Selling Art: Lessons Learned

I did it! I sold art. In public even.

I did it! I sold art. In public even.

So Labor Day weekend, I was selling art at a fair. For the first time ever. I am not generally a nervous person by nature, but I do spend a fair amount of time thinking about and sometimes over-thinking details. And naturally, I thought about all the things that could go wrong. But nothing went wrong. It was actually a perfect day. And even better, I learned a few things.

My obsessive list-making is good. I consulted with an artist friend and thought about all the different things that could happen during the day. The result was a very detailed list covering everything from tools and change to lunch and a spot to sit. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to use the clear plastic sheets to protect anything from rain. However, I did need tape to secure the back of a painting to the easel when a stiff breeze kicked up. In the end, it turned out I packed very well…a few extra items, but not too many. Careful planning and a list was well worth it.

Having attended several art fairs as a buyer was very helpful. It can be really hard to watch people walk by with nothing more than a fleeting glance at your work. Especially when it’s work you busted your butt on. But I have been on the other side of the booth and tried to remember how I feel when I am shopping. Sometimes I am just browsing and don’t want to block up the booth. Sometimes I am not interested. Sometimes I like the work, but don’t necessarily want to engage the artist. Hell, sometimes I am just trying to head to a make a pit stop at the bathroom or a food truck. I have been cornered in a booth more than once by an artist who wanted to explain in detail every single piece I even walk by. Maybe it’s just me, but when enthusiasm spills over too much, it feels like desperation and can be a major turnoff. So I just kept my cool, said hello and answered questions when they came up.

But some people do want to chat. I had quite a few conversations with people who wanted to know more about my process, the materials I use and my background. To tell the truth, I enjoyed that as much as the actual sales I made. It was wonderful to be able to share ideas with other people who have the same interests as me. I even made a few new connections and have a few lines out on possible commissions.

Kids are eternally the best customers. Genuine excitement about what they like is just wonderful. A few different times throughout the day, kids would cluster around part of the booth and chat with each other about what they like. Adults fear being so verbalĀ because of the risk of coming across as ready to buy, and justly so. But it’s so fun to hear a little crowd saying “I love these colors!” and “Oh, look at this one. It’s so cool!”.

My fears were all unfounded. I was worried people would come up to me and criticize my pricing or ask me if I really felt a belonged there. I knew those fears were somewhat ludicrous, but they still held on. There were a few small art fairs in college that were fundraisers for the Student Art Association. Without fail, there was always someone loudly talking about how overpriced and insane everything was. Which I can undoubtedly say, it was not. So I was bracing myself for some loudmouth to be rude. But it never happened. Everyone was wonderfully polite and I never saw so much as an eye roll.

I have a really, really awesome husband. Most of the people I know and friends I have appear to have good relationships. As far I can see, everyone is happy. But I know that appearances can be deceiving. Knowing that, I count myself as very, very lucky. My husband pushed me to buy the last booth at the fair. He bought me canvases and paint because he knew I needed them (I never said a word). He watched the kids for hours at a shot so I could paint uninterrupted. And together we loaded art, supplies and kids at 6 a.m. so he could drive for an hour and help set up. I know a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to have a supportive partner in life, and that is probably the most important part of all this. I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo of both of us in front of my table together.

Everything went well, I made a few sales and had a great day. I can’t wait until my next fair!

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