Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Deal of the Art

I spend a lot of time interacting with other artists via the internet.  We pass information about good and bad shows, good and bad promoters, good and bad restaurants at shows etc...  And sometimes we get collectively enraged.  Last week one of these artists pointed out a news item that implied a promoter was going to "teach" art patrons how to "negotiate a price" on art.  The number of posts, rants and opinions that was generated in 24 hours was immense.  This is a topic that pretty much every artist agrees on:
Negotiation should not be considered standard practice at an art fair!

The wonderful people who attend art fairs and consider buying the artwork they see should be aware of the following things before they question a price:
  • We pay to apply to be in an art fair (usually $20- $50), and then if we are accepted we pay for our space (typically $200 - 500... but it can be significantly more) 
  • We supply our own tents, displays, labor, transportation, room and board.  So by the time we open up on the first day of the show we are already in the hole, usually $500 - $2000.
  • All of the work we bring to the show is hand made by us!  We have costs sunk into supplies, tools, classes, scrap and most importantly our time. 
  • Our prices are set based on the cost of materials and the amount of time and resources required to create the art.  These are not random prices that we hope you are willing to pay so we can rake in the cash, they are prices that are based on what the value of the work is.
  • We are at the mercy of the weather, the economy and many other things outside of our control (try doing a show in Green Bay during a packers game!).  If there is a storm and we are told to vacate the show for safety reasons we do not get a refund.  
  • Most of the artists you meet do this as their full time profession.  The income generated over these weekends is used to pay mortgages, food bills, doctor bills, tuition bills, utilities....  For many this is the only source of income. 
If you have read my other posts you probably realize that I am in the unusual situation of being a part time artist with a full time job.  I participate in one third to one half  as many shows as most full time artists and I don't travel nearly as far as they do.    Even so  for 2013 I will be doing 12 shows, translating to 27 show days, with 4 hours of setup and 2 hours of teardown per show.  I am travelling for 4 of these shows so that adds 8 travel days.

In my last post I described the math that I use to figure out what it takes to break even and then how the profit is calculated for a single, local show.   Now scale that up and think about what I need to sell to have any profit on the year!  When I set my prices I do charge for labor involved in creating the piece, but not for the time I spend at the shows, so my version of profit is how I pay myself for the time spent driving, setting up, tearing down and selling.

Please understand that I am not writing these posts to host a pity party for what an investment of time and money it is to be an art fair artist.  I am just trying to educate the art fair patrons so that they will value our work appropriately.  I don't do this to get rich, I do this because I love it.  

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