Art Fairs

Three weekends art fair marathon is over. It has been exhausting. Monday thru Thursday I was printing, varnishing, stretching my work. Friday thru Sunday I was displaying it at art fairs – it was 10-hour workdays for me. Here are some stories from my experience.

Don’t give up

My first art fair was in Kirkland. I had prepared ahead of time. The only thing that I kept my fingers crossed for was good weather. The forecast for weekend was favorable: nice warm weather, cloudy but with some sunshine. It sounded like a great weekend for an art fair.

As it is most of the time in Seattle weather forecast was a wishful thinking. On Friday I woke up to a thunderstorm. The rain was pouring. Wind gusts were blowing water into an open window. It was depressing. I had to force myself to get up.

By the time I got to Kirkland Marina Park, where the art fair would take place, the rain only got worse…

My memories of the last year were still too vivid. Two and a half out of three days it was raining. There were no people at the art fair. I was standing in my booth and looking out at an empty street. It was very depressing.

I was sitting in the car, being afraid that the same would happen this year. I was about to give up. I thought I don’t care about booth fee that I would lose. I just wanted to drive out of there, away from my memories.

Apparently I still had some will power left in me because after sitting the car for an hour I decided to get out and setup my booth despite the rain. By the time I got canopy up with a roof I was completely wet.

Later that day the rain ended. And on Saturday and Sunday the weather was great. There were lots of people at the art fair. I sold almost half of the work that I brought. Art fair in Kirkland ended up being my best art fair to date.

Lesson learnt: don’t give up. Prior failure (just like prior success) does not mean the same will happen again.

Be ready for success

Kirkland art fair success far exceeded my expectations. I was very happy about it. At the same time I was not prepared for it at all. After it I did not have enough to show on the next art fair in Bellevue. I did not have enough materials either. I was out of canvas and had very few stretching bars left.

I had to quickly place orders, pay extra for second day shipping just to get things going. Well, canvas manufacture had computer glitch and my orders were not shipped on time. And they were out of stretching bars I needed.

I got the order in on the day before art fair and then the second part on the first day of the art fair. Rather than resting after whole day 10 hour straight work at art fair I was coming back home to do printing, varnishing and stretching till 3 in the morning. I had only 4 hours left for sleep before I had to get up, dress up, load up work I’ve completed the night before and go to the art fair again.

Lesson: be ready for success. It is better to be overstocked than miss out on an opportunity.

Not everything that shines is gold

I wanted to get in Bellevue Festival of the Arts. It was one of more prestigious art fair. It had higher average price and very high attendance.

This year I was accepted into it and after Kirkland’s success I put very high, too high, expectations on it.

I did not meet my expectations. It did ok. I just did not sell as much as in Kirkland and certainly not as much as I expected. Great attendance did not translate in great sales. And it was not like my prices were too high, in fact the were the lowest at that art fair. And my work was great. I had people visiting me multiple times, bringing their friends and relatives to show. Yet very few were buying.

The art fair just appeared to be very expensive with few sales. Kind of fishing for a rich buyer. I on the other hand want to make my work affordable and want to sell a lot, so I can start working on a new project.

Lesson: not everything that shines is gold. Great attendance and high prices don’t necessarily translate into large sales. The outside look does not always match inside.

Have fun

With so much focus on business side of selling art work at art fairs it is easy to loose track of what it is about. For me it is not about money, it is about being able to show my work, being able to print it, sell it and move on to new adventures.

It is about having fun. And while I have not sold anything at Anacortes Art Festival I’ve met other photographers, met a lot of people and had some memorable moments. Like when a group of high school kids were captivated by my work, having lively discussion about it, then just sitting on a pavement and staring at it.

Now onto new adventures. See you at Best of Northwest festival in Seattle on November 16 thru 18.

2 thoughts on “Art Fairs”

  1. Great to know that you had so much fun and success! You did so much better than the year before. I’m glad that you don’t blame me for dragging you into this ))))))

    I agree that arts fairs is not about art per se but more about business and selling. Maybe in a year or two…

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