Friday, January 4, 2013

Geographically Challenged

It's that time again... show application season!  For those of us who do a more seasonal take on art fairs all of the applications for spring/summer/fall seem to be due between December and March.  I have a new booth photo, my background arrived today to take my jury pictures and now I have to decide where to apply.

As one of the artists who sadly lives a double life and works full time my travel is more limited for art fairs.  I only have 30 days per year that I can skip work without a problem (and I've paid my dues to get that much) so I can't easily do the extended travel stretches that many do, stringing several weekends together in a row.  Ideally I would only do shows within 90 minutes of my house so I have the option to go home at night.  Unfortunately I live in one of the most over saturated art fair markets in the country.  Across the 26 weeks that I consider "show season" there are over 50 shows on my radar within that 90 minute radius of my house, and many more that I don't even consider applying to.   There are 5 on one particular weekend!  Artists are actually starting to refuse to come to Chicago because they buyers are so spread out among these shows that there is not enough return on a single show.

I am finally conceding that I need to consider the option of overnight travel.  I usually take the Friday before a show off to get ready and set up whenever possible and it is time to make better use of that day.  This year is going to be an experiment, I am going to try for shows within a 6 hour drive of my house.  6 hours is my guess at the limit that I can drive and still be able to set up on the same day, I do not want to lose two precious vacation days for any show besides OOAK.

This doesn't add nearly as many shows as I thought it would, a surprising thought at first until I realized that this is exactly the point.  In markets that are not over saturated there are not as many options!  This implies a buying public that only has limited opportunities to buy directly from artists so they should buy more at each show.
Time to consider the additional costs - primarily hotel and additional gas, assuming my 10 year old vehicle can make the trips.  I'm going to eat no matter where my show is.  I calculate an additional $250 for vehicle (using standard mileage rates) and an additional $150 for hotel.  So the big question is can I make an extra $400 to cover it?  My goal is to trade the distance for at least an additional  $1000 in sales per show.  Take out cost of materials and I'm still in the black on this adventure.


My goal will be 5 shows in my normal range and 3 shows outside my normal range.  Seen another way, I'm going to gamble an extra $1200 on show costs this year to see if there are more customers to be found on the road.

Let the applications begin!

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