This article has information for new artists interested in selling art at smaller local art shows, art festivals or craft shows. While it is written from a fine art photographer's point of view, many of my suggestions will relate to other art mediums and also to more experienced artists.
The many information and product links, as well as videos, in this article have been hand selected to be interesting, informative and pertinent to the subject paragraph.
Most of the items and businesses listed are ones that I personally use and would recommend to others.
Additional articles that I wrote that would be of interest to artist are listed at the bottom of this article.
All of my art images in this article are clickable or hold cursor over photograph to see title.
For photography, what sells in the smaller shows are mostly the matted prints or small framed prints if you offer them. You should have some larger pieces of framed art on the walls to attract people to your booth area. It is a good idea to have items of different price points.
In some shows, such as our local Phoenix First Fridays events, where many of the visitors are younger, art items that sell the most may be in the $20.00 to $40.00 range. On a slow sale day, it is nice to sell even a low cost item under $20.00 every once in a while to keep your spirits up. In general, you will not over the long term make a decent return unless you sell some more expensive items even if those items sell in smaller quantities.
About two years ago, I started showing and offering wrapped canvas prints as an option. While most of my works hanging on the walls are in traditional glass frames, I have about 30% on canvas. Read my article on printing photography on canvas for the fine art photographer for more information. Canvas prints make a nice presentation that the customers seem to like. It is also convenient for the customer since they are light and come ready to hang on the wall with no additional framing needed. Many full time art show photographers show the majority of their art on canvas. I let my customers know if they are interested in a larger print that I offer a wrapped canvas option.
The cost of printing on canvas has dropped drastically in the last few years due to the many competitors printing canvas.
For the last few years I have seen an increase in artist selling photography
on aluminum. Most sell aluminum prints around the 11 x 14 to 16 x 20 size. Some photographers offer a few in the 20 x 30 or larger sizes. On my recent trip to California, I even saw prints from paintings on aluminum. This seems to be a trend that is lasting. While printing on aluminum is still expensive, prices have come down allowing artists to have reasonable prices and still make a profit.
One advantage with aluminum prints is, the same as in canvas prints, that you do not have to frame them which brings them closer in total price to similar sized prints that are framed.
As far as which subject matter sells the best, it really varies widely. Most photographers have a variety of local landscapes taken in locations near the area or State of the art shows or exhibits that they do. Landscapes are usually visually appealing to a greater audience and perhaps easier to sell than some more artistic photography. I show Southwest landscapes since that is the area I am in and landscapes are what Interior Designers seem to want for their corporate customers.
I also try to show my unique vision of a variety of other subjects that interest me that separates my work from other local photographers. I enjoy taking photos of old rusty cars or transportation related themes as well as photographing interesting objects from the past. Each artist should find his or her own style and try to be unique. Customers can recognize the passion you put into your work and see your style which attracts them to the artwork. This customer connection to the artist leads to sales.
After a while, you will see what types of items and what price ranges that your art or craft will sell at. You should look for a pattern on which type of items you customers are most interested in and purchase. While you should only create what you are interested in, your art booth should have more space devoted to the type of items that your customers are purchasing.
Knowing which artwork of yours sells is something that only personal experience can tell you and can vary depending on the area that you show. I have also found that some of my images are very hot and sell well for a while and then just drop off dramatically. I tend to sell out of those images, replace them with newer images and then 1 to 2 years later, bring them back for a new audience that has not seem them before.
Greeting the Customer / Customer Interaction:
If a customer enters your booth area or has been looking for a minute, greet them with your own personal statement. This initial greeting will vary with every artist and said along with a smile and eye contact is just a method of letting the customer know that you recognize their presence and you are open to assist them if needed. I vary my statements but could be "Hello", "Welcome to my gallery" or “Let me know if you have any questions”. Some customers want interaction from the artist and some want their space.
I live near the town of Scottsdale, AZ were many higher end galleries are grouped together in a single area. When I enter these galleries they seem to greet me with something like "How is your day going" or "Are you visiting from out of town". For me, it is not so much what they say but the warm pleasant attitude they seem to have while saying it. They usually let me know that they can help me if I have any questions.
If a customer is looking at a particular art piece for an extended time, I may tell them a short story about the art piece. It is not only the art piece they are interested in but also the connection to the artist. This artist connection is something art patrons can get at an art show that they may not get at a gallery. It is really a fine art to read the needs for an individual customer and how much interaction they want with the artist.
I feel it is better to always have a happy or more positive attitude when dealing with customers even if you are tired and at the end of a long day. Part of the customer experience is the joy of the purchase. They would be more likely to purchase from an artist that they have a good feeling about since the artist is connected to the artwork they are bringing home.
It also does not hurt to smile a lot as the lady in the photo is doing.
Many times, customer’s ask you what I would consider silly questions such as did you take all these photographs or are these paintings (not my art medium). In most cases, they are unfamiliar on how to approach the artist and are just starting a dialog with you. It is best to answer their question which can lead to a continued conversation with this customer.
Artists with different art mediums may get asked different questions from the customers. I am often asked if I am local in which I say yes since all my shows are local. An artist selling jewelry may get asked if she makes her own jewelry or if her jewelry is produced in China. Once you start selling, you will get some common questions and determine a standard answer for your customers.
On occasion, you will run into a rude customer. It is best not to deal with this in a negative way as this could turn off other customers in your booth. I just move on to a different customer and eventually the rude customer leaves. For the most part, the customers are very nice and often compliment your artwork.
When I do art shows and set up my 10 x 10 canopy, I noticed that customers are hesitant to crossing over the "hidden line" on the edge of your canopies main entry side. They tend to look at my art on the walls from a distance or print racks at the edge of my booth area. If you make the customer feel at ease and comfortable to cross that outside line into your booth, then you are doing something right.
General Art Show Notes:
The initial costs for getting set up to show at art fairs can be substantial. If you decide to stop doing art shows, your equipment such as tent, walls, display cases and tables can be sold to other artists.
Doing art shows is hard work. It does help with setup, sales and takedown if you have another person with you but many artists do it themselves. It is not for everyone.
It can be frustrating if you go the whole day and sell nothing or very little which happens often. Selling at art shows can also be fun. I enjoy talking to the customers and sometimes they need to see you at a few shows before they purchase from you.
It is best to learn about the art show market, how well your art sells and practice you’re selling skills on smaller and less expensive local art shows before going to the much more expensive art shows competing with seasoned full time art show professionals. This can save you money during your learning curve.
Many art shows have volunteer sitters who will sit in your booth for a short time so you can take a short break. They will not sell your items, but will watch your booth while you are away.
The artists must be at the art show for the entire show at most all art shows.
Keep your cash on you and not store it in a cash box or hiding place unless it is just change.
While you should sit in your chair to rest sometimes, it is best to stand if you can during the busy times.
Having people in your booth brings in more people to your booth.
Special security precautions are needed for artists who sell jewelry not only during show hours but in your setting up, packing up, transportation and hotel room. You would never leave jewelry in your tent overnight even if the other artists leave up there art.
My customers also let me know which of my pieces are more popular by their comments as well as by purchasing. If I want to bring in new artwork, I have a good idea of which pieces I should discontinue. If a piece of artwork has not sold yet, but seems popular, I will keep it around longer.
When displaying art on your display booth walls, your back wall is viewed the most and your most impressive or best selling items should be on display in this location.
It is important to pack your artwork carefully. You should expect to damage or ruin some of your more fragile pieces every once in a while. This loss is just part of the art field. It is worth the extra time to pack the more fragile art items more carefully. Determining the proper packing materials specific for your art will in the long term reduce some of this damage risk. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right box, container or packing material for your specific inventory.
Frames are generally brought home from the store or framer and just hung on the wall. In this situation, they do not have time to get damaged. At art shows, they travel and are handled much more. They are also out in the elements at outdoor art shows with wind, sun and rain. If you are not careful, the packing and unpacking will eventually damage some of your more fragile art. Most of my damage is on the frames and I take special care packing these items in specific.
Many artists pack their smaller art and art supplies in plastic bins. Since the tops and bottoms are flat, you can easily stack them and transport them in bulk by a hand truck. They are also water resistant and can add protection in bad weather.
I recommend that you purchase a more sturdy or quality plastic container with a top such as the ones made by Rubbermaid. I have found that the less expensive plastic containers can not take the abuse of art shows packing and unpacking and will eventually crack. The clear containers are convenient so you can see what is inside them but usually are much thinner plastic. The bin to the right that I use will fit many 16x20 matted prints perfectly and is available at Lowe's Model # 131957 Blue Hawk 27-gallon tote (Click on for link for container).
When packing my vehicle, I usually put the larger less fragile flat items such as tables or print bins in first on the bottom. I leave the more fragile items for the top, such as the boxes containing my frames, so no weight is on them. The plastic container or storage box leaves a flat top in which you can place other art items on or stack another plastic container.
Sometimes with smaller vehicles there is a tradeoff on how much packing material you use to pack you artwork. Extra packing material for some items does take up more space, but sometimes you do not have any choice. Frames, pottery, larger glass items or other fragile or breakable art needs to be packed well. In addition, all very expensive art should be packed well.
At first it will take a much longer time packing your vehicle for the art show, setting up and packing up again. Over time this will get much faster. You will learn how to fit the items into your vehicle more efficiently and in which order to remove the items for a faster setup.
In your first few art show setups, give yourself at least two - three hours to setup until you get the hang of it. One you have already decided how your display layout will look, it will take less time. You may need to try many different layouts until you settle on one that works best.
I do not recommend doing a few art shows and then decide to stop doing them because they are too much work and setting up your tent and booth is hard. It is a lot of work setting up but it does get easier and faster once you have a routine and know where everything goes.
If the art show allows you to set up the day before the show starts, take advantage of this option if you can. You can put up your tent, your tent walls, your art walls, tables, print racks, display cases and other materials as part of your art show setup. Depending of your art or craft medium, you may be able to leave some of your product in the tent, but make sure they offer some security the night before the first day of the art show if you do this.
The morning of the first selling day, you can arrive early and just need to bring your product and other materials not setup previously. One thing you need to be careful of is not to bring too many things over two days and then find out it will not fit in your vehicle when you take down your show on the final day. One advantage of setting up part of your tent the previous day is you will be less stressed and not as tired when the art show starts and you are talking to your customers.
It is best to be set up on-time, but the detailed arranging can be done during the start of the show. You do not want to have your vehicle next to your tent still unloading when the customers are arriving at the opening. Many customers come before the official opening times to beat the crowds and the heat. These may be more serious buyers and if you are already set up, they will find you.
Usually each art show sends you an art show information packet that may list the artist show rules, show times, location of show, setup instruction and other information such as parking or a map showing your tent location. It is a good idea to print this off and bring it with you.
After setting up, while you may be tempted to park right close to the art show, since those spots are available before the show starts, I suggest that you leave those closer spaces for the customers. Many times the art show requires the artist to park in an artist designated parking area.
The art show information packet, which you should print out and bring to the show, will have much of the set up information. Sometimes it shows a map with your space number located on it. If it does not, then when you get to the show location look for a check in table or the person who is running the art show to find where your location is.
It is a good idea to have a list of items you will need and review it as you are packing your vehicle. I tend to leave an important item at home every once in a while and it is not so easy to run to the store or go home once you arrive and are setting up. If you are missing a common item while setting up, ask some of the other artists if you can borrow the item and return it when you are done. I tend to borrow from my art show supplies box such as a calculator, tape or scissors and not bring them back and realize this when I need them at an art show. I now try to have extra of these items in my home and try not to borrow from my art supplies box that I bring to the shows.
One thing to consider is looking over the artist show information packet to see if it says how close your vehicle will be to your specific art location for unloading during setup and loading after the show. Many times you can park right near your tent and other times it is much further. If you need to carry the art supplies far, you should bring a hand truck or other device. If you have done this show before, you probably know how close you can park. If you know that you will need to carry your art show items far, you should come earlier since setup will take a longer time for this show.
It is always easier to carry items with a hand truck and if you do not have really heavy items you can get away with a less expensive $35 - $50 folding hand truck that folds flat and take up very little room in your vehicle.
Different hand truck models can be found at your local hardware stores were you have the advantage of seeing them in person. Some different models can be seen online at Amazon (Hand truck samples). If space is not as much as a concern, I recommend (Platform trucks Samples).
Additional models can be seen online at Walmart (hand truck samples).
The first model pictured above is interesting if space is an issue since it folds very flat with even the wheels folding in (see video).
