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Preparing for an Art or Craft Festival

Updated on February 05, 2017

Festivals are a Great Way to Sell Your Creations and Meet New People!

Art and craft festivals are a lot of work but worth it for the exposure you get and the great people you meet. Here is a guide to preparing for a show and having a great time.

Oh yeah, and did I mention selling your creations?

First Steps

The very first thing you have to consider when thinking about participating in a festival is "Do I have enough stuff to sell?". Booth sizes average about 10 feet x 10 feet, if you only have a couple dozen very small items it's just not enough to fill a booth (however with big items like paintings you may only need 8-12). If the answer is yes that's great! If it's no then you need to get busy making more stuff!

So you've got your merchandise now to find a festival. I suggest starting small and local. First of all you won't have to spend as much money to participate and you'll be able to invite all your friends and family for support and encouragement.

When you apply to enter a festival make sure you do it well before the deadline (you don't want to find out they've run out of spaces), pay the fee on time, and follow all the rules of the festival as to what sorts of items are allowed and how much space you have.

Check with your local government or small business administration about all taxes and permits you need before participating in a show. In some states you'll need to register with the state in order to collect sales tax, some towns may require a vendor license, and you may need to file self-employment taxes.

Being Realistic

I'm not going to lie to you, this is a lot of time and work. It's absolutely worth it and a lot of fun but still work. If you don't have the time to spend doing a great job then maybe you should consider giving festivals a pass until you know you can put the time and effort into it.

Your first few festivals you aren't likely to make much money. Be happy with breaking even. You need time to get experience running a booth and for people to get to know you. Enjoy the experience at first and then worry about making money.

Along those lines, listen to what people are saying about your work and use it as market research. I found that while my octopus jewelry sells well online to my niche audience it doesn't do as well in person because it's too weird for a lot of people, however seahorses and seashell jewelry sells much better. I also needed to make sure I had more lower priced items for impulse buys.

Finding a Festival

The first place to look for a festivals are local papers. Most states also have an Arts Commission that have event listings.

Basic Tips

Simple steps to take in setting up and running your booth.

1: Never leave your booth unattended. If you have to take a bathroom break get a friend to watch your booth or make a deal with the booth next door to watch each other's booths when you need a break.

2: Keep organized. Have one station for people to buy your work at and keep all your business stuff there. Stow empty boxes and extra merchandise out of sight.

3: Bring lots of business cards. Make sure as many people as possible who come through your booth get a business card, if you have brochures make sure they get those too. Some people just can't make up their mind the day of a show whether they want to buy something so make sure they are able to contact you later.

4: Have a Guestbook. Have visitors sign your guestbook if they want you contacting them about future shows or to be added to your mailing list.

Canopy

Never rely on the weather at an outdoor festival. Canopies are a must.

If you're participating in an outdoor festival you absolutely must have shelter of some kind. The weather is rarely reliable and you do not want to be scrambling to cover your stuff if it rains. Even if it doesn't rain you'll appreciate the shade on a hot day.

Canopies range in price from cheap $30 models up to $200-300. If you are only planning to do 2-3 shows in a summer then an inexpensive one is perfectly fine but if you're planning to do a show nearly every weekend you should really invest in a good quality canopy that is more reliable and can be taken down and put up quickly.

Safety Tips

Art festivals are far from a dangerous activity but they do take place outdoors in the summer so you should practice common sense outdoor safety.

1: Keep hydrated. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you.

2: Wear sunscreen. You probably will not spend all day under your canopy so make sure you don't get burned.

3: Watch out for the bugs. If you are doing a festival in mosquito or black fly country wear insect repellent.

4: Bring a basic first aid kit with you. You never know when you'll get a paper cut from your business cards or hammer your thumb setting up the canopy.

5: If you are on any medications, make sure you bring them. The middle of a festival is not the time to realize you need your allergy medication because there's ragweed somewhere in the park.

What Should I Wear?

Since you're going to be outside all day, often in hot weather you want to dress comfortably and casually but neatly.

