Craft and art shows can be a great way to get your work into the public domain, but how do you cope with a big (or small) flop?
Disappointing sales can not only be crushing financially but emotionally too, so what can be learned and what can you do to put a positive spin on things?
I asked in the Facebook group Advice for Artists - a groups of talented and professional creatives - what advice they would give.
Firstly it would seem that this sort of experience is certainly not isolated - in fact it was pretty much shared across the board. It’s good to realise that you are certainly not alone and so there is no reason to go into a shame spiral and throw all your work out of the window.
The trick is to look at what went wrong and see what you can do differently next time.
Assuming that you had a kick ass stall, the sort that Pinterest peeps would drool over and a selection of covetable goodies to sell: should you blame the organisers for your lack of sales?
Well, it’s kind of easy to not take responsibility and use a scapegoat, but it’s good to ask whether or not you played your part. Did you promote on social media, offer to put up posters or help in any way? If the organisers were hopelessly inept, then lesson learnt: don’t do another event with them.
So what went wrong?
There are lots of factors that go into a successful or a disastrous day. It could be that your target audience simply wasn’t there, maybe there were similar things at a cheaper price point, or even that it rained and nobody showed up.
One respondent told me how a show she had planned and worked towards for months turned into a nightmare. Due to strong winds she ended up being placed indoors alongside some smelly goats where she was treated like a hindrance by the owner. The event was so bad that she actually stopped doing fairs after that.
Deciding which events to do can feel like a game of roulette and if you aren’t careful you can certainly lose money on them. Some of the ‘bigger’ events can cost a small fortune simply in the stall fee, let alone travelling expense and accommodation if you have to travel far.
So how can you tell what to do?
Artist and illustrator, Betsy Treacy Siber, advised talking to the other vendors to work out what the good shows are: “This usually means they've been around for a while and have an established audience of shoppers.”
It’s a good way to find out what shows are worth doing and it can also be useful in terms of recapping afterwards. Sometimes everyone has a bad show - other times certain stalls are real winners. It’s kinda useful to work out what is working and why.
If you can’t find the right event then create your own! Another artist suggested that you put on something in your home or local venue with a compatible artist. You can invest your money on advertising the event instead of spending your usual event fees and if you get the right people interested - you could have a really successful event.
Some artists have managed to make events work for them as their main income, whereas others balance it with freelance and licensing work. You might want to really hop on the events train, but then decide that the experience is not quite for you anyway.
The important thing is that by getting out there you are getting out there! Shop owner/maker at Heart and Soul Apothecary, Leah Quinn said : “When I first started doing shows, it was more about getting people to learn I exist - think of it as paying for fabulous exposure.”
Every event you do increases your visibility and you never know who might find you or what opportunity might come from it.
Staying positive is really important, so dust yourself off and get ready to rock your next show!