1. ART SHOWS & FAIRS 2010
Art shows and fairs dot the calendar year-round, providing opportunities for artists and art-enthusiasts alike to showcase and buy art and to network with those who are also passionate about art and crafts. As an artist, you may well have your own website showcasing your artwork and you may also occassionally exhibit at local art fairs. For many artists, however, exhibiting at an art show is something they are yet to do. It may seem like too much effort, too much expense, too much time off work – or it may simply be down to a crisis of confidence! In this article, I’ll be speaking to Sam Maund and Jenifer Wall, who run Brass Monkeys, a successful Hove shop selling handmade metalwork, jewellery and silversmithing. They both exhibit regularly at shows and have sound advice and experiences to pass onto other artists! I’ll also be taking a look at some of the art shows coming up this year, with dates, details and deadlines. If you didn’t set yourself a New Years resolution for 2010 – how about setting yourself an April resolution and trying your hand at presenting your art for the world to see in an art show this year? You never know…you might just sell something AND have fun!
Jennifer Wall and Sam Maund first started exhibiting in shows some years ago. Jen was already showing at trade fairs and when they first started working together, ‘made’ Sam do one with her! Sometimes it’s a nudge, scary or not, that artists need to get going. Now Sam and Jenifer exhibit regularly and are seeing huge benefits of doing so. Here’s their thoughts and insights on the topic! Although they exhibit at jewellery shows and craft fairs predominantly, their advice and experiences also apply to artists who want to exhibit at art fairs.
How long have you been exhibiting at craft fairs?
Jen – thirteen years.
Sam – I’ve been doing them for seven years.
Why did you decide to start doing them?
Jen – You have to be out there to find customers; they won’t come to you! Certainly if you work in a studio or workshop, you have to find your own customers and show them what you can do.
How do you find out about fairs going on?
Sam – It’s pretty much word-of-mouth. Ask other makers, see what works for them. Look at their work as well, to see if theirs is similar to yours because sometimes a Trade Fair may work for one person but not necessarily for another. The first time you do a Trade Fair it’s never fantastic. It takes a couple for you to get used to it and for galeries to trust you to come up with the goods!
How about the expenses?
Jen – The fairs vary greatly. However, if you don’t factor in your time, a local fair can typically cost around Ј500-550 to do. Whereas if you do one of the London shows, you’re looking more along the lines of around Ј1500. But you factor that into your financial year and that cost really should be incorporated into your selling prices. When you’re pricing your work you need to take your expenses into account and Trade Fair costs should be included in that annual expenditure, maybe under ‘Advertising’.
What is the difference between a ‘Trade Fair’ and a ‘Retail Fair’?
Jen – Trade Shows are for selling to shops and galleries; Retail Shows are for selling direct to the public. If you do a Retail Show (selling to the public), you go along and you sell at retail prices which are much higher than the Trade prices; you should be selling to the public at the same price that galleries would be selling at because you too are going directly to the public. With Retail Shows, anyone can go in whereas with Trade Shows (selling to galleries), you have to show some ID to show that you’re a trader. A Trade Show is half the price, as the galleries you sell your stuff to will sell it on at a higher price.
Sam – you especially have to factor in the cost of a Trade Show when you’re selling to galleris, because you might not make a profit due to the prices you’re selling at, which are so much lower than Retail. You’re selling at cost so you really should factor Trade Show costs into your advertising budget. At Retail Shows you actually usually just manage to cover the cost of that show due to selling at retail prices. Retail shows tend to be a little more expensive to do. Trade Shows are lovely ways to keep in touch with other makers and see what everyone’s doing because you don’t have the same stress as Retail Shows; although you want to sell to galleries when you do a Trade Show, you only need to cover your costs as you’ll make your money throughout the financial year by selling to a gallery. At a Retail Show, you have that one day to make your money! So you have to have lots of stock with you when you do one. But all shows are very nice to do! Apart from when you don’t make lots of money!
How far in advance do you have to apply to a Fair to get a slot?
Jen: It’s a good idea to know what shows are around that you’d like to take part in; take a look at them the year before you want to do it. Some Retail Shows, like Goldsmiths, have strict deadlines and you have to apply a good year in advance. You can often book a Trade Show up to a few days beforehand though, especially at the moment with the economy not being as good. But research the shows and the deadlines the year before; that’s the best idea.
