Monday, January 7, 2008


This is the introduction to a series of articles I am writing on how to make money at art and craft fairs for a living. I am writing these articles with the assumption that you plan to make a living at art shows as opposed to do them as a part time endeavor or for a hobby.

With nearly 30 years of experience earning my total income or a portion of my income from this profession, I have a lot of pointers and advice for the novice in this field. I have done fine art and craft shows throughout the United States and have participated in some of the major shows in most regions as well as regional and local shows. I have been awarded numerous prizes for my art and my booth designs, some ribbons and some cash prizes.

During these years I have worked in many mediums including, but not limited to, colored pencil, pastel, watercolor, acrylics and oils. I have created art in subject matters from cactus to carousel horses and in contemporary style to classic. My work changed as my market changed or as my interests changed. Sometimes as my life changed. Currently I sell "Painted Sculpture Fusions" which are original acrylic paintings on original sculptures which are on a sculpting medium I created and patented specifically for this series of work. I sell only originals, no reproductions, at art shows. A photo of one of my current pieces is at the top of this article. These pieces sell for $250 and up. I have sold original pieces of my art for as much as $15,000 at an art show. Gallery prices are a different story. I have also sold work for as little as $5 when I was dealing in reproductions.

I have made a very good living doing art shows. I bought a house, a motorhome, traveled the world, met some wonderful people and enjoyed life. I have also been in financial crisis. After 9/11 the world changed and so did the way people spent their money. Every new political administration affects sales, the stock market affects sales, the weather affects sales, Presidental election years affect sales, the price of rice in China affects sales, the phase of the Moon affects sales (it really does!) Your income will rise and fall according to the economy. You are selling art, you are selling a luxury, you are not a necessity. Remember that.

During my heyday I did nearly 50 shows a year, including a 30 day Christmas show. These shows were generally 2 - 4 days in length, not including travel time. In between the shows I had to come home, do "normal" people things like clean house, pay bills, buy groceries and then create my art, package it for the shows, take care of business and pack for the next show. This is a job that is a minimum of a 80 hour work week. I am not joking here, my work weeks were actually closer to 100 hours during peak seasons.

I have done art shows in rain, snow, hail, tornados, gale force winds, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. I have been at an art show where there were drunken brawls, gang fights and riots. I have encountered all forms of wildlife from killer bees to snakes and scorpions. We won't go into the myriad forms of humanity I have dealt with over the years. I have done art shows with a dislocated shoulder, a broken toe, a permanently damaged back and all number of minor aches and pains. I have done art shows every holiday including my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I was at an art show when my little bird died, my mother suffered a stroke, my sister passed away and my father died.

I tell you this to prepare you for what you are letting yourself in for. This is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding way to earn a living. You must love doing art and be dedicated, diligent and hard working. If you are looking for an easy life as an artist stop reading and go work at a burger joint. Or marry rich.

In conjunction with these articles I will be providing interviews with many other artists I have met along the way who work in many different medias. These are all artists, not wholesalers, and by that I mean these people create and produce their own product from start to finish. They do not buy and sell. These are legitimate craftspeople and artisans who are original thinkers that produce unique products. They are talented, innovative, dynamic and truly some of the best people I have met in my life.

I am primarily a two-dimensional artist so my take on the art shows focuses around wall art. I have, therefore, sent interview requests to sculptors, potters, gourd artists, fabric artists and other crafters to present their unique views and advice. Each interview will have a photograph of their work and photograph of the artist if provided and contact information they provide. These interviews will be published as they come in.

Here is a working outline of the articles I will cover. This list will change and grow as I proceed through this adventure, but these will give you an idea of what I plan to cover over the course of this tutorial.

  • What kind of artist will you be?
    • Do what you love!
    • Deciding what style and medium of art you want to create and sell
    • Know your client base - Are you trying to sell Avant Garde in a conservative market?
    • Be Prepared To Change - The Public is Fickle!
  • Preparing that work for sale
    • Originals vs. Orignals and Reproductions vs. Reproductions only
    • Matting and Framing/Presentation of Work
    • Archiving Your Work
  • Finding Show Venues - To Travel or Not To Travel
    • Show listings and publications
    • Picking the Best Shows
    • Travel Costs
    • Travel Hazards
    • Travel Advantages
  • Getting Financially Prepared
    • Booth Fees, Jury Fees
    • Payment Methods
    • Hidden Costs and Profit Margins
  • Your Show Booth
    • Creating vs. Buying Your Portable Store
    • Displaying Your Work to Best Advantage
    • Prepare for the Elements
  • Selling Techniques
    • Create your brand
    • Give them your story
    • Listen and Learn
    • Closing the Deal
  • Customer Relations
    • Mailing Lists
    • Return Policies
    • Commissions and Contracts
  • Follow Up
    • Promoting Yourself Outside the Marketplace
    • Promotional Materials
    • Public Relations
    • Marketing and Advertising
So, there you have it. This is a huge project and an ongoing one. If you truly want to become a professional artist on the art and craft show circuit then stay with me. Sign up for these posts by e-mail or feed. And stop by my website, my other blogs (The Martini Diva, The Diva of Tiny Foods, The Pop Culture Diva, The Road to Diva) and tell your friends about this site and my others. Visit my sponsors. Every bit of support from you will help me continue with this project.

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