EXHIBITOR TIPS FOR ART FESTIVALS
By Danna Tullis 2012. All rights reserved.
Content may be reprinted with permission, author credit and a link to this website.
Exhibitor Tips For Festivals will give you an overview of what you need to know to launch your career as an art exhibitor. The tips are from a variety of sources including several festival guidelines, professional exhibiting artists, my own experience both as a past exhibitor, and as a festival director. I hope this is helpful to you as you build a successful art career.
The fine arts and crafts markets are a wonderful venue for you to display and sell your work. You must hone your competitiveness to receive your share of the sales and have a profitable business. To do this you must be attentive to every aspect of your business.
A FULL SPECTRUM OF ~
.......art creation......image preparation..........application to shows........booth display
greeting your booth guests......tendering the sale.......patron followup.......record keeping
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Jury ~ Many shows are "juried" which means your work will be viewed by a show jury; you will then be notified if you are invited to exhibit or that you have been wait listed. Most shows will give you a courtesy letter if you are not invited.
Wait list ~ A show generally has a specific number of spaces for a show and often a specific number of spaces within a category. Once the artists have been selected and invited, another subcategory called "Wait List" is created. These are artists that had the next highest jury score. When an invited artist declines, a wait listed artist will be invited in their place.
Prospectus ~ A preliminary printed statement that describes the show.
Rules of Show ~ The specific outline of the show and the rules that the artist agrees to adhere to.
Image Format ~ This is the method of preparation of artwork images that are required by most shows
Booth Image ~ An image of your booth with artworks on display.
Medium ~ your choice of material for creation of your art work. Oils, pastels, metal, wood, drawing, fibers,etc.
Price Tiers ~ A range of prices to offer your buyers so you can maximize your sales.
Booths ~ outdoor or indoor. Be sure and know what each show will allow. Outdoor display booths should have a weight system that will keep the booth secure against wind. Walls that unroll for the occasional rain are usually desirable, especially since you can help out the visitors by offering them shelter and get to know them! Walls are quite often kept up with a grid system in place to display wall art, this allows airflow for a comfortable booth.
Directors Chairs ~ Often the seating of choice for exhibitors. They are easy to fold for travel and will position you at a comfortable height for talking with your patrons.
Giclee' ~ A print of the original image. This can be a print on paper, canvas, fabric or other and cost will vary according to the quality of process.
Your vision of your art is unique. Think about how this is best conveyed to art patrons. These are general tips, there are exceptions of course, but these are generally good guidelines for show exhibitions.
Quality of artworks ~ use the best materials you can afford and be ready to discuss the materials, people like to know and it gives you a good reason to chat with the visitors to your booth! You might also want to display an interesting commentary of your materials process.
Consistent body of work ~ this means your subject matter should be of the same or similar nature. Do not mix nature photography with children and pets.
Presentation of work ~ frames should frame the work, not distract or overwhelm the piece. A simple black or neutral frame will showcase your work the best. Your buyer needs to think about the work itself, not if the frame is going to match their decor. You may decide to have a selection of frames to offer to help make the sale, and be sure it is easy to change out.
Variety of Presentation ~ Many artists will offer their works in different sizes or even presentations. One example is a painter who offers the original painting, matted prints of the painting in two sizes, and a giclee printed on fabric and hung attractively. Be sure and check each show for its Rules of Show before bringing a large variety of presentations. Another example is that of a sculptor who offers a bronze piece in several sizes with several price tiers.
Zapplication ~ Many shows in the United States use this system as a point of entry to their shows. Zapp allows the artist to manage the shows they apply to and is a system that catalogs artist's images, application information and organizes images for jury viewing.
IMAGES FOR APPLICATION
Shows usually require 3 or 4 images and a booth image (sometimes called booth shot). This is the only chance you will have to show your artworks to the people who select exhibitors for a show. These should be your best pieces and show your quality craftmanship and design abilities as an artist. They should be on a neutral background, one that is complementary to each piece. Gray or black is often the best choice for both 2D and 3D artworks.
3D artworks can be challenging and lighting may be needed to capture the piece or is photographed outdoors.
"Image specifications" means that all images of your artwork submitted for jury consideration must be formatted to upload them successfully so that the jury can view them to the best advantage.
The following image format guidelines are for the Zapplication system and should also be acceptable for shows that catalog their own images.
1. Dimensions: Larger than 1400 pixels on the longest side.
* Note: the ZAPP™ Team recommends sizing all images to 1920 pixels on the longest side to take advantage of the full image quality potential during projection juries.
2. File Format: Save all images as Baseline Standard JPEG. Do not save as a Progressive JPEG.
3. File Size: JPEGs must be under 2.0 MB.
4. Color space: Save images in RGB color space, preferably RGB.
For more information, see below ~ Section: COMMENTS ABOUT SUBMITTING IMAGES
A booth image is usually required for application to a show. This should be free of your name and persons in or around the booth.