Sam – It’s crucial to visit them before you do them. Then you get to have a look around and decide which area you’d like to have. Some areas for having a pitch are definitely better than others and once you’ve decided on the right spot you can apply for that particular space.
Jen – Another point is that Retail Shows sometimes ask you to submit examples of your work and then they decide if they’ll let you in. That’s why it’s always a good idea to vet the shows beforehand; it’s all well and good if you get in but you need to have seen the standard of other artist’s work beforehand and ask yourself ‘am I happy for my work to be displayed next to this?’.
What do you need to take with you if you’re participating in a Trade or Retail Fair?
Jen – A big pile of promotional material; especially at Retail Shows. Things like postcards with your details and different prices for both Retail and Trade Shows – it’s a good idea to email customers from your mailing list and galleries that are in the area which you’d like to sell to a few months in advance to let them know you’ll be there. It’s a good idea whenever you make a sale at a show to ask that person if they’d like to go on your mailing list.
The other thing is not to get too despondant if you have a terrible show because every maker at some stage has a really bad show, whether it’s down to bad attendance or poor organisation by whoever’s running it.
Does a big dose of confidence help?
Sam – I don’t think a maker is ever overly confident about their work! But it’s almost a case of ‘just book it’! You have to just set yourself the date and force yourself otherwise you might never feel ready. And of course, you’ll get better at doing them the more that you do.
Jen – Try and look positive at your stand as well. Don’t look glum even if you’re feeling it! If you see a maker sat there looking really miserable, you won’t want to go up to them! You have to try and adopt a bit of a fixed smile, no matter what you’re feeling and be cheerful and upbeat. If you do look glum, the day will only get worse….
Sam – …it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy!
I’d like to thank Sam and Jen very much for their time and for kindly discussing their experiences and offering their advice. You can see their work for yourself on their website below:
And for those of you who now feel brave enough to take part…….
Here is a line-up of some of the UK’s art fairs and shows for 2010. Some of them are booked up…but all of them are worth a visit if you’re not a frequenter of such shows to start checking out the scene and the competition!
Frieze Art Fair, Regents Park, October 14-17, 2010
Leeds Art Fair, The Light Headrow, May 7-10, 2010
About: Leeds Art Fair supports local artists from the region and is in it’s 27th year. All work is available for sale and it attracts a good audience each year. The event is held in ‘The Light’, a shopping mall in the centre of Leeds which has proven to be a prime public space in which to showcase the artists’ works. Applications for this year’s event have now closed but if you live in the Leeds area, it’s well worth going along for a look-out and get prepared for next year’s Art Fair…which may include yourself as an exhibitor!
Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Evolution, London, March 11-14 2010
This one has a great following….The Affordable Art Fair gives visitors the chance to see and buy paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography and original prints. With works priced between Ј50 and Ј3,000 it features 120 selected galleries from the UK and Europe exhibiting contemporary art. As well as the Art Fair itself, the organisers have set to hosting plenty of hands-on, family-friendly activities, all of which are fun, enlightening and, best of all, free. It’s well worth putting this one in the diary for next year. Great art that is affordable….you can’t go wrong, really!
Newcastle Gateshead Art Fair, The Sage, Gateshead, October 1-3 2010
With over 9000 visitors last year, this Art Fair is popular and presents a sound platform for emerging artists in the Emerging Artists Showcase, which gives 15 unrepresented artists the opportunity to showcase their work. Held in The Sage, Gateshead, it’s the perfect space for exhibiting fresh and invigorating art. Applications are being taken now; click on this link to apply: http://www.ngartfair.com/downloads/pdf/AF-10_Application-for-Exhibition.pdf.
Kent & Sussex Art Fair, The Great Barn, Rolvenden, May 19-23 2010
Now in it’s third year, the Kent & Sussex Art Fair is a smaller-scale but no less enjoyable exhibition held in a lovely barn displaying work from 51 artists. This year, furniture is being added to the mix. Go along for a lovely day out and sign up to be added to their mailing list if you’re interested in participating next year.
