Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Golden Opportunity or a Really Bad Show? How Did I Decide?

This morning I got an invitation to a show happening in Dallas...

Once you've been on 'the circuit" for awhile, this happens quite regularly; you get applications or invitations from schools and churches and hair salons and art festivals and galleries and... and the list goes on.

This one was for a first-time music festival, StarFest, in downtown Dallas. Not only did I immediately reject it, but sent a pretty straightforward note 'counseling' these fools about their chances at attracting any artist!

What were the deal-breakers?

First of all, was the cost. For a well-known, well-established 2-day art festival with decent promotion, a jury and the caveat that no re-sellers are allowed (Resellers being defined as folks who buy and then resell the work in over 50% of the case), I expect to pay between $150 and $300 plus jury fees for a 10' x 10' space. This entity wanted $400 if I sent my money in by June 1st and $550 if after June 1st. Strike one!

Now, does that mean that $400 is just plain too much? Not at all! Put me in an established Fine Crafts show that caters to wholesale buyers (art galleries, gift shops, etc) and I'll expect to pay north of $1000K for even a small one of these...and it'll be worth it. SOFA, in Chicago might be several thousand...but those are geared toward my audience, guarantees me access to folks interested in purchasing large quantities of high-quality work and puts me in a crowd of like-craftspeople/artists.

The second "strike" is that all of the advertisement and brochures and materials that accompanied the application advertised this purely as a music festival. I don't know about you, but when I see an ad for a music festival, I'm going for the music..not to look at 100 art booths! If you want me to pay top dollar, bill it as an art event! Strike Two!

Thirdly, this is a brand new event. No one knows how it'll do or who it will attract. I don't mind taking some risks and trying a brand-new festival or show, but don't also expect me to pay 40% more for the booth until it's well-established as a superior show!

Some other things I look for that are important:

How well organized is the show? I recently signed up and paid my $25 entry fee for a small one-day show at a local community animal shelter. I had a Saturday show booked and had nothing, it was close and had some potential, as they were billing at least a couple of well-known artists' presence. So why did I bail at the last minute? They never aknowledged receipt of my application, addressed set-up or tear-down times or gave any of the applying artists any info about the show. They gave no information about the required donation, etc... And if the 'organizers' (SIC) can't return your calls or e-mails, how're they going to put on a good show, promote well and do all of those things that'll make it worth your while? Ditto for a seemingly good show that is announced a month or two out....if they're that late in the game, how's their other organization and promotion.

Now, find those good shows and spread the word! We need more of them!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Wanna Do More Art Shows?

Today, a fairly new artist/crafter asked the question "How do I find out about more art shows".

I've posted a long answer for a seemingly short question, but first, a story:

Years ago, my artistic and fabric-loving friend, Reid, was my art-idol....I'd do one or two shows a year and always was amazed by the number of shows she got into that I'd not even heard of...it was amazing..and I told her so.

These days, she comes by my booth and just laughs, because I do twice as many shows as she does....smile.

So here's some concrete tips for getting info about shows..but you've gotta think in the long term...:

1). The first 'thing' is to ask other artists....what shows are 'out there' and how do you get into them.

2). E-mail your artist friends and acquaintances once a month and some of them will share. The good ones aren't threatened by other artists. They know better. Besides, if your mother comes to see you at a show, she might end up buying something from me! Ask Sheyne and Tefi and many, many other artists...their moms all bought from me! Smile.

3) Know that Spring and Fall is our busy time, at least for most indoor/outdoor festivals... April 1-June 15th and then Sept through the first weekend in December...THAT is when you'll do shows..they don't happen in the summer or during the X-mas holidays/winter... That means start checking intensively about 3-4 months in advance...for the smaller shows. The larger shows can jury up to a year in advance.....

4). Watch known sources. Check Craig's List under "Artists" at least once a week. I see a couple of good shows a month posted.

5). If you're in Dallas, join Dang (Dallas Artists' Networking Group) and other groups that will know about Art/Craft/Jewelry shows, etc. Go to http://www.meetups.com/ and find DANG. There are lots of other groups. Church groups, neighborhood groups, fraternal organizations, schools and civic groups, communities...

6) Remember what I said about the long-term approach? Watch the paper, etc for shows....you'll see small and large shows listed. By the time yous see that "come to our show this weekend" announcement, you've missed getting in, right? So mark your Outlook calendar for 8 months from today..put in the name of the show, a URL if they have a website, etc, and then google them four months out and apply next year....see the long term pattern developing?

7) Google "Art Shows" and you'll see Z'application and EventLister and those kinds of entities pop up. Get on their lists, even if they're not the kind of show you want to do today...I was on Z'application for the past three years..this year I juried into, and got into, two of theres....surprise, surprise. We evolve! Check out sources such as The Craft Report and similar trade rags....if you don't want to subscribe, share a subscription with a friend or group of crafty friends...or look for it quarterly in a bookstore or the like.

8) Network with other artists. Ask them not only about shows they know about, but also, what shows are good. But be careful...just because it sucked for them doesn't mean it'll suck for you. I have a friend, Jill the Potter. She did the Arlington Center Street Festival with me. Everyone (but me) did poorly. I did a fairly large amount in one day! Three weeks ago, we both did a show called The Funky Finds Spring Fling. It pretty much sucked for me, but it was her single best show ever....so take everything with a grain of salt.

9) I follow the 3X rule... Do a show three times before deciding it's not for you...unless it's clearly not your cup of tea (i.e. you're selling hand-turned wooden pens and everyone else is selling pretty-colored plastic office supply pens...not your kind of show). Why three times? The first time, folks will 'discover' you..and might buy something, but probably not... The second time, folks may remember you and hope you'll be there...and will buy IF they remember you. The third year, they'll expect you to be there. Heck, they may come to the show JUST to look for you and buy a piece that's been percolating for a year! If they want what you sell, they'll buy yours over the other newbies...trust me!

10) Finally, focus on what you do between those busy times.... Create new and exciting pieces with that 'Wow' factor; Work on that display; Look for other ways to sell....

I hope that got you started. Come to my Craft Circle or a free "new artist" class sometime and ask me more...or bring wine and sweet talk it out of me...smile.