I haven't done an art fair in over seventeen years. In a former art life, the one where I made hand dyed, painted and block printed children's wear, I used to do 8 shows a year in the Los Angeles area. From past experience I know how much work they can be! When the organizer of the "Windermere Art Affair" asked if I would participate in the first annual event this last weekend, I couldn't say no. I love my community so much, so I got the tent out, dusted it off, and borrowed wall panels from a dear artist friend who was so kind to let me use them. I was thrilled to win first place for overall body of work at the show! There were some great artists there in a variety of media. I've been preparing for this event for a few months. I thought I would share my process a bit in case you are considering venturing into art fair territory. First you must ask yourself do I have the inventory to create a nice display on the three walls of the booth? Knowing a typical booth is 10 feet by 10 feet, and how much and how big your best work is you can make an assessment. Notice I said best work, I wanted to put my best foot forward and display what I felt represented who I am as a painter now. I know one of the goals is to get some sales, if you have older work that you would like to move and perhaps offer at a lower rate than that's great! But, personally I wouldn't show it if it doesn't hold up to your other work. Your gut will tell you if it does! Also consider your audience where the fair is bing held and anticipate what they may be drawn to subject wise and if you are inspired to do new work, add that to your repertoire.
Once I realized I had enough original work for the booth, I started inventorying my giclée prints and note cards. I made more cards, and had more prints run, to offer some lesser price items for sale along with the higher priced originals. I also had to consider how I was going to display the prints and cards. I then laid out and designed the booth display, and made a list of all the equipment I would need to set up the booth and display everything. I purchased things along the way I new I would need I didn't have on hand. As I thought of something in the 3 month span I had to prep for the show, I would write it down on an ongoing list of stuff to pack. This way your not trying to think of everything you need a few days or the day before the show.
Imagine your self making a sale, how are you going to record it, charge tax, accept credit cards, make change and package the purchases. Figure all this out in advance so you have time to get a Square or PayPal swipe for credit cards and do a trial run with the software. You don't want to make your customers wait while you try and figure it all out! Make sure your devices are charged and you have an extra back up battery and you have no problem with internet connectivity. Plan an area in the booth where you are going to conduct the sales out of the way of others who may be browsing.
If you aren't a seasoned art fair exhibitor, mock up your set up before the show. Make sure you have everything you need tent, walls, signage, and weights to weigh down the tent in case of wind. I'm not kidding about the weights don't take any chances. I heard a recent story from a friend who attended and art fair recently that a strong wind carried an artists entire tent and work into a nearby stream and they watched it float away! Plan for in-climate weather if necessary and your art is protected from wind and rain.
Make sure all your gear and your art fit in your vehicle if you have a loving spouse, (luckily I have one of those!) or a friend take a second vehicle if it doesn't fit in one. Survey the area if you can ahead of time and get all the information from the fair organizers on set up and tear down. It can be very chaotic at set up and tear down, the more prepared you are the less stressed you will be and the smoother it all will go.
Don't forget promotional materials, business cards, brochures, information on workshops if you teach them, a guest book to collect email addressed for your newsletter if you do one and last but not least, if you have the space some fresh flowers are really nice! Thanks to my husband for suggestion that one! Organize all your packing materials during set up and stow them away so that everything is ready and it's where you need it for tear down. Also bring a tool box and duct tape, you would be surprised how that will come in handy!
Here is a video of my booth set up:
If this was at all helpful please leave a comment and let me know and if you are a seasoned art fair exhibiter I would love for you to share some helpful tips!