Saturday, 1 October 2011

Craft Fairs - easier than exhibitions?

I am currently planning on taking part in a craft fair nearly every weekend from 5th November to 4th December, apart from one, when I will be at the Hornsea Speech & Drama Festival with all the members of the Junior and Youth section at B.A.D.S.

I have just completed the application form for the 2nd Artlink Contemporary Art & Craft Fayre of this year - the first one was in May, and it set me off thinking about how successful craft fairs are for an artist, compared to art exhibitions. I have taken part in both during my time as a self employed artist, and without exception the craft fairs have been more successful for me. I am not just talking about sales, either - although undoubtedly that is a consideration. It appears to me that the people who attend exhibitions are simply not looking for a piece of art to purchase, or to engage in conversation with me as an artist. However, I have discovered that usually this is not the case with people who attend craft fairs. I have also found craft fairs to be a much more enjoyable event in terms of setting up (easier to set up a table than it is to position a wall of paintings, for example) and attracting people to look at my work. It may be just that it is much easier to look at a host of items on a table, without feeling obliged to buy anything, than it is to stand and look at something fixed to a wall.

Whatever the reason is, I'm glad I've taken part in so many craft fairs in the past year - it's not something I would have thought of doing at first, yet they are so popular too nowadays. At the last Artlink one I took part in, I was in a good position in the corner of the room looking towards the entrance, and I managed to tot up how many people came through the door over the course of the 4 hours (it was on from 12 to 4pm) and recorded them in my little notebook, just out of interest. A few people walked in, took a quick stroll around the room and walked out again without exchanging a word with anyone, but most people did at least talk to one or other of the artisans, which makes it so much nicer for us.

Here are some pics of my table as it was laid out for the Artlink Contemporary Art & Craft Fayre in May this year - I think I'd sold one or two items at this point, so there may be a gap here and there.

In total, there were 126 people through the door, with 36 of them arriving between 12 and 1pm. A further 33 arrived between 1 and 2pm, but the busiest time was between 2 and 3pm, when 48 people came through the doors. Only 9 people showed up during the final hour of 3-4pm.

During those 4 hours, I sold these items:

"Carousel" decorated trinket box - sold to a young girl of about 9 or 10.

"Jonas" painted notebook.
"Optimum" mini canvas with easel.
I also sold a fabric covered address book (you can just about make it out in the 3rd image - at the edge of the table), and a few greetings cards. I had a couple of interesting conversations with people - one of whom was asking if I would be interested in taking a workshop for young people based on the theme of mosaics. I said I'd never done that before but would be willing to give it a go if she gave me some more details - she said my work reminded her of mosaic patterns, and that's what she was after I think. I haven't heard from her since, despite the fact that she took a brochure and one of my business cards, so she probably had more success elsewhere with an artist who had more experience in giving workshops. Thinking about it, that wouldn't be difficult, since my experience is nil!

Even when people don't buy anything from me at craft fairs, I find it easier to chat to potential customers because they like to touch my work and are more likely to ask questions about it then. The time passes so quickly, too, as there is often a steady stream of people coming through.

The next one I will be taking part in is in Bilton and I am currently in the process of planning for that - to be held in the Church Hall on the 5th November and in aid of the Forgetmenot trust. I hope to have all my labels printed out within the next day or so, which will be stuck onto the sides of the paper bags I use for customers to take away their purchases in.

I wonder if any other artists find craft fairs "easier" to take part in than exhibitions?


  1. I love craft fairs. Definately more enjoyable and often quite successful. I treat them like a mini exhibition but also as a self promotional tool. It's often highly lucrative, just as often a dead loss sales wise but I'm sure it pays dividends in publicising my websites and 'bigger' exhibitions. Working from home as an artist can be a lonely existence so it's great to get out and meet Joe public.

    Your stall looks so neat and professional....mine always looks like a bomb's hit it!

  2. I agree, Peter - it is a great way of meeting the public, whether you sell or just get your work seen - I always take a stack of business cards and colour brochures with me too, and you never know what may come from someone taking one of those away. Thanks for the comment about my stall - I still compare mine to others and think it could be improved, however!


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