showing your work – at a fine craft show

I thought it would be worthwhile to hear Roxane Lessa’s experience. She was juried into the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild and has had a booth at their Thanksgiving weekend show for several years. and now in her own words…

First off, let me say that I’m not an expert at selling my art work. Not even close. That being said, I did sell 4 large expensive pieces and many smaller works at these fine craft shows. I got into doing the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Show at the Piedmont Craftsmen show because of the generosity of one of my favorite artists and friends, Marina Bosetti. You see, she had the booth set up (walls, lights, etc.), and you need a picture of your booth display to apply to the show. She offered her set up so I could take the pics. And so, I got into both guilds.

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Unfortunately it was 2007, and the economy was just about to tank. But I decided to forge ahead. I invested in some booth walls,lights and flooring, packed up all my art work and learned how to set it all up. ProPanels makes the best hard walls that are fairly easy to set up. If you want to do lots of shows, they are worth every penny.

What did I learn?

How to speak about my work without being bashful.
How to set my retail prices.
How to find a credit card merchant (now I just use Square).
How to get my resale license and charge tax.
How to look busy and not bother people while they are “just looking”. How to set up an attractive booth.
How to take care of yourself during a long show.
How to sell your own work without lowering your prices, creating value.

And, most importantly, I learned what people responded to and liked, and in some cases, liked enough to fork over their credit cards. All of that interaction also helped me get teaching gigs at guilds.Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.42.39 AM

Was it worth it? I’d say yes, because of everything I’ve learned. There really is no substitute for interacting with your buying public. And it forced me to focus on producing a larger body of work to get ready. Was it labor/time intensive? Yes, very.

Was it worth it financially?

I think before 2008, artists could make a much better income from doing shows like this. Now, with the rise of online sales, I have the feeling that the amount of time and effort involved doing shows like this is better spent elsewhere. For me, I think it was a wash financially, but I still have the contacts with people I have met or sold to. And I still have everything I have learned in the process. So I think I came out ahead. I also met some very hard working and amazing artists, who are still my friends today.

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Finally, if you want to do fine craft shows, do your research. Ask artists who have attended the show who work in your media if they have had good success. Don’t just ask one, ask as many as you can. Don’t rely on the show promoters- they get your money in booth fees whether you sell a lot or not. After all, you are investing a lot in time, energy and money to do these shows! 

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As luck would have it, you can see my booth and me at the Vintage View Quilt show in Raleigh, NC in less than 2 weeks, ack! Here’s the info: Visit us at…

Vintage View Quilt Show 2014
March 14-16, 2014
Kerr Scott Building, North Carolina State Fairgrounds
Raleigh, North Carolina
Hours: Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission $5
Over 450 Judged Quilts, 50 Vintage Quilts,
Demonstrations, Vendors, Prizes, Special Events

If you would like to learn more about the business of selling your art, I am participating in a webinar with 2 other fiber artists on March 25th. It will be hosted by SAQA, Studio Art Quilters Assoc.. You can go to their website for details. SAQA is also a terrific organization to belong to if you are interested in learning more about our fabulous medium- fiber!

Roxane is a full time studio textile artist and teacher with two girls and 1 fat cat. She is a 2012 Niche Award Winner and exhibits her work all over the world. Her work is in several private collections and she loves doing custom commissions. For more info go to http://roxanelessa.com

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Comments

  1. Lyric

    An interesting article. I have often wondered whether it would make sense financially to enter one of these types of shows as they are very expensive. I think that I will continue to try to find other venues for my work.

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