After several years of marketing exclusively through galleries (click HERE to learn from my gallery mistakes) and a website I decided to look into art shows. This decision was primarily because I was a single mom and the galleries’ high commissions made it difficult to make a living. About the same time a dear friend of mine who worked in bronze was contemplating it as well. We decided to venture into art shows together. I remained at a few galleries, but it was hard to keep enough product on hand for both ventures. So, I eventually pulled out of the galleries. Looking back, this was a mistake and I should have worked to maintain both galleries and art shows.
Shows and events are beneficial and give you a taste of the public. You should plan your calendar a year out. When setting up your schedule contact the shows at least six months in advance. Make sure to cover the following topics when you reach out to them:
- Show deadlines
- Space fees or other charges
- If they supply electricity
- Show environment
- Is the show outside? If so do they supply tents?
- Size of the booth space
- Other booths similar to your product line
- Food options
- Anticipated level of attendance
Make a list of everything you’ll need and then some. Don’t forget the wipes, shows are dusty and dirty. Don’t scrimp on professional displays and lighting. Have plenty of business cards. Arrive early, set up, and stay late. Make a connection with each potential client, even the children. Attempt to get as much information as you can about them so you can follow up later. Note what pieces they were interested in.
Art shows are fun and exciting, but very expensive. Beyond the initial investment you can tack on hotels, gas, and food. Often we’d leave a show without selling anything. The show set up, tear down and travel can be difficult. I remember one show in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, the weather had been terrible, neither of us had sold any work, exhaustion had set in and we were packing up the vehicles. We weren’t allowed to drive them onto the site and were parked a long distance away. It was cold and wet and we were both soaked. The tarps were in place on my truck and we were tying it down. My friend looked at me, tears running down her face and said, “Jo, I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” As you can see sometimes it’s hard, and, yes you cry. On the other side you laugh a lot, have many unique experiences, and meet some wonderful people.