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Jim Hughes

1 Year Ago

Local Art Fair Has Me Depressed

Over the weekend I walked through a big local art fair (Stone Arch Bridge Festival, Minneapolis) checking out photographers. While there's too much of the same thing in terms of subjects, a couple of people impressed me with their quality. But the low prices just depressed me. And they all had their tent walls filled with big canvas prints, and lots and lots of smaller prints (like 11x14) - the cost of all that inventory must be staggering. I don't even want to know what they had to pay for the booth.

These guys are working hard and can only be making a few dollars over the cost of material on a framed print. They're selling cheaper than FAA even BEFORE you add in the shipping, which I think is the deal breaker for most potential buyers.

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Andee Photography

1 Year Ago

Might be older inventory trying to move or they found a lower price than here

to print and make money off of. Or they like to sell more at a lower price than

a few at a higher price it happens here too if you look hard enough.

 

It is so hard now for people.

The prices to frame and show are high but people expect to pay little for the actual goods

 

Mike Savad

1 Year Ago

not many people carry big bucks to these things. most go for the funnel cake and kettle corn. i go for the free stuff and photo ops. they need images that can help pay for their space and break even. because not many will want to fork over a bunch for those things. so it will be cheaper because you don't want people walking out - can you believe those prices?!


---Mike Savad

 

Deborah Smolinske

1 Year Ago

Those exhibitors paid a $25 jury fee and anywhere from $200 to $425 for a booth space, depending on location. And that is precisely the kind of show I no longer do. It's not a fine art fair; it's a festival, with music, food, activities, the whole shebang. Those things are horrible if you're trying to sell artwork. People don't go to shows like that to buy fine art; they go for the food and the fun -- and maybe they'll drop $25 on a wooden yard sign proclaiming which team they support. Some of them will spend $200 for carved wood and such, but they won't spend it on paintings or photography.

So the thing is, how many of those artists actually sold anything? I'm betting very few, if any. I've seen this phenomenon a lot -- people doing the wrong show and lowering their prices in the hope of sale, but the sale never happens. These shows draw the artists in with a promise of a huge crowd. And they get the crowd -- sweaty, tired, beer-swilling couples with four kids in tow and absolutely no desire to buy artwork. Oh, they'll LOOK at it, ooh and ahh over it, but they won't buy it.

Don't let it depress you. Just realize this was not a fine art show and the artists who were there were at the wrong show.

 

Mike Savad

1 Year Ago

i always thought that photo or any framed art shouldn't be at places like that. handicrafts and things for the house, things that fit in a bag, that's the right fit for that stuff. artshows, that's where photos and such should be.

---Mike Savad

 

JC Findley

1 Year Ago

What Deborah said.

I am VERY picky with the shows I do now and only do the ones that target my buyers.

Even then, my prices are not low on large prints though I make most of my money on matted and bagged 5x7s which go for 25 bucks.

Regarding cash, who cares as that is what the smart phone credit card readers are for....

 

JC Findley

1 Year Ago

Oh, and regarding shipping costs, Savad up there has a few hundred fans plus that thought shipping was well worth it.

 

Louise Reeves

1 Year Ago

My initial outlay was enormous, but after doing only 3 shows a year (since 2005), if I make more than $200, it's profit. People do buy at these shows, but they don't spend a lot of money-I've had people say how much they Looooooooooooove a framed print, then when they hear "$55" they walk away. But that same exact print I can ask $175 in a gallery and get it. If they aske me to take it out of the frame, I will. I'm down to less than 20 framed pieces now and I'm considering not even doing matting any more. That way, I can bag more 11x14 prints and make a higher profit on those.
The majority of my money is made in matted prints-they cost me $6 and I sell the 11x14's (8x10 prints in mats) for $15 each, 2 for $25. People think that's such a bargain, they buy 2 most of the time.
Unlike Mr. Mike, for whatever reason, my stuff doesn't sell online. It has to be in person. A good weekend for me is over $600. Of the shows I do, 2 cost about $150, the third, a juried show with cash awards (I've won 1st place 3 times now) costs me only $65.
Taking credit cards is a big help, too. Impulse buying is the biggest money maker.

