How do you go about being in a big art show? I wish I could have a mentor to walk me through the steps

I was asked:

How do you go about being in a big art show? I wish I could have a mentor to walk me through the steps.
That is a great question. Let’s start with what experiences you have had so far.


Have you ever had a booth or table at a small craft show or just been a customer at one? Tables and displays full of hand-crafted items, all priced, and the artist is greeting their customers. That is a nice place to get the feel of a sales event. Did you just apply to the event, or did you have to send pictures of what items you were selling? How did you or others display items for customers. What stood out and what looked like a pile of “stuff.” What would you have done different? What displays did you like? Don’t forget the internet is full of pictures and information.

Let’s see how a big show is different. You will need to apply with a fee, to have your art juried by artists who do evaluate photos in regard to quality, originality, and potential salability. This is where pictures speak a thousand words. If accepted you will receive a plethora of festival information such as parking, set-up, take down, and please pay your booth fee. Always ask questions of the management as they want you to be as successful as possible. If you were not accepted, feel sad for a bit but dig in for better pictures or a more marketable original product.

Depending on whether the festival is inside or outside you can plan your display. A canopy can be a big expense but very necessary. How do you want the flow of your items to be seen and walked around? Do you just have a few things – then bring them right up to the entrance of the booth to boldly show them off. Look online, go to festivals to study others displays. Can customers easily walk though the booth or is there a bottle neck area. A word about canopies. Get a standard 10’ x 10’ at the bottom and top. I strongly recommend you consider a fire retardant canopy as that is becoming a festival rule. Have sandbags or weights to attach to the legs. Believe me and others that just like an umbrella you tent can blow away. What a mess if you have art attached or it lands on another artists booth. Test your canopy out first and know that the Velcro on the side walls is long enough and sewn on well to hold them if pulled or it’s windy. It is hard to fix a flapping wall at the show.

What to take for the sale?

Cash, a money charging application on your phone, some record keeping notebook / paper and pencil, garbage bag, shopping bags, business cards, a list for customers to sign up for emails, a chair for you, a small area/ small table for you to wrap or bag up items. You can put extra items under tables or behind displays but if your outside protect items from moist grass or rough surfaces. Be sure to bring your artwork all priced for sales, extra sales tags and know where you cash/phone are. You never know if a customer or other artists will pop in early to purchase a favorite. The sale day is “long”. Bring some art to work on as customers love to see that.

Setting up by yourself or with a partner can feel like a mad dash but can be a fun time. Never hesitant to ask for help with a canopy or heavy table. We all help each other. Take a deep breath, give yourself plenty of time and go step by step. It helps to practice setting up at home or diligently on paper prior to the festival. Set up your canopy, then tables and shelves with covers if needed. Stage your artwork, step out of the booth and take a look as a customer. You will see artists that never rearrange their items or others who are constantly like me fuzzing and inching things one way or another.

Get to know your side-by-side booth mates as they are your friends and your business partners for the sale. Our Festival has volunteers to help if you need to run to the restroom or get some food.

Still wondering….? I strongly recommend that you volunteer to see the setup, hear artists talk with customers, help with problems, and visit with the management.

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