With over a dozen years of craft show experience, Alison Antelman shares her insights as she takes her own advice to prepare her 2013 schedule of shows with these Resources for Craft Show Evaluation.
Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.
From Alison Antelman:
Participating in a craft show is always a risk and there are no guarantees, but you can at least weed out potentially dismal situations that are a waste of your time with these resources:
Greg Lawler's Art Fair Source Book is a great resource when you are ready to invest in craft shows and travel away from home.
Art Fair Source Book is a guide that lists shows by region, location, dates, and how they rate, for over 600 shows. There are many variations to choose from including region and ranking –depending upon if you are doing shows on the national circuit or just locally. The guide itself is a worthwhile investment that is better than wasting your time at a show with no sales.
Greg Lawler compiles information from artists who already participate in shows, he supplies a postcard questionnaire with free mailing that many show promoters encourage artists to fill out. The questions include medium, show income, style of work, and a place for specific notes that you liked or did not like about the show. The questionnaire can also be filled out online after the show. He depends upon artists filling these out in order to create the most comprehensive data for the rest of us to use for our own craft show research.
There are other guides and listings out there but in my opinion, this is the most comprehensive one that I have found. I have used the Top 300 national shows but now the information is provided as an online subscription.
Visit his site and ask him questions regarding what guide is best for you. You can also follow Art Fair Source Book on Facebook.
The information that The Art Fair Source Book provides helps you determine if a show is worth your time. This information includes:
- Return on investment
- Gross and net sales
- Ranking from the #1 show on down
- Notes of sales being up or down from the previous year
- Ratings that will tell you how worthwhile the show is regarding distance to travel, from across the country, to 1,000 miles, to not worth doing at all.
- Dates for deadlines
- Show dates
- Jury odds of acceptance into the show
- Reproduction restrictions, if any
- Notes are based on artist input. For example, the notes may say that move out is chaotic, or western wear sells best, or the show is well organized but there’s no electricity available.
Network during downtime at the show. This is an opportunity to talk with other artists.
- Exchange information with other artists about shows, expectations, and promoters, and ask about which is the best lodging.
- Take notes and look up prospective options later.
- Make connections and ask if you can email a seasoned artist at another time.
- Don't be vague, ask specific questions that will help you make your decision.
- Keep in mind price points and quality of work. If you’re talking to someone who sells under $100 items and your work sells for over $1000, you may require a different audience.
The process of finding the right shows is always evolving. Some get better, others worse. Instead of continuing with a show that’s been sliding downhill, re-evaluate each time, and don’t let habits be your guide. Let quality, not quantity be the primary determining factor.
Grand Staircase Earrings by Alison Antelman
oxidized silver, 18 + 22k gold, blue zircon, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms.
READ THE ENTIRE SERIES on ASK Harriete about the craft show marketplace:
Harriete comments: The Art Fair Review Group on Facebook was recommended in a comment after the previous post. It has potentially useful discussions. The problem is they don't have enough of a sampling. Most of the craft show listings have no information at all. Only a few have one to four comments.
P.S.S. I love comments. If you have additional resources not recommended here let me know about them in the comments. ALL comments are published except spam.
Spam is NOT PUBLISHED. Spam has increased recently so all comments need to be "approved" before publishing. I wish it wasn't necessary to approve comments, but a few people with bad internet manners have ruined it for everyone.
This post was updated on June 30, 2022, to provide current links.