The take down will be much faster than the setup. If I bring walls and framed art, I will start taking down those items and pack them
about a half hour before the show ends. This saves much of the packing time while much of my other artwork in print racks or on tables
is still being shown for customers to purchase. If your display depends on the walls, a steady stream of customers are still around, or this is a major art show, then you should leave your display as is until the end of the art show.
Once the show is over, I feel it is easier to pack up all the remaining art supplies at one time and place them in piles. It is easier for me to pack my vehicle at once since it generally gets packed in a specific order and I have everything ready to go.
If customers are still walking around at the end of the show, I usually wait until about 15 minutes after the show ends to drive my car slowly to the closest area to my booth.
Many artist drive in and park near their tents just as the show ends.
When you park, make sure you leave room when you can for other artist to drive by to get to their locations.
It is generally frowned upon to start taking down your tent / booth and leave before the end of the show. In larger or juried art shows, this could lead to you not getting invited back again. If it is a local non juried small art/craft show and numerous other artists are packing it up, then you can usually leave early also. You can always ask the promoter if you can leave early if others are. You should just carry your supplied to your parked car and not bring your car to the booth area blocking the customer paths or other artist booths.
I am mentioning this since I saw this today, someone drove their car in and parked in front of their tent about 15 minutes before the art show ended. Some customers were still walking around and it is a big safety hazard as well as blocking customers from reaching other artist. In this case, the person supervising the art show noticed this and the car was removed.
I am looking for photo examples or booth shots for a new section showing art show tents of good design that would give ideas to those new to art shows what design elements they can use to set up their booths. This would include a variety of art mediums or crafts. Feel free to optionally give a brief statement on how this example is of good design such as "designed for good flow of traffic in and out of the booth". Include your web site, so readers can click on you booth photo to see your product. Please email Bob at email@example.com. Thanks.
In showing art, a good idea to keep in mind is that you are setting up a little gallery at the art show as if you were at an indoor retail gallery. Presentation is always important in the art world.
I recommend going to some small local art shows or the larger ones in your area to check out how other artist are doing things in your same art medium. It takes time to get a good layout and it will improve with experience.
The placement of your art and related display areas is also very important. Careful consideration should be given on where you place your tables, shelves, print racks, walls and other items. Many people will walk down the row of booths and you need to give them a reason to stop and look for a few seconds to determine if they want to stay longer.
The booth display pictured on the right, has a very nice jewelry display. Notice the use of grid wall on the left and the fancy table cloth to add elegance. The great use of space by utilizing stacking of the jewelry displays on many different levels. For selling jewelry, you need a mirror.
You want to have enough artwork along the walking path to attract their attention and then explore more inside your booth area to examine more of your product. If your booth gets crowded, a design that takes into consideration of customer flow of traffic can help.
Even if most of your sales are not the larger framed art, you should still show it to attract people to your booth. Catch their eye and give them a reason to stop and enter your booth. Most people will walk pass most booths and this is normal. They may only be interested in certain things or specific art mediums.
If you have art on your walls, you may want to bring a few extra pieces to fill any open spaces due to sales. If no replacements are available, you could rearrange the art on the wall. Another option is to write the word "Sold" on the art title card with a thick black marker and leave an obvious space on your wall.
Keep your booth area clean at all times and not so overcrowded with merchandise, sometimes more is not always better. When you design your booth layout, do not have spaces that the customer may feel restricted in. The customer should always feel that they have an easy way out.
Do not block too much of the space in the front area with objects or you will reduce the number of customers that walk inside your booth area. The booth layout entrance should be inviting to the customers. Sometimes it is a design challenge to have objects close to the front entrance to your booth so they can easily see and gain interest to stop for a longer look or come inside your booth area and the relationship to not blocking the main booth area entrance area.
If there is space between the different booths, you can display your art on the outward side walls giving you much more display space for artwork that can be displayed on a wall.
Do not have artwork on the ground that is normally displayed on a wall. I see many artists do this at our local First Fridays event.
Many times at smaller art shows, the artists set up displays 1'-3' out in front of their assigned 10' x 10' booth area. The problem with this is that the customers need to move 2'-4' further away from the general traffic path when viewing your next door neighbor's booth. This makes it harder for them to see their art and more likely to just pass on to the next booth. If your booths are right next to each other, I recommend that you keep within your assigned 10' x10' area. If the booths are spread out, you may be able to stick out a little and not disturb the next tents traffic flow.
Another item that many artists have in there booth is a larger wall sign or banner with the company name on it.
Purchase of art supplies:
This will vary with your art medium. Many times I purchase items off of the web since specialty items are not often available locally. On-line purchases can often give you a better selection and at a lower cost. You usually do not have to pay sales tax and shipping costs are usually reasonable. At many places, shipping can be free or discounted if you purchase enough.
When ordering on-line, you do require a longer lead time to receive the merchandise. If the product is important to your business and not available locally, you need to make sure you order before you run out.
It is also nice to find a local store to purchase items you often run out of or need to replace on a regular basis. I find many items I need at local hardware stores, local art stores or general purpose stores such as WalMart or Costco.
For local or in-State purchases, you may not have to pay sales tax when purchasing parts that go into the making of your art. Parts are items used in the actual art piece which could be in photography the photo paper, ink, matting or frames as an example. For painting, it would include items such as canvas, paint and frames. Many stores offer this tax exempt status for businesses and you need to ask them. If they offer it, you may get a tax exempt card that can be used for that store. You are required to show your State tax business number to the store to qualify.
Also when purchasing local, ask the stores if they have wholesale prices for businesses that resell the items. A frame store may offer you good discounts not offered to the regular customers. An example of this could be framing supplies such as molding, glass, hanging wire or matting. You may also get a deep discount when the frame store frames your art.
Sign up for the email mailing lists of stores you buy frequently from. Many times you will receive coupons for 40 to 50% off one item such as with Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Many other stores offer shipping discounts for web orders depending on how much you spend that can add up in savings.
Recommended art supply companies:
Note: I personally purchase products from the companies listed below except for Dick Blick which is more for painters.
Great every day low prices for canvas wrapped prints such as 16"x20" at $27.99 , 20"x30" at $39.99 or super large and impressive 32"x48" for $99.99. Other things I like is quick turnaround, tight corners, 1 1/4" depth, 8 color printing and they place a piece of thick black board on the back which gives the canvas a nice finished look. Also below the front canvas picture area is a hard surface which I have not seen other printers do. On the back, metal saw tooth hangers are attached for hanging. Note: The larger prints have two saw tooth hangers and I do not recommend running picture wire between them. The metal saw tooth hangers are designed to be hung from one or two hook or similar method to support the artwork.
They also have a nice software user interface that shows you what part of the image will wrap (not show on the front) or can choose a solid color on the sides. They offer the optional drop shipping direct to the customer with no invoice in the box. The boxes also make nice storage containers to transfer to art shows since they are efficient in size and reseal easily.
Note: You get $10 off first order with the link below and I get a $10 credit. The shipping cost is greatly reduced if you order more than one print. Get a sample print or two and check them out. Click on the left box below for more information and discount.
Matting supplies: Clearbags, double stick tape and print racks
www.clearbags.com - These are the clear plastic sleeves that go over matted prints and come in a variety of sizes for most needs.
To be cost effective, you usually need to buy in quantity's of 100 in each size needed. Listed below are some common sizes to fit 5 x 7 ClearBags (cards), 8 x 10 ClearBags, 11 x 14 ClearBags, 16 x 20 ClearBags and 18 x 24 ClearBags matted prints in quantity of 100 from Amazon. Amazon also sells in quantity of 25 in many sizes. Clearbags come in a variety of size and different types of bags for jewelry or many other products that you may sell.
While I recommend the quality of Clearbags, if you have a Hobby Lobby nearby you can purchase smaller quantities locally at a reasonable price with their one item for 40% off coupon they have (Crystal Clear bags link).
I recommend the bags called "Protective Closure", for matted prints, which are the ones with the adhesive strip on the bag. I do not recommend the bags with the adhesive strip on the flap because the print will stick to the flap when pulling out the print. The clear bag shown to the right is over a matted print before the top flap is folded to the back.
You can see a short video showing the protective closure Clearbag here.
I use this applicator device and tape along with the photo corners shown below for a great combination in my matting method. This tape is also convenient to tack on your artist bio page to the back of your matted prints with a small amount of tape on the bio page's back four corners. See video below on how to use photo corners.
One of my favorite products is Lineco Archival Polypropylene 1-1/4" Full-View Mounting Corners (250 corners). These make matting my 16x20 prints or smaller much easier and faster. These require very little white border or image space of your print and you can easily remove your print from the corners with no damage and reuse your print or the mat.
The small and medium print racks shown to the right, that I use, are very common at art shows. These print racks are reasonably priced and can be purchased from Jerry's Artarama (print rack link). Other print racks can be purchased from Amazon as shown below.
I also purchase better quality rubber leg tips from Home Depot (print rack rubber leg tips, 4 pack link). Amazon also sells in larger quantities (1-Inch Rubber Leg Tips, 24-Pack link).
These give the print racks more stability on uneven ground and only cost slightly over $2.00 for a set of four. These higher quality rubber leg tips work well to replace the original plastic leg tips when they break off or you can fit them over the existing leg tips on a new print rack.
One advantage of using print racks is that you can place a lot more art in a smaller area. While you may have some of your art on the walls, you could have many times that number of art pieces in your print racks or print bins. In my case, I have most of my photography images matted and placed in print bins. A painter could also make prints of their paintings and place them in print bins. Having prints of your art can also add another pricing option to your customers who can not afford the originals.
I have seen other artist put original paintings in print bins with a foam core or cardboard backing and clear bag. I recommend to artist that put original art in the print bin to state that it is an original painting or your art medium name on each piece. This is so the customer does not confuse an original with a print. Basically any art medium that is flat in nature and can handle customers repeatedly flipping through the different pieces would work well in a print rack.
A special note on print racks, you do not want the type that comes to a V point at the bottom as this damages the prints. The print racks with a flat base are much better on this and also hold more prints. Most artist use the canvas print racks but they also come in wood. You can use a small print rack to place mats about 11" x 14" in size and display on a table top. A medium floor standing print rack will hold 16" x 20" mats with the jumbo print rack holding larger mat sizes. You can also use the jumbo print rack, shown to the right, to hold panoramic prints or a combination of mat sizes together such as two columns of 16x20 prints next to each other. I prefer the canvas print racks that fold flat for easier storage. One recommendation is to tighten the screws on these canvas print racks every few months during the season since they tend to get loose, fall out and it is hard to find replacements for these screws.
Above are a few examples of two medium sized print racks and two large or jumbo print racks available from Amazon.
Do not overcrowd your print racks with too many prints. Sometimes more is not always better in displaying art. If you have too many prints, then pick out a combination of your favorites, newest or best sellers to be included. With too many prints, you not only can damage the prints but it may be hard for the customer to see the whole image if not enough of an angle or space is permitted for optimum viewing.
Another option for displaying 11" x 14" matted prints or other similar small mat sizes, on a table top are using rectangular baskets that you can find at a variety of stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. These baskets are often on sale for 40% off or you can bring a coupon for 40-50 off that these stores offer. To make sure you get the right size basket, you will need to bring a sample mat to the store and try it out in the basket to make sure works for you. Some people make their own custom wood boxes to display matted prints.
I prefer the 6' tables or 4' tables that fold in the center which may fit better in vehicles when transporting
Many artists have multiple tables since they may lay their art flat. Many artists layer the art items on the tables at different levels. Much depends on what you are selling.
Standard 4' or 6' tables are available locally at WalMart (table link).
Most every artist places a fitted table cloth
over the table for a more professional look.
Fitted table cloths are also available at Amazon (TEKTRUM 6-Feet black table cloth link)
or (TEKTRUM 4-Feet black table cloth link).
Many artist use the standard black table cloth, but others choose different colors that may show off their product best. Using a table cloth, allows you to hide your extra product, boxes, supplies, lunch and other items under the table for a more professional clean look. I find it helpful to have some Mini spring clamps
with me to hold down the table cloths sides on a windy day.
When purchasing a fitted table cloth, check your table's width, length and height to match against available table cloths sizes.
Many artists have multiple tables since they may lay their art flat. Many artists layer the art items on the tables at different levels. Much depends on what you are selling.
Art show items: List of items to bring to art show
Some personal items that you may want to bring to the art show are water, lunch, snacks, hat, sun tan lotion and a small cooler. Many times, food is not available, unhealthy or overpriced at art shows so you should bring some just in case.