DOs

Comfortable clothes

Name tag or shirt with your business name/logo

Hat and/or sunglasses

Comfy shoes

DON'Ts

Halter tops, skimpy skirts, etc.

Anything ripped or stained (the one exception is if you are doing demonstrations that are messy)

Badly fitting or high heel shoes. You will be on your feet most of the day.

Just In Case

Bring a sweater or sweatshirt and a raincoat in case it gets cool or rains. If you are doing demonstrations you might want a change of clothes.

Do I Need a Sign?

Simple answer is: Yes!

You really need some sort of sign that is visible to people walking by. It doesn't have to be expensive, plenty of places can print a vinyl banner for you fairly inexpensively or you could paint your own.

My old sign was painting on an old piece of chip board that at one time or another belonged to a piece of furniture (I think). I first primed it with a white acrylic spray primer, sponge painted with sage green acrylic, then painted the rest in shades of green and purple. I display it on a cheap wooden easel I bought for about $8.

I now have a vinyl sign that cost about $25 to have printed for me.



Creating a Great Display

Your display can make or break your festival experience.

Your display presents your creations to the world so you want it to look it's best. there are some very simple rules to follow in creating a display.

1: Keep it neat. You don't want your customers to be digging through piles of stuff, keep it organized so they can find what they need easily.

2: Use varying heights. To make your display more visually interesting display some items higher than others. If possible hang some of your items. You can buy acrylic or wooden risers, build them yourself out of wood, use found objects like wooden boxes, or even sturdy cardboard boxes covered with pretty fabric.

3: Color coordinate. Group similar colors together and when choosing colors for your table cloths make sure they don't clash with your projects. Nuetral colors are always good, my creations feature lots of blues and greens so I use table cloths in those colors.

4: Bring extras. Bring more items than you plan to display, that way when some sell you can fill in the bare spots.

Visualize this scenario: There are two booth at a festival side by side selling jewelry. Both artisans can beautiful work. One puts purchases in a plastic zip bag with the receipt and the other puts purchases in a nice gift bag with the receipt, a business card, and care instructions for the jewelry.

Which would you buy?

How you present your products and how you package them for your customers can mean the difference between a few sales and a lot.

Interview Video

Tips and Tricks to Make your Booth Special

Chances are the festival has dozens of booths to tempt visitors. You need to make yours stand out from the crowd.

1: If you sell jewelry or other wearable items always have a mirror available so customer can see how your jewelry looks on them.

2: Consider working on some small projects while at the show. People love to see how stuff is made. Just make sure it's something easily put down when a customer wants to buy something.

3: Wear a name tag. You're creative, make it pretty but let people know who you are and what creatiosn you're responsible for.

4: If possible wear your creations. If you create jewelry or clothing this is easy, if not consider having shirts printed with photos of your work. I created screenprinted Noadi's Art t-shirts with the silhouette of one of my sculptures on it.

Pen a Message - Leave your comments or questions here.

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    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 8 years ago

      Very nice lens! You've got great tips even for people not selling arts or crafts, but other things too. :) 5*

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 8 years ago from London

      Excellent lens - very helpful - I'm giving you 5*

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Excellent lens! 5 Stars and a Squid Angel Blessing!

    • funwithtrains lm profile image

      funwithtrains lm 8 years ago

      Nicely done!

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 8 years ago

      Great tips, picking the right show is the most difficult.

    • profile image

      jetleg 8 years ago

      This is great....I am doing a free art festival for a local hospital and I was kind of at a loss as to what to do.

      Thanks for sharing...

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thanks for using pictures of my display!

