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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My First Art Fair!

After a day of rest and a couple of Advil, I'm pleased to report I have survived my first art fair!  All in all, I did fairly well for a first timer. Made back my booth fee, got suggestions from the crowd on what they wanted to see, and learned the secret of good transportation of random stuff -- plastic tuberware!

What did I learn from this experience? Read on!

Start Early!

2 weeks was not enough to make even half of the items by hand that I wanted to fill up my artisan display tables. I found myself painting into the wee hours and relying on a lot of older stock I had lying around just to make my booth look presentable. First lesson learned! Start early, DO NOT STRESS YOURSELF by procrastinating!  Know your display capacities. Practice your setup in advance.  Last thing you want is it to look empty and rushed.  Also, check your current stock! I had to reorder many prints last minute because I didn't realize I was low till that moment. Doh!

Remember Your Traffic Flow

Probably the most important lesson I learned.  Day 1, I had a setup like this:

Heeey! Buy my stuff. Please? YOU KNOW YOU WANNA!

While this isn't terrible, I think I did this because I'm so used to setting up at conventions where you put the table out front and people come up to you to talk.  This layout drives people right up to you, but what I noticed at the fair is most people will talk to you, but then not browse your wares, or they're intimidated by your presence and just want to be left alone to shop.  I also had a technical issue where I couldn't find the stiffeners for my walls, so I couldn't line the sides of the booth with them, leaving it looking pretty empty on the left.

After walking around the fair a bit and getting some ideas from other artists (and fanagling walls with velcro), I ended up with a setup like this for Day 2:

Psst! Hay man. Need a kidney? Operating table in the back!

Much more open space and plenty of room for multiple browsers to go down the line of pretties!  Artist hidden away and only there if you need her to checkout or to ask questions.  More people came in this time round and didn't have to peer over my head to come right up to the artwork.

Best Selling Items?

This was a huge surprise for me! I thought my crafts would do well, but I only sold a few things. Mainly I sold art cards and prints because people wanted small artwork to inspire them (but didn't want to buy the more expensive larger pieces on the wall). I also sold a few books to people who saw my work elsewhere and liked that I offered personalized goodies for free if they bought it directly from me.  I didn't sell a single mask.

I had a good many requests for hair brooches with chopsticks and lapel pins of the butterflies.  No doubt due to having a generally older crowd (with grandkids along) who were looking for things for their home or small gifts, of which matted/framed Fantasy art is generally not well suited for your average collector.

Next time I do an outdoor fair, I plan to carry more personal items (hair brooches and pins), more ornate masks framed in shadowboxes, and more accessible 2D art items (perhaps carved leather butterflies in framed 'specimen' arrangements?)  If people can see the use of an item for their home or their personal decor, I imagine they'd be more inclined to buy at these sorts of events!  I can save my fantasy art for more themed fests, like the Renaissance Faire or the cons I attend.  That's at least one joy of being a multi-faceted artist!

Final Thoughts

I am sore and sleep-deprived far more than I ever was for a plain ol convention!  Art fairs are physically grueling work and not for those who can't handle the hauling, unloading, and long hours.  It's also a HUGE investment of time and money.

The fair season has only begun for me, however, so I'm not going to give up on it just yet! Being able to talk to fellow art lovers and curiosity seekers was quite enjoyable for me!  Even moreso when they would tell me they saw my work online or at the gallery next door.  Getting your face out there can be very gratifying and just as important as sales.  For my shy artist friends, however, this definitely may not be the thing for you!

If you're a fan of my Facebook Fan Page, I'm having a sale on leftover hand-painted butterflies. Get 'em while they're cheap because they'll be going up on Etsy for a higher price after this week!

See one you like? Check out my sekrit sale!

Stay tuned for a post on what makes up an art fair display. Till then, I'm going to attend to the mess that is my trashed studio after an event. *cry!

5 comments:

  1. The first of anything is always a great learning experience! Your second day set up looks perfect. It is interesting how the crowds differ in various atmospheres. Best of luck with the fair season! ~Val

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  2. I attempted to get into an art festival similar to this, and though they loved the quality and style one my work, I was denied access due to the "Subject material".

    The admissions judge was really sad to have to deny me a spot in the art festival... =/ But I guess it makes since due to the fact that Most of my Faeries are nude.

    I have to come up with an entirely new series now if I want to compete in art festival type markets.

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  3. Miss Val - It is very interesting how crowds will differ from fair to con. It's something we have to be attuned to when we are trying to sell our work to the public. Sometimes you just never know what sells till you're THERE. And then who's to say that will be popular again next year? Ah the dance of marketing!

    4Leaf - I'm sorry to hear that! While I am personally all for nude faeries, I can see where some fairs would want to keep their art accessible to all age groups. Perhaps a well placed leaf, petal, or long flowing hair might help you out? I wish you luck at the next event!

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  4. Yeah! to make some of my old stuff work I might have to try editing them with leaves or hair. However for my future stuff, I see this as just the opportunity to try out some new clothing designs! I'll have to do some research.

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  5. Oh and btw! Amazing job on the fair. I can tell that it's a tough market to break into. ^^ I personally think it must have been refreshing to see some beautiful fantasy art in that ultra-conservative art festival.

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