I usually carry Scotch tape, extra paper to make labels, scissors, pliers, lots of extra 4" and 6" metal spring clamps, screw drivers, first aid kit, pens, pencil, marker, small hammer, hanging hooks for artwork, 10" Nylon Cable Zip Ties, business cards and holder, shopping bags, extra cash and coins for change, Windex, paper towels or towel, dust cloth, change of clothes, aspirin, order book, calculator, folding table, print racks, labels, table cloth, tent, walls, weights, chair and credit card device, forms and signs saying I take credit cards. If lighting is needed, bring those supplies. Also a sign up book to collect email addresses for future marketing.
I find that various sized clamps and cable or zip ties come in handy in many different situation like some people feel about duct tape. You should always have these items around while doing art shows. I recommend only getting metal clamps since the plastic ones seem to break over time. On the metal clamps, many times the soft red part pieces fall off over time and you can drop some glue under them at purchase time to reduce this. I recommend zip ties of at least 10", I find that the shorter ones do not have much reach for art show purposes and you can always cut off the extra length after on with a pair of scissors.
The two links below contain detail lists of items to bring to art shows. Many of these lists are long for use in 3 day shows while on the road and some items are particular to specific art mediums. It is good to review which items apply to your needs and make your own list to review when packing. When you need something at an art show and do not have it, it's a good time to add that item to your list.
Note: (August 2015) Looking for photo examples of art tents set up using Grid wall, Pro Panels, Armstrong Panels or Mesh panels for use in this art show wall article section. For this, it is best if you have photos without a lot of extra tables or print racks that may hide the walls.
I am also looking for photo examples or booth shots for a new section showing art show tents of good design that would give ideas to those new to art shows what design elements they can use to set up their booths. This would include a variety of art mediums or crafts. Feel free to optionally give a brief statement on how this example is of good design such as "designed for good flow of traffic in and out of the booth". Include your web site, so readers can click on you booth photo to see your product. Please email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Many artists have been very creative in making walls from scratch as shown in this article (Article Link). I have seen them made from attaching doors together to using pegboard and hinges. Sometimes you can look for artist selling their walls or other art supplies when upgrading or no longer doing art show. This can save you money and if your walls are still in good condition, you may be able to sell them for close to what you paid for them used. You can see below some common wall options that many artist use. They cover a range of costs and functionality.
Graphic display panels are shown to the left and to the right. These display panels can come in one piece per wall but I prefer the model that comes in two pieces per wall as shown.
The two piece per wall model has the advantage of fitting better in your vehicle and perhaps easier to handle.
The walls are light in weight and come with floor base hardware to support the walls. About $90 a panel. The company sells many accessories and configurations to support many wall designs for multiple art mediums and professional needs. I suggest using their hanging hooks but standard "S" hooks will also work. Note: A company called Flourish makes nice cloth covers for the Graphic display panels at (Graphic Display panel covers link).
(Grid wall selection link)
Inexpensive, heavier but stronger than other walls, can set up in a variety of configurations to best fit your specific art/craft items. While the standard size is a 2' x 6' grid wall, they do come in different lengths such as 6', 7' or 8' and even a few different widths. Make sure the length you choose fits in your vehicle before purchase. Grid wall come in colors such as chrome, white and black. Since these wall are heavy, I suggest that if you purchase grid wall online, you look for free shipping such as on Amazon.
Many artist just starting out at art shows use grid walls. They will not break, so you can easily sell them to another artist if you later upgrade to another wall system. You may be able to find grid wall and accessories locally at a place that sells store fixtures. It takes about five 2' x 6' grid walls to fill up one 10' wall section. You can purchase grid wall in groups of three at a reasonable price. Grid wall has many useful accessories such as
Grid Wall Shelf's, Joining Clips
to attach grid walls together and Utility Hooks
which can be used to hang art on. Many different type of Gridwall Hooks
are available to hang a variety of items.
A few of many available accessories for Grid wall (click on pictures):
(Link for leg pair)
2' x 6' Grid wall (three pack), Joining Clips, Hooks chrome or black, Grid wall shelf's, grid wall leg stands
3 Grid walls and leg stands combo, 2 Grid walls stands combo with hooks, six grid walls with 2 triangle base combo, Triangle base.
These are carpeted walls, what professional art show artist use, flexible in setup,
durable, cleanable, stable, come in a variant of colors and expensive.
Have a high resale value for used ones. The company sells many accessories and configurations to support many wall designs for multiple art mediums and professional needs.
Armstrong Product Panels:
These are also carpeted walls similar to Pro panels that many professional art show artist use. You can also arrange these panels in many configurations and use many optional accessories.
These are flexible Flourish Mesh Display Panels
that can be folded for travel but make tight walls for hanging art when installed. Since the walls can be folded they take up much less room while transporting. Many professional artist use these walls. If you do not have your outside tent walls up, the mesh panels allow for better air circulation inside the tent area as well has the ability to hang art on both sides. You need to get the Mesh panels and stabar configuration that fits the type of tent that you have.
While these walls may seem initially expensive, but less then most Pro panel configurations, they should have a good resale value when sold. Your long term cost on professional walls is the difference between how much you paid minus your selling value divided by how many years or shows you used them for.
Click on the first image image to bring up mesh panels cost on Amazon.
The second image below shows a close up of the mesh detail. The holes are used for S or drapery hooks to hang your art on.
The third image shows the Stabar system used to attach your mesh panels to a top Stabar for some tent models.
The fourth image shows a close up how to attach the top of your mesh panels to other tent models.
The fifth image shows a short video of the mesh panels being installed to a tent.
The six image shows the lower bar of the Stabar system used to attach your mesh panels to your tent . It also shows the option of a shorter back mesh wall with a door opening.
The seventh image is another example of tent display using the mesh panels with three 10' walls.
This video shows steps to putting up Mesh Panels.
Art Show Tents (canopies):
Most all art shows require white tents. I do not recommend getting a colored tent. While many of these colored tents are less expensive, the light weight design is more for sun shading and not art shows.
It is common for these lightweight tents to easily fly up in the air, especially if not properly weighted down on windy days. This can result in damage to your art, nearby booths or customers as they come down. Also these colored tents will pass on the colored roof color on to your art as a color cast.
The most common tent found at smaller art shows and many larger art shows is made by EZ-up or are EZ-up type tents. They are quick to put up and take down which is a major advantage. These type of tents are referred to as pop-up tents and most people can put up and taken down this type of tent by themselves. When you first start using your tent, you may want to ask for some help until you get the hang of it. I feel they are fine for the small or occasional weekend art show. They will not hold up as well in bad weather as the better tents will but I see them used by new artist to full time professional artist. I have seen cheap EZ-up tents crushed by overnight storms.
Many artist will put up one to three sides during the show to give the tent area some shade to protect them from the sun as it travels across the sky. Another reason to put up your sides is to give a clean white or less distracting background to your hanging art. Many times I decide what sides to put up based on the location of my tent. If I have no one next to me, I may put artwork on both sides of one wall and then not put up my sides on that wall.
If you leave your tent up overnight, you should put all four sides up before you leave. For one day shows, I sometimes have one or two sides in my vehicle in case I choose to put them up later in the day as needed.
You want your tent to come with walls or sides. I like the walls that have zippers to connect the tent walls to each other. Some tents come with out zippers and some use velcro. Some walls may have zippers and Velcro, but the Velcro is used for securing the wall to the tent top or corner legs. Your tent may also come with a storage bag and a sun visor. Pay attention to the Denier number of the tent top with the higher the Denier number, the better. A denier top of 300 should be the least you should purchase with a denier of 500 or 600, being better. Do not purchase a tent that does not list the denier number or at least call the manufacturer or retailer and ask first. Since shipping is expensive, compare prices based on the total tent and shipping costs since some stores include shipping in the price.
If you are new to tents or setting up tents, the following short videos will be very helpful. When you put up your tent for the first few times, you will probably need someone to help you. You will eventually be able to do it by yourself.
Two short video instruction on how to set up 10 x 10 art show tents:
Video answering common questions on art show pop up tents and what options and features are available allowing you to better choose the type of tent for your needs: (Video 4: View full size)
Below you will see a variety of common tents that you will see at art shows such as the Trimline, Caravan and the EZ-up. I recently saw a Undercover tent at an art show and was impressed so I also listed that brand. I also purchased one and find it of good quality.
The very high quality professional TrimLine Canopies are made by Flourish at http://www.flourish.com.
These tents take a while to put up because they are not the pop up type. This tent will hold up in strong winds and bad weather better than most tents. These tents would be best for those who do many 2 or 3 days shows, full time professional artist participating in many art shows or do art shows in locations in which it rains a lot or often run into bad weather.
The high quality professional line of Caravan Canopies can be seen at http://www.caravancanopies.com. The Caravan tents are also easy to put up. Note: One tent in the Caravan line that seems to be popular on Amazon is listed above. You will need to buy the sides separately which are also sold at Amazon.
The Undercover 10' x 10' tents are easy to put up and come with a variety of tent quality versions suitable for different needs such as standard models for light use to professional quality models for heavy use (Undercover Pop-Up w/CRS Polyester Walls link).
See the Undercover tent review, showing details on three models further down the article.
The EZ-up type tents have been on sale for about $300 lately. I do not recommend you buy a tent from Costco or Sam’s club unless you can verify the tents specs to make sure they meet your needs. There are different quality levels of EZ-up type tents and they are not all the same. With online vendors, you usually get a list of information about the different tents specs, features and accessories offered in the box. When the manufacture says that this line of their tents are "Professional" or "Commercial", then these are the higher quality tents.
I started out with an EZup Encore II tent and used it for many years. The weather is usually good here in Arizona and I do not run into a lot of bad weather. I mostly worry about wind. You will not get the same protection from wind and rain from an EZ-up tent as a higher end Trimline tent, but they are much less expensive and faster to put up.
The standard walls for an EZup are not as high quality as what would come with the Caravan or Trimline tents but are used by most artist with good results. You can also purchase thicker and higher quality walls for your EZup later at an additional cost.
Some on-line stores that sell 10 x 10 tents for reasonable prices:
EZ-UP ES100 S with sides can also be purchased at Amazon at picture link to right.
Z-Shade commercial tent with zippered sides can also be purchased at Amazon at picture link to right.
E-Z Up Express II tent without sides can also be purchased at Amazon at picture link to right.
Another tent that opens like a EZ-Up tent is under the brand name "Undercover". I use this tent now and find it a good value for the many extra features it offers not on the EZ-UP tent models.
I saw this tent at a local art show and was impressed with the quality and unique CRS Curtain wall hanging system for the side walls. I also wanted a tent with pinch proof release levels to raising the legs. The zippers on the Undercover tent seemed to be larger and stronger than the smaller zippers I had on my EZ-Up. I feel that the larger zippers will make it easier to zip up the tent.
The roof and also the side walls have a inner silver reflective undercoating which is designed to keep the tent cooler. It should also help me from getting sunburn from the sun passing through the tent. While the inside of the tent has a silver look, the outside of the tents top and walls are white so it should pass as a white tent for art shows that require a white tent.
The image below shows the Undercover tent with the polyester sides wrapped around the legs when open for business. The polyester sides seem to be more like flowing fabric were my EZ-Up came with thinner vinyl sides.
The first image shows the Undercover tent with the polyester sides wrapped around the legs when open for business. The polyester sides seem to be more like flowing fabric were my EZ-Up came with thinner vinyl sides.
The second image shows the unique curtain type wall hanging CRS system for the sides as well as the silver undercoating on the inside of the walls.
You put up the walls by simply attaching clips, located along the top edge of the walls to the hanging wire shown in the second image. This makes putting up the walls fast and easy. The hanging wire is incorporated as part of the tent.
Note: With this type of CRS wall system, it seems that you do not put the 10 foot wall section up on the one 10 foot tent side with the connecting wall zippers being in the corners of the tent as done with other tents. You place the 10 foot wall with five feet being on one side of the corner pole and the other five feet of the wall side on the other side of the corner pole. The actual location of the zippers used to attach two walls together will be in the middle of the tent side as shown in the second video and also in the first picture if you look for the vertical line in the wall's center.
The third image shows the pinch proof method of raising or lowering the top sides.
The fourth image shows the legs having a separate pinch proof method on raising the legs.
The fifth image shows the silver undercoating on the tent top (facing inside).
The fifth image also shows a method of adjusting the top fit which they call "dial a fit peak pole extender" which could come in handy to make the top more stiff if it rains. Inside that shorter pole piece is a spring that pushes up. If you turn the dial, you can tighten the spring tension. Seems clever to me.
The six image shows the Undercover UC-2R10CRS tent with all four walls up.
The seventh image shows the Undercover UC-2P10WCRS tent with all four walls up showing tent skirts over the corner legs in this model.
