I have always imagined going to an event like Halloween and Vine or some of the others that are out there. What I had in my mind is that people went with the specific intent on buying Halloween art and Artists attended not only to sell their art but to meet other artists as well as have fun.
Now that I have downsized my family (one child left at home), Ken and I have some breathing room with time and money. The American Folk Art Festival was just an hour to away. I went there today as a buyer (my first visit to a show of this kind) but also as an artists to check it out.
I admire the idea behind this event as well as the hard work that I am sure was put into it, but I was disappointed.
Problems with the Festival:
- There were two artists that drew me to the festival in the first place: Scott Smith from Rucus Studio and Allen Cunningham. Well, their tables were empty. I don't know what Allen looks like, but I didn't see Scott anywhere unless his pictures are outdated and I did not recognize him. Regardless, their tables stayed empty. What happened?
- It was 102 degrees and while the artists were in the shade they were located outside. There was no escaping the temperature. It was hard to bare. I was only there a couple of hours at the most. The artists were there all day.
- The event staff was not that friendly... It wasn't horrid; it was Ok. One thing that pissed me off is we payed $30 to get in and they were handing out free bags at the entry. We were never offered one and when we asked for one, it was apparent they had no intention of offering because "they only had three left". Then, they made the great sacrifice of "giving" us one when we stood there and asked. REALLY!! They were giving the bags to everyone else...
- The winery had multiple rooms. In fact, it has established a secondary tasting area and dedicated a huge room to a bakery vendor. With careful design, most of the artists could have been put inside that room instead.
- There was not a lot of selling going on for the artists. I will address that later, but the heat made it uncomfortable for both sellers and buyers-- if buyers wanted to buy, the discomfort did not make it easy to choose a purchase-- neither did the small aisle areas. Three people in a aisle blocked it for others moving through.
Improvements are needed at this venue and while I am aware that event planners cannot control the whether, I do know that late summer in Napa is most often HOT!
What Worked at the Festival:
- Winery staff were very accommodating and friendly.
- It was very nice that the winery released its Halloween wine at the festival.
- The wine glasses with admission
- Grounds were nice.
I would love to hear from you, weather artist or a buyer, about the other Halloween art shows! How do they compare? What has been your experience?
Why art is not selling:
I am an artist working on returning to making and selling art, but battling some health obstacles. So, while I was checking out the venue for some future consideration, I was just a buyer today.
I bought little.
I am in love with Scott Smith's Art and fully aware of the price of Scott's work. The big thrill for me was meeting Scott and looking personally at his art. So big disappointment there.
As for Allen Cunningham, he has more price points available because he has licensed some of his designs. I did not know what to expect from his display. But once again, but the thrill I most expected was to meet him and look at his art. Again, another disappointment.
The vintage re-sellers were expensive. What really impressed me was the price for vintage Halloween paper decorations: $45 to $65 for a jointed skeleton or cat that said it was from the 1950's. The problem, it often hard to tell a repro from an original. For me, it was just too much to pay for paper, especially when repros are available for drastically reduced prices.
Many vendors had vintage looking Halloween buckets; you know the ones with the faces. Well, the prices are those were around $80. Do you know what I said? "Oh my god, I got to make these and sell them for $25 bucks!"
Most artists did NOT have very flexible or varied price points. Please do NOT misunderstand: I know the work and expense that goes making art as well as the fact that all of the artists also payed to be there today. But, I was often faced with liking the art and shelling out $250 or $350. My amount of love (should I say need) did not match the price. For the price being ask, I could easily live without and walk away.
The other consideration as a buyer, is that there were other financial obligations on my trip: Lunch for 4, 2 bottles of wine, gas and children's requests: without art purchases, I spent $250.
There were some artists that offered a few lower priced items. One vendor took walnuts and dremeled a simple Jack o Lantern face into the shell. I was going to buy a couple, until I saw the price was $15 each. Hell no!
Other items such as $.25 bottles with laser printed labels and 1/2 teaspoon of herbs sold for $7.00. This was but one example. It is a pity that this artist could not put her time into creating 1 or 2 items that I couldn't recreate myself for next to nothing.
- First and foremost, this festival was fantastic for introducing yourself personally to an audience-- giving away cards and brochures Don't forget free candy and dime toys for kids.
- Get them interested in your work by providing your art on an smaller and simpler scale... Something that allows them to guiltlessly and impulsively purchase it, as well as to enthusiastically sign up to hear more from you. This smaller work must be something your audience wants, needs and can use for themselves or others.
- Be sure to display your "regular" work to create awe and draw people to your table. Yeah, your regular priced work is $800 and I assume since you are charging that much, that you sell regularly at that price. Chances are, most folks won't be coming with $800 in their pocket, but would be glad to gaze and wonder at what you make personally. So make sure your expensive art work is awesome. People might not be able to afford this work today, but they can give you $25 or $50 for a smaller, simpler work...
- Every time they look at the more affordable art they bought, they will see that $800 piece they looked at. Often, they will return to your website to purchase something else, especially if they signed up for your mailing list. Sometimes, that eventually leads to higher priced purchases when they have monies available.
- If you are going to sell something that is easily reproducible by your audience, consider selling kits instead. I can talk myself out of buying things I can create myself; it is way harder to talk myself out of buying a kit (because it means I don't have to shop for the stuff to make it).
Unless I asked, I didn't know who the artists was. Most artists did not wear a tag giving their name and role.
No artist introduced themselves to me except for 1 and that was just to say that he wrote the book I was looking at.
Unless I asked or found it, no one offered their card or told me they had more to offer on their site for the holidays.
Those people around your table, yeah... I did not know who owned the table or who to direct questions too because you did not say "Hello" to me and "welcome to my table".
Artists, get out from behind your tables. Shake my hand. Give me your card, tell me about your up coming sales or that you just put more art online. If you take payments, I don't know unless you tell me; that might have change my mind about a purchase.
Artists PLEASE... offer a giveaway of your art for those who attend the festival. You will get my name and my email from me. You can add me to your mailing list and get a second chance at enticing me with your art work by allowing me to get to know you.
Last word: I might never buy anything from you, but if I get to know you and admire you...I have no problem marketing you for free.
Are you an artist that has had good luck selling at festivals and art shows? What has worked for you? I would love to hear your perspective both as buyers and sellers!