Successful Art Show Insights

It’s hard to imagine a weekend in New England’s Spring and Summer without one village or another playing host to an arts & Crafts show. I love to wander down the aisles inspecting the local artist works and seeing all the different creative offerings and themes. Often, I’ll stop and talk with the booth owner and see how they like the show…. Imagine what it would be like to exhibit your paintings at a local arts and craft show….

Yesterday, we talked about the ins and outs of conducting a successful art show with a benefit or fundraiser or charity event. Today, its a traditional, for profit show I’d like to talk about. Seems to me we all like to visit these shows until someone says……” Hey, you should sell your stuff. You’re really good!”

Besides flattery, we’ll visit art shows and think, hey I can do this…. And why not? We don’t have to make a living as an artist to exhibit at these shows. Just making a happy buck is all the motivation we need.

I will caution you to carefully consider which paintings to bring. The best, all time hits are either paintings of local scenes, or a common theme. A common theme could be all seascapes, or all lighthouses, or all wildlife, etc… You’ll need to research the show to decide what might work best for you.

Remember the questions we asked for charity evens and shows?

Same question for any potential art show. You have to do your research. Go on-line and look up art shows and festivals directories and find as many in your area that you can. Look them over and again, the questions to ask are:

What’s the art show’s attendance for the past 3 years? History will give you an idea whether or not this show is growing or declining in popularity.
What’s the history for vendors? How many first time vendors? How many repeat vendors? This quickly lets you know whether or not other vendors have considered this event worth attending.
Often show organizers will schedule a dozen shows throughout the region over the season that they call a circuit. See if the same vendors attend each tradeshow in the circuit. Many artists make an entire year’s income just in the short season by signing up for all of the shows within one organizer’s circuit. Check it out. It’s not hard to see a show travel one weekend to Tuscon, AZ, Next to LA, then to Phoenix, than to Santa Fe, then to El Passo, then to Las Vegas and so forth. You know when an artist signs up for all of the shows on a single circuit, this is high income for him/her. So be sure to check it out.
Talk to other artists and vendors to get their reaction. Will they sign-up again next year? How many years have they exhibited. What makes this show unique for them?
What kind of publicity promotional programs are being done by the organizers? Estimated attendance this year? What’s the major drawing power of the show….or what compels people to take time off during their valuable weekend to come to this particular show.
What’s the average cost of items offered by other vendors? (Why? Because if you’re trying to sell $175.00 paintings and all other vendors are selling $15.00 items, its the wrong crowd for you…)
What’s the average sales per event for vendors…?
What kind of other vendors will be participating…..? In otherwords, match up your products with the true interests of your audience.
What type of special show offer can you put together that will more than cover your costs for being at the show.

There are many publications available that lists arts and craft shows chroniologically or via region than date.

This is just a partial listing….

Where the Shows Are
Art Search
Art Examiner
Find Art
etc…

There are also tons of on-line resources available for your examination.

Furthermore, You will find listings of the art and craft shows listed in these publication. More importantly, artists that attended the craft show in previous years share their insights and reviews of their past shows. These artists discuss the types of items that sold well, what price point did well, and rate if they would attend the show again. Find the show that matches your work!

Making sure your art/craft show is a success use this guide as a checklist:

