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.

Here’s Part 2 – where I answer more questions for you about pricing, booth setup and more.