You have just spent the Winter months creating all of your gourd masterpieces. Now what? It’s time to get them out of your hands and into the hands of someone else. One way to get your art into the public eye and (more importantly) get it sold is to take a look at doing shows or festivals. But there are so many nowadays. Which ones should you do? To help in your decision-making, here are 7 insider tips for selecting where you will sell your art.
1. Location, Location, Location!(I’m sure you have heard of this before)
Things to consider:
A. Is the venue close and easily accessible to the public and vendors? Is it close to Metropolitan areas or is it out in the sticks? What is the probability that someone will drive out to the show and spend money on gas, food, lodging, parking and entry fee, plus spend money on buying your art?
B. Where is your booth or your art located at the event? Will it be visible, in the natural flow of foot traffic? Or are you hidden away and put in a last minute overflow area of the event?
2. Type of Venue
Is it an art gallery show, city/county fair or a “mom and pop” festival? What is the draw? Fairs and art gallery shows are usually well-funded and have budgets for advertising the event, along with large followings and a target list of qualified buyers (which is what you want). The more people who know about the event, the more people will show up.
“Mom and pop” festivals can be great! They usually take place on private property, but they generally have small to non-existent advertising budgets. They are generally less crowded and have a more relaxed atmosphere than the county fairs. They also tend to attract similar artists and niche buyers to your type of art. In other words, they may buy, but there will be less of them to buy. Therefore, consider how many other vendors and artists will be selling and competing for the smaller pool of buyers. Also, consider the fact that mom and pops put on festivals to promote themselves, their products, and provide a venue for others to do the same. Overall, mom and pop shows are a good place to network with other artists, find out where the “best” shows are, and build lasting friendships. For these shows, bring art in all price ranges (more in the smaller prices and less in the higher), plus offer supplies and information because the artists that attend are more likely to buy your supplies and info and just get their ideas from your art.
County/City Fairs are in the business to have shows and draw large numbers of people to their venues. They need the people through the gate to help pay for all of the advertising they put out. They are not necessarily as concerned with how many buyers specifically. They are more focused on getting a lot people to the venue. The philosophy being that they get the attendance, and it’s up to you to make the sale, regardless as to whether they are qualified buyers or just looky-loos. Although usually well-organized, the overall feel as a vendor/artist is one of non-emotion. You are more of a number and will rarely interact with the show organizers. The huge plus to these types of shows is the number of people and chances you have to actually sell your art. It’s a great way to get exposure and to increase your mailing list. It is also a great way to reach people who may be interested in your work but would not have found you otherwise. For these shows, bring art in all price ranges (a nice mix of low to high) and offer a free drawing to collect their information (for your mailing list, of course).
Art gallery shows are there to promote and sell art to as many people as possible. The draw for a gallery show is much more intimate. However, the buyers who walk into a gallery showing are more apt to buy, and better still, they are more likely to buy the higher priced art pieces. The art galleries definitely want to sell your art because they need to pay for their overhead. Therefore, the promotion and burden tends to rest on how well they can advertise and present each art piece. And due to the labor involved, they will spend more time, money, and effort promoting the higher priced pieces. Also, consider they have a reputation that they must maintain. Your effort to get into a gallery is limited by whether you are approved by the gallery staff. For these venues, select your very best. Keep in mind, however, that you will take a large cut in the price that you will receive. And remember that the ultimate price tag that is set for your art by the gallery must match what your art is worth to the buyer. You should never UP your prices to a gallery just to get more in the end. That will only hinder the sale of your work, not help. Go into a gallery, knowing that you may not make as much as you would normally on the piece but the likelihood of your work selling at that higher price is better.
3. Juried or Non-Juried
This can work for you in two ways: If you are just getting started, and your art gets juried in with better art and well-known artists, it gives your art more credibility and possibly increases its value. It also feels good and builds confidence. If you go to non-juried shows, and your art is mixed in with beginners, stay optimistic; your art has a better chance to stand out! Either way, you will want to have an eye-catching and appealing display to draw the people and buyers to your work.
4. Age and Credibility of Show
How many years has the show been on? Is it a new show or has it been around for many years? Chances are, if a show is new, it may have some bugs to work out and may not be run as smooth as a seasoned show. Plus, the likelihood is greater that not many people may know about it or attend. On the other hand, if Martha Stewart decided to put on a show/festival next weekend, chances are that it is going to be a huge draw! Find out who is putting on the show and who are the key sponsors. This could make a difference in the show’s success. On the flipside, no matter how seasoned or long an event has been held, if the promoters or organization is difficult, unorganized, not very accommodating, or only has a self interest attitude (not care whether you sell anything or not), they bank on making their money from you the vendor and public entry charge. No matter what, they are going to make their money. Otherwise, they would not put on the event, which is OK as long you make money also. Trust your gut feeling. If you have or get a negative feeling about a show, then chances are, so do others (artists, vendors, attendees), and quite possibly, you should reconsider.
5. Word of Mouth
Ask anyone who has been to the show/festival you wish to attend. Ask about their personal experience; whether they were a vendor/artist or viewing (buying) public. Was the show worth the effort? Would they do it again? How were they treated? Can they offer any recommendations? These types of questions could save you a tremendous amount of money, time and head or heartache.
6. Facilities: Indoors or Outdoors
Venues such as fairgrounds and art galleries tend to be very clean events. Usually held indoors, protected from the wind, sun and dirt/dust (which can be devastating to your art and health), have nearby parking, places to eat, clean bathrooms, first aid and are generally vendor and public friendly. Mom and pop festivals, if outdoors, can be dusty if not on pavement or grass. You will be exposed to the elements in one way or another. However, there are those who make the effort to accommodate the vendors and viewing public. They generally do very well and are usually fun to attend. They provide shaded or large covered areas to display your art such as a barn or massive canopies (keeping the elements like sun/drizzle, falling branches, and birds with digestive disorders away from you and your art) They will generally have concrete or grass flooring (handicap accessible), nearby vendor and easy public parking, food, and clean bathrooms. All these should be normal at any event. If the promoter/director cares about you and the facilities, you will most likely have a good show and come back again.
What will it cost you when it is all said and done? Consider the time and money it takes for you to prepare, before, during and after the festival. Before you even leave your studio, it starts costing you. Application and registration fees, making and sending photos of your art to get juried, commissions or percentage of sales (which can eat your profits) getting booth set ups, gas, food, lodging, more gas, and other incidentals like buying art or more supplies. It all starts to add up! So estimate as close as you can, what you think you might spend and the minimum of what you realistically think you can sell and see if it is worth it to you. If you manage to break even, had a good time, met some new people and gained some experience, it may be worth it. The hope is to have a good time, sell art and make a profit at the end of the show. The drive home becomes a lot shorter and sweeter.
The bottom line is, shows are a lot of work overall, and you want to do well personally, professionally, and financially. If you need to, make a list of pros and cons for each show. You are the only one who can decide which shows to do or not. Use these tips in making a decision on a show that is good for you and a win/ win for all involved. And most importantly have fun!