Reading Contemporary Art Fair,Rivermead Leisure Centre, April 23-25 2010
Alas, too late to apply but it’s run by the same organisers of the Windsor Contemporary Art Fair (see entry below) which, hurrah, you CAN apply for!! If you’re not able to make it to Reading this year, you can browse the artwork online. But try and go if you’re in the area; there are also some drop-in workshops going on.
Windsor Contemporary Art Fair, Royal Windsor Racecourse, November 12-14 2010
2010 being it’s fifth year, the Windsor Contemporary Art Fair is held in a lovely setting with works from over 100 exhibitors. Prices are similar to those in the London Affordable Art Fair, with works ranging from Ј30 to Ј3000. Applications are being taken by artists interested in exhibiting; follow this link: http://www.windsorcontemporaryartfair.co.uk/wcaf_exhibitor_info_pack_form.asp. Again, a good day out if you’re not intending to participate.
London Art Fair, Business Design Centre, Islington, 19-23 January 2011
Applications for next year’s London Art Fair have just opened so move faster than a speedingn bullet to get in there! It’s in it’s 21st year and received a whopping 21,700 visitors this year…one worth being seen at. ‘Art Projects’ is an exciting sector of the Fair; applicants must adhere to some criteria for a subsidised stand, with amazing prospects; some of the stands in this year’s Arts Projects scheme sold out completely! Have a good look round this website, sign nup for the ebulletin and dare to bare your work at the London Art Fair…it’s a good’un!
East Cheshire Art Fair, ‘The Art Of Caring’, Macclesfield Town Hall, 8-16 October 2010
Some definite benefits here; it’s free to take part, open to everyone, it’s in aid of the East Cheshire Hospice and it gets a good visitor count. Sign up for the newsletter on the blog and get on the list to exhibit. It’s all in a good cause and is a friendly, perfect starter-show for those who haven’t exhibited before.
The Great Sheffield Art Show, The University Of Sheffield, 9-11 July 2010
Application forms taken till next month. Preview night with sponsors, traders and professional artists. Art demonstrations and workshops along with trade stands make this a popular show for artists. To exhibit, you must submit up to 6 works and then a selection is made by the show committee.
Animal Art Fair, Fulhum Palace, April 16-18 2010
I was going to say it ‘does what it says on the tin’ but then realised that it might sound like all the art is created by animals. Which it isn’t. Obviously. This is coming up quick and I didn’t know it existed (this being the inaugral event!) but it looks like a good exhibition; over 40 artists and sculptors and a plethora of talent. If you like animals, this one is for you.
Made10, Brighton’s Design & Craft Fair, Corn Exchange, 18-21 November 2010
Applications being taken till 14 April for this popular design/craft fair in bustling, cosmopolitan Brighton. Over 5000 visitors each year, over 100 exhibitors, every genre possible from sculpture to textiles and most importantly, a nice cafe for a cup of cheering tea and a slice of hearty cake. Yes, I have my artistic priorities sorted. This is a great fair (I should know; I’ve been to a few of them) and a great opportunity to sell your wares in time for Christmas! See you in November!
Oohhh…hot on the heels of that one….
Is the Brighton Art Fair, Corn Exchange, 16-19 September 2010
Again, deadline for applications is April 14…get the form filled in! You can do it online so it’s quick and painless. This art fair is now the largest on the South Coast with over 130 exhibitors. It’s a friendly, buzzy affair and a great opportunity to network. And if you need to go for a quick break whilst your mum/friend/lover looks after your stall, you can go grab some Autumnal sea air. Lovely. Last year Brighton Art Fair netted it’s highest total sales ever…not bad considering a recession! Don’t miss this one.
Palace Art Fair, Fulhum Palace, 7-10 October 2010
This exhibition is run by the same busy geezers who run both Made10 and the Brighton Art Fair! Wonder how their work/life balance is….? This art fair will exhibit just 100 artists – I say ‘just’ because for a London show, this is positively intimate! Unfortunately you’re just going to miss applying for this show at the time of going to press although I did make a point of featuring it on the blog a couple of weeks ago to avoid disappointment. But sign up for their newsletter for notification on how to get in next year’s event…a London show that’s not so vast only major galleries can compete? Got to be worth a look-in.