Monday, October 31, 2011

My process for art fairs/craft shows

When doing a craft fair/art show, I break the event into four basic areas: pre-show setup, show setup, the show, and post-show.

Now, I’ve gotten better at this (believe me… my wife knows how disorganized I was). For the pre-show setup, I like to make sure that all of my prints are done, all labels are created, all prices are attached, and I’ve made a decision about what artwork to bring. My prints are separated into two bins (which is in my booth). The top bin contains multiple copies of my most popular prints (in alphabetical order). The bottom bin contains multiple copies of my other prints (in alphabetical order). I also begin wrapping my paintings in bubble-wrap and place them in boxes for transport. Other things that I make sure that I bring to a show: scissors, clear tape (for wrapping up paintings in bubble-wrap), extra bubble wrap, my credit card machine, extra roll of credit card paper, price labels, receipt book, extra pens, address form for new contacts (also, small clipboards), business cards, table cloth to cover my bins, water, extra lightbulbs, granola bars, and … most important… altoids (nothing like having your customers avoid you because of bad breath!). Now that I’m more organized, I do this several days to weeks ahead of schedule. I used to do this the morning before and it led to some incredibly hectic mornings!

Now, I like to setup for a show the night before. That way, if I forget something, I can bring it the next morning. So, when setting up a show, I keep a couple of things in mind. First of all, I make sure that I have plenty of room in my booth that people can come in. My chair and flip bins are against the outside corners. I like having people inside of the booth so that they look around without people running into them or walking in front of them in the aisle. I also position my lights so that they are taller than a 6’ person and not shining in people’s eyes. The setup is pretty simple. Using my graphic display panels, I have black coverings that show of my work pretty nicely. I place the $75 paintings over the prints because people who are mostly interested in prints may consider a lower price original. I also place my brightest and best paintings in the center of my booth. That way they are seen from a distance and have that “Wow!” effect when people walk by. The point is to get them to stop walking and come into the booth. For extra prints, etc, I keep the bins in back of my booth so that I can access the extra bubble-wrap and other materials easily.

Now, I mentioned that my top bin has my most popular prints. The top bin also contains shopping bags for my customers and some bubble-wrap/scissors/tape for paintings. The point is that you need to get to the materials to make the sale, replace the item and get the customer out of your booth as quickly as you can. It’s like a restaurant: the more people that you can get in/out with product, the more products that you can sell.

When working a show, I have a prepared script that I always follow. I would suggest that everybody has one. Something not truly annoying because you will say this a thousand times. First of all, you NEED to talk to the customer. Don’t sit in your chair in the back. You won’t get customers or sales. Don’t ignore them. You pay money to do this! The point is to come home with more money than you spent to be in the show. So, when a customer comes into my booth, I show them a paper that has a drawing on it and explain that I create drawings out of my head. Once the drawings are done, I mix the drawing with plein-air work to create my original pieces. The paintings are gallery-wrapped, so that there is no need to purchase a frame. From there, I let them look and interact with them, if they are a talkative type of person. Don’t continuously talk to them. They need time to look at everything. If they stand in front of a painting for a while (about 10 seconds), go over and talk to them about the painting. Ask them what they like about it, etc. Start a conversation. The most important thing that you can do is to say “Hi” to a lot of people and smile. This will get a lot of them to stop and enter your booth. Never judge about who can or cannot buy your art. You never know.

One of the things that I do, which some people say don’t, is that I sit in a chair. I have bad knees and can’t really stand in the same spot the entire day. So, I use a director’s chair. This helps me be at eye-level for most people. For people significantly shorter than me, I talk to them from the chair. It makes me less imposing. For most people , when they enter the booth, I get up to talk to them.

Also, never pack up early. You see a lot of vendors start to do this. I’ve sold works at the end of the show when people are starting to pack up

Once a show is done, I always write up a report. This details what I like about a show, what worked, what didn’t, what pieces the people bought, what they ignored, how much money I made, show costs, etc. That way, the next time the show rolls around, I can determine if it’s worth it for me to sign up again.

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