Whether you are a potential exhibitor looking to dip your toe in the art fair waters, or someone with a keen interest in the art world market, keep reading for my top ten art fair hacks, discovered along the way on my own, personal art fair journey.
Art Fairs are a fantastic opportunity to meet buyers, make professional contacts and to make new friends. There is a team of organisers and event staff behind the scenes and everyone that I’ve come into contact with, including fellow exhibitors, have always been super helpful and friendly. Everyone has something unique to offer and there is always something new to learn; whether that is a new business opportunity or the best pub/restaurant in town, soak it all up and have fun!
2. Embrace all feedback.
There is no better feeling than watching people’s faces light up with joy when witnessing your artwork for the first time. However, not everyone will appreciate your style, endeavours or hard work. This is 100% okay and a golden opportunity to develop and grow professionally as an artist. All dialogue about your artwork helps you to tap into avenues and insights that may have been previously unapparent or locked up in your subconscious. My mantra for receiving feedback is: keep you ego in check, practise gratitude and allow yourself to learn, develop and grow.
3. Research, organise and prepare.
What are you going to be selling?
This may seem like common sense but it is definitely worth taking the time to think about. Many fairs have specific rules on what you can/cannot sell (prints for example) - so make sure you do your research and read all terms and conditions.
How will you present your artwork?
Prior to the art fair make sure that you allow plenty of time for your artwork to be framed. The presentation of your work is crucial and requires careful consideration. Framing can be a costly process but scrimping on it and/or picking a frame that does not compliment your work is not an option in my book… a bad frame can completely ruin a painting!
4. Know your exhibition space.
Find out the dimensions and description of your stand. Is the wall space adequate for the size of your work, and if so, how many pieces will you fit? And, is there enough space for a browser to display your prints? Before exhibiting at my first fair I made a scale plan of where everything was going to be displayed and I’m so glad that I did! Other questions to consider are: How will you be hang your work? Do you have a step ladder? Do you have enough hardware? Does it come with the stand? Make sure you have all you need ready to go, this will help keep your stress levels to a minimum when setting up.
5. Have a Plan B (maybe even C and D!).
Maybe it’s just me but life does seem to like throwing little curve balls every now and then. Whilst it isn’t always possible to plan for the unexpected some things can be problem solved in advance. If you can, always take extra stock. This is a good idea not only because you might need to fill some gaps due to sales, but also because it allows you flexibility with how you display your artwork. For example, my most recent curve ball presented me with an unexpected stand wall to fill! And, on a separate occasion, a rogue power socket was positioned so high up my stand wall that I had to completely rearrange the artwork of my strategically planned display. Had I not had a variety of different sized work to choose from, this would have been a much bigger problem.
There are lots of payment options to consider but my preferred choice is a card reader by PayPal. It links up via Bluetooth to an app on your phone and is fairly simple to use. A percentage fee is charged upon each transaction but the positives outweigh this unavoidable levy by providing you and your customers with secure payment transactions and automated digital receipts that can be sent via email or text.
7. Know your products.
This might seem obvious but there can be quite a lot of information to retain, especially if you have a range of products. Knowing the variable sizes of framed and unframed artwork is important to buyers. This is because they often have a specific space in their mind’s eye that they are looking to fill. If you are selling prints it is also good to be knowledgeable about the printing process and paper used eg. Is it a giclée print? What does giclée mean? Is it printed on archival, fine art paper? What is the paper’s weight? Is it a limited or open edition print? Are prints available in different sizes? Where can your artwork be bought, on your website and/or from specific galleries?
8. Promote yourself.
Nobody cares more about your artwork than you do and art fairs are a fantastic platform to share your passions and engage the public. A great way to to keep the momentum and dialogue going, is to utilise social media and make sure that visitors have something to take away with them. Business cards, leaflets and flyers are perfect for this and help encourage traffic to your website and social media pages too. If you've not already seen it, click on the link to check out my Aberdeen Art Fair Instagram post.
9. Look after your assets.
Many years ago, I once had a painting stolen! It was quite flattering to think that someone was willing to risk criminality just to own a piece of my art but I would have been devastated had the exhibitor not been covered by insurance. Make sure that your artwork is covered by insurance before exhibiting, and if necessary take out your own insurance policy.
Keeping your artwork safe to and from art fairs does not need to be a headache. You can buy protective bespoke carriers, or, better still, make your own! This cuts down on costs and will make your art fair experience much less stressful. To make my own I used ThermaWrap insulation, foam edge protectors for a protective base, and red banner tape to seal the edges.
10. Look after yourself.
Last but definitely not least out of all of these hacks is, look after yourself! Health is wealth as the saying goes, and if you’re not well fed, hydrated and rested you will struggle to make the most of your art fair experience. All the preparation and travelling that goes into exhibiting at art fairs can take its toll. Considering this, it is a good idea to take a chair and some supplies with you to have on your stand. I always try to have a table on my stand, which is not only good for displaying business cards etc. but also comes in handy for hiding food, water and painkillers underneath it too!
If you enjoyed reading my top ten hacks, or know someone who might, please feel free to share this blog with your friends and family on social media.