The eighth image shows a vented peak on the top to let out hot air but not let in rain.
These features are what I was looking for on a tent at a reasonable price, that my older EZ-Up did not have. Your own preferences may be different.
I purchase the the Undercover tent UC-2R10CRS tent in March 2015 and am happy with it. It is available for purchase on Amazon at
Undercover Tent: Purchase of the three different models
The first two Undercover tent models listed below have a 300 denier thick roof with the third listing a more expensive professional model having a 600 denier roof top as well has higher quality honeycombed tubing.
Undercover Tent 1:
(Undercover 10x10 with CRS sides model UC-2R10CRS medium quality tent and the tent that I use)
This UC-2R10CRS tent is good for those that do numerous art shows.
This UC-2R10CRS tent is available for purchase at Amazon as well as at Sam's Club if you are a member.
(Undercover 10x10 with CRS sides model UC-3R10CRS basic quality tent).
If you do occasional local art shows, this tent may be enough for you. This UC-3R10CRS tent is available for purchase at Amazon at the picture link as well as at Costco if you are a member.
(Undercover 10x10 without sides model UC-2P10WCRS best quality tent)
For artist doing art shows full time or do many shows in rain or harsher conditions, Undercover makes a tent that is of higher professional quality. This tent is sold by ecanopy. This tent does not come with the CRS sides but you can and should purchase the Undercover CRS sides separately.
One thing bad weather such as cold, excessive heat, rain or heavy overcast will do is lower the number of people who visit the art show. This will most likely lead to lower sales. On a multiple day show, you can only hope that the weather will be nice on the next day.
I check the weather for the art show date a few days before to see what the temperature will be, what the estimated wind speed will be and also what the chance for rain is. I also do this the morning of the show for a more current weather forecast. If I feel it may rain, I bring all 4 sides of my tent and keep them in my vehicle just in case. Artist may want to have an emergency disposable camping poncho or rain coat, also available at sporting goods stores, in your supplies box or bring a regular rain jacket when it looks like rain.
It is really a good idea to always bring tent weights or Tent Stakes with you to an art show even if you do not think you will need them. This will give you the option to bring them out if needed for one day shows. I would always recommend using your weights or stakes all the time your tent is up for safety reasons. For multiple day shows, you need weights or tent stakes. Attaching your walls, that you hang art on to your tent, will give you additional weight on windy days.
Here is Arizona, I found that it does not rain that much but wind is what causes most of the problems and damage. Since most art tents up at an art fair are only water resistant and not water proof, heavy rain during the show or overnight can cause much damage since water can pool up in the lower corners of your tent resulting in damage to your product or even a crushed tent.
I have seen many artist use free standing easels and I have used them myself at times. From my experience, they will eventually lead to damage to your art from wind and I no longer recommend them for outdoor use. Flat art tends to pick up wind like a sail and fly off. If you do use an easel, then I would use a string or zip ties to more securely attach the art to the back of the easel. Another option is to put a weight such as a sandbag at the base of the easel to give it more weight.
While I have weights, when I know I will be setting my tent up on grass or dirt, I usually just bring four long tent stakes and a hammer. I buy these 10" metal tent stakes at Walmart or at Amazon and they fit through the holes at the base of my tent legs. The tent stakes do not take much room so I always have them with me even if I decide not to use them.
Some smaller items to have in your art supply box for weather are some rope, Cable Zip Ties and a few different length Bungee Cords. Sometimes you have items such as trees or a bench next to your tent that you can anchor on to if necessary. I use white cable zip ties all the time to anchor the sides of my walls or my weights to the tents side polls. I prefer the 10" size which are not too short or long. If I need a longer length, I use two zip ties in which a second zip tie loops on the first one allowing for a longer reach. Be sure to bring a pair of scissors or another method to cut the zip ties when done. For better presentation, you can cut off the extra zip ties length not using.
You can also always bring a few white tent side walls even if you do not plan to use them. The walls can also be used to block the sun from hitting you directly and reduce your sun exposure or in case of rain. If you have artwork hanging on only the inside walls, placing a white side wall up also presents a less distracting background if you have your art hanging on walls you can see through.
On numerous art shows I have heard walls from nearby tents fall over due to wind and you hear glass from frames breaking. This happens more often than you would think. When possible, it is best to attach your walls to the tent with cable ties or other methods. Having sections of the walls bent on an angle will give additional support. Falling walls can be a liability to yourself or your customers and nobody likes to pick up glass and have artwork damaged.
The first time this happened to me when I first started showing, I lost seven frames and most of the mats and photos inside the frames where cut by the glass. I learned my lesson and am now very careful on this issue.
In case of rain, move your artwork closer to the center of the tent and put up your walls. You can never have too many extra clips and they come in handy to quickly putting up walls. Be sure to watch for accumulation of water on the lower tent roof corners and use a longer stick like object to push up on the inside of the roof from inside and let the water fall off the sides. If lighting is in the area, you may think you want to stay dry under your tent, but you should also consider that your tent may also be a big metal lighting rod and an alternate shelter location may be prudent.
I store and transport most of my flat matted art in large plastic tubs with tops which are water resistant. You can put the matted art back in the tubs during a large downpour if needed. If you feel it may rain, be very windy or storm overnight you will need to determine which items in your booth you want to store in your vehicle and bring home for the night. If overnight bad weather is possible, keep everything off of the ground. If you have boxes, artwork or supplies stored under your table during show hours, place them on top of your tables overnight with a waterproof tarp over them and secured with clips.
I keep a few clear large clear garbage bags
or very large bags
with me. Folded up with a rubber band they take up little room. They can be used like a bag to pack up a large framed artwork for a customer. If you think it may rain, you could store your art show supplies or art in these bags overnight off of the ground level.
If you pack your tent while still wet, when you get it home take it out and open it up to let it dry. This will prevent mildew from forming on the fabric.
If you think it will be windy overnight on multiple day shows, you can lower your legs on your tent a little giving it a lower profile and then raise them back up the next morning. While I have never tried this, you could lower the height of your tent during the show if wind is a problem.
On days/overnight in which rain is probable placing foam swim noodles in all four roof corners of EZup tents to "bend up" the tent corners will help if you have rain. This would reduce water gathering in the lower tent corners which could lead to leaking or collapsing of your tent overnight. The noodles can be purchased inexpensively at many local stores when needed.
One thing I do is purchase a waterproof spray
used to put on camping tents and is available at sporting goods stores. This can be sprayed on your tent roof with a few extra coats on the roof seams. This will help the water run off your tent when it rains. This spray will not make your tent totally waterproof or stop water from gathering in your tent corners. You need to spray these products outside with proper ventilation. I have heard that using some of these waterproof sprays will counteract the fire resistant coating that are on the tents so I would not do this if you are cooking or use flames under your tent. I actually did see one tent roof catch on file from a food vendor.
I feel you need a weight of at least 35 lbs or more on each tent corner. You can use adjustable truck straps or tie down straps with a S hook on each end
to hang the weights to the tent corners. A set of four straps can be found at Amazon (Click to see strap samples) or Walmart (Click to see strap sample).
If you have weights that stand up high such as the weight shown to the left, you can wrap a small bungee cord around the weight and tent leg to keep the weight from moving.
When your tent is on the grass or another soft surface, you can also use metal stakes: I use the Coleman tent pegs available from Walmart (Click to see stake sample) and Amazon (Coleman 10-In. Steel Nail Tent Pegs)
. You may want to see if the holes in your tent leg base will allow your stakes to go through them. I also carry a small hammer with me to pound in the stakes and to also pull them out at the end of the art show.
Must watch scary video of dust devil sending tents air born. This gives you the incentive and reason to weight your tent down. I have personally seen a tent fly up in the air spinning about 60 feet and come down hard.
How to find art shows:
Look for shows being marketed to the public, go to them and check them out to see if they look like they are any good. Find out who to talk to so when the next show comes, you are on the artist notification list. Sometimes you just see them while driving and can stop to check them out and talk to the organizer.
Ask your artist friends which shows they do and have good sales at.
Read the artist section on Craigslist in the city closest to you and also in other more distant cities in your selling areas to find smaller local art shows.
Search on-line for local art shows.
Join art clubs that put on local art shows that you can participate in.
The magazine Sunshine Artists list many festival locations around the nation. Once you get the magazine for a year or longer you will have accumulated many of the better art festival names, locations and times.
This will list more shows than you could possibly participate in. The number of shows that will be right for you may be based on costs, distance, attendance or if your art may be specially suited for that show if it is theme orientated.
Also, sometimes art can sell at non art related events such as “Home Tours”. In general, art shows that are mixed with other events such as music events are not usually good as art only events but some festivals can be good if they bring in a good crowd.
Over time, you will get re-invited to art shows you have done before.
This is a really tricky subject but you should price to make a profit. Take into consideration your costs beyond just your material costs, gas and art show fees. The artist has a lot of overhead and should be compensated for his time and talent.
When setting your prices, a lot depends on a variety of factors such as:
1. Your experience
2. How you value your time
3. Time spent on a specific piece of art
4. Quality of your art
5. Material Costs
6. What the competition charges for similar artwork in your area
7. What your art work has actually sold for in the past
8. If you are more well known, the demand for your work
Some shows are geared for higher priced artwork and with small local shows this may not be true. Also the show's customer attendance, demographics and location play a roll. Different artists have many different theories of what pricing strategy works best and it comes with experience.
Many photographers seem to charge by size of the image and not how difficult or costly the image was to take or time it took to produce. The price can vary based on other factors such as the associated costs of how the photograph is framed or printed on special paper or canvas.
As a photographer, I tend to see what other photographers are charging for their art on their web sites. Many of these photographers are charging two to four times the amount I do for what I consider the same quality of photography. When determining what you are going to charge at an art show, please remember that there is a difference of what people charge on-line and if they are selling at that price.
(Photo to right) You will notice carpeted Pro Panel walls, large title card labels with easy to see prices and a sign stating which credit cards are accepted. This booth also has a work desk for taking orders. I recommend hanging title cards at least 1 inch from the framed or canvas art work. This prevents the shadow from the above artwork from falling on the title card making it harder to read some of the printed information.
Many painters charge by the square inch but this can vary widely between different artists. Even the same artist may have a different cost per square inch for different sizes such as a higher square inch cost for very small paintings or less per square inch for very large paintings. Also, artist should also not determine prices based on there own personal or emotional attachment to a specific art piece.
For commission work such as in paintings, many recommend charging a larger fee than your normal amount. A commission can be more work and sometimes a pain with some clients and this should be incorporated in your pricing.
When you are selling photography or prints, a customer may ask you if you offer larger sizes. This is a good sign since most customers think art is only offered in the sizes that they can see in your booth. I recommend that you have a printed sheet listing the different sizes that you offer along with prices to show your customer. I have a sheet listing the various enlargement print sizes I offer as well as wrapped canvas sizes. This allows the artist to create custom prints on demand for the customer without the need to carry large sizes in inventory.
Some people feel you must keep your art prices the same everywhere you sell. Other artists may adjust prices to fit different shows or areas were artist costs may be higher. I feel that you should be flexible. If you have a gallery nearby that represents your art in the area of the art show; then your prices should be the same as the gallery for that art show. The previous advice is my recommendation for the new artist that this article is geared for. For more experience artist that has their art in many galleries and are successfully enough to bring in a steady income from those galleries, then I do not recommend that artist have different prices at art shows or on-line from the type of pricing levels at those galleries.
To me the bottom line is that if your art is not selling; you need to lower your prices to where it will sell at a price you are comfortable with. If you are selling a lot, you can try to raise your prices until you are losing sales. You will eventually set a balance that both the artist and customers are happy with. With the economy being poor over the last few years, many people have been buying less art. This can effect what people will currently pay for the same art they may of been happy to pay more for 5 years ago.
I do not recommend lowering your prices to compete with other artists that are really undervaluing their art. This is a no win situation and you cannot compete on price with someone who does not mind selling for little over the cost of his materials and not based on the total costs of running a business.
Daniel Rozmiarek wrote: "As the artist, if I want customers to give me money in exchange for my art, I don't get to assign value my work. My customers are in control of valuing my work. My "price" is nothing more than a guess at an amount that I believe somebody else will agree to. I have every right to assign a price higher than that of other artists, but customers have no obligation to purchase.
Fine art is a pure luxury good. It is not a commodity that people need to survive. Every sale of fine art is about the perceived value the customer has for my work, and that customer's willingness to exchange their cash for my art.
