View Full Version : Experiences with Festivals

09-08-2004, 06:23 PM
Hello all,

I've been making jewelry for a while, and have recently had some long awaited success in selling! My jewelry is now being carried in one store in Highlands, North Carolina, and I'm excited about approaching other stores when I can build up some more inventory to show them. However, I've also been researching festivals, and I've wondered what sort of experiences and level of success you've had with festivals, art fairs, etc?

What price range does best at festivals? How fancy does your display have to be for people to pay attention to you? Does a large number of people always mean you'll get more business? (I've found one festival that has around 15,000 people come each year, with a relatively small booth fee... is it too good to be true?) Help!


09-08-2004, 06:39 PM
Oh Boy. First, jewelry is probably the most competitive category. While you may have an easy time getting into non-jurried shows the money you make at them will be a direct reflection. This is certainly a great way to get your feet wet. But, be forewarned, you will have to be good, fresh and exciting in your designs as well as an excellent business person in order to be successful at selling your jewelry through festivals and art shows.
I suggest you try a few local non-juried shows to see if the whole show process is one that you like.

09-08-2004, 06:49 PM
I don't mean juried shows, although I might aim for that in the future. I was thinking more like "Podunkville Apple Festival" or something like that.



09-08-2004, 09:15 PM
I've done Podunkville Apple Festival, and unless you want to sell lots and lots of things for under $20, don't bother. People at those things are cheap!


09-08-2004, 09:48 PM
I think it really depends on the show.

I do a local, downtown garden faire and art walk show, $25 booth fee. I've participated in the last two years, did just under a grand at the last one. Considering the venue I don't think there's anything to complain about. Since it's in my home town I feel a little more loyal to this one that perhaps some of the other shows around. I've also developed a nice reputation and a band of followers as a result of this show. I have a "groupie" that comes to almost all of my local shows now, she found me the first year I did this show. She purchases several pieces almost everytime she sees me and often brings a friend.

I have also done a small church holiday show, same town, only a few blocks from the location of the garden show. Considering the crowds were thin I didn't do too bad, BUT I think my display and my work intimidated most shoppers there. I was the only one with lights, accepting credit cards and dressed in something other than jeans! Some of the work at this show was worthy of a childrens craft bazzare rather than a quality craft show. I definately will not be doing this one again.

It also depends greatly upon what you have to offer. Anyone who's done serious work in the retail world will tell you that you should offer high and low end prices as well as some in the middle. Yes, I do sell more low end pieces than I do high end. But selling one high end can make my day. I did a juried show at the shore in June. I was placed next to a fine jeweler who worked in silver, semi precious stones and beautiful dichro cabs. I loved her work. I don't think she'll do the show again as she sold very little. Her lowest price point was around $45 and then her prices went up from there. My prices start at $10 and go up. I had a phenominal show! Yes, I did sell some pieces for over $100, but the bulk of my sales were items priced around $20-$25. It's a lovely show, great location on the water, but most people don't come to the beach looking to drop a ton of money at an art show, my work and my prices fell into their "vacation budget" and a few purchased items as early Christmas gifts.

So, frankly, juried shows and un juried shows can be great or really stinky! I recommend scoping them out this year and deciding if your work would fit in for next year if you're not sure. If it's a local gig that doesn't cost a lot of money and doesn't require you to spend travel money it might be worth the risk to just do it. If it doesn't go well, write it off as a learning experience. Everytime you set up your booth and display you get better at it and it gives you the chance to work out the bugs in your system. It also gives you a chance to see how people react to your work and eaves drop on their comments about your work.

Best of Luck!


09-08-2004, 09:51 PM
Hi Cecilia,
Congratulations on your recent success! I'm sure you will receive more responses from additional members experienced in this area. I am not one of those with experience but I am interested to hear from others too since I'm dipping my toes into the water as well.

What I do recall hearing time and again is don't bother with the "Podunkville Apple Festivals." You won't find people willing to pay what you're worth. The festival with 15,000 shoppers and small booth fee sounds promising, but check out what other artists will be there (who will be your competition). Good luck!

09-10-2004, 04:13 PM
Thank you all so much for your info! I'm mostly hearing that it is possible to do well with festivals and stuff, but you have to have lots of inexpensive stuff rather than your really nice (and expensive pieces)... is that right?

See, my thing is that right now, I haven't sold enough to feel good about spending more money on supplies, but I'm not sure how much finished work you need to really impress a store owner either. I'd really like to work on getting my pieces into some more exclusive shops. I don't have enough experience or nice enough work quite yet to even think about juried shows, although it sounds like IF I could get into one, I might have more success.

Help! I'm so confused, and you all know what you're doing! Help!


09-10-2004, 05:15 PM
...you all know what you're doing! Help!:-D

Don't be fooled! Some of us are still flying by the seat of our pants, we just know how to "carry a clipboard and look important" :evil:

I think inventory is all a state of mind. I'm one of those people that makes a ton of stuff and takes a ton to every show. BUT I've seen people set up beautiful displays with maybe 10 drop dead gorgeous peices. If you display each piece well and give them presence I don't think you'll have a problem.

I highly reccomend going to various shows to see what other people do. You can always ask them, I did that at a very nice show in our area. I just let people know that I was just getting started and they happily gave me some pointers. Just be very aware of their customers, don't interfere with their business while you're doing your research.

As far as stores go, I've made contacts by simply wandering in, wearing some of my own work and carrying my portfolio that has photos of almost everything I've ever made. Then they can tell me what they are interested in carrying and in what colors. The other option would be to put together a small collection (5-10 pieces) that sell the best and take those in. I reccomend making an appointment so that they have time to sit down with you. Maybe make a "cold call" to make the first contact and then set up an appointment.

Hope that's helpful.