Janet Glatz is largely self-taught, with the exception of several workshops. Though working full time as a business owner, she spent a year building a fresh inventory in 2005 and began to show more frequently, nearly selling out. View Janet’s full bio [here].
Does getting your artwork “out there” sound like a daunting task? Not if you break it down into manageable steps. Follow this process and not only will you be ready to show and sell, you’ll have more than a little fun doing it.
Step One – Apply to shows, fairs, and festivals. Visit ArtFair.com, Zapp.com and similar sites to find free listings. You can also find events under New England Festivals and Fairs. Carefully investigate each to determine the type of art they accept, and the cost of jury fee and booth space. If possible, talk to someone who has attended or exhibited there. Finally, determine via Mapquest whether the venue is within your desired travel distance.
Step Two – In order to get your work in front of a jury (those who accept/reject your work), you must either photograph it yourself, or hire a professional, which can be costly. I do my own and have not been disqualified by any jury to date. To learn how to shoot your art images, search on Google for “how to photograph your own artwork.” Experiment until you are happy with the results. Load the images onto a CD that you will send along with your applications or follow their online application instructions. Jury fees range from $0 to $100 or more, but the norm is around $25. Booth fees range from $65 to $500 or higher, depending on the location, time of year, and number of participants, among other criteria.
Step Three – You’ll need shelter. For less than $350, you can purchase an EZup canopy and build some perfectly acceptable wood and hardware cloth racks that join together with screw eyes and hooks, and can be covered with neutral colored fabric for a more professional touch. This equipment, along with a folding chair and camp table will fit in the back of most sedans, provided the back seats fold down. Your work (optimally at least twenty pieces if paintings, more if jewelry or smaller pottery pieces) will fit nicely on top of the racks. Coolers, bags, and other paraphernalia will fit in the foot wells or on the floor.
Step Four – You’ve been accepted! Whether it’s a one day show or a full weekend event, you must be prepared for ANYTHING. Think summer camping trip with no wind. Think survival in the Sahara – possible rain, wind, bugs, sunburn, upset stomach, soiled clothing, sore feet, a shortage of food – got the picture? The key word is OVERPACK. Take extra hooks, wire, twine, weights to hold the tent in place, extra business cards. You’ll be hungrier than you think, so along with sandwiches, pack lots of snacks and drinks. Don’t forget paper cash and change for local food purchases and making sales. If you’re lucky enough to have older children, a spouse or friend who can be your assistant for the day, thank them! It’s tough to do on your own and much more fun with someone you care about and can support you.
Step Five: You MUST accept credit cards if you expect to sell much work. How does one do this? There are many companies eager to set you up. Google “merchant processing” and compare services and rates. Expect to give up 2 – 4% of sales as payment for the service. The cheapest method is to use a simple “knucklebuster” (card slider) for manual processing. You swipe the buyer’s card, give them a copy, then call in the purchase when you return home. Another option is an app like https://squareup.com/. This involves downloading an app for your smartphone or tablet so that you can do the entire purchasing process directly from the show. You won’t be able to print a receipt but it can be e-mailed to them. Their rates are cheaper than credit card merchant accounts and cheaper than Pay Pal but some people have had problems processing the credit card and again, you can’t offer a receipt.
Step Six: So you’ve packed the car, truck, or camper. You’ve set your GPS to the location of the show. You are well rested and ready to charm the sox off everyone you meet. Hold on to that attitude, because it’s going to be a long, often busy, sometimes boring, but always educational experience. Hopefully it will be a day filled with honest feedback about your work and your display, because each time you do a show, it is your ticket to doing the next one more effectively. Talk to fellow exhibitors. They love to share stories, tips, and sage advice. It’s possible to make great friends on the art circuit.
Step Seven: A customer wanders into your tent, stops in front of your work, and remains rooted to the spot. Now what?! Well, here’s what NOT to do: Do not crowd, stare at, or otherwise make him uncomfortable. Do not regale him with your life story. Do not emit body odor, bad breath or strong perfume. Most of all, do not sit like a lump with your face behind a paperback novel!
DO engage him with a smile, and offer to answer any questions. Should the customer continue to admire your work, ask him what it is about the piece that attracts him. When he responds, follow up with open ended questions, letting him do 75% of the talking. If you have priced your work realistically, cost should not be a deterrent. If you’re comfortable, you live not too far away, and it feels right, ask if he’d like to take it home for a week’s trial to see if it fits with his décor. Offer to hang the piece for him. In short, do whatever it takes to make the sale without appearing needy or dishonoring yourself or your artistic integrity.
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