But, the reality is that nearly all potential customers at art shows are willing to pay something between $50-$500 for my work. They set the price. I'm only trying to guess what it is. If I guess too low, I'm not recovering the full value. If I guess too high, I don't make a sale. When I guess correctly, I make a sale at the best price that customer is willing to offer."
Additional articles and videos on pricing artwork:
I find you encourage and get additional sales if you mark your items such as matted artwork with a single price and then a discounted price for multiple purchases. An example would be a matted print price of $65.00 or two for $110.00. You can also do this on small items such as note cards $4.50 or two for $8.00. While discounting will lower your profits on that specific sale, I feel it is better to sell to that customer for a reasonable profit than not at all. My overall pricing will average out between initial asking price and discounts sales to a fair balance.
Some customers are afraid to ask you for a lower price. If they are looking at a piece for a while trying to make a decision to purchase it, I usually offer them a discount such as a set amount or a percentage discount. Many of my sales are when I offer a discount. I sometimes think I should raise my prices and then offer all my customers a discount.
If the item cost $69.00, I may say “I can offer you that art piece for $60.00” or “I can give you a 15% discount on that print". If the customer is looking closely at two prints to determine which one they would like to purchase, I may say that “I can offer you a 20% discount on the second print”. Sometimes they purchase both prints. Unless the discount for multiple purchases is printed and displayed at the booth, I do not have a set discount I offer and pretty much make it up based on my mood at the time.
Some artists do not offer price discounts to the customer as they do not think they should discount their art. If that works for them, then they should price as they seem best. I think in this economy that not offering a discount as a hard rule will just cost you sales. Even the most high end galleries in great locations offer discounts upon request even on more established artists.
Offering a discount is different than having a sale. I do not recommend having a sales sign in your booth or a sign that says 50% off. These type of signs will bother the other artist. Signs that say "Sale" make it more of a lower end show and give it a flee market type feel. The customers may feel that they can expect large discounts at other artist booths.
I will offer a set discount without the customer asking if I feel they are hesitant to purchase a piece of my art and I think price is an issue for them. I think all artists should offer discounts to customers, even if it is a small one to encourage sales. While the artist should not sell art at a price they are uncomfortable with, I do not feel that art has a set price such as purchasing a toaster at Walmart. With a little negotiating, you can end up with a happy customer bringing home a piece of your art to hang on their wall and some money in your pocket. If you have not tried offering a discount, try it out a few times and see how it works for you.
Quite often, I am in the situation in which either the husband or the wife are in the booth. The customer is interested in purchasing some art but wants to bring there spouse, who is in another area of the art festival, back to the booth to approve of the purchase. Many times, they never come back. I decided to try this year to offer the customer an incentive before they leave to encourage a return. I recommend that you try different sales discount techniques and see what works best for you.
Every once in a while I get called by Interior Designers for a larger multiple piece order and I think they expect a discount of 10 - 20% because it may be the standard in their industry and they might select another artist if you do not. Even though I feel my regular prices are reasonable, in the middle range of what other similar work sells for, I will give Interior Designers a discount. Due to the economy, I have been also giving 10 - 20% discounts for larger orders from individuals when needed. I may try in the future to offer customers an extra smaller print of their choice instead of a monetary discount. This may be of greater value to the customer and cost me less than the monetary discount in the end.
I find that you really need to price all your items. The price on the labels also need to be larger than you think would be needed. It seems that many people just cannot find the price even if it is right in front of them. You do not want customers to walk away because they do not see the price and do not want to ask. Price labels can be hand written or printed off. My basic suggestion is if you hear numerous times the customer ask you what is the price of an item, you should adjust the location of your price label or make it larger. Pricing Labels can be found on Amazon or at your local craft stores.
For individual items, such as those lying on a table, I would price them all separately.
I price all my framed work on my walls with a separate price label. I display my matted prints grouped by size which have the same price. If they are in a print rack or boxed container on a table, I generally have one larger price label on the front center of the print rack or box.
I have seen some artist not price the more expensive framed or original paintings displayed on the walls. Like any other business, different business owners make different decisions based on their own experiences.
For artwork that has a title card you have room to display more than the price such as the artwork title, medium and size. I feel that if the artwork is not the original, you should state that on the title card that it is a print or other term you wish to use.
I see most artists do not use a name tag or (Name Badge)
but they seem to wear them if the art show supplies them. I feel the artist should always wear a name tag. The customer is not only buying art but also part of the experience is meeting with the artists and the forming of an emotional bond beyond just the artwork.
Often customers ask me if I am the artist even if I am the only person in the booth. If you have more than one person in the booth and one is not the artists, then I feel it is even more important to have name tags. Also if your booth is crowded and someone wants to ask the artist a question or make a purchase, they may not be able to tell the artist from anyone else in the booth.
Many times customer sees my name on my name tag, relates it to my signature on the artwork and seem to be surprised that the artist is in front of them. I am not really sure why this happens so often. Perhaps they are so used to purchasing items made in factories or faraway places that it does not occur to them that some items are still made by hand and sold by the maker.
In life, I like to think that I am competing against myself to always make myself better or become a better artist. In the art show business, you have a concentration of many other businesses in your same art medium as close as 20' away. Many art shows have a higher percentage of booths that sell jewelry and photography. There is much more competition in these art mediums but I am sure everyone feel the same way about their own art medium. It helps if your art is of a higher quality, unique and you have a good presentation. In art medium’s that have more competition, the customers are more likely to be more sensitive on pricing.
It is my viewpoint that much of the purchasing decision for the customer comes down to price. They may love your art and even tell you so but it still comes down to price. It is fine to competitively price your artwork but you cannot compete, and do not even try, with those artist that undervalue there artwork and who do not care if they make a profit based on the real costs of running even a small business.
For art shows that do not take into consideration limiting the number of artist of the same medium, I tend not to go back for future shows. I figure that there are only so many people that will purchase in my art medium of photography but this could apply to any other art mediums such as ceramics or jewelry. If 15 - 20% of the artists at this show are selling in your medium, then those dollars need to spread out to more artists making it much more difficult to have a good sales day. Another factor is how many customers attend the art show; more customers can support more artists of the same medium.
Some art shows are more of fund raising events for local art clubs and they may have more artist booths than the number of customers that they bring in can support. You generally do not know how many booths they are planning on in advance and if they do this, I just do not come back since most of the artists sell very little.
How important are credit cards?
I say that if you do many art shows or if you sell items for more money than customers usually carry around, you should take credit cards. The loss of only a few sales due to not taking credit cards is not worth it since it is easy to set up an account to take credit cards and the cost for entry is very low if you already have a smart phone.
Recently, numerous companies such as Squareup (The Square reader shown on right), Paypal and Amazon have come out with small credit card readers that attach to many Apple or Android smart phones or the Ipad. These credit card readers are also compatible with many Android tablets.
Not too many years ago, many artist that took credit cards, with similar capabilities to what the Square does now, used expensive stand alone machines with heavy monthly service charges even on months that no credit cards were run. These credit card machines were not financially practical for the artist or small shop keeper at outdoor events that did not sell in enough quantity to justify the cost. Most vendors at art shows are now using the small readers that work with there existing smart phones. The percentage rates to the credit companies are very competitive so even vendors that take only the occasional credit card can justify the cost since you are only charged when you use the reader.
For all of these card readers, I recommend getting at least two from your vendor of choice. If you have trouble running a customer's card, you can try using the second reader. There is no need to loose a sale for not having a second free or low cost card reader.
If you take credit cards, be sure to place a sign such as Visa/Master Card/AMX logo on your table or wall in plain sight. You can purchase Credit card signs at reasonable prices. You may want to purchase a few signs such as for on tables or art show walls. If the customer is wondering if you take credit cards and can not find the signs, you may lose a sale.
The Square credit card reader: Magnetic strip, embedded chip and Apple Pay
Below I describe the three different credit card readers from Square. The first one is the reader that most people are currently using that reads only reads the credit cards magnetic strip.
The second reader which is new and currently available will eventually replace the older credit card readers. This second reader will be able to read the credit cards embedded chip as well as the credit cards magnetic strip. This reader is what everyone will be using soon and it is recommended that you switch to this newer model.
The third type reader is optional and allows you to not only read credit cards with the embedded chip in them, but additionally allows you to take credit cards wirelessly using Apple Pay.
One popular credit card reader (card reader type 1), shown in photo to left, is the "Square" which is available at www.squareup.com. The Square is what I see most people use and has reasonable percentage fees with no other monthly service costs. This Square reader will read the magnetic strip on the credit card.
Once you run your charge using the Square, you will receive an email letting you know that they have received your charge. You will receive another email when they transfer the money into your bank account. I currently use the Square on a LG smart phone. Even though the Square seems to be the most popular, if you have any problems, they do not have a customer service phone number to call. You need to contact them by email which could delay any response.
Many credit cards currently in use already have the more secure chip embedded in them, as shown in the photo to the right. My understanding is that due to a law change, all new credit cards sent out after October 2015 will be required to have the new chip in them.
The new and slightly larger Square reader (card reader type 2), shown to the right, is currently available for $29.00 directly from the manufacturer (Square chip card reader purchase link) or from Amazon (Square chip card reader purchase link).
This new reader has two slots that will read both the magnetic strips on older cards and also be able to read the credit cards with the chip in them.
The new Square chip reader does have a small battery in it that will need to be charged with USB charger slot found on the bottom of the reader. I believe that the reader comes with the recharging cord. You may want to charge up the reader before any major show or at least have a spare reader.
See how to use the new Square chip reader 2 in this short video.
Not to get too confusing, but Square is also coming out in Fall 2015 with a third reader (card reader type 3), shown to the right. This much larger reader will read Apple Pay and EMV (Europay, Master Card and Visa) which in English mean cards with chips in them. I do not think this reader has the ability to read the credit card magnetic strip, so you will have to have to keep your older Square reader for this.
See how to use the new Square chip reader 3 in this short video.
This card reader type 3 will have a $49.00 purchase cost but you will be able to get a partial or full credit of that fee if you use the device a lot over the first three months. I am not clear how this reader works yet, but they state that the device will connect to your Square app so it will probably connect wirelessly using Bluetooth to your phone or Ipad. This device also runs off of a battery.
You probably can get away with using the current free card reader, shown at the top left, for a while since the new cards that contain the chip will also have a magnetic strip on them. If you do many charges, the better security of card readers that can read the chip, will have some advantages such as better fraud protection and not needing to scan the magnetic strip multiple times to get it to work.
Another reason to get a card reader that reads the chip is that eventually, the banks may hold the artist responsible for any credit card fraud if you accept a credit card charge by using the magnetic strip. Currently the banks usually eat the cost of fraud but eventually may say that using the magnetic strip makes you liable for any fraud since that method (magnetic strip) is the weakest security link.
Note: I received an email from Square in June 2015 informing me that one of my older Square readers (magnetic strip only reader type 1) would soon no longer work and suggested that I get a free replacement. The message stated "If you’re not sure which of your Readers is the older model, flip the Reader upside down—If the bottom of your reader nearest to the audio jack says "S4 China", you are not required to upgrade.". One of my readers stated "S3/Mexico", so I will be replacing that Square reader. If you have some older Square readers, you may want to check out what version they are.
The following information was found on the Squareup web site (link here). Tax law requires that we provide account holders who process over $20,000 and 200 credit card payments per calendar year with a Form 1099-K before January 31st. We are also required to file a corresponding tax form with the IRS. Whether you reach $20,000 in payments and more than 200 payments will be determined by looking at the SSN associated with your Square Account.
The Paypal and Amazon credit card readers:
Another company that has a credit card reader for smart phones is Pay Pal with additional information at (Paypal reader link). Pay Pal does have a customer service phone number if you have any problems. I feel that there rates are also reasonable.
Paypal update: Paypal also has a new chip reader, shown to right, for credit cards with chips and Apple Pay. See information at (Product link here).
Amazon also has a credit card reader for smart phones. Amazon's reader only works on selected phones so check if your phone or tablet is compatible before ordering. Amazon (Product link here).
Art Show Magazines:
Sunshine artist - www.sunshineartist.com
This magazine is the main magazine used by the professional outdoor art show artist and includes show location information as well as articles of interest to the art show artist.
Professional Artist Magazine - www.professionalartistmag.com
This magazine is for professional artist with good art business articles but geared mostly for painters.
Submitting to art shows:
Each art show’s application is a little different. For most applications, you will be asked to send in contact information, art medium description, web site and State business licence number as well as samples of your work. Many applications contain rules for the show and have you to initial that you have read the rules and sign the application. It is best to read the application carefully and give them all the applicable information they have requested and digital files in the requested format and size. You do not want to give someone at the show a reason to disqualify you over a technical issue or missing information.
