What sells at art festivals

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Forum topic by joey bealis posted 02-14-2012 06:03 AM 3299 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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joey bealis

177 posts in 2536 days

02-14-2012 06:03 AM

Topic tags/keywords: art festivals selling ideas

I am planning to go to a few small local art festivals this year. I do mostly woodturning and was trying to get some advice on what people have had luck selling. I will be taking all the bowls and pens that I have turned at the time. A few ideas for simple low cost projects would be nice.

Thanks in advance.


13 replies so far

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 2476 days

#1 posted 02-14-2012 11:12 AM

I attend allot of art festivals here in Arizona. I go on the consumer /window shopper side not the selling side so you can take that for what it’s worth. Since I am a hobby-woodworker I do pay attention to what I see people looking at in those booths. Take my perspective with a grain of salt.

Wood turning items I see segmented items drawing the most attention, bowls, earns, and alike.
Pens are a tough to call, seems like every woodworker has them. Simple, clean looking traditional pens that have nice matching hardware seem to do ok. The odd bulbous pens draw attention but the sellers seem to be the normal looking ones.

I see allot of cutting boards moving, so you might diversify with them.

The most often thing I see are business cards being handed out. So make sure you have those. I reall don’t see much in the way of people buying at the fairs so much as a place to make contacts and develop business relations.

Last thing, the booth fees at these shows I know are pretty high, be prepared for that.

I too have considered selling at these fairs but I think I would want to hook up with some friends and try to sell a larger assortment of items. Draw all kinds of people in with a variety of items.

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3773 days

#2 posted 02-14-2012 11:55 AM

Funnel cake

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#3 posted 02-14-2012 04:59 PM

Marquetry mirror frames, pens, jewelry.

You can do cutting boards but plan on not being the
only dude selling them if you do.

Laptop lap desks may be an emerging gift category
women will buy for gift recipients who “have everything”.

The buyers are the ladies. Never forget that.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3464 days

#4 posted 02-14-2012 05:09 PM

I’ll hazard a wild guess …... ART?

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2973 days

#5 posted 02-14-2012 06:30 PM

My opinion is take what you like to make. Having things to sell is important but what is the most important is your salesmanship. If you take what you love to make, that enthusiasm will come through when you talk to potential customers. They will feel your pride, your workmanship and attention to detail. That is what sells your products. You may not be the only one selling whatever you make, but you can be the the one who sells the most, if you engage your customer and let them in on your passion.

People buy from you. Yes they will buy your products but they buy them because of you.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View millzit's profile


111 posts in 2331 days

#6 posted 02-14-2012 06:44 PM

having vended my oil painting for years, i can only “ditto” what puzzleman says….....they are buying you, not your art. if you just sit there and look smug, people are going to pass you by. be out front, be talking, and most important, be smiling! then go home and count your happy bucks…...

-- cut that out!

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3555 days

#7 posted 02-14-2012 07:52 PM

christmas ornaments and i-pad/kindle stands are things that I think you could make for a price that people will pay for it.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2516 days

#8 posted 02-14-2012 08:15 PM

I agree with Puzzleman and millzit.

I will happily NOT buy from someone sitting in their little safe zone talking to a buddy and ignoring the customer who walks in.

Cat and I worked Flea Markets for almost seven years and we could sell things and make a profit even when others didn’t make a single sale for the day. Why? because even if we were talking with a friend or another customer we always acknowledged the customers coming to our booth. People want to be noticed, not ignored. They want help when they want it, but they don’t want to be hovered over as if you think they are going to steal something.

Mark your prices clearly, and make them a bit higher than what you’ll actually take, then put a sign up in a prominent place stating, “We LIKE to Haggle” or “Prices ARE Negotiable” or even “Price Dependent on Attitude—Yours!”

Talk to the potential customers, even if you know the aren’t going to buy something right now…. They will remember you and will come back.

Have something for everybody! Have some 25¢ bags of blocks of wood. Have some $1.00 stuff. Then have your more expensive line of goods. Believe it or not, I use to make $20 – $30 per weekend selling little cloth bags of cedar sawdust at 50¢ ea or 3/$1.00. People like to put them in their closets for winter clothes storage. We also sold a lot of fire starters made of sawdust and old candle wax at 2/$1.00.
At one point I use to go over to a local custom cabinet shop and collect wood out of their dumpster. Oak, Hickory, Pecan, Ash, Maple, etc. I would then cut it up into different sized blocks of differing sizes and lengths so that if you put two or three short ones together, they made a long one. I could get $5 to $10 out of a bag of those usually about 25 or 30 pieces to a bag.

The main thing though is, DO NOT IGNORE THE CUSTOMERS!

YMMV, but that’s what has always worked for me, and I am the last one that wants to talk to people.

