am a woman with a family. And art fairs are not where I make most of my money.

However, as stated above, there are many reasons to do shows, and I find that for me, where I am at the moment, and given our current economy, doing a few a year works for me. And just from an ego perspective, I try to make sure that at least ½ of those are outdoor events that will be immediately profitable so that I don’t go home always feel like life as an artist sucks. : ) Because while long term market gain is great, so is feeling successful after/during a show.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – where I’ll answer more questions for you about pricing, booth setup and more.

To purchase a copy of my book on Amazon click here. ($8.97)
PDF version on Etsy ($8.97)