It is best to send in your application early if possible and consider the application deadline the date the art show wants to receive your application by. If it says, the application must be postmarked by a specific date, then send before that date.
Some local non juried art shows may just accept artist as they review them when the application is received. They may get full before the application deadline so there could be an advantage to sending in the application earlier. At your smaller local art shows, if you missed the deadline send them an email or give them a call. They may have unfilled spaces available and accept you.
Some small local art events or shows do not have an application fee and just a fee to participate in the event once selected. Most art shows that are bigger or have a jury select the artist will have a small application fee associated with it. If you do not get into a show, you do not get this application fee back. Once accepted, they ask you to send in your art show fee by a specific deadline. You do want to send in your art show payment before the deadline. Some art shows have an artist waiting list that they may give your booth space away to for non or late payment.
Some smaller local juried have no application fee but ask you to send in a check for the art show amount with the initial application. If you do not get into the art show, then they just destroy your check. If you do get in the show, they cash your check.
You can mark in your calendar which shows you applied for on the show date and then change the calendar message that you have been accepted or not when notified. I also mark down the acceptance notification dates for each show in my calendar. If not notified, I would wait a week or so after the notification date and then contact the show to check if you were accepted.
Keep track of the shows you have done in the past, especially the ones you have done well in. If you do not receive an automatic application the next year, contact them or visit their web site to get the application.
Sometimes when you do not get in, it has more to do with too many artists applying in your same art medium and not always about your art quality. Many times, the jury will change each year for a particular art show and have there preferences on the type of art they like. Another reason you may not get accepted even after participating in the art show in previous years is that the jury may want to give some variety to the art show and let some new people in. Not being accepted can be hard if you have been accepted to this show before. Try to not take this personally, if you do not get in, as this is part of the art show market. Even with the same jury images, you may get in one year and not in another to the same art show.
When selecting new art shows to apply to, it is difficult to tell how a particular art show will be in sales for you. One option is to just visit and walk the art show one year and check out the number of visitors, the number of booths in your same art medium and how your art work compares in quality.
I also look for customers carrying art around that they bought at the art show. You need to determine if this is an event people go to to just look or for the free entertainment or buy at. Many times you need to do a specific art show once or twice to see how well you do and if it is worth doing again.
An important general rule is that if an art show is harder to get into due to the competition of numerous artist applying every year way over the number of spaces available, this can indicate that this art show that has much better sales.
For the smaller local shows, you usually have a good chance of getting in. These shows usually have no application fee or a small application fee and a less expensive art show fees such as $20 - $65 for a day or slightly more for a two day show.
Some art shows, although less common, have a smaller art show fee but charge you 12 - 20% of all your sales. When these type of shows ring up all the artist sales at their own register, they will absorb the credit card fees as well as send in the State and local sales tax that they collected from the customer for you. The artist is still required to claim the income for taxing purposes.
For the larger shows, even ones locally that have many professional artists from other States can be much more difficult to get into, especially for the first time. The application fee will be larger and the art show fees may be up to $550.00 for a three day show but will bring a much larger and qualified crowd. The process of selecting the right images for the jury and the quality of your booth shot is much more complicated for the larger shows than for the small local shows that this article is about.
How I determine which art pieces to show:
For my photography, I produce more pieces than I can show. Because of this, I try to reduce the number of even finished pieces down to what I think is just my best work. To do this, I place new photographs on Flickr and see what the viewer response is. I also ask my friends which ones they like to reduce my selections even more. Eventually these selected new images are displayed in my booth to be seen by the customer. In the end, the customers select which prints will be popular. The images that do not get as much a positive response or sales as the others get moved to the back of the print bin. These prints are eventually removed and replaced with new images. The most popular selling images have a long life and the remaining prints end up in storage. I usually remove the old print and replace with a new print image allowing me to reuse the mat. By adding a new Clear Bag, the image presentation looks new.
With some other art medium that are not reproducible as photography, you should display all your art pieces since so much time might have been put into their production. In this case, I would rotate the artwork you have at different shows since it may not fit all in your booth at once. If a show has a particular theme or location associated with it, you may want to bring artwork that best matches the customers that may come to that event.
Sometimes it is difficult for the artist to tell what will be popular with the public. The artist is sometimes more emotionally attached to a particular piece due to a related experience during creation. The customer will see the artwork based on their own experience and emotional response. I do not show any artwork that I am not happy with, but when selling art, with limited wall space, you need to display the artwork that has a history of selling on your display booth walls. I leave some of my more personal pieces for art exhibits or the print rack.
Now after I said that, I would like to point out that I see some artist fill the majority of there wall space with the same art pieces for 3, 4 or more years in the same general area or at the same art shows. For me this could give the customer the feeling that the artist is no longer producing new work or perhaps feel that they can pass by this artist booth since they may have nothing new. I suppose that this is a personal decision that needs to be made by the artist.
I reserve my limited wall space to images that will draw attention to my booth and have customers stop and look longer instead of just walking by. Sometimes these images are not the best sellers but do draw the customer's attention. Your walls should include artwork that has sold in the past. I also hang a few newer pieces so that visitors that attend my exhibits repeatedly see that I am still producing new work.
Most of the art displayed in your booth will be in your standard or most popular sizes. For photographers, I suggest that you have at least one larger framed or canvas photograph to give the customer's the idea that you can print larger sizes. Let your customers know that you can print any of your images in larger sizes since it is not always obvious that you offer this customized service.
Who are the buying customers?
One thing I picked up is that people who are on vacation or traveling seem to be more likely to purchase art. They like to bring back something to remember their trip or purchase artwork in a style not available where they live.
If you are selling in a tourist area or area in which tourist visit, you will have more sales on average than one with just locals visiting. When people travel, they seem to be more in a buying mood. Perhaps they are just having fun with an impulse buy or feel that they can not always come back later to purchase the item.
Travelers are concerned on how to get art purchases back with not only smaller pieces that will fit in there suitcase but larger art purchases. Customers are always looking for excuses for not making a purchase at this time and it is the artist job to offer solutions.
In this case, if the customer does not know how to get the art back home, offer to ship it to them at your costs or at a reasonable rate. For the majority of artist, you do not need to add sales tax if shipping across State lines which can make the shipping option affordable to the customer. It does not hurt to also put a sign on your table or wall that states that shipping is available.
Younger people are more likely to purchase items under 20 or 50 dollars. Seniors who may have downsized their homes or already have their wall space filled with art are less likely to buy. With this in mind, I still treat every customer the same. Many people in Arizona come for the winter and are in smaller homes with little wall space but will buy art to bring home with them. I have found that selling art in more wealthy areas can also increases art sales but does not guaranty better sales or the ability to raise your prices for these locations.
My average buyer is between 30 and 55 years old and both men and woman evenly. With artwork that hangs on the wall, it is sometimes a harder sale since both husband and wife need to approve and their tastes are not always the same. With items geared more to one sex or small enough to store in a drawer such as jewelry, you do not have this problem as much.
Selling matted prints:
I sometimes print new images in the smaller sizes, mat them and place them in the print rack. I then see what the customer response is. If a specific art piece gets a good response or sells in the smaller size, I then print that image up in a larger size.
You do not want to make 2 or 10 of the same images and size with the idea that if you sell one you have a replacement so you do not run out. Start off with one or one of the same images in two sizes to see if it is popular with the customers. If you have a selected group of photographs that sell more often, then I would have a spare replacement print for just those images. For full time traveling artist, you need to have more duplicate prints.
If the customer is looking for a smaller or larger print of a photograph they see, let them know you can custom print it for them and mail them the print. In this situation, I charge a reasonable shipping cost. Many people traveling do not want to carry larger artwork with them. If they live out of State and you mail it to them, you most likely do not need to charge sales tax which makes up for the additional shipping costs. You just cannot keep every image in stock of all sizes. The availability to print on demand and this mailing option is how I handle this. Larger prints can be rolled up in a tube for mailing and do not need to be mailed flat.
On special orders sometimes custom packing and mailing can be time consuming and expensive for larger flat prints. If the customer is local, I find it more convenient to make an appointment and just drop it off at their house. The customers do not seem to mind and still pay a delivery fee that is equivalent or less than any shipping costs.
How many different sizes for matted prints: The general rule is that you do not want the sizes to be too close to each other or the customer will most likely select the lower cost smaller size. For photography, the size usually refers to the outside mat size and not the print image size. Popular mat sizes are 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20 or 18x24 and larger. If you sell note cards, you may not sell many 8x10 matted prints since the note cards are cheaper and may be close in size.
If a customer wants to only purchase the larger matted print they see in a frame. I am happy to remove the frame and sell them the matted print only. Many customers know they can frame it themselves at a lower cost or they may prefer another frame color or style. Take the money for the sale and then let the customer know to come back a little later and you will have the matted print ready for them to pick up. It helps to have a few Clear Bags of various sizes for this purpose since most shopping bags are not designed or will fit large flat art items.
I see many artist display matted prints in a print rack or other container and have many of them on their side so the image is not upright. Many artist seem to be OK by this and even if they notice it do not correct the situation even when the container will fit the prints in both directions. I feel it is always better for the customer to see the artwork as it would be displayed on a wall. For some reason, this bothers me since I have never been to a gallery and seen work displayed on its side. I recommend as part of your final setup check that you go through your print racks and look for sideways prints.
Sometimes when I exhibit my art in alternate gallery locations such as a coffee house or other business, I may have two different prices on a framed art title card, one price for the artwork framed and a lower price for non-framed. I am in the job of selling art, not frames and I try to be flexible when it comes to trying to meet the customer's needs and price points.
While most artist sell matted prints with the standard 4-ply mat board backing, some do use 3/8" foam core as the backing behind a matted print. Foam core is thicker and with the total combined thickness of the top mat, print and the foam core backing, the matted prints will not fit into many standard frames that the customer may purchase. The ability to not use a frame that the customer bought because the print matting is too thick, could upset the customer and cause them to purchase a more expensive custom frame.
I feel that using foam core backing makes the prints in the print rack seem more high end for some reason and could be beneficial when just used as a support backing, in a clear bag, to an unmated print or original painting that is not attached to the foam core. Another issue with foam core is that you can not get as many prints in the print rack since they take up more room.
For matted prints which could include photography or other mediums such as matted watercolors or prints of paintings, I try to keep the outside mat size to a standard frame size. If they buy a matted print for $70.00, they may be upset if they need to spend another $135.00 on a custom frame at twice the price of a standard frame. A happy customer is more likely to be a repeat customer that might start collecting your art. As a selling feature, I often inform the customers that my mats are a standard size and this gives them the option to purchase a less expensive ready-made frame instead of a custom frame.
General artist information:
If you get a higher priced custom order or commission such as a painting or photograph at an art show, collect at least 50% at the show and then get the remaining amount before you deliver the finished art to the customer. With the exception of corporate buyers, I no longer send out the artwork to individuals unless I get the final payment first.
You may be tempted to start on a special customer request for your artwork or print the artwork before you receive the initial 50% deposit if they are sending it to you later, but I suggest you do not. Sometimes customers change their mind and you may be spending money and time on a custom order that has been cancelled. I sometimes take the deposit by credit card or Pay Pal using my web site and then request the remainder by check if possible.
The artist should consider providing bags to customers to bring home art purchases. I actually do not have any shopping type bags since most of my art I sell is matted prints already wrapped in Clear Bags. It could be considered a form of promotion for the customer to carry around your art in a clear bag for other customers at the art show to see. For artist to purchase custom larger flat bags from a manufacturer would be expensive since you need to purchase in larger numbers and artist generally do not have needs for that quantity of bags.
I have not had any complaints from customers who are usually parked close by and just carry the larger framed or canvas art to their car. Some artist at larger art shows may have some bubble wrap and tape a layer around the artwork. I have also heard of others who buy large clear garbage bags at Home Depot and use them to wrap art. I suppose they fold the extra bag area tight over the art and tape it neatly. If you sell larger prints that are not matted or framed, you could have some extra mailing tubes ready and just place the prints in the tube for the customer.
Gail Peck Says: "Talent is almost the least of it. To consistently sell you have to have images that people can relate to emotionally. Although I'm not the most talented photographer out there, I've sold from the very first day because people like what I do. They care very little about the qualities that most photographers stress over. What you need is a winning personality that can engage well with the buying public. One young man who has wonderful images sells very little because he lacks conversational skills. I can't stress this enough!!!"
Read more at: Selling art at art festivals
This is a very informative article on how to sell photography at art shows that is geared more to larger professional art shows but has good advice that would also pertain to artist doing smaller local art shows": How to sell photography at art shows
It is a fact that art generally does not sell itself. You may find that places that sell your art for you do not do as well as when you are in front of your customers as an artist selling yourself. Part of selling art is promotion that can be approached from many ways at once.