This is an important image ~ it conveys your level of professionalism. Many new exhibitors do not have a booth shot and sometimes asking the Festival Director (if phone or email is available) will help you prepare an image for your first show. As your professionalism develops your booth shot should improve. Take a photo of your booth when it is fresh and you have the best light. Its worth your effort to set it up outside of the show and take the photo in the best light available. If shooting indoors, be sure the image is not washed out and shows your artworks to a good advantage. Study exhibitor booths at shows and implement ideas that you like.
APPLICATION TO SHOWS
Carefully read the Prospectus for each show you apply to. Sometimes you will need to apply to shows that are on the same date so that you have a better chance of filling your desired exhibiting calendar dates. Be prepared to pay a jury fee with each application. The important festival jury dates and notification dates often overlap so be sure and keep track of notification dates.
If accepted to two shows on the same date, you will need to decide which show will offer you the best opportunity for sales and fits your travel schedule best. You will have an acceptance date which is usually the deadline for paying for your booth. If you are "wait listed," (refer to the Glossary of Terms) for a show it can be tricky deciding what to do. Just be prepared to notify the festival director of your acceptance in time and if there is a cancellation date, then cancel by that date if you are selected from the wait list and you would prefer to exhibit it that show. You may lose the booth fee for the show you cancel if you are unable to meet the cancellation deadline and if the show Prospectus indicates a policy that does not allow for such cancellations.
Most shows will post a Cancellation Date and Policy for refunds. Carefully read each Prospectus as they have different rules for cancellations. Remember, festivals are a business. Directors want to offer a diverse and balanced show. Cancellations are a serious issue and many shows will discourage cancellations with early cancel dates and only partial or no refunds.
Your booth is your invitation to patrons to view your work, ask questions and hopefully, make their decision to buy your work. It is also the opportunity to create a relationship with interested booth guests. Think of it as your little "store" where you are the proprietor. You want to
1. Make a good impression with the best art presented in the best way possible
2. Greet each guest with a smile, even if you are with someone else
3. Maintain a clean, clutter free booth
4. Consistently offer a gracious and friendly demeanor
5. Engage interested guests in conversations about your art, your method even your life as an artist. Remember that many festival attendees know little or nothing about the hard work an artist must be willing to do to bring the booth to them and the focused ability to create beautiful art. Many attendees have expressed an amazement at such talents and have no idea how the work has been created! Questions will be asked over and over and you will become tired of ceaselessly answering. Beware of shortchanging even one guest - he or she may become a buyer and even a patron of your work if they feel they have established some sort of amiable relationship with you, the artist.
Some guests will buy from you and be too reserved to engage in conversation with you. A simple "how do you like the festival?"and "where have you traveled from?" and other open ended questions will open an avenue for a simple conversation. Try to avoid conversational questions in which a simple yes/no is required. You can even keep a card with prepared questions handy if you are not usually comfortable in such situations. With practice you will become more comfortable and you will attract more people to your booth and increase your likelihood to sell more art.
The distant and uncommunicative artist is usually not as successful. Acknowledge people that are interested in your art ~ if someone has entered your booth, there is interest. Engaging them in conversation can warm that interest into a sale! People love to buy directly from the artist and it can be special to them that you gave them insights into the creation of your work...Others may want to just silently look at your works and just a warm hello, with a smile is just right!
TENDERING THE SALE
1. Keep good records! Each sale should be written in a descriptive way so that if the customer refers to the purchase at a later date you can communicate effectively. What this means is:
~ if a customer calls after the sale there is usually interest in repeat business with you. If you are easy to contact, have an efficient method of mail order sales and continue to foster a friendly relationship, you are on the way to establishing patronage.
2. Clearly mark each receipt with your contact information. Pre-printed receipts or stamping receipts with your contact information will help with repeat sales.
3. Calculate your sales with a calculator. Often you are engaged in conversation with a buyer or other visitors to your booth. It is easy to make a mistake and shortchange yourself or overcharge a buyer.
4. Wrap each item with care and respect. This signals to the buyer that you are a serious artist not just a "vendor of art". If possible, package breakable items in bubble wrap and offer a carry handle bag. If these items are too expensive for your start up budget, have plenty of newspaper or recycled plain paper to wrap items. If you have a neighborhood store that stocks plastic bags that are unmarked, ask to buy a ream or several dozen from them. Often explaining what they will be used for will bring a smile and the store owner or manager is happy to help you.
Plain brown bags can be signed with a flourish with a black marker and your items will leave your booth with flair.
