What are your costs for doing gallery shows or events like art fairs + conventions?
There’s the booth fee and, if it’s a one-day event, it’s usually between $150 to $200. With the events that I’m doing now where I know there’s going to be a turnout, there’s no concern about making that back in the actual booth fee.
Some of them are more expensive. To be a vendor at Salmonfest [in Ninilchik, Alaska], which was a really fun three-day event with concert tickets and camping, was about $600 for the whole weekend, which feels like a bit especially if it’s an event that you haven’t done before.
There is that point where you don’t know what you’re going to get and so if you’re paying a lot for the booth fee, then it might not work out. But because I have such a variety of price points for customers to purchase from — I mean, so many people love stickers and the $5 purchases really add up very quickly to the point where I’m not too concerned about a $200 booth fee.
Usually, most of the ones where there’s a lower turnout it’s a really low cost to do a booth. When I first started out I did Spenard Farmer’s Market, which was from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Not the ideal time for people to be shopping for art, quite honestly, but the overhead was $20 for the booth, so I felt pretty good about just setting up and figuring it out.
Then there’s also the cost of the actual setup, and the initial setup for your first event could be quite a bit. If you’re doing outdoor events— I got my tent at Costco and it was $200, and I have tables and chairs. So you could be running $1,000 just in your setup, let alone in your product and inventory. But then once you’re set up, you’re set up and you can just keep doing it. It’s like you have your mobile store with you. So it’s an investment but it has always worked out for me.
Then there are sometimes other fees. I just had to get a permit for the City of Palmer, for the State Fair. So those things start adding up.
Because we just got this short bus that has been converted into a camper — it is adorable and very comfortable, it doesn’t even feel like camping — that’s really cut down on our costs as far as traveling and moving the supplies and all of the inventory.
So my last big solo show was for Mountainfilm in Telluride at the Telluride Art Center. It was definitely the best space I’ve ever showcased my work and the best audience I’ve ever had and the most financially invested I’d ever been for an art show — driving to it, getting a trailer, paying $2000 – $3000 of overhead for that one show. But I thought, Okay, this is a self-investment, it’s going to pay off.
I didn’t really go in knowing what my pricing should be.
I asked the guy who was curating it to lend some insight and he helped, but I still didn’t quite know where my pricing should be and I was already pricing it higher than I’d ever priced anything. So I was a little hesitant to price stuff as high as it was recommended, I was like, I just want something to sell while I’m here. If one piece sells in the whole show, I’m usually pretty stoked. So it was hanging for 3 days, so it was a decent investment to have a 3-day window to break even when it’s maybe only open for 8 hours a day. I got lucky that I sold three originals.