Are you planning to get into better art and craft fairs? Thinking of entering the wholesale marketplace? Here are strategies to help you make the grade.
When jurying applicants, wholesale trade show staff members are looking for distinctive work that is professional and “retail ready.” They have to accept exhibitors whose work will sell to gallery buyers and retailers – who in turn must select merchandise that appeals to their customers.
“There are so many types of stores, that we can’t pigeonhole them. We need all different kinds of looks to cater to the many different kinds of buyers,” says Allison Muschel of the Buyers Market of American Craft.
Does your collection suit a museum store? An upscale gallery specializing in fine furniture? A trendy boutique? These retailers and many more are represented in the crowds of buyers always seeking “what’s new.” This means that artists making the move into wholesale must differentiate themselves, with a collection that makes the viewer say, “Wow!”
Outstanding images for submission are a must. Don’t scrimp here, because your competition is knocking the jurors’ socks off. “Glamour shots” using professional models are typical for artists who create wearables. Grouping images of work that have similar lighting, tell a story, and work together colorwise all help to make your submission memorable. And that is important, because often there are so many applicants that each artist gets only a few seconds to impress.
Booth shots are often required, and they can make or break a submission. Professionally shot booth photos should be taken. Quite often, several artists will split the cost of the photographer at a show. Make sure your booth is beautifully merchandised and perfectly lit.
The more professionally you present your work, your booth and everything about your business, including a carefully completed application, the more seriously you will be taken. Get materials ready as early as possible, and double check everything before you send it in.
Connie Mettler, founder of Art Fair Insiders, concurs with the careful submission process as far as getting into retail art and craft fairs. She is passionate about artists and craftspeople succeeding in business, and urges anyone looking to get into better shows to take the time and effort to fill the application out accurately and in detail. “This is your chance to sell yourself,” she says, “Make it as complete as possible, and try to differentiate yourself. Sometimes when asked for an artist statement, applicants write ‘see my website.’ That is not acceptable.”
Mettler mentions that many show promoters love getting early applications. They need to fill their shows, and appreciate those artists who submit promptly and completely. It doesn’t guarantee acceptance, but she asks “Why not get every advantage in your favor? Show juries can be cutthroat. If you have high hopes, you must scrutinize everything, and get in there early.”
She also feels that if your images are shown early on, the jury is fresher, and not yet overwhelmed by looking at too many images. That may work in your favor.
She suggests presenting yourself as if you are totally ready to be in the show. Do some research first on the show website. Which artists exhibited there last year? What do their images look like on their own sites? This is your competition, and it sets the bar. Use that quality to know how well you must present your work. Your job is to submit such an impressive package that you are a “must-have” for the show.
She also urges artists to apply in the correct category. For example, many shows require separate applications if jewelry is to be sold in a booth in addition to other work in the same medium.
You must exhibit the type of work that is shown in your application and gets you juried into the event, but use good judgment in selecting “showpieces” that highlight your abilities and your skill.
We highly recommend the CD “Your Slides and The Jury” by ABI faculty member Bruce Baker. This helpful resource is packed with great information on how to get the advantage when submitting your art or craft work to a jury. Click here to get to our CDs and Books page, and scroll down for more information on this product.