Saturday, August 23, 2008

Art Shows, Crafts Shows, Consignment & other venues

Currently, I sell my beadwork and crocheted items through consignment at the gift shops of the Japanese Friendship Garden and the San Diego Art Institute, in Balboa Park, San Diego, at local Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention art shows (Condor Con, Comic Con, and Conjecture), a couple of gallery shows for bead society/art museum members, and now through Previously, I sold on consignment at a friend’s shop, until she decided to convert her brick and motar business to an internet business—you can find her on Etsy and eBay as “whatigather”; you may notice she sells some similar “bits and pieces” to what I’ve incorporated in some of my work (yes, I spent a lot of my consignment checks in her shop)…. I also tried a few on-line sites before Etsy, most of which no longer exist. Occasionally, I make “direct” sales and custom items.

For my consignment sales, most buyers are tourists wanting a souvenir that is a bit different than the usual made-in-China gew-gaw, but don’t want to spend much on it. “Under $10” is the “price point” for most of these sales; other buyers, though, are locals looking for something “different” or “arty”—these buyers generally are willing to pay for that uniqueness, especially since the purchase helps support a local artist AND a local non-profit institution.

I’ve participated in a few Crafts’ Shows. The last time, was this past spring, at my workplace (for a fundraiser). It reminded me why I don’t do them…. Even if it hadn’t been the confused “mess” it ended up being (mistakes, miscommunications, and generally poor planning from those in charge of the event), it still would not have been a “good day” for me—I really have a hard time “sitting” for extended periods of time.

Gallery shows—ummm…. Well, I’ve taken part in our bead society’s gallery show every year it has been held. My preferences for “d├ęcor” and content generally run counter to the preferences of the “PTBs” of the last few years. “Their way” has been to make it like a “high end”, fine arts gallery show—I sell one or two pieces, and most members don’t sell anything; the PTBs sell “high end” items to their friends and current clients— the gallery show being set up like an extension of their studio shops. The way I prefer—like a fun and happy Bazaar… total sales in terms of number of pieces is higher, more artists have sales, and there is a whole lot more selection of “affordable” items for casual, spur of the moment, walk-in type visitors (the majority of potential buyers). My personal sales income is about the same, but generally it’s several “low to mid” priced items rather than one or two higher priced ones, which to me is “better”. It’s not an extension of “my studio”… which consists of my end of the dining table for beading, and a few canvas bags for crochet WIPs. (We won’t talk about how much space storage takes up…). The other gallery shows I’ve entered were at the SD Art Institute’s “Museum of the Living Artist”—once at one of their fund raiser shows, and last year, for a “Holiday Tree” show (mine sold the first night—before any of my friends got to see it! I have mixed feelings about that…). Still working on “fine art” type projects….

For the art shows… I really haven’t figured out where the main “price point” is. Sales are at low, mid and high ends… although I haven’t done but a couple of really high end pieces for sale, and somehow, I seem to forget to even put those out most of the time, or don’t have room for them. Usually, the highest priced item is under $200. The last show I did (Comic Con), the highest priced item was $165—and it sold. So did $5 cell-phone charms and hair clips, but only a couple of “moderate” priced items….

Things to consider about art shows:

As you may have gathered… I like Art Shows. They aren’t “perfect”, but until I can find a Rich Patron who will pay for all my materials, promotions and showings, and pay me a living wage to “create” as I please… Art Shows will have to do.

Art Shows are “easy”—you set up once and can leave until it’s time to pack out. AS Staff takes care of sales, credit card processing, check guarantees, and paying the Governator his cut of the sales. No resale certificate required (I have one, though).

Art Shows are “cheap”—a display space usually costs much less than vendor space. And… you don’t have to “sit” all day with your “stuff”. You don’t need as many products to fill your space, either.

Art Shows, in my experience, are “safe”—I’ve never had anything “evaporate” at an art show, nor any breakage I did not myself cause (I’m a bit clumsy and tend to drop stuff…). I have had consignment and gallery show items disappear and be broken. You also don’t have gooey-fingered kidlets messing up your pieces, nor people spilling drinks, etc on them.

Art Shows usually have limited space—but so do many Crafts Fairs. Generally, one “space” consists of a 4’ x 4’ vertical panel or a half-table (tables either 6’ or 8’ long x 30”, depending on the venue). Some shows limit the number of spaces per artist, others are “first come, first choice”.

Art Shows usually charge a commission on sales—but they do work for it, and they have to pay the rent on the room. Some Crafts Fairs also charge commissions, as do most gallery shows and consignment shops. Of the art shows I do— Comic Con charges no commission, Condor Con and Conjecture charge 10%, Westercon charged 15%, in addition to the table fees. Most of these shows are three days.

Art Shows aren’t really set up for sales of “production items”—they’re more for one of a kind or limited edition work. This can be a “pro” or a “con”, depending on how you work. Since I can have problems making two earrings in a pair match… “OOAK” inventory works for me.

Comic Con 2008 table


A Beaded Affair said...

Your work is beautiful and I really enjoyed the article. Having only done a few home shows and preping for my first craft show your insights were appreciated.

Wezz said...

what a good write-up about the different venues to sell! I wish they had that here too, especially the art shows! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Wezz -

kaytee said...

Lois-- do a search in the other bead groups you're on for "craft shows". You'll likely find tons of advice as to what to bring, wear, etc., and info on taking credit cards and checks.

Wezz-- not sure re: what's available in the EU, but occasionally the UK hosts sci-fi cons. World Con was there a couple of years ago. is a link to EuroCon, which is fairly large, from what I've heard.

Also, look for local fan clubs that hold mini-conventions or "meetings" at hotels. These will often be near colleges/universities.

Anonymous said...

Your experience with art shows is really great. We've talked about trying some in the next year or so. I know they are different in terms of what people are interested in and looking for, your comments will help me decide what to display.

Wilma said...

Wow what a great article, you have inspired me to hunt down some places to show my work. I love your jewelry and the knitted/chrocheted items too. I have added you to my blogroll. thanks for getting me off my but and trying to find some places to show my items

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of the art show arrangement---those here are still a booth that the vendor staff's all day themselves...but the concept sounds wonderful! I find the craft fairs can be a crap shoot, if you find a good one, keep it, but you may go through some stinkers on the way lol. Teri