A Year of Art Markets

A Year of Art Markets

This year I specifically focused on doing art markets. Here are some of my learnings from participating in 12 art markets in 2022. It was a growing year and I learned so much from these markets.

1. Scout out the market before signing up

If you've never participated in an art market before as a vendor, I highly recommend going to the art market you are planning on attending to see what's it like. You can scout out who's selling there; will there be other vendors who have similar work; what are the clientele vibes; what's the venue like (indoors, outdoors, layout, etc.).

Sometimes it's not likely to do this because some markets only do a few times a year and you want to start right away! If that's the case, I would scout out their Instagram page for prior events, saved stories, and websites to see how much engagement they have, how many followers, and who are some of the prior vendors. 

I have definitely attended markets where I realized either the venue is not right, the traffic was not enough, or the clientele was not my type of customers (e.g., they were more looking to find bargains, or vintage, non-handcrafted items).

Of course, everyone's targeted audiences are different. Maybe you do need a different set of audience than mine so definitely tailor the requirements to your own market/location/experience/medium!

2. Budget your market display spending 

One of the biggest items I'd like to discuss is how much money you should spend on purchasing displays.

It is definitely ESSENTIAL to get the right display item and stand out, but don't buy the next beautiful display on Amazon without first figure out your table layout, spaces, and type of display you need. For example, I bought some acrylic step displays for my ceramic mugs, and I realized later on that most of my pieces are too big to fit onto the shelves. I still made it work, but I wish I had measured my work prior to purchasing the display shelves.

If you don't know where to start, then start with basic wooden crates. They are great to carry your art work in, in neutral color, and also provide a height to boost your art work to customers' eye level. 

If your artwork is different from ceramics, maybe glass or stationaries, it might be worth it to use Pinterest to search for some art market displays such as this and this.

3. Keep track of your market expenses and revenues

Time is not a renewable resource, and if you'd like to scale up in your business, spending hours in unproductive markets is not going to help anyone. In order to figure out objectively which market is better, you should track the income & expenses of each market.

I find, in the art community, one of the less discussed topics are money. I am a CPA by trade so I took it upon myself to help my artsy friends to be a little more financially independent on their own. One of the things to become more financially aware is to keep track your market revenues and expenses. 

I will make a separate post about inventory tracking and calculating profits, but one of the easier way to keep track is just to write it down. I have a little notebook with me during markets and I write down how much I paid for the market booth, and how much I made that day. At the end of the year, I can look back and evaluate which markets I'd like to do again next year, and which ones I'd like to eliminate.

Towards end of this year, I switched my card reader from Square to Shopify because my website is with Shopify, I can easily track & update inventory while I am at the markets. So if you are just setting up your art business, getting the card reader that goes with your website might be one of the things to consider!

 

4. Bring enough pieces to fill the table x2

I get asked a lot how many pieces of ceramics I bring to markets. Ideally, I'd like to bring two-table worth of ceramics. For me, that is about 45 - 50 pieces.

Have I done markets with less than that? Yes. Was it ideal? No. When my table start to look sparse, people stop buying my pieces. You need the appearance of abundance for the sales to keep turning. 

 

5. Have a variety of price points for your table

When you have multiple price points, it's more likely you will get more sales. Sometimes people come to your booth and they love your work, but they won't necessarily want to spend a lot of money. So it would be great to have some stickers or fridge magnets for $3 - 10 range. Here's a list of items and their price ranges for my markets.

  • stickers $3
  • magnets $10
  • small espresso mugs $25
  • medium coffee mugs $35
  • large coffee mugs $45
  • decorative mugs $55
  • complex decorative mugs $65
As you can see, I have multiple ranges of prices, and in the future I'd like to tailor the inventory to the markets I go to. So for example, if I am going to a market with more of a mixed clientele, I can bring more lower & mid range priced items instead of the higher price items. If I am going to a popular art market, or a convention, I might bring more complex mugs to show my range of work.

 

6. Always arrive at the earliest to set up

This is just a good habit to have. Better be there early to be prepared for any unforeseeable situations.

I have arrived early at venues and found out I forgot my signs and table risers, and I had to run home to retrieve them. But thankfully I made it back in time. 

Getting to the venue early is just another way of saying being prepared. It's always nice to be prepared and able to flex with the changes than having a hectic morning that ruins your day!

 

7. Bring a buddy

If you have a friend who'd be doing this with you, it would be great to bring and you guys can hang out when the traffic is slow, or split duties of taking payments and packing products! It also helps when someone else is at your booth to talk you up if you are like me who is not good at self-advertising.

 

Ultimately, you won't know what your preferences are until you try a few markets. I'd consider these costs to be necessary to start in the field. Take these tips with a grain of salt and tailor them towards your own needs/preferences. 

Any questions? Feel free to comment below.

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