There are many ways
to market and sell your art. A website and good social media presence in today’s connected world is a great place to start. Finding galleries that are interested in showing and selling your work is another. Of course having an agent is great as well, the downside to that option is that people have to be willing to pay enough for your work that is actually pays you enough. The agent gets a cut as does the gallery that shows the work, so commissions can run as high as 40 to 60% of the sale price of a piece of work.
Art and wine festivals are a somewhat more personal way to become known in your community. Many festivals have a space fee and some charge anywhere from 5 to 10% of the profits of your weekend take. The advantage of being in a place where you get to meet a lot of people, some of whom will fall in love with your work and become a supporter and fan can’t be overstated.
One on one contact is still a really great way to develop a clientele.
What you will need – Be ready to schlep.
Getting set up is almost certainly a two person job. It can be done alone, but most festivals have a time limit during set up, so you only have a limited amount of time to unload and get everything to your assigned space. Once that is accomplished, the setup can begin.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First off you need a vehicle that is big enough to carry everything. If you don’t have one or can’t borrow one, renting a van or truck is highly recommended. You will also need a tent, generally a white 10×10 tent. I have one that while a bit difficult to put up by myself, it can be done.
Next, art panels on which to hang your work are needed. There are many types out there to choose from, but keep in mind that most festivals are held in parks and the surface is not always even, so panels that are connected to each other and a bit heavier are generally preferable.
If you live in a windy area
tent weights in the four corners of your tent are recommended. The last thing you want is for the work you have slaved over blowing away with your tent. They can be purchased or if you or someone you know is handy, they can easily be made (for a lot less).
Your artwork needs to be protected so that it doesn’t get scratched or broken. Sleeves can be made or purchased that make it easy to slip your work into. If you have say, birdhouses or pottery, cardboard boxes might be your best option for getting to and from your space.
You might want to think about taking a folding table and some chairs. I’m too old to think it’s fun to sit on the ground or stand all day.
are a staple that you must have. Also, a book for interested parties to sign, leaving their email and phone numbers, or whatever else you think is important so that you can contact people and let them know when and where you will be showing the next time. Peoples addresses are also good to have as many festivals send you a promotional packet that included postcards to send to clients.
Make sure that you have a way to take a customers’ money. Generally a way to take credit cards is best. Sometimes I get cash, but not very often, and I don’t accept personal checks unless I know the person buying a new treasure. There are a number of options so check them out.
If your work is small enough, bags are a great way to send off a satisfied customer. You can make stickers to put on the bags or even have the bags printed with your name or logo. For larger pieces a paper sling with a tape handle works great.
Applying to festivals – Look for the best ones.
If you decide to try the art and wine circuit there are websites that help you narrow down the area you are interested in showing your work. The deadlines are usually about three to four months before the event, giving you plenty of time to put a body of work together.
Many of the festivals are juried. It is usually to make sure that there is enough variation among the vendors, and to see that your work looks professional and ready to sell.
When you are accepted
you generally get a packet with your space, instruction for setting up and breaking down, the assigned times for both (usually you have anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to unload and load up). Many times the festival will offer a box lunch one or both days and many offer water throughout the day.
And don’t forget the postcards. These little jewels are great to send to everyone on your list, or if your list is long, to the most important patrons on your list.
Keep in mind that location is key. Some art and wine festivals are better attended, have better work, and are in better locations than others. Ask around or look for reviews, many times found on the festival calender websites for the best ones. There is a lot of time, effort and money involved to find yourself in a sucky little festival where nothing sells.
Building a network – Make sure you make the rounds – It can pay off.
That said, there are times when you will sell almost everything you have with you. Other times you will only sell a couple of pieces. It is impossible to know how things will go financially. My first time I only sold two small pieces, but the contacts I made among the artists, and the names and numbers I collected have been invaluable.
During the weekend,
go to all the other booths and meet everyone. Find out if their product is selling. Exchange contact info. If you don’t have anyone with you to watch your space while you look around, there is almost always a willing soul in another space that will watch over yours for a while.Even if you are not a social butterfly, stay engaged with the people who come through your space. I have a friend who can strike up a conversation with anyone, who I will draft many times to accompany me for the weekend. I am shameless, and you should be as well. Anything that helps you in areas where you need some assistance, do it.
Social Media can really help you sell your work at an Art and Wine Festival.
Make sure to make use of all your social media to promote the art and wine festivals you are participating in. Show some of your pieces and even talk about how you made it. Explain why you made it or even what led you to the place you are now in producing your work. And don’t forget to mention where your next festival is.
Be personal in your contact. People would rather buy something from someone they feel they know, even a little, than from a stranger.
Think about opening an Etsy site.
You can offer work that is a bit different, or the same work that you hung in your space. That way, if people don’t buy from you at the show, they have a way to purchase later on.
Every time I’m at a show someone will tell me they saw my work the year before, and are sorry they didn’t buy it. At first, I kicked myself, but came to realize that many times people look one year and buy the next. So if you aren’t selling on a particular weekend, there may be some folks who seek you out the next year, or at a different festival.
Points to Ponder
If art and wine festivals are something you are interested in, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- If you are showing at festivals, many times folks will look one year and buy the next.
- The financial outlay before you even start can be a bit staggering considering that you must pay:
- The fee for the event which can be anywhere from $200 to $500, sometimes more, rarely less.
- Rental on a truck or van
- Unless you have a lot of work put aside, the cost of making new work
- Rental or purchase of a tent and displays, which can run into the thousands.
- If you are to far from home to go home at night, the cost of meals and a hotel.
- The fact that from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening you are working.
Building a clientele is a long process unless you are extremely lucky. Don’t give up if you don’t see great results at first. Try to find out what your customers are looking for and give it to them. If you do, you will never look back.You should think about having more than one type and style of work in your booth. I have added small things like hand made walking sticks that I painted with different designs. Also some greeting cards that are unique and fun.
If you have any questions I haven’t addressed here or have any comment regarding art and wine festivals, please leave me a comment.