    • profile image

      RichardPT 8 years ago

      Great info. I used to do shows and I am considering picking this up again. I will use your tips in this lens. Thanks! **Make Your Own Jigsaw Puzzle**

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 8 years ago

      This is a great introduction to craft fairs! I've been a member on a pretty serious crafting forum for a lomg time, and although this question always comes up, no one ever covers it this well! Thanks for all the great tips! *****

    • profile image

      ashleymia 8 years ago

      Nice lens. I am agree with you. Festivals make your creations open to all the people. 5*s.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      You're officially blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I love going to an Art Festival and meet different kind of artist. Wonderful lens Sheryl.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I just can't get enough of your wonderful lenses. They're all so helpful!

      - Candice of Artsy * Tartsy * Jewels

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I am featuring this lens on my Spring Jubilee lens. Thank you.

    • melmail44 profile image

      melmail44 8 years ago

      Thanks for all the great information. Very organized and helpful. I'll definitely come back and use this info again!

    • profile image

      Mtodd 7 years ago

      I'm an arts & crafts festival participant and you've got really good info here. It is a lot of work, and I usually wonder why I'm doing it while I'm getting ready, but then I have a great time at the festival and I'm ready to do it again. I'm going to be sure to come back and read this before the next one. Thanks

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 7 years ago

      Great information here - the only thing I can add is to be sure that you have something with which to anchor your tent. I learned this the hard way when my donut tent nearly became a kite on a very windy day. Milk jugs filled with water work well, and I've seen people use coffee cans filled with cement or sand, and in a pinch, I saw somebody use duct tape and 20 lb bags of kitty litter.

      You can also use tent pegs if you're setting up someplace that will allow you to pound them in. However, if you use tent pegs, be sure you have a carpenter's hammer and not just a ball peen hammer. I drove our tent pegs in at one festival up in Oregon, and didn't realize I'd pounded the peg into a tree root. Being far from home on a Sunday in a very small town without a toolbox, we like to never got our tent down because of that darned peg in the root. My family will NEVER let me live that one down.

      Great lens! 5*

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 7 years ago from Maine

      [in reply to CCGAL] Absolutely. I took four old 10lb weights from my brother's weightlifting set that I use to keep my canopy down.

    • profile image

      LeftHandMan 7 years ago

      It’s a gypsy’s life. I did it for several years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I sold a lot of my collages and met a lot of wonderful people. Your lens give good advice to anyone thinking of taking on the road.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is another excellent lens. Great tips and helpful links. Blessings to you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice job here. We have many art and craft festivals here in Flagstaff during the summer, but I've never participated. I'm one of those who never has enough to sell. Working on that, though, so maybe I'll eventually give one a try. Thanks for the information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I am thinking of selling my collages but don't know how to display them. Since the walls of the tent are fabric, how did you exhibit your work?

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 7 years ago from Maine

      [in reply to Rosebud] My items are all sculpture or jewelry which is displayed on tables. You could get some tabletop or standing easels to display your collages or you could also build a display wall. I saw a nice one at a show that was 3 door sized rectangles of 2x4s with wood lattice over them painted white and connected by hinges so it looked like a big folding screen. I've also seen them made from old doors as well (probably cheaper if you have access to some old doors but a lot heavier).

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Back again to this very helpful lens and hope you will add it to my new festivals lens. Thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      hello... i am a latest artist i have a coming arts & craft show in my town Albuquerque but i don't have a formal stand for display all i have is table. where we can buy that stand for my matted prints & to hang the original framed? please help me. i love to hear from your wonderful tips. thank you very much...

    • profile image

      mgaines 7 years ago

      This really gave me some awesome ideas for next year to sell some of my crafty items. Thanks for sharing this info.

    • Surfie LM profile image

      Surfie LM 7 years ago

      Great lens! I would LOVE to be able to do this someday. This lens will be very helpful for making that happen.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 7 years ago

      Very helpful lens! There are a couple of creations that I would really like to share to the public but I always hesitate because I have no idea how to get started.

      This lens really helped me. Thanks so much. Hope you could visit my lenses as well.

    • profile image

      ArtsyShark 7 years ago

      Enjoyed your article - good basics. I'd add one important suggestion - SMILE!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      when preparing for the amount of business cards you should bring, is there a math mathematical solution for this. IE - if they are expecting 10,000 how many cards should you bring?

