Thursday, August 25, 2016

16 Art Show and Festival Tips and Resources

Outdoor Booth, work by Andria Linn
Photo by A. Linn

I ran across an article titled Top 10 Things to Have aSuccessful Art Show recently. It’s a basic list of do’s for setting up your booth and being prepared for shows and, I guess it’s also an oversight that the list is only 8 items. Anyway, the information is timely, as there are several annual local shows coming up in the area. I think it’s all good advice, but I’d like to expand on and add to this list, based on my own experience. The original items in the list are in bold.

Price everything. Definitely have everything priced and easily seen. Arrange your work so that people can find prices easily.

Have a clean, organized booth. Have a way to store your travel/packing containers out of the way and eyes of customers. Use displays that are easy to access and allow room for people to move without tripping over tables or other obstacles. Make the display about your work and your style. Try not to add to many extras, such as flowers or other dressing.

Be friendly. This is good advice, but also be aware that some people will engage you in conversation with no intention of buying anything. This is fine if the booth is empty. Be polite, but don't let chatty Cathys prevent you from engaging with buying customers.

Accept credit cards if you can, especially at high-end venues or if you sell expensive work. The Square has changed the complication of accepting credit/debit cards and makes sales so much easier! Have your payment options posted and easily seen. You will need a cash box or bag also. Get your change the day before the show.

Ask if there are other vendors selling the same type of work that you do before signing up. Always try to scope out not only the other artists, but also the show itself. All shows may not be a good fit for every artist. Sometimes there are too many artists in one type of media, which saturates the market. Reaching out to other artists who have participated in a show that you are interested in is another way to assess if a show will be a good fit for your work.

Have consistent packaging. Your packaging need will be specific to your artwork (e.g., boxes for jewelry or bubble wrap for glass), but take the time to have consistent colors/logos for bags and other packaging options.

Be friendly and smile at shoppers. I feel like this is redundant, since it's listed above, but I will add that art shows are often part of festivals and artists are part of the entertainment. Having an attractive, interesting booth/display is critical to attracting potential customers.

Don't pack up your booth until the show is over. It looks bad to the public if you are actively packing work while there are other open booths. Some shows will fine artists who pack up and leave before the show is over. Also, be sure to read all of the show details, such as inclement weather policies, extra fees or fines, awards, and so forth.

And here are my additional tips:

Have your business cards available and an email sign up book. It is also good to have scissors, tape, a receipt book and other basic office supplies on hand.

It's ok to work on something, like attaching jewelry pieces or crocheting, if you can, but don't ignore customers or work on anything messy. You need to be ready to engage at the moment someone comes into your booth.

Plan your breaks. Have a back up person who either joins you for the whole show or comes to relieve you at planned times. Try not to eat in front of your customers.

Have a basic care kit: bandages, pain reliever, hand sanitizer, sun screen, tissues, antibiotic cream, hand lotion, and other miscellaneous items in a storage organizer. (I was stung by a bee at an outdoor festival once.)

You will need a cash box or bag. Get your change the day before and have a way to track sales, whether you use a computer or phone app or paper method.

Wear comfortable clothes and if you have a chair, it is best if it is taller, barstool size, so that you are not below people's line of sight.

For your show planning and exploration, here's a list of NC fairs and festivals.

I hope this has been helpful information and your show experiences are positive! If you have additional advice, please leave a comment!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Raising Funds and Supporting a Cause

2016 Painted Chair and More Auction
Photo by V. Clack

The completely non-profit, all volunteer animal rescue group the Independent Animal Rescue held it's annual Painted Chair and More auction on Saturday, July 30 here in Durham, NC. As many of you know, animal welfare is an issue that I care deeply about.

I love to create special pieces for this auction. I look at this as an opportunity to support their efforts and to let my creative juices go. I plan for something fun, unique and useful, hoping to capture enough interest to create a bidding war.  Knowing that the money will go to help the animals is my primary motivator, but watching a piece that I made create a buzz is a wonderful feeling.

Stained Glass Mosaic Chair
Chair and Photo By P. MacLeod

I wasn't able to attend this year's event due to a scheduling conflict, but I did get an update from an auction organizer. Although my chair raised $150, overall the total amount raised was not as much as last year. Obviously the ideal would be that each year would raise more or at least as much as the year before.

This brings me to a subject that I have written about before (5 Things to Consider Before You Donate), but also reminds me of a conversation that I had with an artist friend recently. The practice of donating your work for fundraiser such as this one is a personal choice that shouldn't be based on whether or not you benefit directly from making the donation. Artists are told over and over that your donation is also "exposure" for you and your work. I don't know anyone who has made a follow up sale or commission from participating in an auction. On the other hand, I have more time than money and making a donation is my way of supporting the cause. 

After thinking about this for a bit, I have begun to wonder if an auction fundraiser the best way to raise funds? If you have insight or just ideas, please leave me a comment!

May all of your scores run true!