 

Heather Applegate

1 Year Ago

I've just finished doing 4 fairs/festivals in a row...

Overall, I make more of an effort with my marshmallow stuff. I sell cards like crazy, they aren't a big investment for folks, it's weird, and they can always think of someone who would want one. Matted and bagged prints I sell fewer of, but they do not cost me much. I've not ventured into canvas wraps, metalics or acrylics for shows. I have some 8x10s and 11x14s in simple frames that have also sold. I'm lucky to live in an area where there are fairs and festivals nearly every weekend and I can take my pick of where to go. The most expensive one I've signed up for so far is one of the biggest festivals in the area at $190 per space and I'll be sharing that with a friend who makes soap.

Since I'm new to the area, I'm trying to build up my collection of local prints, but there are also plenty of local photographers selling nothing but local stuff. My marshmallows give them something totally different to look at :)

 

Deborah Smolinske

1 Year Ago

I did a show a couple of weeks ago in a very wealthy suburb of Chicago. It was a small show, no more than 20 booths. They do allow some jewelry (two booths), but none of the other stuff like pottery, carved wood, metal work, dried flowers, et cetera, et cetera. The other 18 or so booths were a mix of photographers and painters. The show is in its eighth year. It's not one of the big-name shows, but the area has a reputation for supporting the arts. I paid more for my booth than I've ever paid before (but less than those people at the Minneapolis show that started this thread). Nearly half the booths were photographers, several of whom I have met at other shows in the area. My prices were about 10% to 20% higher than most of the other photographers -- and I outsold every one of them. It was my best show ever. I understand the show isn't doing as well as it has in previous years, but you couldn't prove that by me. It is held the same weekend as two other HUGE (and difficult to jury into) fine art shows in the Chicago area.

I think my success was partly that it really was a fine art show and partly that I was the new kid nobody had seen before. But it did prove to me that there's nothing wrong with my prices. And it proved that the right show makes all the difference. Here's hoping the four remaining shows I've signed up for this year will be as successful!

 

Phil King

1 Year Ago

I do photography sales, twice weekly at farmers markets, and do rather well. However, you do have to find your price point, both in sales and supplies. It's been a tough economy the last few years and art is not in the little guys budget. It is getting much better, though. But, fortunately, I am not dependent upon it for a living.

 

John Crothers

1 Year Ago

I just did an Amdur Productions show in New Buffalo, Mi over the weekend and did pretty good. At least I think I did, it was my first real show. Sold about $800.00 worth of stuff. In the end, made a few hundred bucks.

My best seller, and the piece that got the most attention was this one...

Art Prints

I sold a 24x36 acrylic of it and a framed 24x36

The people that bought the framed print also bought a matted print of this one

Photography Prints


A big advantage was I live in the area and had pictures of local places. The lighthouse is less than 50 miles from the show and the people that bought it had a boat at that town or a lake house near the beach. Most of the patrons were from Chicago.

It seems one must get in front of the right crowds and the shows that allow anyone to sell things like wooden signs and even buy/sell crap will bring in the wrong crowd and the artist is going to have trouble in a show like that.

 

JC Findley

1 Year Ago

Walk up with one and I will tell them if they buy two the third is half off. (which is 16% off overall.) Walk up with three and I tell them they can buy four and the fifth is free. (20% off overall)

But, it is only done when they come up or ask.

 

Deborah Smolinske

1 Year Ago

Well, I'll say another thing about this show I did a couple weeks ago. I think I've finally gotten my sales technique going in the right direction. I hate a hard sell, and I won't do it, but I've been studying, studying, studying less aggressive sales techniques. I developed a "spiel" that I must have repeated so many times, I got sick of hearing myself (and a little hoarse). On Saturday, I was kind of fumbling through it and constantly changing it, but by Sunday, I had it down pretty pat. I really think it did the trick. I highlighted the quality of the materials I use, used all the right buzzwords, made sure to tell the story of an image if somebody seemed interested. I'd sometimes launch my spiel and end it with "And now I will shut up and let you shop in peace," which invariably brought a laugh, and often a question or two about a particular piece. Sometimes I'd have someone in the booth who had already heard it when it came time to start it up again, and I'd tell the first person they didn't have to listen twice -- another laugh getter. And something that was cool was that I'd see people go get a partner or friend and come back and repeat some of my selling points to the new person for me. Loved that.