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 7 years ago from Maine

      @anonymous: That's a very good question. I don't know.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      My pet peeve: no prices on items. I cannot buy it if I do not know what it costs. If not on each item, at least a prominent sign. Good luck with your show carreer.

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 7 years ago from Maine

      @anonymous: I totally agree. No one wants to ask what the price is. You're going to get more sales if everything is very clear.

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 7 years ago

      Good thoughts and a good lens. I planned a craft show last year at my church. Lots of work!!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 6 years ago from Australia

      Wow! What a fabulous lot of tips!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 6 years ago

      Great tips. Nicely done. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 6 years ago from PA

      I'm looking into start doing this with photography, so thank you for the valuable information!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great post, I'm bookmarking it for future reference for my next event!

    • MTLwordsmith profile image

      MTLwordsmith 6 years ago

      This is fabulous! Really comprehensive, thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Any thoughts on if the canvas should be framed if you're doing paintings and getting ready for a first show?

    • turner-bob profile image

      turner-bob 6 years ago

      great lens!!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      A well put together mine of information. Thanks you for such a good read.

      I have just posted a lens (http://www.squidoo.com/display-board) which describes an inexpensive display stand which was designed and built by the art group I belong to. If anyone is interested in somwhere to hang 2-D art or smaller items for display, it may be worth a peek

    • profile image

      ArtFestival 6 years ago

      Nice post!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi there,

      I create ceramic pieces and I was wondering where I could buy things to display them. I recently have been using boxes so they're on different levels but they're not very professional and I would like to find some clear plastic stands. Does anyone know where I can get something like this or a shop for this kind of thing - if you have any other ideas of how I can display my peices it'd be great to hear them.

      thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am in need of a canopy but do not want to spend so much money. Where can I find one more towards $40?

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 6 years ago from Maine

      @anonymous: Amazon has some acrylic risers that you can get here http://amzn.to/eJamQU you can also find them on Ebay and at some office stores.

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 6 years ago from Maine

      @anonymous: You can find cheap canopies at Walmart and most home and garden stores. You can find some around $40, my first canopy cost around that but I will warn you that for that price they tend to be very flimsy and hard to set up. Mine only lasted about 3 shows before it was ruined by a heavy rain. I would suggest going a step up to the Easy Up knockoffs that are about $80-$90, it's really worth it to get something sturdier that will last you several years.

    • profile image

      purpleslug 5 years ago

      Wonderful info and thanks so much! I have been in a few shows, but gave up because, like you said, it is a lot of work and I would only break even. You said that is how it is in the beginning, so guess I need to stick with it. Again, thanks so much for the great info.

    • Retro Loco profile image

      Vicki 5 years ago from USA

      This is an awesome lens on how to prepare for an art or craft festival. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing all your great tips! I can't wait for my first show, but I've got a while before I reach that point. I am bookmarking this lens and some other lenses of yours for reference. You covered a lot of different aspects of art festivals. You rock!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      There's only so much you can sell on eBay. I love shows, but the work is formidable. This wonderful lens is sooooo helpful. Thanks for all the great info.

    • studyaids profile image

      Steve Jones 5 years ago from Birmingham UK

      A very good lense indeed. Well done.

    • StefanieJapel profile image

      StefanieJapel 5 years ago

      Great information on getting ready for craft fairs! Thanks for compiling all of this! :)

    • profile image

      Bellwood-Antiques 5 years ago

      We do shows once and a while, we have an antique shop also. Your information is very helpful, with some good tricks. Thanks for the great lens

    • Genjud profile image

      Genjud 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens. I have done hundreds of festivals and crafts shows. You have covered the subject very thoroughly. The best idea is to have a niche and provide something unique. My husband and I worked for over 12 years doing shows to sell our products. We were able to support our family of 7 the whole time.

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 5 years ago

      add a local music element to art and craft festival to strengthen community outreach. can discuss more. great topic ! Thanks.

