Choosing an unjuried show
How do you choose a ‘good’ art show or crafts fair when you’re a beginner? A few simple cues can help you, plus one reliable source.
The first cue is the quality of promotion. Does this fair have an online presence, and does their site look professional. (If not, tell them about my book, Sites that Soar!)
Do they advertise in local newspapers and magazines, or even in national ones?
If it’s a small show–perhaps a fund-raiser for a school or church–many crafters ask if they’ll have a food concession. If the show is professionally catered, it generally marks a well-run show.
Another cue is the sponsorship. If it’s an annual show put on by a town, there may be tremendous pride in how well the show is run. That’s a plus. If it’s a first-time effort by a youth group, it may be great, or it may be a lesson for everyone involved.
Check the show’s policy about vendors leaving early. Empty tables discourage shoppers. If the show lets vendors leave early without a penalty, the show can deteriorate pretty quickly. Many top shows declare that any vendor who leaves early will not be accepted for future shows. That sounds harsh, but it can be necessary.
If the show or fair is an annual event, the most reliable sources of information are other artists and crafters. Ask them. Online forums are useful, but–even better–ask people at other shows.
Ask your customers. “What other shows and fairs do you like?” can be a conversation-starter, and provide insights into what shoppers are looking for… as well as a list of worthwhile shows.
When the day is winding down, ask other vendors, too. Sometimes, your direct competition won’t chat with you, but crafters in other fields will. Ask them which shows they really like.
If you’re considering one show in particular, ask about it. Talk with several people so you hear a variety of opinions.
While you’re asking, get tips about preparing for that show. For example, are extension cords vital? Is there a parking area near the door for vendors to unload their cars and vans? Do the sponsors provide chairs or should you bring your own? (Is a pillow a good idea if their chairs are plain metal folding chairs?) Will most booths be merchandise on a tablecloth, or will some vendors set up impressive, professional-looking displays?
Take notes. After a show, you’re likely to be tired and forget at least some of what you learned.
Also, jot down notes from the show you were just at. What worked and what didn’t?
When you plan your schedule next year, your notes–about past shows and prospective ones–can help you make better decisions.
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