Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Art Fairs are a Tough Way to Make a Living.

Hi there. How are you? Me....I've been better. 

2 years ago, I quit my teaching job. We moved 300 miles away from home, so my husband could start a new career. I was hoping to make art a full time gig in our new surroundings. 2 years later, I'm feeling dejected and pretty lost. Full time artist, I am not. 

Art fairs were part of my full time artist plan. I had been doing a fair or two each year while I was still teaching and had much success. (I won "Best of Show" in the first art fair I ever participated in.) Now....I'm not so sure about the art fair gig. Let me explain.

I spent this past weekend participating in an art fair in Chicago. This should have been a good show for me, or so I thought. It was a well run, well promoted fair, with a great reputation in a well-to-do Chicago neighborhood. I was surrounded by high caliber artists and I was excited. Conditions seemed ideal for sales. 

Before I get to the bad news,  I'm happy to report that I did sell this Male Cardinal original! (I knew this guy was special and would sell quick. I did this piece just a week before the show.) Otherwise, this fair was a bust..... I  didn't make enough money to cover the application and booth fees I had to pay to participate in this show. This was the second fair in a row this summer that I've lost money doing. Ouch. 
I've had bad art fairs before. Plenty, in fact. But there seemed to be a very logical reason why those shows turned out bad. The show was poorly promoted, the fair attendees were not my target demographic,  or I was placed in a really bad spot with no traffic. There seems to be no excuse for this one. It's hard not to take this one personally......I start questioning my skills as an artist and a salesman.  I wonder if it will ever be possible for me to make it as a full time artist. I have my home town art fair in 2 weeks time. This usually is my most profitable show every year. But after 2 really bad shows, I'm even worried about this one. I'm losing my confidence.

There are plenty of people out there who make their living at art fairs. I have some ceramicist friends that have been doing the art fair circuit full time for 20 years. I just don't think I will be one of those people. It is so much work and travel for so little reward! I know I don't have the constitution for that!

I'm at a crossroads. After 2 years, I've spent much more money on fees, travel expenses and supplies than I've made participating in art fairs. My credit card debt is ballooning and it doesn't seem fiscally responsible for me to continue to pursue many more art fairs. Matt and I can't afford for me not to make money!  If I'm going to make it as a full time artist, I need to find other revenue streams....But where? This is my current struggle. I'm feeling pretty lost right now. 

Don't worry, I'm not giving up, but I have to find a better way. Ta-Ta.


  1. Hi Jen,
    I feel your pain. I've been there so many times and some times all you want to do is cry! I don't have the answers either. Just wanted to let you know you are not alone.
    Take care and thanks for sharing,

    1. Thank you Carmen. It's always nice to hear that you are not the only one who struggles.


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