 

Lynn Palmer

1 Year Ago

John, that's a beautiful shot of Lake Michigan on a stormy day but I noticed that it has no description and few keywords.

 

Dave Bosse

1 Year Ago

I stopped doing those local shows years ago after deciding that I was paying hundreds just to feed my ego and show off my work to local people... an artist "in his own country" is not respected so I sold little and always lost money.

 

Jim Hughes

1 Year Ago

How are you folks (i.e. Louise Reeves) getting quality matted 11x14s for $6? 0If I wanted to get into this, I'd have a big problem because hardly any of my photos are standard aspect ratios...)

This is a fairly high-end art fair, as these things go; it isn't just face painting for the kids, and lawn ornaments, this is one stop on the national tour for a number of photographers and artists. I'm going to find out what a booth costs and I'll bet it will be a lot.

Interesting and valuable responses. I'll have more doom and gloom to spread around later, but I have to leave for the evening.

 

John Crothers

1 Year Ago

Thanks Lynn,

It doesn't have a description. Funny thing is I asked a question earlier about how important keywords are.

Like Deborah said above I had a "spiel" for that piece at the show. How it was shot during hurricane Sandy last year. The wind was 65 mph and the waves were 35-40 feet, and this was 900 miles from where it landed.

I guess this gets back to my post asking how important descriptions were because that piece sold because of the story, because it was taken during the "famous" hurricane Sandy.

 

John Crothers

1 Year Ago

Jim,

I buy archival mat board from Dick Blick for $15.00 a sheet. I can get 6 11x14 mats from one sheet so I have about $2.50 in the mat for each image. A print cost a couple bucks and I spend about $5.00 for a sheet of backer board (again 6 cuts from one sheet). So $6.00 isn't impossible.

 

Roy Erickson

1 Year Ago

Ah, but you did have a "spiel - description" for your live show - perhaps writing it down would push it just a little here

 

Deborah Smolinske

1 Year Ago

Jim, I told you what a booth cost in my first post. I looked it up on Zapplication. It was $25 for the jury fee, and booths were anywhere from $200 to $425, depending on location. That's not "a lot" as these things go.

 

Louise Reeves

1 Year Ago

I buy precut mats, usually on sale at Jerry's Artarama for under $3 each-sometimes their online store sells the 11x14's for 10 for $10. An 8x10 print costs me about $2 from the lab and I buy 4'x3' museum boards or, if i can't get those, a pad of bristol board for backings. I pick up my prints so I don't have to pay shipping as the lab is 25 miles away. Also, if prints don't sell after a couple of years, I pull those apart and reuse the mats.
Keep in mind my costs aren't including the 2-sided photo tape or the spray photo glue I use to mount the backings or the bags, but I got those on special too and I'll probably be leaving some of those to my next of kin, I have so many.
Buy in bulk, buy on sale.

 

Heather Applegate

1 Year Ago

I have a couple places I order mats/back/bags from that are quality. Paying $1.20/$1.80/$3.00 for each set in the quantities I order (5x7, 8x10, 11x14) - if someone wants larger I have them pay me for it and I order it for them. (Not much of my work is cropped to standard size so I either crop it to something I can live with or just don't sell it at a show - just have a binder with examples of my work in it - and give out a lot of cards).

 

Deborah Smolinske

1 Year Ago

Jim, I don't mean to be argumentative, but I think it's important to make this point in order to dispel the idea that nobody will pay for art in the proper venue. They do and they will, but it has to be the right kind of show. The show you went to was not a fine arts fair, nor was it even "higher end."

There were 229 exhibitors (at least according to the artist list posted on the festival's website -- a few of those had two booth spaces). Of that, the breakdown is as follows:
Fine Crafts (26); Ceramics (26); Drawing/Pastels (8); Glass (16); Jewelry (45); Photography (23); Painting (29); Mixed Media (22); Metal Work/Sculpture (17); Printmaking (8); Culinary Arts (5); Not Specified (4).