Promotional Emails or Newsletters:
When at an art show, have an email sign up list for visitors to fill out. When you have a new art show or any art related event in that area, send out a simple email blast inviting them. Many artist design and send out on a regular basis a more sophisticated newsletter with this information included in it. Many artist use a reasonably priced bulk email company such as www.icontact.com or www.constantcontact.com to send out these emails. One nice thing about these services is that you can have separate email lists under different titles and you can target only those lists you want to for a specific event. Also, the customer can easily unsubscribe from your email list automatically without any extra work on the artist side.
For my art exhibits, I create postcards or print off 4x6 prints, as shown in the photo, and leave them around in local businesses close to the exhibit. These locations are mainly art or photography related and customers pick them up. The remaining prints are placed at the exhibit as a fancy business card for those attending to take home. I find the 4x6 prints on sale to be cost effective on smaller quantities versus 500 or 1000 postcards. This can also be done for art shows with the option of mailing them to past customers. Most artist create custom postcards which can be purchased in various sizes and quantity at Vistaprint. They are cost effective on group shows.
Using Fine Art America to promote your exhibits or art shows:
I found signing up with www.fineartamerica.com and entering your event in the event calendar, which is also free, has great benefits and is available on a national level. If your event is selected, they will mention your event such as an art show in their email newsletter to a great number of customers with an art interest. These customers are targeted to the general location of the event along with a link to a web page with additional event detail. I am really surprised that more artist do not take advantage of this free service, but now you know about it and you can with a little effort. Once you spend the initial time to figure how to enter an event, all your future events will only take about 10 minutes to submit.
When more serious art collectors see your art work at different events such as art shows, displaying at galleries, public art events, solo shows and group shows around your area they may be more likely to purchase some of your art at art shows. I feel all of this promotion adds up to give you more credibility as an artist. I feel collectors would rather buy art from an artist that they feel will be around in 5 to 10 years more than someone they see on and off for a year and then disappears from the art scene.
My theory is that even if you live in a very populated and spread out area such as I do near Phoenix, AZ, the number of people that visit art shows is a much smaller number. These people will visit many art shows as something they enjoy to do and not just to look for art to purchase. They will get around and if you do enough shows or other type of public exhibits, even in different areas, they will start to recognize your art work. It is something like print ads were some customers need to see your product (art work) numerous times before they make a purchase.
One thing I do is numerous public art exhibits. While I like to show my newer work mostly, for larger exhibits of my art, I always include a few older classic images that I have shown at shows in the past. I do this so people who may not remember your name may remember one of the older images if they liked it. They will then realize that this is an artist they have seen before and that this is new work from you that they have not seen. This is part of my need to see your work numerous times to get credibility to some collectors plus who doesn't like to show their classics.
One way to get art show visitors to notice you is to put up a custom banner. Visitors tend to walk by the artists tents at a fast pace and something needs to catch their eye to slow down or stop to look in more detail. One thing that can do that is a banner since it is usually in a place that is very viewable from a distance. You can have a banner on the top inside of the back wall or at the top inside of a side wall, at the front of your tent high up as a few examples. I have a 6' x 3' vinyl banner that I have even hung from the front of my 6' table inside my tent.
I recommend vinyl banners with four grommets in the corner, as seen to the right, so you can use rope or bungee cord to place them in your tent area. Many local office supply stores can do banners. You normally need to pick a size and then custom design one before you have it printed. Most online printing companies have a step by step process that you go through. You can even upload your own text and images in your design.
Here are a few sample sizes but many others are available from the printing company Signsinasnap.
This is the design of one of my vinyl banners that I had printed at BuildASign. I was happy with the results.
At first thought the artist may think that this is a no brainier, have business cards easily accessible at art shows is a good thing. At art shows, for customers purchasing art is more of an “In the moment decision”. Once the customer leaves your booth, they will most not likely be back. Sometimes taking a business card is just a nice way for the customer to leave your booth without purchasing.
Artists handle business cards in different ways. Some place them in the front of the booth that is easy to find and take. Other artist may place them within the booth area but in a section more inside the booth in which a more serious customer looking for a business card could find. I see artist at the higher end shows sometimes have business cards in the back out of site and supply business cards to the customer upon request. This has the advantage of having the customer requiring a brief personal contact with the artist to receive the card.
Although it is unlikely that people who take business cards will contact you later, it does happen and the cost of business cards is so small that I feel they are worth having. Having a well designed business card also has a more professional look. I recommend that your business card have more of an artist look and can have one of your art images or custom business logo on it. Some business card information you may include are the artist name, business name, business address, web site, email address and phone number. In my case, I have all this information on my web sites contact page. If you feel that many of your customers do not use the internet, then I would definitely have a phone number on the business card.
Many places from local print shops to the popular VistaPrint can print business cards for you. If you go the online route, I recommend getting on the mailing list first so you will get discount offers before ordering. The more business cards you purchase at the same time, the less expensive each card becomes. One suggestion on business cards is to not have both sides coated unless you are having print on both sides. If you only coat the text/image side to give it a glossier look and leave the blank side uncoated, you will be able to write on the blank side. It is nice to use the blank side of the card to write down for the customer the title, sizes or prices of the art pieces that they are interested in for later referral.
For artist, I do not think that the pre-designed business cards that you can choose for free at these sites and just add your contact information will be best since artist should show in their business card that they are creative and have custom looking cards. If you just want to get some business cards starting out and use a more basic card design, that is fine but for the long term, I suggest a more impressive business card.
What do I do? I used to have business cards, but now I produce 4x6 photo prints at Costco that act as my business cards. I have some set forms that I add 3-4 photos on and the customers seem to like them. At this time I have five different versions with different themes such as landscapes, doors, or cars and if a customer is interested in a particular subject matter in my booth, I give them a related theme card. You can see an example of one of my cards here. I tend to change out my card images every year and see them as more of a trading card that customers who visit me often may collect.
I do not always wait for a customer to pick up a business card. If a customer seems serious by looking at many of my images and taking their time but not ready to purchase at that time, I will offer them a business card by handing one to them as they are leaving the booth. The artist should not give a business card to the customer without the customer asking for one until the artist is sure that the customer is not going to purchase at that time and is leaving the booth.
Another reason to have business cards is if you have an exhibit in a public place such as a library or store. Having business cards available is a way for customers to take some information home with them to be able to contact the artist. Business cards are also handy to hand out to fellow artist or to others as part of your normal artist business activities.
Another alternative option or addition to handing out business cards is to offer to send the customer an email showing the art they are interested in. If the customer is interested in a specific image or images, ask for the customers name and email address. Then send out later that day or the next morning an email to the customer including the following information.
1. Thanking them for visiting your artist booth.
2. Perhaps something personal that you talked about.
3. Include image or images of artwork that the customer was interested in. These should be inline images and not as attachments if possible.
4. Artwork information such as title, size and price.
5. A closing statement to contact you to further discuss or purchase. Include your contact information.
Do not be afraid to resend a similar email out a few weeks later. Having an interested customer's email address can also be used to send invites to future art shows.
Custom business cards from Vistaprint are available through Amazon. Prices are reasonable with quantity's of 500 or 1000.
I feel that every artist today should have a web site or web presence. You can put your art on-line at many sites such as www.fineartamerica.com and many more without needing to know much about computers. If you do not know how to create high quality digital files of your art, you can have someone scan or photograph your art that will be used to upload to these sites. Many of these on-line galleries sites will even make a print from your submitted digital file and fulfill the order by sending the print directly to the customer for you.
There are many of these art related web site galleries around and many are free to display your art. Others may be free but charge you a fee if you sell any art. Some of the more sophisticated sights may charge a monthly fee, just to display, depending on how many art images you have on your own personal gallery. These sights may look more like your own individual web site and not just one more artist grouped into a large group of artists. There are many choices to choose from and no reason you cannot select more than one.
If you can manage your own web site or pay someone to do this for you, it is always best to have your own web site for flexibility and customization for your specific needs. When you sell off of your own web site, you do not need to share a commission. Most commercial web sites are geared to selling original artwork or a photography print of one size. They do not handle multiple sized prints which is best for photography or painters wanting to sell prints besides the originals. With your own customized web site, you can display multiple prints sizes and prices such as I do here on my own web site using a drop down menu.
Another advantage of having your own web site or multiple gallery web sites is that many on-line gallery web sites have been going out of business and all your hard work setting them up is then gone. For this reason, always keep a copy of all your digital art files on your computer for later use. I have my art on my own web site www.bobestrin.com and also on a variety of other on-line gallery sites that bring in additional views of my art work. On some of these other web sites that may have only 3 -10 images shown, I then list my own personal web site for customers to visit to view additional art images.
Artist can use their web site to market future art shows. I have a specific web page on my site just for this. I list the event, date, hours, address and show web site and contact information if available. This information, if done in advance, can be picked up by search engines. Recently, I have started to send out tweets in Twitter about my art show events as well as other art related events and new images. With Twitter you have a limited number of words you can use so I give a link to my web site's www.bobestrin.com/shows.htm page to show more detail information about the art event if they are interested. While I do not use Facebook myself, if you do this can also be a powerful marketing tool to promote your art and events.
The web site is also a good place for customers to look up more information on you as an artist. I have a page that shows articles that have been written on my art, a page that lists my past exhibitions and a page that lists an artist statement / bio and general information about the artist. I tend to think of my web site as an on-line resume / portfolio and not just for selling my artwork.
My experience is that web sites will not bring in sales that often but when they come in; tend to be much larger orders. A web site is also a good place for Interior Designers to find you as well as an on-line portfolio for people to review that may want to exhibit your art. A web site has many benefits beyond its sales potential.
Be careful of large or strangely written email order inquiries that you get from people looking at your web site. Most of them are just people trying to scam you using email. You will start to recognize them easily once you get a bunch of them. You can read the article How artist can protect themselves from internet scam orders for more information and examples of scam emails I have received.
Labeling / Artist Bio or Artist Statement:
For most artworks I find that the title and price are always needed with size as an option. For photography, many customers want to know the location of the subject matter.
For painters, as a customer, I prefer a label that says if it is an original or print/Giclee especially if if the painting is printed on canvas or framed. It also is nice to list on the label the more specific painting type such as watercolor, acrylic or oil since not everyone is as art knowledgeable as the artist.
Many artists place a printed page of information about themselves such as an artist statement or bio and a small artist head shot on the back of the matted artwork.
I see no reason you can not do this on original or framed artwork also. Customers seem to like this as I see them turning over the matted prints looking at the additional information. Here is a link of a sample bio for back of art Sample Bio in Word format.
This artist bio/artist statement page also gives a stronger bond between the art piece and the artist which helps in an overall stronger relationship between the customer and the artist. As I have said before, the customer is not just buying the art but also part of the purchase is related to the connection to the artist.
With a picture of the artist on the bio, it helps the customer relate and recognize that the artist is in the booth. To my surprise, many customers do not always understand that most of the time, the artist is the one in the booth. One of the most asked questions I get is "Did you take these" or "Are all these photographs yours".
I place a business card in the packaging of every order I sell. I also have a stamp with my name and web site that goes on the back of each matted or framed print. If they wish to order another piece of art in the future, I try to make it easy for them to find me. My web site is also my name and will come up on top during a web search of my name.
Limited Edition Prints:
This is up to the artist to decide whether to do this and to define what they want their definition of a limited edition is since many artists do it differently. A few of the larger nationally known art shows require limited edition prints to participate in that specific art show.
Some artists are very sensitive on this subject and either are very for it or very against it. I just chose not to do it anymore.
I personally do not think it is a good idea and worth the paperwork for most artists to keep track of for photography for the art show market. I have never had a customer tell me he was not going to purchase a piece because it was not a limited edition. To me it is more of a gallery marketing thing and since photography prints can now be duplicated with exactly the same quality when printed in bulk or at a later date, I am not sure it applies to the original reason for limited edition printing. For some States such as artists selling in California or New York, more specific rules are set up for limited edition paperwork and should be reviewed.
If you sell photography to more of a serious collectors market or thru an art gallery, I can see a benefit to selling limited edition prints in smaller editions. Some photographers limit there editions in smaller amounts such as 15 -50 prints per image. Many times these smaller edition prints are much more expensive to purchase and may be each individually hand done such as in a darkroom or using an alternative photography process.
