Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why I like Craft Fairs

Well, I was reading Wet Canvas and someone commented about craft fairs. They asked if they should do them? Would this doom them to never having gallery representation? My opinion:

Well, time to put my two cents in. :-) First of all, you make "craft fair" seem to be a negative/bad word. You seem to imply that a craft show is for "hobby home-maker", not serious artists (I hear this a lot from other "fine artists"). In my opinion, it depends on how you think of your artwork. It's also how you think of yourself as an artist. If you consider yourself a "fine artist", what does that mean? Are you doing art to make a statement or is it a business? For me, art is a business. I like making my paintings and I like selling them. I don't consider myself a fine artist (though, my work has been shown in galleries) or a crafter (I sell my work at craft fairs, among other venues). I'm an artist that has a business of promoting my art work.

Galleries are like craft fairs. Their job is to present your work and sell the painting. Depends on how "hands-on" you wish to take on the business of marketing/selling your work. For galleries, they do some of the marketing and handles the sales, but you are competing for a minimal space with a lot of other artists... and they receive a commission on each painting that you sell (typically 40% or more). Craft fairs, you have to sell your own work and do your own marketing. There's the startup costs of buying/building your displays and, of course, entry fees. To make a lot of sales, both are a lot of work.

Some artists make around $10,000+ at these shows and make a great yearly living. The key to craft shows is the size. If you are at a small show, where the fees are typically around $100 to get in, most of the sales are going to be prints or cards. If you are at the mid-size shows (booth fee around $300), you'll sell some original paintings (average price $500 or more) and a lot of prints. If you are at the larger shows (booth fees around $600), you'll mainly sell a lot of original paintings around the $1000+ range and a large number of prints.

Craft shows are like any other business venture. You have to have a booth that entices people to come in and look. You have to have a product that prices reasonably and that people think that it's worthy to purchase. You have to do your marketing to get more people to come. Also, remember: think of craft shows as marketing forum. I've had a number of people come up to me at the small craft show and get my contact information. Later on, they called to purchase a painting.

If you want to sell your paintings, remember that it's business. There's a look that you want to portray of yourself, your work and your business. Doesn't matter whether it's a gallery or a craft show. It's still business.

My point is that the decision is not whether to do craft fairs or not. It's your identity. How you want to be perceived. Craft fairs are just another avenue in the marketing/business of selling your work. Just like the ebay, etsy sites, artfair sites, galleries, selling out of your garage, etc. If you've done the marketing right and got a good product, people will find you, no matter where you sell your work.

For me, I like the craft show market, more than the gallery market. I find that I sell more paintings at a faster rate. It also gives me more of an opportunity to try out new styles and methods, to see the public's reaction to them. You can't do that with a gallery. It's more work, but, I'm building a name for myself. Remember, galleries also like it if you have a name for yourself and a following. That way, it brings more business to them.


  1. Yes, you've made some good points. As far as galleries go, they take a big chunk out of the profit margins. But to each is own. It is all about getting out there. I enjoy going to the fairs because it's a great way to get to meet the artist. There is a lot of competition out there, so If one chooses the craft fair way, it's good to have something for everyone.....originals, prints and cards. Great post! Wishing you much success!

  2. Thanks. I like the gallery approach also. For me, I find that I need a much larger inventory than what I currently have. The galleries hold the paintings for about 6 months to a year (generally without a sale). However, I get more turn-over for the craft fair/art fair. Ideally, when my inventory is large, I'll be able to do the gallery, several large craft fairs, and downtown business showings... all at the same time.

    But, that's still a ways away.