Tuesday, January 22, 2013

things I'm learning about art fairs.


Checking out the Flagstaff Art in the Park event on the fourth.  :)

Lately, I've been gleaning any information I can find online about art fairs and thought it would be fun to post some of what I've learned so far.  
  • You need a canopy.  There are better ones, like Trimline, but they are pricey for starting out, so lots of newbies use the less-expensive EZ-up tents.
  • For display panels, there are a lot of choices out there and a *lot* of homemade versions, some of which look *really* bad.  But, the standard for creating an art gallery in the outdoors are ProPanels.  They are not cheap, either, but most of what I've read says that sooner or later artists who do very many art fairs cave in and buy them.
  • Bungee cords, plastic zip ties and metal clips are your friend at art fairs.  Apparently, you use them for everything.
  • You need a sales tax license for your state (and usually for the city the art fair is in).
  • You need to accept credit cards.  There are devices that you can get that will allow you to do this, and as you might guess, "there's an app for that" if you have a smart phone.
  • Wearing a shirt with the name of your business on it helps identify you as the artist.  And, you also don't want to wear a shirt the same color/s as most of your art... you might blend in too much and "get lost" in your own display.
  • It's tricky to figure out which art fairs are really fine art, and not craft fairs.  They say that if there's anything sold on a stick, you're probably at a craft fair.  Not to be an art snob, but you do want to make sure the crowds coming are actually looking to buy fine art, which is lots more pricey than "stuff on a stick".
  • You have to be prepared for the weather.  Most people use PVC pipes with concrete inside to weight down the four corners of their canopies.  You can get apps for weather forecasting, to keep an eye out for bad weather that might make you need to tear down your display (think tornadoes... although that's not an issue here in the Southwest).
  • You need a banner with your business name on it. 
  • And people at art fairs apparently like it if you are doing a demonstration while they come by.  If you do, you need another person to man the booth because it will be too much to do everything at once.

Okay, so how am I coming along with all of this?
  • I have an EZ-up tent that I can borrow for my first venture into all of this.
  • I'm going to make my own display panels that look very like Pro Panels but for much less (I've found a couple different ideas online that look pretty nice and are lightweight, too).  (Ask me in a year or so if I've decided it's worth it to put out the cash for the big guns.)
  • I'll make sure to get the bungees, zip ties and metal clips before I get to an art fair and wish I had them. 
  • I sent out my trade name application for my art business, which I have to have in place before I get my sales tax license.  Oh, I feel so official now! :)
  • We got a special offer from a local bank for a free iPod Touch, which is on its way now.  I found a free app for accepting credit cards on that.  The service costs money, but I read somewhere that I might miss as many as 40% of my sales by not accepting credit cards.
  • I've designed a shirt on spreadshirt.com that says "ART by Amelia Kay" on it.  Once I get accepted into a show, I will have them print them for us.  I did notice that at the art fair we visited, it was hard to see which person was the artist in the display.  So I really think the shirts are a good idea.
  • I'm still working on the figuring out which shows are worth applying for.  I have heard that if they are juried, that's a good start.  The one I'm eyeing up for August is juried, although the deadline is late in July so I'm not sure how selective they are.  We shall see...
  • I am still formulating the plan for our tent weights, but probably some version of the PVC pipe/concrete combination. 
  • Since the art fair I'm hoping to get into doesn't allow homemade banners, I'm working on designing one online to have printed.  
  • And I'm considering bringing something to work on while I'm at art fairs.  I have a feeling I may not do this at the first one, just to get a feel for how it all goes first.
Anyway, that's what I've been learning so far.  I've found a few online forums where artists discuss all of this stuff, and lately it's been my late-night pastime to educate myself on art fairs.  This week, I finally got to check out a nearby art fair to see some of the things I've been learning in action.  It was great to see how much I've already learned.  

I have a feeling, though, that there's still so much to discover...

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