Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Is My Work Right For Your Show"

I hear the above question a lot.

What the person is really saying is "will my stuff sell at that show. Will the return on my investment (time, show fees, etc) pay off".

That's a great question, and one of the hardest. I think it also reflects lack of knowledge about the very important business of targeted marketing.

Creativity is generally the 'fun' easy part of what we do. I can stay out in my studio until midnight creating something fun and new and colorful and meaningful. And that's generally what I enjoy the most. But that is clearly not enough!

I've seen fabulously creative folks show up at a show and do poorly just because the event wasn't well attended by folks who were interested in buying that person's artwork/craftwork.

New folks assume that it is the responsibility of the show promoters to attract an audience. While that is partially true, it won't guarantee your art-buying audience. I did ArtFest in Dallas this year...and one of the marketing strategies was to bill it as a dog-friendly event and get that demographic to attend. And do you know what? It worked! We had droves of and families, of all walks of life, attending the event with their dogs. But do you know what else? Folks who have a dog with them, particularly an average to large dog, won't go into a 10 x 10 semi-crowded booth space full of tail-height glass work!

We each have to build up a following and target our past customers and potential customers, getting them to attend the shows we much as possible.


First, does your work encourage re-purchasing? I know a potter that does all of his work in just a few colors/styles..and makes an incredible array of pieces in each theme. Folks return time and again to purchase pieces to add to their (growing) collection of his themed work...

If you're a jeweler who just does pendants, consider adding earrings, bracelets, pins, etc in a carefully-targeted someone who has bought previously, can add to their collection.

Secondly, let your audience know what is new with you. Adding sterling silver to your glass pendants? Tell 'em! Learn to do Keum-Boo or colored-pencil-on-copper? Tell 'em. Do you have a new theme? Tell 'em!

Thirdly, consider offering an incentive for folks to come to your show and buy from you. Offer a small discount for returning customers. Or offer a 'free sample' of something that you can afford to give away. Now, maybe if your medium is large-scale bronze cast sculptures, that's not feasible, but your job is to think outside of the box. So do it!

Good luck. It's a jungle out there!



  1. Wow we have only done one arts fair we would like to do more but really make sure that the items that we create would sell good at another art fair.

    Thanks for all of the good info.

    Debra Gilstrap

  2. Great advice! I am finding the more family friendly places aren't really the best place to show my work. People with kids (or animals for that manner) seem to spend more time looking after the kids than looking at my work.