Art fests?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by RobR, Jul 1, 2003.

  1. RobR

    RobR Member

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    Greetings!

    Occasionally, I visit art fests, where artists and craftsmen set up little tents and hang their work on the walls and sometimes sit inside working on things so people can see how they do it. I have found very good photographers there. I am wondering if anybody here has tried that, if you make any money doing it, and if you have any hints for other people (like me) who might want to try it.

    Thanks!

    RobR
     
  2. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I had a stand at the first Battersea Arts Fair in London about 10 years ago. I did make money but it was hard going for most people who wanted to buy also wanted to haggle and knock the price down to what I would describe as silly money. I never have gone back but a friend has attended every one and recently told me that he will not go again, apparently the price of the stand is very high and he failed to make a worthwhile profit in the last two fairs.

    I don't want to put you off giving it a try but have to tell what I know of at least one such show. If you do go my suggestion is to have only one price for your images and not a sliding scale where the smallest is less expensive than the largest. Most people will buy the cheapest and the same amount of work goes into making a 5 x 7 as a 16 x 20. You may think that a certain image is worth more than others and that's fine but don't offer a sliding scale for size.

    Best of luck if you give it a go.
     
  3. RobR

    RobR Member

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    Les,

    Thanks for your thoughts. That's a good point about print size. If I do try it, I'd imagine I'd have a single size of print, and ask one price for framed and another for unframed.

    RobR
     
  4. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I don't know where you live but here in California there are a lot of these in the summer. Essentially, they are kind of like the circus. People travel the circuit during the summer going from city to city and selling their work.

    If an individual wishes to set up a booth, they have to spring for the cost of the space, then buy or rent some sort of canopy etc and you go from there. After these initial cost you then sell your work. I guess if it is good enough you could do quite well. However you are competing with people who seem to shoot part of the year then travel the circuit the rest of the time or shoot full time and have other people travel the shows.

    Michael McBlane
     
  5. Johnny V

    Johnny V Member

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  6. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Check with the specific organizers of the festival you are interested in. They will give you info about price for space, the kind of work they are looking for, details on submitting samples of your work to judges and entry deadlines.

    I have never participated but I have looked into some of the more regional ones here in the midwest. Usually there is a set number of booths, for example 100. Of those, maybe 12 are for photography, and the organizers divide that between B&W and color work. Then you have to compete with established participants and others wanting to get in for the first time, thus the need to give submissions to judges.

    I would agree with Les that people love to look at the big prints on display but buy much smaller work. i talked to one photographer who was well aware of this and said he had learned that you have to get a persons attention with the big prints (16x20 or larger) prominently displayed
    in order for them to buy a smaller print, usually 11x14 or 8x10. He said he may sell a one or two of larger at a good festival, and he prices the large ones in a way to make the 11x14 or 8x10 seem like a very good deal in comparison while making a good profit on the smaller print.

    Most people love the big prints but like the smaller size for hanging considerations he said.
     
  7. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    I knew photographers (husband and wife) who, twenty years ago, earned a considerable amount of money from the Art Fairs--over $100,000 a year. They only entered the top juried fairs and did fewer than 10 a year as I recall, maybe as few as six. They worked at it full time. What mostly sold were the "easy" pictures. They were both pretty good photographers, later had their work purchased by a museum of two, but I recall them telling me the print they sold the most was a small photograph of a clown who was crying. They colored the tear in red. They felt it was a compromise, but at $25 (or thereabout) per print, they made about $10,000/year from it. Prices varied by size. They had considerable initial expense buying a tent, stands to hang pictures on, bins for unframed prints, and a huge van to transport it all in. It was a serious business and was how they earned their living, it was not something they did for fun. They envied what I did--selling my prints to collectors and curators--and I envied what they did--that they made money.

    Michael A. Smith
     
  8. Shelly

    Shelly Member

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    I am just getting started in doing the craft fairs. I know they are a lot of work but can be a lot of fun too. Where are you located? (what state) I live in California and there is an organization called "the crafts fair guide" that is for crafters. There is a fee to get their quarterly publication...it is $45.00. The publication is good though if you are serious about doing this. It lists and rates the various fairs and the promoters. The website is
    http://www.craftsfairguide.com.


