Sunday, September 27, 2009

What to sell

As I've been discussing before, the primary goal of a craft show is to... Sell your paintings and bring in income. Therefore, how do you know what to sell? This is actually a much harder question to answer. The answer is totally based on what type of artist you want to be and what your end goals are.

If you are strictly at the craft show to make a lot of short term sales that are almost guarantees, then it is a good idea to have a LOT of small, inexpensive (less than $5) items that people can carry away. It's amazing how quickly the dollars add up. You can actually make a lot of money doing this, but you have to have a LOT of product and your product HAS to fit the motif of the show. Also, unless your items all reflect one particular motif (angel statues, fairy pendants, etc), future sales by the same people will probably be minimal. There is the point of where people will judge you as a crafter, rather than an artist (I know... I know... there's a ton of arguments over the internet saying that all crafters are artists, etc... This discussion is way to long for such a post).

If you wish to use the craft show as a venue to establish collectors, then you have to work a LOT harder at the sales and there is no guarantee that you will make your booth fees. For larger shows, this is a particular risk. However, if your work is popular, you have a chance of making a large number of sales during/after the show and having repeat business. Also, you will suddenly have people looking for you, in particular, when they go to a show.

Once you know what works to sell, now comes the harder topic of whether or not you fit the show. If you sell abstract works, are you likely to sell large expensive originals to the local crowd? Most likely not. Shows that cater to tourists are your best bet. Even then, it's more likely you will sell prints to the tourists and, potentially, some originals. Tourists don't want to carry a lot with them, but they are willing to pay for shipping for something they love that reminds them of the area.

An important point to remember is to paint what you love. It's easier to find a market for your work than to work at something that you don't like to do. Although my pen/ink birds are extremely popular, it's not what I want to do. I'm willing to forego the sales to paint my particular topic (landscape with abstract shapes).

When defining what to sell you have to ask yourself the following questions:
1) Am I an artist or a crafter?
2) Will the show be worth the time/monetary investment for my particular work?
3) Who is my target and how much money do I realistically expect them to spend?
4) What do I want to be known as? A flower painter, a landscape painter, a still life artist, an abstract artist?
5) Do I only sell originals or makes prints/cards? Selling originals is cheaper and less inventory, but it's harder to guarantee that I will make my booth fee.

For me, I started out on one end and am moving to another. When I started craft shows, I was showing my pen/ink work, watercolor paintings, oil paintings, framed prints, unframed prints, originals, cards. My topics were birds, portraits, landscape, abstracts, etc. I was all over the board. I was able to sell a fair number of prints/paintings/cards, but those were short-term sales. I had no identity.

Now, that I'm more experienced with the shows, I display oil paintings on canvased (unframed with the sides of the canvas painted). For the paintings, I sell the equivalent print or card. The topic that I sell are landscapes with an abstract image/quality to them. That is what I'm going to be known as. It's a definite style and presentation that is geared towards someone collecting my work. I may not make my booth sale every time, but I have enough interest in the paintings that I can make the sales.

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