On Wednesday’s Outside the Frame show we discussed the timely topic of Selling Art on the Fair and Festival Circuit. There are several types of fairs and festivals that take place each year – on the local, regional, national and international level. Local and regional shows are usually managed by an art group or through the city’s Chamber of Commerce most national and international shows are managed by an exhibition management company. The type of show you attend will impact the type of equipment you will need as well as determine the type of buyer, therefore, pay close attention to the prospectus and if possible, attend the show as a patron at least once before exhibiting.
Application procedures vary from show to show and are spelled out in a prospectus. Contact the show’s organizers to receive your prospectus. You will likely need to submit with your application three to five images of your most recent works and one or more image of your proposed booth setup. You may also be required to submit a signed Exhibitor License Agreement and proof of liability insurance coverage. Follow all application procedures to ensure exhibition eligibility.
If you plan to do only one or two shows, it may be more economical to rent or borrow your booth materials rather than to buy or build your own. Your booth space will determine your booth size – most spaces are 10’x10’, 10’x8’, 8’x8’, and 8’x6’. If you do a lot of shows, you may need to buy one or more booth structures to accommodate the various booth sizes. However, the most economical approach would be to build an adjustable booth designed on a 10’x10’ frame using removable two-foot sections, this will cost about $385. I have a tool, materials list and building instructions in a .pdf file on my website. You can purchase the very popular and easy to manageEX-UP Express II 10’x10’ canopy system (shelter) for $360 -- this special “Value Pack” includes the sidewalls and roller bag. Make sure that your canopy, sidewalls and any vertical display fabrics in your booth are flame-retardant.
Booth banner – you can purchase one to match your business cards and other stationery at VistaPrint. Display tables – depending upon booth size, I use one or two 5 ft. display tables. You can get an “Iceberg” 5ft. Resin Fold-in-Half table with carrying handle at Staples for $120. Table skirts and clips – you should purchase a floor length table skirt as this provides a great place to store extra product and packaging out of sight; you can get table skirting from Table Skirts and Clips for $23. For artists, one of the key elements for your booth will be Art Display Panels. You can purchase aluminum mesh display panels at Graphic Display Systems. The standard panel costs $75. It will take three standard panels to line one side of a 10’x10’ booth – total cost for one side is $225, for two sides $450, and for three sides $675. Using simple 2by2 construction and pegboard panels, you can build your own art panels with some basic tools – I have tools, materials list and building instructions in a .pdf file on my website. If you are planning to do many shows, invest in a good dolly – your back will thank you!
NEVER leave home or the venue without checking everything off against an inventory sheet that lists all the merchandise, booth, display and sales supplies you have brought. I also use a predesigned packing plan to ensure that the car gets packed properly each time. Use packing boxes for transportation that can be nested together when storing. When packing your vehicle, be sure to fill the load so that it won’t shift from front to back or side to side and make sure that you put the booth and display materials in last so that they can be removed first. Do not forget to take your exhibitor’s map with you so that you can set up your booth so that the entrance is in the correct location!! If it is not apparent on the map, ask the show organizer or show staff in order to get the correct orientation.
Use a separate sales table and be sure to bring sales supplies such as receipt books, tax charts, calculator, price list, inventory list, pens, business cards and other promotional materials, and a guest book/mailing list for visitors to sign. For handling money, I use a small locking cashbox that fits inside my purse so that I can take it with me whenever I leave the booth. If you do not have a cashbox, you can use a fanny pack. You should have a money belt on your person to transfer money in secret from your cashbox or fanny pack – always leave only enough in the cash box or fanny pack necessary for making change. Separate your checks and credit card slips from your cash so that if your cash is stolen, you can still process your checks and credit card sales. Cash should be divided up and stashed in several places on your person – bra, socks, underwear, shoes, etc. Take your sales-related valuables out of your booth with you at night. I use a small toolbox to store these materials.
Keep your booth neat, clean and tidy. You want your booth to be warm, inviting and welcoming to patrons – make sure that this is the vibe you are giving off. Think about presentation on every level from your booth, displays, product, personal clothing, attitude, and service. If you demonstrate art techniques be mindful to allow plenty of over-the-shoulder viewing access for customers and don’t obstruct pathways. Do not demonstrate any works that require you to have toxic supplies or hazardous materials in ready access to your patrons – remember, children are curious and parents attention is directed elsewhere.
Pay attention to what is going on inside and outside your booth. Criminals look for easy targets so look aware and attentive. Theft-proof your booth – make sure that someone cannot reach in and grab a piece of your work. Be aware of distractions and mindful that theft often occurs after we’ve inadvertently tipped a thief off to where we keep our valuables – they will often purchase something from you just for that purpose. Don’t make yourself a target. Avoid carrying moneybags, bank bags or items that shout “I’m carrying something valuable, rob me!” disguise it in an old gym bag or laundry bag – the smellier the better. Keep a low profile in the hotel/motel and if you leave valuables in your room, also leave a small offering for a potential thief such as a spare wallet with a bit of money left out in the open, or a small amount of cash left on the top of the dresser or desk. Being careful and aware is your best defense against theft. Knowing when to give up your valuables is important – always give up material possessions before putting yourself in danger. Upon returning home, unpack immediately in order to complete inventory and sales resolution, as well as, to update your mailing list.