Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Art of the Art Fair...and the practicalities

I've never ever shown at an art fair, but I'm an avid reader of forum posts and e-mails from people who do or want to know how to. The conclusion I drew quite rapidly was that they do seem to have rather a lot of potential for problems of nightmarish proportions - the tent falls down/blows away/leaks big time/is too heavy to move etc!

Two of my 'regular reads' have been kind enough to share their art fair experiences - from their perspectives of being an 'old fart' (Casey Klahn - his words not mine!) and 'young upstart' Maggie Stiefvater. These both look like they'll provide some insight for those fresh to the art of the art fair and I'm very happy to share the links to their info here.

I'm also happy to act as a conduit for putting people in touch with what they need to know so if you know of any more good information or tips on blogs or websites do let me know and I'll update this blog post.

Casey Klahn has a programme of art fairs every summer and has started a new blog called the Endless Summer Art Fair Blog in which he gets to grips with things like:
...and there's more to come!

Maggie Stiefvater started showing her work at art fairs two years ago, really got into it last summer and has a major programme for this summer. (you too can meet the woman with the insane cat!)

Her post "My Home away from Home" covers her particular set-up and what she's found is and isn't useful when you are doing an art fair - bearing in mind she hasn't got Casey's "old fart's back" for hefting things around.

Now all the two of them have to do is tell us all how they decided where to go in the first place!

Art fairs seem to be much bigger in the USA than the UK and I really don't know much at all about other countries - but would love to hear about your experiences:
  • Have you ever been to an art fair?
  • Have you ever shown at an art fair?
  • Do you know any good sources of information for those wanting to show?
Update - 12 June 2007:
Update 15th June 2007 - Sunshine Artist
The new book will list the results of shows held from 2002 to 2006. Each event is reviewed based on reports filed by Sunshine Artist reporters and other show exhibitors. The listings contain a brief summary and yearly ratings on a scale of 1 to 9. (Sunshine Artist)


  1. Hi Katherine,

    I've been heavily into art fairs for almost 8 years. You might be interested in a particularly harrowing weekend that I spent in Austin in April. The story is on my blog of April 19 and 20 2007.
    Just go to archives for April and then scroll. http://NancyEckels.blogspot.com

  2. Thanks for the link love, Katherine.
    I like your suggestions for toics. That helps me because when I get back from Edmonds (by Seattle)late Monday, my brans will be scrambled eggs.
    In particular, which fairs to choose. When one starts out, the sage old timers all tell you to choose wisely. And you wonder how.
    First, you must kiss some frogs...

  3. Hey, Nancy. remember me? We did a couple of shows together. I remember being on the asphalt in Bellevue on a hundred degree weekend, and we were neighbors.

  4. Nancy - what a horrendous experience! Hopefully this was all very much exception.

  5. Hi Katherine
    I've been doing art fairs for three years now. So far my worst experience was doing a two day show and not making a single sale!! Fortunately that was a one time experience. There is a lot of work involved, not to mention expenses. I now do four ( long established and very reputable )art fairs each summer here at the Jersey Shore. For the most part I find them very enjoyable. I find out about other fairs from artists at the shows. I bought an artfair source book when I first started, but never really used it too much. My goal now is to stay local. I want to be able to return to my own comfy bed each night!

  6. As somebody who used to travel A LOT, I can well sympathise with the sentiment of sticking close to home even if it does involve early starts and a late finish. There is nothing nicer than one's own bed after a long day 'in the field'.

  7. Hi Katherine -
    I followed a web trail to your blog and wrote about you and your inspiration (yesterday?? can't remember...) anyway - I've shown in art festivals, helped other artists do 'the circuit' and produced special events and festival. I don't blog about them, but have resources and will help if you get stumped on a comment. Sunshine Artists puts out a mag review of top shows - they are a good start. Also, to target the 'best shows' depends on the art and the goals of the artist.

    I did start another blog for open studio events the gets art out there without the grunt work !:)


  8. Ah what a good post and so timely. This is something I've been looking into doing and now I have some new resources to look into. I was at a class last night and the folks were talking about how, at La Quinta art fair in Palm Springs it is required that you stake your tent 3 feet into the ground lest it blow away and hurt someone. Talk about braving the elements. So I am fascinated to learn more about this whole world. Thanks again, Katherine for your always timely and interesting material.

  9. Karen - I hope you have a good time sorting out what to do and where to go. The horror stories are truly horrible - I don't think this is one of those activities where 'it'll never happen to me' is a wise view to take in relation to the weather. Do take all necessary precautons and then have fun and sell art!

    The other thing to watch out for which nobody has mentioned yet is the %^&*$£*&% organiser who is all spin and no delivery. Memorable things they forget to do is market the art fair properly!

    Do check out their record in terms of delivering decent art fairs - but also be aware that even the best of organisers can't always come up with an instant response to a turn in the market.

  10. Do any other countries have magazines like "Sunshine Artist"?

  11. Katherine -

    Thanks for the visit and comment and for telling about Maggies blog!

    Also, check out Casey's new blog and entered him on my 'Artist mom's & Dads' blogroll...

    Thanks for your inspiration!

  12. Hey, Katherine- this is belated as I've just got back from my show, but thanks for the link. I'm still learning but man what a learning curve it is . . .

  13. Well tell us all about it Maggie on your blog and I'll link it to this post!

  14. Fantastic topic and a kick in the butt, really wanted to try some of these but don't want to do the work. Now hearing it from first hand experiences, does not sound so bad. A follow up question: do you have any info and advice on trading at some regular art markets - like the one in Spitalfields or Bayswater in London?

  15. I don't know about Bayswater but I do know that Tina Mammoser has had a stall at Spitalfields and can tell you about that.


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