Do you see how many non-artists on are that list? I'm not trying to argue that these people are not artisans, but they are not artists in the same sense as the people who sell here on FAA. Almost 20% of the booths were jewelry. Another 95, or 41%, were other types of artisans (fine crafts, ceramics, glass, metal work/sculpture, culinary arts, not specified). And who knows what "mixed media" means to this show. That could be anything from yard art to dried flowers to seashells glued to something. Only 65, or 30%, were visual artists like those here on FAA (drawing/pastels, photography, painting, printmaking). A show with that mix of exhibitors is not a fine art fair. It's an arts and crafts show -- and those shows will NEVER draw the kind of people who are consistently willing to spend their hard-earned cash on visual arts.

And I'm curious how you can say it's "one stop on the national tour for a number of photographers..." I checked for reviews at all the reputable sites for photographers who sell at art fairs, and I could only find one review, which, BTW, was only fair to middlin'. If it really were one of the top stops on the "tour," it would be listed on every site, with lots of reviews and discussions, and it's not. In fact, if you look at the reviews for the festival on Yelp, every single one of them is simply a review of the bridge and the surrounding area. Not one is a review of the actual festival.

Again, I don't want to start an argument with you; I'm just reiterating what I said before. What you saw should not depress you; it should instead be an illustrative example of how to successfully choose your market -- and particularly what NOT to choose.


 

An interesting thread!
We do about 12-15 shows a year for the past 2 1/2 years. Most are 'fine art' shows, juried, with high quality pieces of all types. Some are art fairs which include quality and not-so-quality crafts. We do well in all of them. The key is to have a wide variety of interesting images to appeal to just about anyone. We carry tropical sunrises, mountain barns, fine art canoes, boats, and bicycles, and kaleidoscopes which Dave loves to do. We only do well-established shows (20 years or more), pay jury fees, and usually anywhere from $175-$700 per booth and we always get a double if they offer it. We have 12 panels and fill them both sides with framed 20x28" matted prints and large 3 and 4 foot canvas pieces. We also offer 12x16 matted prints and 18x24" matted prints as well as Limited Edition 20x28" matted prints, sleeved. We sell a bit of everything each show. A decent show for us has to be at LEAST $2k and we consider a show we would do again to be over $3k. Our usual show lately is around $5-$6k and we have done 2 shows this year and one last year that hit almost $10,000 each. We only do 2-day shows because our booth takes 3 hours to set up with us both working hard. We have a super nice tent that can go 20 feetx10 feet or can go down to 15 or 10 feet square if we can only get a single booth. We have a 44" carriage Epson 9000 series printer and do all of our own printing, we buy our mats wholesale already-cut, and Dave makes our very nice rustic pine frames. Folks usually like the frames so much, they buy the piece off the wall because of it. We keep our prices about what those sizes cost clients here at FAA and do get a few sales after the show through here. Most of our sales here though are fly-bys, not from our shows. We did over $50k last year on shows alone, so yes, they are very worthwhile. But you have to work hard and rain or shine, you paid your fee and pray for the best. We had 2 shows this year that rained most of the weekend but we still sold enough to pay our expenses. We do try to do most of our shows close enough to home, either our S FL house or our NC mountain cabin, to go home each night after the show and drive back in the morning. Some we do pay hotels and pet-sitters and those shows have to produce more than the closer-to-home shows. We sell a lot because we have a terrific product, high-quality materials, good prices, and very open and friendly personalities. You get what you put into it, that's for sure. All of that being said, I don't recommend that most folks dive into doing shows. You really need to scout out how to do it, what is selling, and put your heart and soul into it. It is very hard for a single person to do it right. Dave and I play off each other and take turns chatting with the clients that come into the booth. And yes, there are a ton of folks that are just looking and just LOVE your work, but never intended on buying anything. We have done huge shows that have thousands of people attending each day, only to sell barely $900 and the booth cost us $400. Those shows we don't do anymore. You try a show once, and if it is great, you do it again the following year. We are finding really really good shows now on the recommendation of others. They are all juried and we get in most of the time but not always. You never know what the jurists will like and sometimes there are just too many photographers and they can't take us. BTW, the shows we do mostly have anywhere from 75 booths for a small show to over 350 booths for a big show. Our 3 best shows have been Coconut Grove, FL, Vero Beach, FL, and Blue Ridge, GA so far. Have a great week everybody!! Celebrate life, Debra (and Dave!)