When I first started out I did have selected prints marked as LE of 100, 150 or 250. When reality hit and I saw that even if I had a popular print, it may only sell 5 to 15 times over many years due to the limited amount of shows I did. Because of this, I decided that it was not for me. I have seen artist put very high LE numbers such as 1000 or higher and I wonder if it is really limited at those numbers. You should always stick to what your limited edition agreement was in your printed statement for those artworks sold under a limited edition agreement. I see very few artist selling limited edition prints at art shows now a days as compared to what I saw in the past. It is really a personal choice for the artist and in some mediums such as bronze sculptures, it could be the norm.
Certificate of Authenticity:
Some artists do place a sheet called a Certificate of Authenticity on the back of matted or framed prints. In addition to the artist name and contact information, the certificate may also give print information specific to that print such as art title, size, special type of paper it was printed on, ink used along with the artist signature. These are similar to what would be on a limited edition certificate without any edition size listed.
Shown to the right, you can see a sample COA from California photographer Roy Kerckhoffs. Some States require COA with your prints and you should determine if this applies to you. A few articles with additional information on Certificate of Authenticity can be found here in article one and article two. Some examples of COA can be seen
Some artists print these out on fancier certificate colored paper with nice borders that adds a personal touch and value to the artwork. Here are some samples of Certificate Paper which can come with a fancy border. I use a ivory colored 110 lbs thick card stock paper, shown below, that I purchase at Staples and can print two to a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet.
Shown to the left is my COA form. I give this COA form filled out to the customer when they purchase a framed, metal or canvas wrapped print as well as large custom sized paper prints. I do not give out a COA for my matted only prints since they already have my Bio sheet on the back and my signature is already on the mat.
Signing of Prints: (Or not signing your art)
I have recently visited numerous indoor group photography exhibits, not art shows, that do not have the artist signature showing on the the front of the prints or mats so that it is visible. At these photography exhibits, the artist name is displayed on the accompanying art title card. This is now becoming very common with the reasons I have been given by photographers is that the signature distracts from the viewing of the art. This reason does not make sense to me but I have heard it multiple times. For me, adding an original signature of the artist to the artist art work is traditional and also serves a purpose that is not distracting. I originally said a few years ago in this article "What's next, are the painters no longer going to paint their signature on their art", but since then I have seen this with different painters.
On my recent trip to California, I saw some paintings without a signature on them at a few different small galleries. These are mostly young artists and the artist tell me that their teachers are telling them not to sign their paintings since it distracts from the art. I do not understand this trend since when I see paintings in higher end galleries or museums, they seem to be all signed. I have never heard a customer complain that the signature distracts from the viewing of the art. I hope these artist are placing there names on the back of the artwork.
I personally do not understand this trend, since if I ask a customer if they would like one of my photographs with an artist signature on the mat or not I would think close to 100% of customers would want the artist signature. I feel that the artist signature should display in some manner from the front either on the print or mat. I now additionally sign the back of the photographic print, in the white border area, with an archival thin line pen even though this artist signature does not show when displayed. The reason for this is in case the photograph has its mat replaced in the future, the artist signature is still associated with the print with the idea that the artist personally approved this print and this is not a later reprint.
Now that I said my viewpoint, I sometimes do not sign some of my photographs under certain conditions. When a quantity of larger sized prints are ordered for a commercial client and they are doing the framing themselves, I will ask them if they want the photographs to be signed. If they do, I will pick a place in the lower right image area that the entire signature will show up on, such as in a lighter area. I also do not put the signature at the very bottom of the image, so the framer does not cover part of the signature up with the matting. I also drop ship my larger canvas prints directly from the printer to the customer since postage twice of a 32" x 48" canvas can be expensive and I do not want to pass these costs to the customer. In both these situations, if the customer does not get a signature on the front of the art piece, I send along a separate printed Certificate of Authenticity of each piece of art that has the artist signature on it. The customer can then attach the certificate to the back of the wrapped canvas print or for prints, to the back of the frame. While I do not currently add a digital signature to my art, this would be one way to handle these situations.
For painters, in additional to the artist signature, I see some of them paint a copyright symbol and date on the front of there paintings. I personally think having a copyright symbol on a painting is unnecessary and I see no purpose for this. You already own the copyright by painting the art piece. Most buyers of artwork understand that they are only purchasing the artwork to display as art and the purchase does not include any other rights to copy the artwork for any reason.
On the subject of painting a date, of the painting creation year, on the painting front, why would painters do this.
If a buyer sees a painting with a date 5 years old, they may not buy it even if they liked it because they may feel that the artist could not sell it before over numerous years and wonder what is wrong with it. Never give a buyer a reason to not purchase your painting. If you must supply this information, put the date on the back of the artwork as informational for those that value this information such as museums. The wood bars or paper backing makes a great surface to add this information.
Art Show Lighting:
Some shows will be at night and lighting is required. Many times, new artist do not think to bring lighting and show their artwork in the dark or with a flashlight. If a show is going on after sunset, you should ask if they will be providing electricity. If they do provide electricity, ask them if there will an additional charge.
You will need to bring lights, a Power Strip with a surge protector and extra Extension Cords. I also bring extra bulbs in case one breaks. Many smaller shows do not supply electricity. Most shows will not allow generators since they make a lot of noise.
I have a simple system for power that consists of the following items. A deep cycle battery or marine battery that you can purchase locally, A Battery Charger, Power Inverter
with 2 plugs (12 volt battery to 120 volt plugs) and lights of your choosing that use CFL or LCD bulbs. Optionally you can purchase a Battery Box which makes it easier to transport the heavy battery with a strap handle.
The compact flash bulbs put out 60w of light but use about 15w of power. One charged marine battery will run 6-10 lights the whole night but you do need to remember to charge the battery before the show. I also find lights with an arm that has a large clip on the end useful (Clip Lamp with Adjustable Arm Link). You can attach these to many areas of the tent on the bars or on a table edge and point them to light up specific areas.
When choosing CFL or LED bulbs, you now have the choice of selecting bulbs with the color temperature that your art looks best at. Some CFL or LED bulbs put out light similar to regular incandescent bulbs with others looking more warm or daylight balanced. The LCD bulbs used to be expensive but are now cost effective when you need to draw minimum power from your battery. A sample CFL bulb that is daylight balanced is the EcoSmart 60W Equivalent 5000K Spiral CFL Light Bulb, Daylight.
A sample LED bulb that is daylight balanced is the 60W Equivalent Daylight 5000k LED Light Bulb.
The picture to the left shows the color difference between daylight 5000k lighting on the left side and soft white 3000k lighting on the right. The Kelvin (k) color of your lighting can effect the color of your product on display.
I have seen so many different lighting methods from ineffective Christmas lights, flashlights and candles to well designed lighting arrangements. I suggest you check out some night time local art shows and see what other artists are doing. If your booth is lit well and other booths near you are not lit as well, the customers may be more attracted to your booth like moths to a flame.
Note: If you have an art show related question for an artist at an art show, the artists are usually very helpful and will share their experience with you. If they have a customer, you should let them help the customer before continuing your questions with them.
Unsold Matted Prints and What to do with matted prints that do not sell:
How I handle matted prints that have not sold: I currently have three sizes of matted prints and refer to my 11 x 14 mat size here in this example. I currently carefully take the prints out of my 11 x 14 mats that have not sold for a while. The actual image is 7 x 10.5 being printed on 8 x 12 photo paper. I then reuse the old 11 x 14 mat (top and backing board) by placing a new print image in the mat and protect it with a new 11 x 14 Clear Bag. I use archival double stick tape to hold my mats together and it is possible to just run your finger between the two parts of the old mat and separate the two pieces without harming the mat. Since the cost of the mats is more than the actual print image, I can save a lot of money by reusing my older mats that are in perfect condition.
I used to write, with a pencil, the image title on the lower left section of the mat below the image. This caused a problem in which I could not reuse the mat with a new image so I no longer do this. I now have the image title on the Bio information sheet on the back of my matted prints. I still have my signature on my mat fronts but that only limits to the image replacement to be of the same vertical or horizontal format.
What I do with my old removed prints: In this case the outside photo paper dimensions are 8 x 12 with a 7 x 10.5 image showing with a white border. I ordered some Clear Bags in the specific size of 8 x 12 and also ordered some 8 x 12 mat backing board. I simply take the Clear Bag and put in the backing board and print and seal the bag. I place these prints in a separate bin and sell them for $19.95 instead of the matted version which sells for about twice the price.
I find that this helps sell my older prints and also give the customer, on a lower budget, another price point that might work for them. You can also use this method of selling prints with no top custom cut mat and just a backing board and Clear Bag for odd sized prints such as panoramic's or just larger prints such as 16 x 20 size or larger. Some customers purchasing larger unframed prints would be interested in handling the framing themselves.
Customers photographing art at the art show:
I recently had someone ask me about customers photographing the artwork at art shows using cell phone cameras. While this was asked by a photographer, some of the same would apply to other mediums. I rarely see photographers put up a no photography sign but I do see it on other booths for painters and other mediums such as jewelry. In my opinion, the bottom line is that I think that it is rude to take a picture of someone's artwork without first asking permission.
Photographers may have concerns that the customer may want to print out a photo to place on their walls and painters, jewelers and others may feel the customer may be stealing their ideas or designs.
Many artist have their artwork on-line where anyone can copy the image, but are more concerned with people taking photos at art events.
As for cell phone cameras taking images of your artwork, here are some reasons not to worry so much.
1. The matted prints are behind plastic and framed prints are behind glass which will reflect or blur some of the image.
2. They are also usually photographing at a steep angle and not straight on or from a distance which will not give a good result for printing purposes.
Cell phones will not give most people the quality they are looking for in a "Printed" print when photographing other people's art.
A cell phone image is not usually taken to copy or steal a print in my opinion. It could be a way to just remember the moment such as one does when on vacation.
5. The people who take the photos are not your buying customers and you do not really loose any sales. At best, they are taking the image home to determine if they like the image to purchase it later.
So how do I handle this situation. Sometime my reaction is based on who the customer is and how they are taking the photo.
I generally do not do anything, but on occasion, I do ask them not to photograph the artwork mostly as an art education thing if I see them taking a second photo.
If they have a higher quality digital camera and I see them taking a photo, I may ask them to not photograph the art. One thing the artist can do is offer to email them a photograph of the art pieces they are interested in, if those art pieces are already available on a public web site.
I see some painters put up a sign on the art show walls such as "No photography". This wording would not make sense for a photographer to do, but other wording such as "Please do not photograph the artwork" may work. With a sign or not, people will on occasion photograph your artwork because they did not see your sign or do not know it is best to ask permission from the artist first.
Customers handling art roughly:
With my matted photography prints in my print bin, I see customers handle the prints very roughly. I understand that this is not a museum or inside gallery setting, but customers should treat the art with respect and not do anything to damage the work. I feel that many customers feel that the very thin plastic sheet that covers the matted prints protects it under all conditions. The customers tend to take their nails and repeatedly tap on the image area or take their nails or finger and rub up and down the image area when pointing out different image sections. I recently showed some of my matted prints to a gallery and she was leaning on the counter with her hand pushing down with her weight on it on the image areas of my matted prints and this was a gallery owner.
I am not sure why this happens so often. Years ago I put some small signs on my print racks but had no effect. Now if I see a customer really pressing hard or using their nails repeatedly on the image area, I nicely ask them to handle the prints by the sides which is the mat board area. That usually makes the point that the customer understands.
Licensing / Sales Tax:
Most cities want you to pay for a tax license even if you only do business in their town for a few days a year. This license varies per city but is in the $50 - $70 range a year. You would fill out the paperwork and send a check to the city on a monthly basis. If you have no sales for that city that month, you still need to send in the paperwork with a zeros sales number. Once you have been doing this for a year or two, the city may let you fill out the paperwork on a quarterly basis for small sales amounts.
Some cities do special arrangements with small art shows so you do not have to pay for a whole year’s license for a one-time event. Most towns have temporary event permits that cost less than a yearly license that will last the duration of the art show. If you wish to do a single show in a town, call the town and inquire about a special fair license, its costs and how long it lasts.
I would like to do a single or a few local art shows in different cities in my area but I do not find that it is worth it to do paperwork for a year and perhaps pay $50-60 a year per city in fees for doing 2 shows that may be only cost $50.00 to participate in with low sales possibilities. I feel that I need to just pick one or two cities per year and stick to shows in those areas. When I show in galleries or art exhibits in other cities, that business collect the sales tax for me and I do not need to have a city license for each of those cities. This allows me to exhibit and sell my art in a wider area without the need for multiple business or tax license's.
I do not recommend including sales tax in the price, but in States where this is allowed some artist do this.
See your tax advisor for further information.
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