    • profile image

      jtbmetaldesigns 5 years ago

      I really would like to get out there and do this but I just do not have the time right now.

    • profile image

      bradhughes 5 years ago

      Interesting! Events like this is a big opportunity for a business to stand out and reach out to people with same interest.

    • bames24 lm profile image

      bames24 lm 5 years ago

      would really love to enjoy the event ... maybe the next time it happens :)

    • Richardryder profile image

      Risteard O'Marcahain 5 years ago from Wales

      I love your lens TY

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Enjoyed my visit on your article about arts and crafts.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      Very helpful and nicely done lens! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It was very helpful, thank you for sharing!

    • profile image

      SimplyTonjia 5 years ago

      Great information. Thank you.

    • TheWhimsicalPea profile image

      TheWhimsicalPea 5 years ago

      So informative, I have enjoyed each and every lens of your I've read, you've got a fan!

    • ChrisShaefer profile image

      ChrisShaefer 5 years ago

      This is an excellent lens, thank you for the hard work and effort you put into this.

      I always love an informative publication that has some substance.

      I have a few coffee articles of my own. Please stop by and share a little love.

      Thanks again, 2 thumbs up and a LIKE for you!

      Shaefercd

    • profile image

      SeaglassReinvented 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for the tips on setting up at a craft show!

    • profile image

      GreenGiraffe 5 years ago

      This was great! Thank you!

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 5 years ago

      Like festival with music add on when possible. Appreciating your topic. Congrads on Squidoo level 60. Conversations helps with deeper insights. Thanks.

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 4 years ago

      I do craft shows & festivals on a regular basis (especially during this time of year!) and this is a very thorough and informative list for someone who wants to get into it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm just getting started looking at craft shows. Thanks for the great info!

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 4 years ago

      10 top art and craft festivals and traveling exhibitions by region possible ? May be another lense on this topic in future. Congrads on your Squidoo level 61. Thanks. Looking for art and craft festival+ music for my region here at Metro DC area now.

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 4 years ago from Maine

      @waldenthreenet: That would be a pretty big project and really difficult to do for areas outside of where I live. I'd have a hard enough time just doing the Top 10 in Maine. It's certainly a great idea I just don't think it's doable as one person, you would need a team from each region working together to do it.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Art festivals are always fun.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm working on items for my 1st craft show. How do you estimate how many of each item to make? I do a lot of vinyl lettering projects, on tiles, class, ornaments, plates, platters, etc. I'm just not sure how many of each one to prepare... any suggestions is appreciated.

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 4 years ago from Maine

      @anonymous: Your best bet is to reach out to some crafters who have worked that show in the past and ask them what sort of sales they got. If it's a big busy show then you want to have more than a smaller show. For a bare minimum figure out how much will fill your display space nicely (do a test run at home, you don't want to start setting up at a show and realize your space looks half empty) then take at least a few extra of every product type so that you can fill in the empty spots as things sell.

    • articents lm profile image

      articents lm 4 years ago

      Don't forget to display your website address and include it on your business cards for your customers. If they don't buy that day, it doesn't mean that they won't buy tomorrow or next week or pass it onto someone else who will.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Nice lens. Lots of good information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      What do you do when another crafter steals your ideas? I often show with the same promoter and find other people are buying my items and duplicate them...frustrating!

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 3 years ago from Maine

      @anonymous: Honestly there isn't much you can do unless you are willing to take the copycats to court (and even then most crafts aren't covered by copyright if they are considered 'functional' rather than 'artistic' like clothing). It's either risk people copying you or never sell anything which isn't exactly good for business. I wish that wasn't the case.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      "Setting Up a Craft Booth - Craftbits.com Craft Article" link leads to a missing page :(

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      "Setting Up a Craft Booth - Craftbits.com Craft Article" link leads to a missing page :(

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      "Preparing for Arts & Craft Shows - Indiepublic" website is down so that link doesn't work either :(

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