 

Tony Murray

1 Year Ago

Funny, the reason I got into photography was one of the first outdoor "Fine art shows" I was involved in. It was stipulated that a person selling fine art could not sell prints, but a photographer could. They sold quite a few and I got pissed about the inequity of it all. So if you can't beat em join em'.

 

Murray Bloom

1 Year Ago

My images are almost all nonstandard sizes. I buy 32x40 mat board at Utrecht for about $6. I cut the mats for standard frame sizes. If we use a 14" print as an example, I get four 16x20 mats per sheet ($1.50 each plus a few minutes to cut each of them). Prints cost me about $2.00 per square foot on my Epson large format printer. Total cost comes to about $4 per matted print.

 

Jim Hughes

1 Year Ago

Deborah, yes those figures are correct. I would have guessed a bit more. No it's not an "art" show by any means, but it's a cut above most of the other "festivals" in the area. Stone Arch is in the heart of a very trendy part of town and people with money do show up. I've seen some quite good photographers from other states, and they come back, so they must be making something.

I can see that given the amount of work needed to actually make it worthwhile, this isn't for everyone. Cutting all your own mats, for example, is work. Doing your own printing is work, and often frustration as well.

These "Festival" buyers weren't looking for art, but decoration, and to them framed photos are a product just like bar stools. They want standard subjects - the barns, horses, old pickup trucks in the weeds, sports stadiums, you all know the list. (There were w-a-y too many giant photos of the Minneapolis skyline at night. But I heard a buyer walk up to a photographer and say "I'm looking for a skyline, only bigger".) These photos are, unfortunately, commodities, so the producers are competing on price. That's how I should be looking at it.


Not really my thing I guess.

 

Alfred Ng

1 Year Ago

Jim, if you think it is lot of work to print and cutting all the mat yourself. Just image, I paint, frame, mat all my work and sometime even cut my own glass by hand. Yes, they are part of the work of being a full time artist. I would love to paid someone do all those work but I would need to get a job to pay them.
My paintings usually more expensive than others at the show but the people buy mine are not interested in the less expensive ones. All I need is to sell a couple and I be laughing all the way to the bank.

 

Martha Harrell

1 Year Ago

Hello all,

I sell my original art sometimes at outdoor shows. The one I went to this spring, was where I had been in 2005 and sold four. Happy again? No.
Bad weather had caused it to be cancelled most of the years since then. This time, there was a 5K race along with it. I have noticed that the runners are there to run, not to buy. Also the youth contingent was buying jewelry, not handmade. Even the local artists were not selling. So I think that the economy has decimated a lot of small towns and the crowds are there for the music and events, not art.

 

Jim Hughes

1 Year Ago

Alfred, I recently got a small show in a coffee shop/gallery and I cut 15 mats (and backing boards) and that was a chore. I've made a lot of wooden frames too.

 

Roy Erickson

1 Year Ago

I quit doing outdoor shows when I realized that while I was "making a profit" on the art - I was NOT making money. There are few nearby local shows - and driving 200 or 300 miles to get to a "good one" - and if you have car trouble, flat tire - almost for sure any profit is gone. Watercolors, like prints on paper - have to be matted framed and glass or plexi over them - Even when I raised my prices - it was mostly to cover the cost of framing. "I" woudn't do that kind of show ever again - because there is also the physical toll of setting up, tearing down, packing it all in the van - thanks - but no thanks. I'm willing to do shows where you take maybe three to five pieces, juried, with money prizes as well as ribbons and fame - but no more outdoor.

 

Louise Reeves

1 Year Ago

Why on earth would you cut your own mats? Hire a framer to do it if they're off-sized. I don't even print my own prints anymore-the cost of using a good photo lab is cheaper and I don't have to worry about screwing something up or burning thru yet another Epson mid-print.

 

This discussion is closed.