Last weekend, I had my very first booth ever at an art show. It was at the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live show in Kansas City, itself a first-time event. I’ve decided to write about my experiences, but it will take a couple of articles to get it all in. This one is the first part, about being an exhibitor, and I’ll follow it up with being an attendee and how I feel things will go after this.
First, I just want to say that the Spectrum folks were great to work with. They answered the questions I needed ahead of time, in a timely manner. They were easy to work with onsite, and I had no trouble with the convention center folks. Having worked in my previous day job, where once I year I dealt with different convention centers nationwide, it’s great when they are nice. There are of course going to be little things that aren’t perfect, being a first-year event. But I thought it went great.
The booth itself
I learned a lot from my very first booth. Some things that were good, others that didn’t work as well, but overall I think the physical booth part of it worked out.
- The walls of the booth:
I think having the panels (at right, 8′ tall) worked out quite nicely. A number of people really liked how the booth looked, and that it was very inviting. I’d probably keep the vertical banner I had at the back next time, instead of at the front, as that would really open it up a bunch. I talked about the panels in a different article (here), if you want more information.
- Sales and promotion:
I had very little in sales, which certainly is going to hurt this unemployed man’s bottom line quite harshly. But, from a promotional standpoint, I was able to get new fans and get a new appreciation for my work. I sold none of the originals, and just a few prints and bookmarks. I checked out prices throughout the hall that other artists were charging, as did my nephew, and I was right in the same ballpark too.
- The art I brought:
Let’s face it, I brought nearly all of my originals to Spectrum. I didn’t have a choice, if I wanted to have things on my wall. I have far too many digital works to make prints of everything, but I brought a decent number of prints as well. All of those filled the walls nicely, and gave a great representation of my work. As with any time I’ve shown my work, different people said they liked different pieces. Since I have a bit of an eclectic set of styles, that’s not unexpected. There were even a few times that people brought their friends back to the booth to show them something they noticed earlier, which is a good feeling. No sales on originals though, which was a bit disappointing.
- The inks and multimedia:
There were only a handful of booths that really showed off ink art, so in that respect I stood out some. There were a number of folks who liked the ink art, and said they were immediately attracted to it. I think, if I ever do a booth again, I might keep them separate. My multimedia works also stood out (like this one), and quite a few people really liked them. Some said that I should do a bunch more like that as well.
- Art layout:
The idea of separation of the inks leads right into this topic, the overall layout of each wall. I think having the best of my works in the most highlighted spots worked okay. But if I do it again I think I’ll have acrylics on one wall, ink on another, and prints on the third. That might keep that interest a bit better, and it would cut down on the folks asking if things were originals or prints. Besides, being a 10′ x 10′ booth means that it’s too small to really have many “best spots”. Many folks pointed out pieces that weren’t in the “prime spot”, and ignored those that were.
My father in law, and my nephew Brody Read (who’s going to be an up-and-comer in this industry, you just wait and see), helped me with the booth. I think having someone else there is essential, even if they only come by once in awhile. There are too many times that you need to get lunch, visit another booth (or see the Bat-pod or Tumbler), or simply run to the bathroom. I was lucky enough to have great artists around me that were quick to help out, but I would imagine you can’t rely on that happening at every event.
- Promotional items:
I have a color laser and a black and white laser at home, so with most things I can just print them here. That’s great to have, and I used them both to create promotional giveaway items. Business cards, of course, are required. I ended up having enough, but I could have probably had more and gave them away more often. I also had postcards of my art to give away, as well as humorous “monster cards” that I gave away as well (at right). The monster cards actually went pretty well, quite a few folks picked them up and chuckled on the way out. I also did pseudo-coloring pages, but hardly any of those went at all. Make sure you have a “Free stuff!” sign, even though few people look at it, it still ends up being something you can point attendees to.
- Tools of the trade:
It goes without saying that an artist should bring art supplies to create with, and it was a good idea. I also brought various tools to work with the booth, like wire cutters, scissors, and so forth, which are also good to have. Bringing a stepstool worked out really slick, it made it easier to deal with the higher pieces, rather than standing on rickety convention center foldup chairs. I did, however, forget the two-wheeler or four-wheel cart, and hand-carrying everything wasn’t really any fun.
- Most noticed pieces:
It was interesting to see which of my pieces were the most talked about, looked at, or mentioned to me on the way out. They included:
This ends the first part of my Spectrum recap, and the second part will be coming soon. That will be more about attending the event, and where I go from here.
Will I ever have a booth again? I don’t know. Financially, I couldn’t afford it before I left, and it certainly kills things now that I’m back home. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It could be, as with other events I’ve gone to as an attendee, that the gigs or sales come later. So, in the long run anyway, it may end up evening out financially. But we have a ways to go. From an experience standpoint, I think it was great, and if I can afford to I would try again.