5. Find out what the festival requires from you regarding sales and taxes. Each festival has different rules because they are governed by different county guidelines. Some festivals require a commission and sales tax. Others require that you report your sales and pay your tax to the designated agent at the end of the festival before you leave.
Note: Salida Riverside Fine Arts Festival requires that you submit a State of Colorado vendor license with your acceptance booth fee. This allows you to claim your own tax information and it can be done online or by mail.
If you are interested in a significant income from your festival exhibiting business it is essential that you create a data base to keep track of your sales for tax reporting, tracking festival information and fostering followup sales.
The data base will allow you to instantly track success of individual art works so you know what sells consistently and to access other information such as important festival deadline dates, fees and regulations.
Notes can be accessed from a data base also. Some artists stay in touch with fellow exhibitors so they can exchange information and share exciting news. The best way to be in the loop is to offer up your own information! Sharing successes and tips can help your business by keeping you fresh with festival industry news and developments.
A mailing list at your booth is the best way to stay in touch with potential patrons. Politely asking your buyer if they would like a periodic mailing from you will help you with this invaluable tool. A sample of the kind of postcard or newsletter will let the buyer what to expect and if they would like it sent to them. This will help you by only sending to interested buyers, not just mass mailing... and save the expense. Online promotions from you may be developed at some point and the mailing list will be invaluable.
This kind of promotion will keep you on track with your business as you spend other time creating beautiful works of art. The business of art is competitive and if you want to create significant income, you must learn to promote yourself and your work. This can be difficult for some artists and they may benefit from the services of an artist' agent. Gallery representation also should be considered.
COMMENTS ABOUT SUBMITTING IMAGES
Acceptance into shows that attract a lot of buyers...popular shows like Crested Butte, Cherry Creek, Ann Arbor, Fort Worth, Jackson Hole, Breckenridge and more ~ that pay a jury to select the exhibitors each year can be a challenge. I've spoken to many artists who become discouraged because they cannot get accepted into the popular art buyer shows ~ even though their work is very, very good, even excellent.
Remember that the art world is very competitive. When you are juried into a show, that means the jury AND in many shows, the Director has determined your work will be representational of the high quality that is to be maintained to keep a good reputation and keep the buyers coming back.
Therefore, your first impression must be almost exceptional in order to make it through the first round of jury. If your images are not excellent you simply won't pass to the next round.
The Booth Image is very important. A jury can love the work and give it high rating, but the low rating of a poor booth ~ even a mediocre booth will keep the average too low to get into the show. Again...very competitive. The jury system works, but you need to know how to work it to your favor.
So what does the jury look for in a booth image?
• Framed pieces are of similar style with good groupings of sizes, with pleasing variation
• Good composition of arrangement of display furniture (if used)
• Overall consistency of artworks displayed
• If 2D and 3D work is in same booth, it is tastefully arranged
• Clean, attractive display tables and cloths ~ no boxes showing underneath
• Overall strong composition picture by itself
• NO signage or people in the photo
A complimentary floor covering is often used and can help unify the booth. Lighting can also be helpful but must not be distracting.
All of this should be in good lighting with not too many shadows. The best time to do this is when you have just set up for a show before anyone comes, usually in the morning when the light is good and there are no shadows.
What if this is not possible? Many artists will set up their booth in a parking lot or their backyard. If you do it in the backyard, be sure the photo is of the booth ~ do not mistakenly think that trees or lawn is going to enhance the image. Remember you are competing with professionals who hire professional photographers to take the booth shot ~ its that important!
Your most exceptional work should be submitted. This is usually only 3-4 pieces. I have seen an exhibitor rejected because the artwork looked all the same, even though slightly different ~ and rejected because the artwork was too varied. A tasteful balance of work is looked for, along with excellence of workmanship and creativity.
Again...you are competing with professionals who hire professionals to photograph their artwork perfectly with beautiful lighting and just the right shadow to balance the work so it does not look flat or "floating".
If you can't afford a professional, try trading artwork for their services. Be sure the photographer knows what is needed, and if possible, has photographed art for jury purposes. If you are going to prepare the images yourself, read a good instruction book about the photographing for show juries.
ZAPPLICATION The best source to begin is Zapplication.org. This is the where it starts for many quality shows. Zapplication is most likely the entry to the shows that you want to be in and the juries use Zapp to manage the images during the jury.
Zapp offers an online image tutorial ~ follow it closely to achieve the quality of images that will give you the scores needed to get into the show.
The artwork must be of quality that is creative, distinctive and professional. Even if you do not consider yourself a professional in your field, your work must be of professional quality. Whatever medium you are working in ~ jewelry, glass, painting, sculpture, wood, and others ~ great composition and balance of colors and/or tones, knowledgeable use of the medium, strong craftmanship, with beautiful finish work must all be conveyed by a single image.