Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lessons learned at the Art Festival

Unsure whether or not you are ready for the big time? Volunteer for a show and find out! Today that's just what I did.

My little town has an amazing Art and Craft festival, with over 250 booths. It's juried and very competitive and I've always been too intimidated to apply. Nor did I feel my craft or display was up to par. This year I thought it might be fun to get involved as a volunteer. My original intent was to get my name out around the city as a volunteer with museum/docent experience and to help with the fine art exhibit portion of the festival.
As it happened, they already had enough volunteers for the gallery and so today I was a booth sitter. This was the perfect choice! As a booth sitter I gave 20 minute breaks to the artists and man the booth. I didn't get to "play store" in just one booth but a dozen! There is no better way to research anything Craft Show related!
I got to see all the booth displays - the innie vs the outie table set up, canopy types, ventilation solutions (the barrel-roofed canopies have windows!), all manner of display tricks (fresh fruit and vegetables in vases instead of just flowers), flooring types, how to attractively hide canopy weights, kinds of anti-fatigue mats, how different items stand up to a stiff breeze.
Some had their booths crammed full but still had good flow, others had a few small items but displayed in such a manner that it filled the booth. Some artists left their cash so I could make sales in their absence and some didn't. I got to see several different ways artists keep track of sales and inventory. How they organized their back stock, bags and packaging materials.
After I finished my shift I was able to chat with the festival committee about possibly applying as an artist for next year's show. They were so helpful! They gave me tips, let me know when the application for next year was available (apply in January for an August show! wow.) and even showed me some of the photos from the artists' applications.(You only get 3 shots, 2 of product and 1 of booth). Good photos are KEY. They also explained how the wait list works - shows often have a short wait list of artists who didn't make the cut but who can be available on a moment's notice should there be a no-show. Sort of a runner's up list.
Had I been more prepared I would have taken more notes! But all in all it was an invaluable experience and I got see first hand the caliber of talent I'll have to compete with to get in and be peers with if I do!
I highly recommend if you ever get the chance to do this, take it! You also get a feel for the way the show is promoted and organized as well as all the rest and it's the best crash course you'll ever get!