Craft fairs can be long days that start early in the morning and often involve hopes and prayers for good weather and no mosquitoes. Please, no mosquitoes. And you sweat and lift heavy things all in an effort to make your booth pretty and present your artsy goods to the public. And all that sweating often involves not looking your best.
But really, despite all the negatives that can happen with craft fairs, they are actually quite valuable for an artist to do once or twice or a hundred times. I’ve been doing craft fairs for a couple years now, and I’ve learned a few things. Namely:
You learn what your brand really is.
If you didn’t know it ahead of time, you will see exactly what people think about your booth and well… you. Your image, personality, vibe, intention, and everything else you pour into your art helps shape the brand you offer the world. You are not just a mixed media artist, or a painter of trees, no, you are a brand, whether you like it or not. And you should like it, because being a brand helps sell your art.
People will pick up on whether your brand is whimsical and fun, serious and brooding, full of faithful thoughts or sentiments that encourage freedom. Your art represents who you are, and that’s part of the reason people will be attracted to it. Listen for the comments people make while they are browsing in your booth. It will tell you everything you need to know about your brand.
You figure out what price you should be charging.
Pay attention to the things people pick up and put back in your booth. Look at the way one friend shows the other the price of something in your booth without buying it. These are subtle signs that they may like your stuff but not your price.
Do you worry that you’re not charging enough? You’ll know when people actually tell you what they would pay for, when they comment on how “cheap” your stuff is, or when they actually skip buying your stuff because the perceived value doesn’t match your price point.
You learn why people buy your art specifically.
When you sit in your booth, you can watch people browse through your originals and prints and what they notice in your work. Do they hold up a painting and stare at it? Do they comment on details in the art to their friends? These are things that can tip you off to the kind of art that appeals to people.
Folks will also ask about commissioned pieces, or if you have art that contain a certain subject matter or color scheme. They’ll ask you if you ever paint X, and you can explain to them why you don’t (or why you will when you get home!) and this conversation will help you learn more about what people like about your art and why they buy it. These questions clue you in to what is specific about your art.
You get over your shyness about talking about your art.
Artists can be shy. We want people to see our art but we don’t want to brag. Or perhaps, we’re looking for validation, so we say nothing about our art, especially when people are standing before it.
But at an art fair, you can’t be shy. People will be there in your booth and you will gradually get comfortable talking about your art. You figure out your “elevator” pitch, or the short bit of intro you can spout about yourself to entice art buyers into looking into your work.
Talking about your art isn’t bragging or wrong, but we artists can be shy about promotion, so we need to be able to freely talk about our art process or even suggest paintings or prints to someone.
You experience the unspoken benefits of creating art.
My paintings contain many faithful elements, so people share their experiences with me, including some amazing stories that leave me in tears. I get inspired by the people I meet. This is one of the things about being an artist I would have never guessed but one that I am grateful for.
When you paint, you’re probably alone, just you and the canvas. But doing craft shows allows you to meet people in person and talk with them about life. Seeing your art may prompt them to tell you things you wouldn’t normally have heard, and this is a blessing, because your path as an artist is very often about holding people’s feelings gently and giving them a safe space to express themselves.