July 2, 2017

Art Event Application Best Practices

While we just hit summer, we're officially in the season of important application deadlines for winter and holiday art events. In Austin that means Blue Genie Art Bazaar, Cherrywood Art Fair, East Austin Studio Tour and more. Knowing that many of you artists and crafters sell the most during gift giving occasions, I wanted to highlight a few tips for entering art events so you have the greatest chance at acceptance. In future posts we'll move on to how you can be successful once you're in a show. I want to help you demonstrate to the organizers and jurors why you'd be a great fit!

#1. Know the Deadlines
Some of the biggest art events and opportunities for exposure happen only once or twice a year. You don't want to miss out simply by having overlooked the deadline to apply. Very few offer extensions, and if the do, it often comes with an additional fee. I recommend making a calendar with deadlines for the events you care most about, and consider subscribing to the Crafting Exposure newsletter for weekly reminders so you can plan ahead.

#2. Follow the Application Instructions
Before you sit down to fill out an art event application, read through the guidelines and make a note of the information requested by the show jury. A lot of it will be straightforward and easily available to you like your business name and contact information, but you may want to spend a little more time preparing an artist statement or photography. I recommend compiling everything before you start just in case you can't save your work and come back to finish. Plus, it makes you more efficient if you weren't fishing around. Save copies of what you put together for future events to save time. After you've applied to enough, you'll be able to copy and paste for the most part.

#3. Know What You're Getting Into
The other aspect of reading the guidelines that's very important is knowing what the event organizers expect of you and what you can expect from them. Before you spend the time applying and pay the application fee, you want to be sure you know what gear you'll need for setup (some events don't provide lighting or electricity for example), whether or not there are restrictions to what you can sell (I've seen several that limit to originals only), the timing for load in and load out, and a lot more. Seasoned event organizers will provide you with all of the information you need, so this is also a good way to evaluate their credibility and experience putting on a successful event.

#4. Fill Out the Applications Completely
All of the details asked of you in large event applications may seem like a lot of work, but the organizers wouldn't include them if they weren't important to making a decision. You may be overlooked simply by skipping a section because the jury doesn't have time to chase you down. Plus you want the event to have full and accurate information when they share that you're part of the show. It may just be a personal pet peeve, but I hate seeing artists in a vendor list without all of their contact information. What if I was a prospective buyer and I couldn't connect? Help them market you!

#5. Be Prepared for the Associated Fees
The main costs that come in applying to an art event include an application or jury fee, booth fee and sometimes a commission on goods sold. Read through this section of the application especially carefully so you can weigh the cost against the benefit. Nobody wants to lose money on an event, so know what you can afford and when you can afford to pay it. Some applications will ask for the jury fee up front. Don't let that be what holds you back from meeting a deadline. If you aren't sure about an event, look into splitting a booth so you can split the fee. Just be sure that's allowed.

#6. Include Quality Images (As Many as Allowed)
Depending on the jury process, photos of your work may be all the judges see; You want to be sure that these images show your talent and craftsmanship. While this doesn't mean you have to hire a professional to help, it's ok to delegate if photography isn't your strength. Lighting, composition, focus, staging and more are all key elements to consider. Moreover, once you've been accepted, the organizers will likely use one or more of your images to market that you're in the event. You want these shots to represent you well whether they end up on the website, in print or on social media.

#7. Show Consistency in Your Work
Most applications ask that you send in photographs of everything you plan to show at the event. In part they want to be sure they've vetted all of the items, but more importantly, they're looking for a common thread in your work. What is unique about your style? How do you carry that across different pieces or even different media? Juries are considering whether or not your work will fit into the show and how your booth will look as a part of the whole production. They don't want vendors who look disjointed or unprofessional because that reflects poorly on them as well.

#8. Pay Attention to the Audience for the Event 
At the core of marketing success is knowing your customers. Which events should you participate in to reach these potential buyers? For each application, you want to consider whether or not it will put you in front of your ideal crowd and at a time that they are likely to buy. If you sell handmade toys for kids or clothing for dogs, you're probably better off at a family friendly event. Whereas a high end jewelry artist or painter with large scale pieces would need to seek a more luxury focused shopper. Another part of gauging the audience is showing the jurors why you're going to appeal. While you'll usually apply with your full collection, there may be instances in which you only want to bring a few items tailored to the specific crowd. Along the same lines, if you can offer specialized items that match the theme of the event, you're even more likely to find buyers.

#9. Plan on Having a Range of Goods to Sell
Most events attract a spectrum of buyers, those willing to spend a lot and those only likely to pick little items. Everyone's budget is different, so plan on catering to more segments. Feel free to bring your large, full price originals, but also include some smaller prints or items emblazoned with your art. By offering pieces at a range of price points, you give more people the opportunity to enjoy your work. Plus, the best way to reel in a nervous potential collector is to start them small. Stay in touch, and they may come back for an original later.

#10. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
If you're not sure about an event or how to fill out the application, it's ok to ask for help. Again, the most reputable organizers will provide you with information and an FAQ. They should also have a way for you to reach out. The closer you get to a deadline, the less time they may have to reply, but most are happy to help. Your success at their event means their success. You can also ask vendors from previous years to see how they feel about the event. And of course, you can contact someone like me to help guide you through the process and help you with the necessary materials to be successful.