The Month of Art Fairs

Wow, that summer went fast.

When people asked me what I was going to do when I was done school this spring, I did not think doing three back-to-back art fairs in four weeks was on that list. But fate had other plans! In retrospect, I would not have chosen to time things that way, but that's how it worked out, and in the end it was great. I met so many wonderful people and made new artist friends. I learned how to secure a tent in a giant windstorm. I learned that the best way to cart your work to and from the van each night is on a dolly, not in your arms. I learned not to be afraid to ask for help and to always bring an extra [insert random tool here] to help out your neighbors when they forget theirs.

Doing an art fair is a lot of work. Collecting all the supplies, planning out your booth, pricing all your work, packaging it all up, un-packaging it all and setting it up . . . you get the idea. But art fairs are a great way to meet people who are genuinely interested in your work and to talk with them about it. This is a real gift once you're done school, because you don't have a critique every week where you're getting feedback. Here are some tips in case you are thinking of doing an art fair but don't know where to start.

1. Collect Ideas

Make a Pinterest board with inspirational images of other art/craft fair booths. You want to keep it simple and let your artwork be the star of the show. For my first fair I chose to get some lattice panels and paint them white. I hung them from the frame of the tent with zip ties and then hung my work with S-hooks. I picked up some old white sheets from the thrift store to drape over my table as well, to keep with the white theme. People can tell when you've put thought and effort into the design of your booth, and it will make them want to come in and look at your work.

2. Gather Supplies

  • panels to hang your work from (lattice, metal grids, mesh walls, figure out what works for you)
  • small table
  • chair or stool
  • zip ties (big ones)
  • s-hooks
  • staple gun
  • hammer and screwdrivers
  • scissors and exacto knife
  • packaging supplies, including pretty tape and/or ribbon and clear garbage bags to put the packages in if it's raining
  • markers/pens
  • payment system (I used Square)
  • receipt book for cash payments
  • email signup list
  • artist statement/short explanation of who you are and what your work is about
  • string or rope
  • business cards (lots of 'em)
  • something to show how people can find you on social media
  • banner with your name in giant letters
  • stands for small paintings (i got my mini-easels at the dollar store)
  • accessories (I brought my favourite plant because I felt like it brought some homey-ness to the booth)
  • labels with names/prices/size/medium
  • dolly to carry things to and from your truck

3. Create a Plan

Make sure you know approximately where things will hang and how the booth is laid out. (Do you want your table at the front so people can grab business cards easily, or are you using it to display product?) You can be flexible with this and move things around the day of, but often you don't have much time to set up so you want to be as prepared as you can beforehand.

4. Schmooze

Once you're set up and people start walking by, the best thing you can do is be friendly. Say hello if someone pauses, make a joke, talk about the weather, anything to engage them. People are usually hesitant to talk to you so you have to be the one to break the ice. You'll be surprised at how interested people are. Look them in the eye, be genuine, and answer their questions with a smile. They want to get to know a little about the person behind the artwork. It's important to have a short description ready to spout off so you can tell people about your process, materials, and inspiration.  Give each person a business card and always thank them for stopping to take a look.

5. Follow Up

After the fair, collect the names on your email list and send out a note saying thanks for stopping by and that you enjoyed meeting them.

Remember not to get too disappointed if you don't sell anything. Many times people are just breezing by for inspiration or don't have time to stop to chat but will take a business card and buy something later. Keep in mind that any time new people are seeing your work, it's a good thing!