I work really hard to create art and craft that people respect and appreciate. Visitors to my booth ooh! and ahhh! over my work, handle it, ask questions, admire it ... and then walk on by. Everyone says "It's the economy" "It's the slow time of the season" "After the election things will be different." My art works is priced VERY modestly. My last two art fairs I sold ONE (1) $19.00 scarf at each one. I work hard and fast. I know my expenses I don't try to gouge prices. I simply need to make back the money I spend on art and pay my rent.... I cringe when I see some vendor selling 8" x 54" tie-dye scarves that are pre stitched for 65.00 dollars.. they cost them about 4.00 each to make. While I don't begrudge them the money if they can get it....Where is the ART?
I've done a number of art shows this year that have been financial busts. The "ART FAIR" business has been growing in leaps and bounds. Everyone is on the bandwagon to produce an arts and crafts show. They have realized how many artist wannabes are out there trying to break into the business that are willing to fork out the application fees and the big bucks to the producers in order to set up and try to sell art. I admit, I've been one of them!
Some were major shows with hefty entrance fees (and long waiting lists) that tout incredible attendance and sales records per capita .... yet there were no people walking the aisles. They make their money off the booth fee's of the artist, supplemented by the entrance fee of patrons viewing. They don't care if we sell anything or not once we've signed on the dotted line! Every vendor around me said they sold nothing. Sugarloaf Festivals, zip! First Sunday Annapolis. zip! Reston Festival of the arts...zip. Harbor East Baltimore...? ZIP. And if I don't apply for a space next year because of terrible sales they don't really care; there is another fool waiting in the wings to have my space in the line up.
I am really learning my lessons though. I will not spend large entrance fees and booth fees any longer for festivals that aim at "Family entertainment". The last 3 fairs billed themselves as Fine Art and Craft shows. They were really street parties with no focus at all other then a "good time" for the community members. Every other booth along the way was beaded jewelry, intermixed with food vendors and fund raising groups , a few gyms selling member ships, imported buy sell toys and jewelry, and diet centers , window installers, plumbers, and even a couple of fortune tellers. Where do these things fit into Fine Art and Fine crafts? What is that "JURY fee" for? At the Harbor East show the artist tents were placed at the farthest end of the closed off streets, next to a huge generator. The generator was loud enough that it was hard to talk to clients. At Reston the Artists were closer to the band stand. The mixed quality group of performers was so loud visitors walked the streets with their fingers in their ears. No one could seem to do anything about it. Several calls to the producer got no response. The sound board operator said he was using the correct levels and that was that.
In my background training as a performing artist there is one simple rule passed on from generation to generation. "Never go on-stage with small children or animals." They will upstage you every time. At the fairs I've been doing, parents with no control of their toddlers, wheel SUV size baby carriages with dogs on leashes attached into merchandise while sipping their latte, or better yet the beer and wine allowed at these ART events ( read "street parties") Listening to the band and ignoring both the merchandise, and the fact that their dog is wrapping his leash around the leg of a table holding my entire life's merchandise on it.
Food, music and kids really do NOT lead to a conducive atmosphere for serious art buying. Or even good conscientious gift buying. LEAVE the kid's and the dogs at home.
Producers -Restrict animals. This is not a DOG WALK - it's an ART AND CRAFTS show. And if you really want to support the artists don't invite the bands to push their CD and play loudly enough that a conversation with someone interested in purchasing the art on sale is impossible. LIMIT food to one area and rope it off... chocolate and soda hand prints (not to mention coffee and beer stains) are hard to remove from art. If you are producing an event or supporting one as a patron. THINK about the real reason you are doing it! Patrons - Set aside just a few precious hours of your time. Leave the Blackberry and cell phone at home. Take a deep breath. Really look at the booths as you pass by. Take time to talk to the artists. Find out why they do what they do. Who are they? What is it about their art that attracts you? Talk. We won't bite and we love to share our stories.
Artists are entrepreneurs! We work for ourselves. We sacrifice a great deal to be able to create fine art and craft and to make a simple living doing it. Nothing give s me more joy than the look on some one's face when she/he discovers a piece of art that touches his/ her soul! We need a fighting chance to make a living at what we do. until next time create Beauty and fill the world with Love Wynn
Hand painted Silk Pillow 16" x 12" Silk Satin , Muslin, Poly-fill