It’s important to be friendly when you have a booth at an art show, a crafts fair, or any art-type festival.
Often, owners of new art galleries visit shows like this, to spot new talent. You may be invited to participate in an upcoming gallery show, or find a similar opportunity to “move up” to galleries.
Here’s how it works for me:
I’m painfully shy in real life. Oh, with enough preparation, I’m fine in front of an audience. But, one-on-one such as fairs & festivals… I tend to stammer and blush a lot.
Don’t just stand there, do something!
I set up my portable easel or create a work space at my table. I casually work on some art. That helps me to dilute the focus. When someone approaches, I’m less self-conscious; we’ll usually be discussing my art, not me, personally.
Curiosity–wanting to see what I’m doing–also attracts people to my booth. Because my attention seems primarily on my work, visitors feel less “stared at”, too.
I look up regularly and smile, even if no one is watching me. I’ll usually break the ice by saying, “Isn’t this a GREAT day!” or something. Most people agree, and we chat a little about the weather before talking about whatever I’m working on, and/or selling.
Be memorable with freebies
I usually give out freebies of some kind. Maybe it’s a simple crafts pattern… a single b&w sheet that I’ve photocopied. Maybe it’s a dish of sweets or wrapped candies, with a “take one” sign next to it.
(If you can, put your name and URL or contact info on each one. That’s smart advertising!)
But, I try always to give my visitors something. It brings them into the booth, and they leave with a smile. I’ve been amazed at how many remember me for that, years later, and come back to buy something as a “thank you.”
I’ve tried professional arts/crafts festival circuit, and–especially for beginners–I recommend smaller fairs instead. I prefer the less expensive shows & fairs; at them, I can relax more. It’s not much cash out of my pocket if I don’t sell anything, and–worst case–if I create art all day, I’ve accomplished a lot.
Also, at the less expensive venues, my booth has a chance of shining in the crowd. I always work on looking professional, whether it’s a small fair in a church hall or a glitzy festival show.
At smaller fairs, the other vendors are among my best customers, too, so it’s good to be friendly. Yes, I suppose that we’re competing for the customers’ dollars. I never see it that way, myself, and I try never to act that way.
And finally, it’s vital to have items at the lower price range for people on a tight budget. Or, for people who’ve never bought original art or crafts before, and won’t fully appreciate an item’s value until it’s been displayed in their homes for awhile.
Plan to make the day fun for people who pause at your booth or display. You’ll go home with a bigger smile, and perhaps more money in your wallet as well.