Last year, Callie and I did this show for the first time. In fact, it was our first art fair ever, and boy did we learn a lot. Here are just some of the tasks we had to do since we were total beginners:
- Buy a tent (and figure out how to set it up)
- Buy old but sturdy steel wire panels for the walls, and cover them with a good-quality grey canvas fabric
- Buy and paint 3 shelving units
- Get a cash box, receipt books, and the ability to take credit cards
- Design and order marketing materials (tent banner, postcards for future show, business cards)
- Price work for an art fair in a struggling economy
On the first five, we did pretty darn good! We had to research everything and decide what our best option was on each count. We’d had experience setting a gallery show together, but setting a show in such a small (10 feet x 10 feet) space was a challenge. When we finished setting up, we were pretty happy with the result. It looked professional, showed off our work, and drew people to our booth like flies to honey.
Turning browsers into customers, however, was a different story.
As I said, we’d had a gallery show before. Our prices could be higher, because of two things:
- Each art piece was displayed on its own pedestal or given an ample amount of wall space
- People coming to the gallery were willing to spend more on a nice piece of art.
Artsfest was a different story. It is an outdoor art show in a sculpture garden, with dozens of artists and many varieties of art for people to see. Here’s how it differed from our first show:
- Lots of artwork was displayed in a small space, on shelves and on the panels. We gave each piece as much space as possible, but it wasn’t anywhere close to what it would get in a gallery.
- People at Artsfest fell into a more mainstream category of browsers. They were mostly out for a nice day of looking at art, and while most people were interested in taking something home, few could spend much money on one item.
Our artists’ hearts swelled when we heard people exclaiming happily over our work, admiring certain pieces, and even taking the time to tell us directly that they love our work. Clearly we were connecting with people.
But sales were extremely slow. People went silent when they saw our prices (we know this because our husbands were behind the tent and could hear people’s comments when they thought no one was listening). They may have loved the art, but they couldn’t afford to take it home with them.
Getting that feedback was extremely important. We experimented with pricing at our next show (although it wasn’t an art fair), and sold much better.
This year, both of us made sure to include more items in the “magic price range” of $10-$50. We have some pieces that are much higher, but they are large, beautiful pieces meant to draw customers to the tent. If they sell, it’s a bonus, but we don’t expect them to. Once they come into the booth, they will find that one piece (or several) that they just have to have (or give as a gift) that fits into their price range.
That’s the plan, anyway. We are still beginners, and I’m sure we’ll learn just as much this year as we did last year. As most artists will tell you, pricing work properly so that you can make a living is the hardest part. As long as we get better each year, we’ll be happy!
Come by and say hi if you are in Southern Maryland this weekend, or check back in next week for pictures and to find out what we learn this year!
Category: Ceramics & Mosaics