    Promoters do jury work and have quite stringent requirements as far as resale #, insurance, etc. Usually the fee for a weekend show is about $150.00 and up, and often they charge a percentage as well.

    I will certainly have more info as I progress. I am scheduled in two local craft festivals in the next few months.

    good luck,

    Shelly
     
  9. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I have no idea what kind of work you do, but the point about "easy" pictures is a good one.

    I have seen dozens of these fairs. And they are fairly homogenized. Things like -

    10 booths selling wooden "whirly gigs"
    25 booths selling "Bohemian" style clothing
    5 booths selling hats
    etc. etc.

    The photographers tend to sell "pretty" pictures. I'm not saying they aren't good. In fact some are great. But we are talking about pictures that don't exactly challenge people. More Ansel Adams and less Nan Golden if you know what I mean. Tons of nature pics. Those seem to be the perennial sellers. Or at least those guys show up at the fairs.

    I did once see someone do a brisk business in something different though....

    And this was only once....

    A guy set up his 4x5 and his 8x10 with Polaroid backs and the hand-cranked 8x10 processer. He would then do transfer portraits right in front of the client. I think he was charging something like $25-30 for the 4x5. And this was unmatted. Business was brisk and he had frames and mattes available for extra too.

    Now, you have to be pretty good at transfers. Make sure you have a consistent output, and it is pretty brainless and repetative work after a while.

    But I'm sure he made off quite nicely....
     
  10. Lex Jenkins

    Lex Jenkins Member

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    The Fort Worth Main Street Arts Festival is probably about as serious an outdoor venue as you'll find for photography and arts of all kinds. All the foot traffic you could possibly hope for. Very well managed. And the downtown Fort Worth area is a treat, a far cry from the ghost town it was 30 years ago.

    It's a juried show with booths for 200-250 artists and artisans. Expensive - booth fees for the four-day affair run something like $300-$500.

    I see mostly "serious" photography, even when it's pretty. Lots of returnees, including Joachim Knill and Shelly Corbett.

    Entry deadline should be coming up pretty quick, by the end of October if I'm not mistaken. The usual 3 slides, $20-$50 evaluation fee, extra cost for extra slides, that sort of thing. I think the entrants are notified by January. The fair is in April.

    You should be able to find info about the fair on the web along with a list of recent participating artists. You could write to those artists and ask for their impressions of the fair. My impressions are those of a longtime visitor and I've talked with some artists about the business end - most seem to find it worth the trip.
     
  11. Scott Edwards

    Scott Edwards Member

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    My impression from having done outdoor fairs is that one should pick a handful of juried fairs (as Michael Smith intoned) and steer clear of the craft fairs. It pays to do your homework here. Certain demographic areas lend themselves to being less concerned with fine art (I once landed a spot between a face painter and copper lawn ornaments) and more apt to favor commercially accepted bucolic scenes (see Terry Redlin). Another thing to consider here is presentation. When hanging framed work outdoors, glare will drive you crazy, and your pieces take a beating regardless of how careful you are with them.
    On the plus side, you do meet some truly interesting people.
    There are a host of negatives concerning outdoor art fairs, but again if you select 5 or 6 good fairs each year, you are less likely to fall into the 'carney merchant' trap.
     
  12. jscottschrader

    jscottschrader Member

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    I have been doing the art fairs for about 12 years now. Here are my observations...

    There has never been a worse time to get into the game than right now. The economy is bad and people are not spending money on art the way they did in the 90's.

    There is a huge difference between the clientel that patronize a Fine Art Festival vs. the clientel that attend an Arts & Craft Fair. Generally speaking, people who attend the Fine Art Festivals have a lot of disposable income that they are willing to spend on art. People who attend the Art and Craft Fairs are looking to purchase inexpensive nik-naks to set on a shelf or give as a gift. My experience has been that there is very little money to be made at an Art and Craft Show and the POSSIBILITY of making significant money at a Fine Art Festival. So,...I have concentrated my efforts on the Fine Art Festivals over the years but still do a few Art & Craft Shows every year.

