Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ten lessons I learned my first year at art shows and festivals

Last year I entered a daring new world. I bought a tent and a bunch of other equipment, and I started looking for art and craft shows in my area where I could try to sell my watercolors. I had a great time, and I can hardly wait until spring, when I'll start another year of shows! Here is a list of the top ten things I learned last year.

1.Only sign up for shows that are specifically for arts and/or crafts. (Or whatever you're selling.)The more targeted the show is toward your particular art form, the better. Shows with lots of entertainment and food and cotton candy draw a big crowd, they are fun, and you meet fun people. However, the people coming to those shows are there for the food and fun, and maybe a little shopping, but they are not there to invest in art.

2. Put lower priced items out front where they will get people's attention, and stop them from assuming that all your art is expensive, which is what they will do if you have expensive art where they will see it first.

3.Don't stand out in front of your booth doing nothing. People seem to get the idea that you are waiting to "pounce" on them if they stop, so they don't.

4. Don't sit in your booth staring at people. The same reason as number 3.

5. Don't assume people understand what your artwork is. The difference between different painting mediums or what the functions are of your various pottery dishes, etc. may seem obvious to you, but that doesn't mean that the people who walk into your booth know what it is. Be friendly and tell them! If they stop to admire your artwork, you could say something like, "Hi! Just for clarification, the paintings you are looking at hanging on that wall are all original watercolor paintings." You could also point out what other things you have, if any (briefly! You don't want to smother them!)and then tell them that if they have any other questions you're here to help. Doing this accomplishes several things; you have opened a line of communication, helped them understand what they are looking at, and given them the idea that it's ok not to know about your art form, and that you are informative and helpful.

6. Bring lots of "backup supplies" like tape, safety pins, string, scissors, basic tools, and a step ladder. You never know when they will come in handy, and they are likely to be used at every show to help make sure everything looks perfect. They may even, at times, stop a bad situation from becoming a disaster

7. If you are doing outdoor shows, go ahead and plan for bad weather. In doing this, make sure you plan not only for precipitation, but wind.

8. Don't be insulted when occasional passerby comment on the high price of your art. A certain number of people will do this. They don't understand it's rude or don't think you can hear them, or something. Every once in a while they may even say something to you. Be prepared to smile through it. If you've done your research and feel comfortable with your prices, then you can explain to them that your prices are comparable with similar products from artists with your level of reputation in your area. If they don't agree, so be it. Don't sweat about it. Just make sure to always do your research on pricing.

9. Bring lots of business cards and/or other promotional materials, and hand them out liberally. Many of them will turn into later sales, especially if you have a website and also especially if you offer commissioned art.

10. Dress nicely, but wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing a lot. You don't want your smiling and greeting and chatting with potential customers to be hindered by a terrible pain in your feet!

To see my art or contact me, please visit my website


  1. Good luck this spring when you hit the art shows again! Interesting post!

  2. Hi Laura. I so enjoyed your list of things to definitely do on the art show circuit. I did the circuits all over the US for 25 years and loved every minute of it. The closest I ever got to NC though was passing thru on our way up North. Hope you have great sales for this coming seem to have your act together and your art is certainly very appealing (and therefore very sellable).

  3. Amber- thanks so much for reading and for your compliment!

    Peggy- I'm looking forward to this spring! Thank your kind words!

    Mollie- I'm so glad you so enjoyed my article! I'd love to hear more about your vast experience in this area... 25 yrs! Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words!

  4. Fantastic article - so helpful, your display is very professional. Thank you very much for sharing.

  5. Thanks a bunch, Pam. I hope your first show goes as well as mine did :)

  6. Thanks for the advice Laura, I'm hoping to do an open air exhibition this weekend (weather permitting!), it's my first ever and it'll be an experience if nothing else! :D

  7. That's great, Ronnie! I wish you tons of luck! If you think of any more topics in this category (or any others for that matter) that you have questions about that I could answer in a blog post, please let me know!!
    Thanks for your comment! :)

  8. Laura, these are very wise words. Thanks for posting. A list I would definitely check when planning for an open air exhibition.


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