5 Tips for doing an art show

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It was actually quite difficult to narrow down this post to 5 tips.  But these are the absolute basic and best things you should know and use:

  1.  Figure out your cash/credit card/payment system – That means establish a cash box, or bag with adequate change to be able to give change to your customers.  We recommend having at least $50 in $1 and $5 bills.  (Never figured it out but it seems like most people hand you $20 bills and say something like “Can you change this?”   As to charge cards, if you have a smart phone there are a number of possibilities for taking credit card payments without the outrageous bank fees.   We use Square Up, which takes a very nominal charge for payment processing, and they provide free readers, and signage.  Check out the post tomorrow for details on square up.)
  2. Figure out your display plan– Planning ahead how your merchandise will be displayed helps to make the set up process less stressful.  We have plans for as small as a 6 foot indoor table, and as large as our 10 foot square tent.  Helpful is to come up with a check list of things to bring with you for the day or days of the show.  List making helps to make sure that you have everything you need to present your merchandise and yourself.   When you are thinking of display, try to stay homogeneous.. Make your display part of your brand, your style, your image.  We tend to use old wood wine crates, and a wooden rack for our soap, which gives a vintage aesthetic to the booth.
  3. Manage your story – Selling your art at an art show is as much about your own mind and your own image, as it is the customers falling in love with what you make.  In fact we have often heard that art and handcrafts is often more about the maker, the story behind the art which leads to buyers.  People like good stories, and want to know how and why you are there beyond the obvious idea of selling your stuff.  Before you venture out to sell in an art show ask yourself the hard question – Can you distill into one paragraph how and why you are here?  We incorporated our story into our post cards, keep it simple, but clear.  Ours is a “rising from the ashes of economic collapse and reinventing our purpose” story.  Yours may be different… but its your story, and your story is a wonderful tool to share.
  4. Manage your heart – When you put your creations out there for sale know that not everyone will flock to you and be your cheerleader.  People who attend art fairs and art shows are generally very gracious, but sometimes comments fly that are surprising, possibly discouraging.  Determine long before the show that you will not focus on those few negative words spoken, but rather you will remain kind, and not respond to negative.  Manage your heart on your expectations as well.  Expect less, and be surprised if the event is better than expectations.  It’s always much harder to deal with having to lower your expectations.  I can remember one festival we participated in with much anticipation.  Others who had done the show spoke so highly of great sales, encouraging fellow artists and swelling crowds.  We sunk a big chunk of change into the expense of the show, hotel, and rented a van which we maxed out with more stock than we could possibly imagine.  We made money, but not nearly the anticipated income we had been lead to think we would make.  Both of us struggled to deal with our expectations because they were way out of sync. On the other hand, we did an indoor event last fall that I frankly did not want to do… i expected it to be painfully slow, and low sales…. and we almost sold out. Wow, how much better to underestimate expectations.
  5. Have a wide variety of price points – At art shows its always a great idea to have large as well as small items.  We are fortunate that soap is a small package, and a lower price point – so it sells well.  People are always thinking about carrying around their purchases, and may be less apt to buy that large painting, or heavy pot, but if its small and able to fit in a little bag it will sell faster.  Not to say big items don’t sell, it is nice to just have something for everyone.

As I mentioned above, I think we could probably spend a number of posts getting tips and points about art show involvement and it was most difficult to .  It is most difficult to distill thoughts down to just a few points.  Over the next two weeks I plan to write a bit more about all of our tips and experiences.


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