Good Luck!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3134 days

#9 posted 02-15-2012 01:04 AM

After a few years of selling at small shows, I have found that people do like to connect with the ‘artist’ or craftsperson. You have to have an appealing product and you have to engage everyone who comes in. Not high powered, but eye contact and say hello. I do sit in a lawn chair part of the time, but I get up if someone has a question. Mostly my work attracts people and I answer questions. A good display really helps. My cutting boards hang on a rack. My boxes are placed on shelves at a height to show off their best features. I place helpful signs like- these cutting boards have two sides. One to cut on and the other for serving/ display. I am starting to do fewer, but bigger shows with more crowds. I have learned where some good and not so good markets are. I know a few types of wood that always sell. I don’t often sell small items, but they can help make the booth fees. They can take as long to make as large, more expensive items.
Good Luck

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2543 days

#10 posted 02-20-2012 09:01 PM

All these experts have one or two things in common.
They are DEAD ON Right…

First, they connect with the customer, and NOT in a carny barker type of way, but more of a friend-to-friend type of way. They PAY ATTENTION to their customers. Make their customers feel important.

They also talk about business cards. Lots of them. I would add little trifolds, one sheet of paper in color of what you’ve done. Because you need your phone number, your facebook page, and website if you have one, on that card and that trifold flier. Give away the cards, put a trifold into every purchase.

I’ll add two things to this information, just because I walk a lot of these shows, but never buy much of anything because of my abilities to build like all the others here. (Most of these people are probably better than me.)

1. If my wife likes it, I have to promise to make one, (which may or may not get done), or I can just bite the bullet and buy it for her right there. Listen to the ladies…..NOTE how many say they really like an item, even if they do not buy it right then. That’s a good item!

2. This is ALL discretionary spending. You have absolutely NOTHING they need to stay alive. They have less money in their pockets than ever. Think UNIQUE, and thing CHEAP. They really don’t NEED anything, but you must trigger their minds to WANT what you have. (Also where the customer attention comes in.) Be ready to haggle.

My guitars are UNIQUE, and I sell them CHEAP, compared to the other custom guitar shops in the South. I always have a backlog. My hourly rate for builds is less than any other luthier in my area. It’s the economy…..

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2973 days

#11 posted 02-20-2012 10:24 PM

By all means have your contact information available to any person who is interested. I do not like to use business cards as they get put into a wallet and then forgotten about. I use a 8.5×11 flyer with 4 pages. This has pictures of most of what I do as well as my phone and website in big bold lettering at the bottom of each page. No excuse for them not to be able to contact me.

Tennessee: I don’t agree with your last sentence on point 2. I do not recommend haggling with customers on price except if it is to raise the price. When you let customers haggle with you on price, what are you telling the previous customer that just paid full price and didn’t haggle? That they are a fool as the real price is lower than what they paid? I strongly believe that if you set a fair price, you should not lower it ever. You have created a work of art and it represents your ideas, blood, sweat and tears. Why would you cheapen that?

Realize that your products are not for all people and not all people can afford what you do. Also realize that there are many people who DO like what you do and can afford it. As a salesperson, your job is to find those people and sell to them.. They may not be at the show that you are doing. It may be a different town or different part of town.

Just selling things for a low price and not making a profit is just spinning your wheels. Might as well as stay home and not have the hassle of traveling and doing shows. Charge a fair price and stick to it.

A tip to how I deal with people that want to haggle on price: when ever someone offers me a lower price, they are waiting to see my reaction and offer a price between theirs and the original price. What I offer is a price that is higher than my original price by what they want the price to drop. (example: A $50 item and they offer me $40, I counter offer with $60.) Then ask if they want to split the difference. (By the way, their expression is memorable.) sometimes people will say that I cannot raise the price whenever I want, I ask them why they think that it is OK to lower the price whenever they want. I will also ask them if they ever return money to their employer and take a lower wage, as that is what they are asking me to do. It takes courage to do this, as you may not make the sale. By the way, I make over 90% of the sales on the people who want to negotiate price. If they are buying my product only on the price, then they do not treasure my workmanship like I do. I am not Walmart (which does not haggle on prices) where the workmanship in not always quality.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#12 posted 02-20-2012 10:45 PM

Wow there is some fantastic info here, I sold many items as a salesperson and the first thing sales trainers tell you to do is to get your customer to like you and trust you and most of the suggestions above include this idea in their suggestions. Great info gang.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2543 days

#13 posted 02-21-2012 08:22 PM

Puzzleman I agree with you on holding your price. Once I quote a guitar price, I don’t lower it save for one time. A fellow who had ordered a guitar got laid off while I was building it. I had his deposit, but he just could not come up with the entire amount remaining. I settled for a little less profit, and he got his guitar. Extreme situation. Literally everyone else paid what I asked.

But, when I say be ready to haggle, I meant they will try, and you have to respond with something that will keep them there, and still make the price. By your own admission 90% of the people who haggled you in some way you sold, so you just have to be prepared to do some kind of haggling. In your case, it is a friendly upcharging. It’s those people who just tell me “That’s the price on the sticker ” and move on whom I don’t much care for. I generally walk away from them, they seem kind of hard to me as a customer. I’ve bought many things from fairs and flea markets for full price, but I wanted to test the waters. Some situations it’s kind of the norm, like buying a car. Sticker price: $32,500. Wow, Honey, sounds good to me! OK, lets go get a salesman and buy this…almost never happens, and when it does, it’s so rare car salesmen talk about it for weeks.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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