Off the back of another post, I thought I’d write a bit of a longer post about selling your art at trade shows. I’m by no means an expert, but I have learned a lot by taking my stand out last year, so I thought I’d write what I found useful and what didn’t work so well. Soo..
This is really important, you need the right things to make your stand look visually impactful as well as professional. I think of my stand as a pop up shop – I want the customer to have everything they would expect from a “normal” shop.
One of the first things I bought was a card machine. I have a Sum-Up. It’s cheap and cheerful (£30), no monthly subscriptions. They take approx. 1.5% off each transaction but it’s so easy to work and even in the middle of fields I’ve had signal because it uses an app on your phone to process the transaction and Bluetooth to talk between phone and reader. There are a few brands out there offering similar (Square for example) so it’s definitely well worth getting.
The next thing I put together was my “kit box”. In it I have lots of stationary and random items which come in handy. Pens, sellotape, blue tack, string, parcel tape, cable ties (soo many cable ties), my cash box, and very importantly a notebook to jot down sales as the day goes on. Also a receipt book (although almost no-one wants one!)
Marketing: early on I invested in a good quality banner. Vistaprint are ace for marketing stuff, they do all sorts. You need a good vinyl banner that will cope with all weathers and is easy to cable tie to your table or gazebo wall. I have business cards and leaflets which go on the display tables, its amazing how many people take them!
Gazebo: I’ve started doing more and more agricultural shows which means I get a pitch of empty grass.. gazebo is essential! I have a heavy duty one from Rock Awnings: you can have them custom designed with your logo on or just plain. They’re easy to put up and put away: I have a 3m square one which is plenty of space.
Tables are another essential! Amazon do great 5ft folding tables with handles, they’re really practical and sturdy.
Transporting everything: last year I wrapped everything in bubble wrap but this year I’m going to upgrade to stiffy bags which are a backed bubble wrap “envelope” you can slide work into. My prints are all plastic wrapped. The key is to be ready for any weather, outside its usually raining.
Displaying work. Jacksons are my go to for artist display equipment: they have brilliant folding table easels which flat pack but hold fairly heavy work. I use letter racks for my cards, and I’ve pretty much bought all of Sainsburys home department for things like wire holders for gift tags. Its tricky to hang work in a gazebo as the walls move.. invest in some trellis, you can stretch it between the corner poles and cable tie into position. Buy S shaped hooks from somewhere like b&q and you can then easily hang work from the trellis. The trellis is the longest bit to set up but it gives me sturdy walls which don’t get too moved about if it’s a windy day.
This depends on where you want to target. Look in your local area for shows, look online for art fairs (fb has a great page called Art Fair Buddies which gives regular listings of shows). BOOK IN EARLY. Lots of shows have very early closing dates. I’m applying this month for most of my shows even though some of them don’t take place until July or August.
If you don’t know what a particular show is like, look on their website, ask around if it’s in your local area, you could always ask them what their ticket sales are like and how many tradestands they attract.
Know your audience. Try and aim the way your stand looks to the show you’re at. For example I did an indoor craft and art fair in November last year so I made sure I had lots of small price items people could buy as stocking fillers.
Have a variety of work on your stand if you can, but don’t worry if you need to test the water first. My first stand had originals and one size of prints. My current stand has mugs, coasters, cards, gift tags, prints in different sizes as well as originals. Having a range to suit all budgets has really worked for me: my coasters cost £5 to buy, right up to my originals. I’ve sold at both ends of my price range but I think its important to have items that appeal to both. This year I plan on adding more merchandise like teapots and jugs. There are lots of places who do good quality printing of artwork onto ceramics – mine comes from printonmugs.co.uk at the moment.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t sell to start with: my emphasis for shows is promotion.. I talk to everyone who comes in, I tell them about my commission work, and you never know who will come back to you at a later date having seen you at a show! If I break even I’m happy.
If you can, buddy up with someone to share pitch fees. I’m extremely lucky that a friend has a non conflicting business so we go to shows together and share pitches: saves us both some money too.
Public liability insurance: a lot of shows will ask for proof of this. Mine is from Direct Line who do an artists insurance. I pay £10 a month. There are lots out there though who can offer insurance.
I think that’s it… for now! I absolutely love going to shows and it’s a huge confidence boost, people are on the whole genuinely lovely and like seeing artwork and are interested in talking to you about techniques etc 😊
I’m still learning as I go along and am sure this year will be a steep learning curve as I go up a level in terms of the type of show I go to. Last year I did mainly small one day agricultural shows, this year I’m going to a couple of big county shows that run over a couple of days.. it takes time to build up a tradestand (for me anyway as I couldn’t afford to just go out and buy loads of stock) but with each show I learn something new to do for next time 😊
A couple of pics of my stand attached, an inside and outside version!
Lisa Ann Watkins If I can add in a couple more things, one which I think you will instantly relate to! Have a practice run at your set up before the first event. Even take photos on your mobile to remind you as you might be in a rush or a panic at your first one.
Sometimes you cannot be sure of your pitch until you’ve arrived. And pack your car in the order that you want to unload at the other end. Sometimes you get a limited time to have your car at the pitch to unload.
You want your gazebo out first to pop it up to get your stuff under, especially if it is raining. Another thing I learnt early on was try not to over order on things like prints. I got carried away and ordered lots of giclees that I ended up stuck with and it soon became old work that I didn’t want to show anymore.
I’ve not done a big show in years but have a double stand at Patchings this year and am starting to plan stock now. Hoping to get some table covers printed with my artwork on. It’s the little things that I get excited about!
Oh, and one last thing. Always have a work in progress piece set up and your pencils. It literally draws people in that are sometimes too nervous to approach you
Jill Aspin Can I just add that the most important thing that you must have with you is weights for your gazebo (nobody wants to see a flying gazebo).. and also when you arrive and find that your pitch is quite windy…. don’t be scared of asking for a different pitch which is out of the wind – if your gazebo makes it through the day, you’ll spend all you time standing all your pictures up after the wind blows them over…
Thanks to Our Authors
I’d like to thank all of our contributors today, but special thanks to Laura who has given up her time to bring these fantastic tips for you here today. You can find Laura’s Facebook Business page here. You can also find her on Instagram and you might like to visit her website.
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