Plan what paintings/works you’ll bring with you.
Decide whether or not its appropriate to demonstrate during the trade show.
Often, show organizers have a ‘show manual’ that lists rules, union obligations, if any, and advanced forms that must be filled out/submitted by certain dates to acquire electricity, signs, set-up times, etc… Ask about them and ensure you’ve followed all instructions accordingly. Not all shows have them, just find out.
Determine the types of payment methods you’ll accept. The more you have, the more likely you’ll sell. Options include Cash, Credit Cards, Checks, COD, PayPal and so forth. Again, planning will help you out. Bring sales receipts and order forms. Check out sales tax collection policies and how this is to be paid. If you’re already a business, you may have these answers. If its just you, then see what show management offers or make an arrangement with a neighboring exhibitor for credit cards, etc… The key is planning and making these decisions ahead of time.
Send out invitations twice. First, 3 or 4 months in advance to all the people on your mailing and email list. Announce your participation, dates, times and that you’ll be offering a show special (Don’t tell them what it is, just that it will blow their socks off and its only offered during the show.) The second invitation is 4-6 weeks prior to the event as a reminder. Email your invitations again your list two weeks prior and the monday prior the show. Make sure each invitation is a complete re-write and doesn’t look like the others.
Have any printed material ready at least one week before the start of the show. I would suggest you put together a black and white biographical overview of youself, whatever art education (even if its ‘self-taught) you have and what you have painted and specialized in. Include any shows you’ve attended and awards won.
I would also suggest that you put together an “Overview” sheet for each original painting you’re exhibiting. Put this together on black and white. Include a nice black and white photo, Title of painting, your name as the artist, size of painting, structure the painting is on (masonite, canvas, etc..) and the story of your painting. Often people will buy the painting just as much because of the story as the painting itself. Talk about your inspiration for the painting, your personal and spiritual investment, the colors you chose and why you love it. Make people identify with you as much as with the painting. This is your secret weapon. Have plenty of copies (that number depends upon the show, and maybe the organizers/other attending artists will advise you). Remember b/w copies are only a few pennies. Start with a 100 to begin with for each painting and then gauge with each show you attend.
Put togeher a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for each original painting you bring to the show. This is a statement that this is an original painting, that you are the artists and you’re stating this is an authentic painting by you. These certificates are very big for many collectors as they love having the story and credentials of the artist as much as the painting itself.
If you’ve had artticles written by you or for you by newspapers or magazines, bring them framed or in an attractive table top binder.
Have another attractive Table Top Binder with 8″ x 10″ photos of your artwork. The more the better to show your range of creativity. Mark the one’s sold as SOLD.
Have plenty of business cards ready and bring them with you.
Decide how you’re going to collect a mailing list or email list. People who take the time to want to stay in touch with you are very important people for you. They could well become customers….they just need to know you better before you buy.
Decide how to tastefully display your paintings.
Frame your work.
Consider printing up a few prints of your most favorite (or income makers) paintings, or post cards as low-end price points.
If you’re only bringing a dozen or two paintings, than bring computer generated color post cards or color photos of each. As you talk with people, you’ll find out if they are serious about a particular painting or not. If so, hand them a post card of that one painting…. Be sure to have your contact information, title of painting, medium used, size written on the back of the painting. This should be a cropped, non-frame color photo so it fills the entire side of a post card. That post card has to scream, “Buy me, buy me, buy me!”
Packup everything carefully for the trip to the show or festival.
Arrive early and set-up quickly. Then go scout for ‘non competing artists’. Before the show begins, ntroduce yourself to non competing artists and let them know that you will be happy to refer people to their booths for their line of work, and in exchange you would like them to do the same for you. Hand out a few business cards to your new found partners with your booth number on each.
Consider paying a commission for any buyer that comes to your booth referred by your non competing artist partner. This little known strategy works very well. Ask for the same for each non competing artist.
During the show, be friendly. Approach people visiting your booth. Shake their hands and talk the ‘story’ behind each of your work. Let your work speak for itself. Listen to what people have to say, and if you suspect that they’re really interested, ask them if they’d like to take the painting home with them. Ask for the sale. Most sales are not made because people are too timid to ask for the sale. Sales is not about saying ‘magical words’ that overwhelm a customer, breaks down their barriers and compels them to purchase the painting. Sales is about making it easy for the customer to purchase from you.
Remember, all arts and crafts shows and festivals have only one purpose. To bring buyers and sellers together under one roof so that purchases can be made. Your booth visitor came prepared knowing that all booths there will be competing for their dollars. Its up to you to get your unfair share.

Let me know how this particular article works for you in planning your next arts show. And if you havn’t attended one yet, do it. Its fun, you meet a lot of people and you just might be surprised how well you do.

Darrell