    The Fine Art Festivals are very competitive to jury in to. The best resource out there for finding out information about these shows is a publication called the Art Fair Sourcebook. It is a compilation of the top 300 shows (based on sales the previous year) in the US. It gives you all the info you could want about any given show. The dates, the application deadline, the booth fee, the jury fee, the average sales of the artists that participated the previous year, the number of artists spaces in the various mediums, what the people that attend that show prefer as far as traditional or more modern-avant garde. Any one who is considering getting involved in this should seriously consider purchasing a current copy. As far as I am concerned it is the bible for those who do these types of shows.

    One of the real problems with these Fine Art Festivals is getting in! As I have already mentioned, I have been doing this for a number of years now the top tier shows were elusive for many years. I now get into about 20% of the shows that I apply to. My acceptance rate started out much lower than that. I have been accepted into four "Top 10" shows over the years. Three of the four turned out to be quite lucrative. (Between $8,000.00 and $10,000.00 in sales over a weekend) One of those shows (a "Top 5" show was $700.00 in sales....a loss after you add up the booth fee, jury fee, travel, meals...

    My best show ever has been right at $10,000.00 in sales my worst show was a loss of $800.00. Both my best and worst were Fine Art Festivals as opposed to art and craft fairs. Finding your niche market (the locations where people appreciate your work enough to spend money on it) has proven to be a challenging task. There are very few Fine Art Festivals in the country and whole lot of art and craft fairs.

    Since 9-11 it has turned into a numbers game. You can be profitable if you do enough shows. Pre 9-11 I used to do about 10 - 12 shows per year. My sales average was just under $3800.00 per show. Post 9-11 I am doing 20 - 25 shows per year with a sales average of about $1600.00 per show. Obviously that means I have to do more shows and spend more to do them. (travel, lodging, meals...)

    Some other observations are... color photography sells much better than B&W at these events. Photography is still very much considered a second tier art form. (The "Anybody that owns a camera can do that." attitude) People will spend thousands on oil paintings, sculpture and a host of other mediums, but still have a hard time spending $100.00 on photography. It always strikes me as odd when people come into my booth wearing designer clothes and shoes that cost several times more than some of the pieces that they look at and really want ...but they aren't willing to spend $80.00 on something that will last them the rest of thier life, ...so they walk out in their $200.00 shoes that will end up at Goodwill some day in the not too distant future.

    The final thing that I will address is the start up cost. It is not cheap to get started. You will need a white canopy. I caution you...do not scrimp on a cheap one! You will be sorry the first time you encouter rough weather at one of these events. Craft Hut has been around a long time and is considered to be the best thing out there. It is very sturdy and water tight. It takes a long time to set up compared to the other canopies but it is well built. I have seen so many EZ-UPs destroyed (along with the work that was inside it) overnight in small storms. If you are going to do this make sure you protect your work with a good canopy! My set up cost about $3000.00 ... the Craft Hut canopy, Pro Panel display walls and browse bins and track lighting. Then of course there is your inventory. Pre- 9-11 I traveled with about $18,000.00 in inventory. Now with sales down I travel with about $12,000.00 in inventory. These shows are very much based on impulse buys. If you don't have it on hand...they probably won't be willing to do it as a special order. People want to walk out with their purchase. Hence the need for the large inventory. Your prints will need to be matted and protected in plastic for your browse bins. The framing costs to fill your booth with an attractive display of your work. You will need a large framed print or two to draw people into your booth, and a number of smaller prints to fill the space. People will purchase the unframed small matted prints, ...but you need to have the big framed stuff hanging to attract peoples attention. Today at the art fairs 16x20 is not considered big. Something big enough to attract attention starts at about 20x30...bigger is better though many sport 30x40 and 40x60 now. You are competing for the attention and the bigger stuff gets the most attention. Booth fees today range from about $200.00 to $1500.00. This is payable upon acceptance to the show which is often 4-6 months before the show.

    Finally, you need some way to get all of this (canopy, display walls, lighting. and inventory) to the show site. Many drive extended vans. I am seeing more and more box trucks these days. I drive a F350 Diesel and pull a trailer. You can rent a trailer from U-Haul when you are starting out, but eventually you will want to purchase one. The rental fees over a year of shows will be more than the purchase price of descent trailer. Don't forget to figure in your lodging, meals and fuel to the cost.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. I wont take up any more band width boring this community with all of the minutia of doing these types of events. I have well over a decade of experience in this arena. I'll be glad to answer any other questions anyone might have.