Monday, May 21, 2012

My Show Was a Bust. Now What?

I spent the past weekend at an art fair in Paducah, Kentucky.  My parents drove 6 hours down to assist me.  It was 3 hot days...I mean hot 90 degree days!

On the first day, I sold one original work, one print and one set of cards. It was a short day, only 5 hours, so I was OK about my lack of sales.  I still had the whole weekend ahead of me. Day 2 was heartbreaking. In the first 7 hours, I sold just one ten dollar print....Even though I know I shouldn't, it's hard to not take that personally, especially when the ceramicist next to me was selling. The jeweler too. I had a little more success on Day 3 of the fair, but in the end, after booth fees, gas and other expenses were accounted for, I lost money on the weekend.

I know my lackluster sales have little to do with my skill as an artist. I've done enough shows to know that there are always ups and downs.  The turnout at the festival was weak. Heat surely kept people at home. My booth was at a dead end, and I feel like I often got missed. People in general were not buying much. Many of the other artists I talked to said sales were few and far between for them as well.


On the positive side, I did get plenty of positive feedback, sold an original that I completed just a few days before the show (guess I'm on the right track with my current work!), made some good contacts and have a possible commission.  Matt and I also made fast friends of the improv troupe that were our neighbors at the fair, and we hope to hang with them again sometime in the future. I got to spend the weekend with my parents, who were great sports during the long, hot hours of the show. I really couldn't have managed setting up without them on Friday! (Matt had to work.)

So yes, some good did come from this show, but still I can't say this bust doesn't get to me.  I wonder if I should be making something more functional. (The jewelers and ceramicists reported much higher sales and also took 5 of the 7 show awards.) Is it fiscally worth it for me to do shows? (Yes, I know this is just one show, but I do think this way.) Matt wants me to upholster chairs in the fashion that I create them in my art...Should I try?

I don't foresee myself ever becoming a jeweler or ceramicist and without some instruction, I don't have the skills for upholstery at this point. My passion is for "art", so that is where I will remain. I'm not going to give up, but I will think twice about doing this particular show again and guess I just have to keep on trying.

So creative types, how do you get yourself going again after a setback? How do you build up your confidence again? 

In the meantime, do patronize my Etsy shoppe. I will be posting new prints, cards and orignals shortly.

Ta-Ta for now.


  1. Jen, I feel your pain. I went through about 3 years where I tried to do shows. Indoor shows, outdoor shows, holidays shows. I tried new locations, new displays new types of products, new lines of work. and NADA.

    There only ended up being 1 show where I did relatively OK and it was at an indoor show in a very artsy town and all you got was a 6 foot table. Even that, I stopped doing because I decided to focus all my effort into making actual art and going down the road that would lead to galleries and personal sales instead.

    My conclusion? Outdoor shows are not worth the stress, time and energy for ME. For others it was totally worth it... definitely not my thing. As a fine artist (painter), I think it is more difficult to be successful at these types of shows. Maybe outdoor festivals just are not your market. I had higher priced items, I tried making prints and lower priced items... but then I found that I was focused more on "what would sell" instead of "what was good." And also ended up spending way too much on overhead in terms of prints.

    If you love creating great visual art, then create good visual art. If you're just looking to make something that will sell at shows like that, then feel free to change your medium.

    My advice: stick to what you LOVE. Focus on developing your work, make contacts, go to shows, meet people, and network. Do shows if you love doing shows but if you're dreading the next one, then maybe it's just not for you. Hope this helps!!!!

    1. Julie, first let me tell you that I've admired your work for years! Your painting and color usage is just fabulous.

      Thank you for your insight and encouragement.I've certainly had mixed results at outdoor shows. This was by far the worst, but I've had some great ones too. I have applied to do about one show a month through October, and I am keeping close track of my expenses and profits to see if it's all worth it. I'm worried that it might just be a wash.

  2. Well, let me put in my two cents worth too! :) From my experience selling at shows... the things that sell well are impulse items. Cutesy things that people immediately fall in love with and don't have to 'think' about. Such as jewelry (duh...crack for girls!) and ceramics. Typically items are $20 or less and they are 'easy' to buy. Fine art such as yours is such a personal thing. And people aren't expecting to see it at the show and therefore aren't expecting to buy it and therefore don't buy it. :( It's something they have to think about. Do I have a place in my home for this? Do I want to invest in this artwork? When will I frame it?? hahaha. Yeah... I think that way! Anyway. I ADORE your artwork. I am in love with your style which is totally unique and original to me. I would be very mad if you stopped! (I'm sure that would impact your life a lot, huh?? hahaha). You are super talented. Promise. As one artist to another... it's hard not to want to make 'sellable' art. But when you do what's in your heart and soul it WILL sell. Eventually. But maybe not at fairs. Mostly they are dumb anyway..... hahahaha.

    1. I appreciate your kind words Diana. I certainly am not going to give up making art...I don't feel right when I don't create!

  3. Jen - I have had a similar experience with shows back when I was painting. The problem with most of these festivals is that the booth fee is so high that (even if you dont count your time) sometimes it is hard to make back the fee in sales. Painting is fantastic but right now, all art is a luxury. I also ran into the ceramics & jewelry sellers making a killing. I was so glad for them but bumbed for me at the same time.

    I wish I had some good advice but all I can say is that I have been there. Your work is awesome - the venue is totally the problem!

    - Brandi

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Brandi. I know this is just one show. I've done very well at others!

  4. Hey Jen,

    Was out in Boston so I did not see your post till today. First, you have to follow what you love, and then push to grow and develop as an artist no matter what anyone says or buys. I just saw in the Tribune today that Haley Berry showed up for a Razzie award and said,"if you can't take the criticism then you don't deserve the praise". As artists we get criticism often and in many ways. You just have to fight on. You'll get your day in the 'shade'.


Thanks for chiming in! I love to hear what you have to say.

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