Monday, January 21, 2013

The Art of the Educated Guess

Setting up an art fair scheduled should be referred to as  "The Art of the Educated Guess".  You have to decide which shows to apply to.  You have to decide which images to send.  Once you have your acceptances you have to decide which shows to actually participate in.  Each of these decisions is based on so many factors that you can never have enough information about that they are really guesses, hopefully the educated type.

Guess 1 - Where do I apply?

Each application costs money, so you can't just apply to every show that hits your radar.  I have broadened my travel area for the year so my list of potential shows has grown to more than 90!  I have spent hours reading reviews, considering driving distances, looking for potential friends and family members to stay with, considering costs, demographics and just plain guessing.  I am still a part time artist and I am looking at $600 in jury fees (20 shows), hoping to get 8 - 10 shows that I am happy to be at.  After weeks of banging my head on the wall I have  narrowed it down to 20 something to apply to and now I need to get my images together. 

Guess 2 - What images to use?

My booth has evolved nicely over the last several years and I have a booth photo that I'm really proud of:
But what to do about photos of the actual artwork?  I can use last year's photos, but my work continues to evolve and that doesn't seem quite right.  So it's time to go through my current inventory and pick a few pieces, get my camera set back for glass photos, and go!

The trickiest part of taking photos for higher end show applications is that while my instinct is to show off  all styles that I am working in, your photos are supposed to be a "coherent story".  I don't know who made these rules up all those years ago, but apparently artists are not supposed to have any diversity in what they create, and if they do they can't show it off.

In the past several years I have become more focused and work in 4 basic styles now. I can even break the styles into two families, but how do I choose for my jury pictures?  The 4 pictures shown here are NOT a coherent story.

On top of trying to make the photos work together, many shows only want 3 images of your work, none want more than 4. 

Ultimately the biggest irony related to jury photos is that tools like Photoshop have changed the game.  There are people out there who will take your mediocre image and get it jury read (for a fee).   Some are even generous to give you great advice on the phone without a fee (thank you Larry!).  So are we being measured in artwork or Photoshop skills?   Ultimately I hold out hope that without a good item to photograph you can never get an image that gets you into the top shows.  Cynically I fear this is not true.

So what images will I use this year?  If I had enough money to play games with it I would consider sending two different applications to the same show.  One application would have my floral pieces and the other would have my quilts.  Would one get in and not the other?  Would both get in?  Would neither get in?  Hard to say and I can't afford that game.  I do love my floral pieces, when I am in the right mood making them is the best feeling, but my quilt pieces are more unique and ultimately make for more interesting photos.  So now I have to narrow it down from 9 images to 3 or 4 depending on the show.  Here are the images I am considering using:

Guess 3 - Which shows to participate in?

I try to balance my show schedule against my world.  I try not to do more than 2 shows in a row.  If all the show acceptances and booth fees had the same timing this would be a difficult dilemma.  Unfortunately the timing is different for every show so that makes it closer to impossible.  I might have been accepted to my second choice and have to pay for the booth before I hear from my first choice!

In the end I have created a few rules to protect myself from the worst scenarios.
  • I do NOT apply to shows that require non-refundable booth payment with application.  I would like to keep my flexibility until show season is a little closer.  
  • I do not apply to shows with "rolling juries".   I am concerned that the standard goes down as we get closer to the show date.
  • If a show doesn't allow setup the day before the show starts I look at logistics before I apply.  There are shows with Saturday morning setup that close at 10pm on Saturday.  There needs to be a very good reason for me to put myself through that.
Now that I have done all my prepping it's time to start sending in my applications.  I'll keep blogging as the process goes on.  Wish me luck!!!

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