Category Archives: Art Fair

What Value Your Art?

We often do art fairs and exhibitions that are entered by everyone from hobbyist artists, through semi-professionals earning an income to full time professionals selling their work to make a living and right through to well established artists who have sufficient reputation to command a premium. But I often wonder what the buying public makes of being confronted by prices ranging from peanuts to thousands of pounds?

I well remember the first time someone asked me if they could buy one of my prints and I was lost for words. At that point I’d never considered selling my work and had no idea what it might be worth. However, coming from a commercial background, I was soon able to remedy that and doing a comparison with other people’s sales pages soon confirmed I was on the right lines, but I do think that realistic pricing is something that most people struggle with. I often hear people at fairs cheer when they make their pitch money back, but I think they are lacking ambition here. You have to not only consider the cost of your pitch, but also material costs, mileage and what about wages for being there all day? All these things have to be factored into the price and we’ve not yet considered overheads. Don’t forget that printer ink is more expensive by weight than platinum and that expensive printer will be out of date in a few years and need replacing.

So far we’ve only considered actual material cost, but what about the value of your art? We recently attended an exhibition where the guest speaker encouraged one of the exhibitors to stick a nought on all his prices, his art really was worth it. Even more recently we met an artist who was offering original paintings on canvas at a fair for £10 each. When you consider the material cost and the cost of him attending the fair, he was selling at a loss. But even worse, he wasn’t valuing his art and that’s something you must also consider. Your talent, vision and experience all have a value, so don’t under sell it. By doing that, you not only under value your own work, but you also de-value the work of others around you, so please be realistic and value your art.

The Art Market York

Last weekend saw us exhibiting at “The Art Market” at York racecourse and what an impressive building it is! Whilst we exhibit in quite a few good quality art markets such as Crafted By Hand at Masham and Art in the Pen at Skipton, we entered this one with quite a bit of trepidation. To put it into a sporting context, for us this was like stepping up from the local league to the national circuit, with a price ticket to match!

We had the obvious worries of would our work be accepted? Was our presentation good enough, or would we be out of our depth in this company? Doing fairs like Crafted by Hand have taught us that whilst the quality of our product is good enough, our stand presentation leaves a little to be desired, so we worked hard to up our game a little for this one. Always conscious of “KISS” keep it simple stupid, we made an effort not to over stuff our stand and make it look cluttered.

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Our stand

Setting up day on the Thursday was pretty fraught as it was blowing a gale outside and every time someone opened the outside door, our booth got blown further into the room, a total nightmare when trying to hang pictures level!

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Helaina Sharpley’s stand

Come the Friday morning we got a chance to have a look around at the other exhibitor’s stands and I have to say I was mightily impressed with the standard of the art works on show. Classy without lapsing too far into the sort of conceptual art the average philistine in street like me couldn’t understand. We were particularly impressed with the sculpture of David Mayne and Jim Bond and loved the quirky work by Helaina Sharpley and Samantha Bryan.

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As Friday and Saturday progressed it became clear that a lot of the audience were artists and art students who seemed mainly to relate to the more conceptual exhibits, but fortunately someone let in the general public and some gallery owners on Sunday and not only was there a great buzz about the place there was finally some serious interest in the art works around us and much more work being purchased.

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David Mayne’s stand

Were we out of our depth? Well our work certainly seemed cause enough interest and getting favourable comments from an internationally recognised artist like Jim Bond certainly made our weekend, but our stand presentation still left a lot to be desired. Would we do it again? Well we enjoyed the camaraderie with the other exhibitors and we’ve definitely learned a lot from the experience so we’d certainly consider doing it again next year.

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And the band played on…………..

Staithes Festival of Art & Heritage

The art fairs we do have taken us to some interesting venues over the years, such as Skipton auction mart, but for sheer atmosphere Staithes Festival takes some beating. Taking place in the picturesque fishing village of Staithes, some 120 artists set up over 90 pop up galleries using the rental cottages throughout the village, ready for thousands of visitors to descend on the village over the weekend to view the variety of art work on offer and soak up the atmosphere.

Staithes village from Penny Nab

Staithes village from Penny Nab

Anyone thinking of visiting next year, be warned! Set aside a full day and wear some comfortable walking shoes. It’s a hard day, but there’s plenty of cafes and pop up street food stands to keep everyone fed and watered as well as a couple of good pubs and several restaurants. Along with live music and public art works there’s something to keep everyone entertained._8003618

 

The atmosphere is great and the whole village really comes alive on the Saturday evening, with light shows on the beach and sea chanties being belted out on the staithe. Make a note in your diary for next year’s festival, it’s a great weekend and you might just find that piece of art you didn’t know you were looking for………

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A Grand Plan

A Grand Plan

I had a five year plan to escape the drudgery of office life and spend more of my time immersed in photography. Admittedly it took me seven years to get there, but it’s hard to believe that eighteen months ago, I took the bold step to hand in my notice and walk away from paid employment.

All the signs in the photography world looked bad. Returns on stock images were dropping ever lower and professionals were bemoaning the lack of commissions, so it didn’t look like a good time to try and make some money out of photography, but I was ready for a change and keen to give it a go anyway.

It came as quite a culture shock for me, having spent all my working life in salaried 8 – 5 type jobs. I’d get up at 7am, into work at 8, coffee break at 10, lunch at 12 and so on and on and on……….. So suddenly I was free to keep the strange hours that landscape photographers do. If I had a late night photographing a sunset then I could have a lie in and didn’t have to worry about being at work for the dot of 8 o’clock. All very alien but liberating!

I had some set ideas about how I would spend my time and areas I would concentrate on to build the business, but somehow it all seems to have evolved slightly differently as time has gone by. We have always relied on selling framed and mounted prints, so we needed to expand our range of outlets so not having the day job getting in the way has helped enormously. It’s meant more time to visit galleries and to put on exhibitions but I have to say we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of exhibitions we’ve been offered this year.

Our year got off to a flying start when Andy Dalton of Ryedale Artworks put our names forward for a month long exhibition at Helmsley Arts Centre. This proved a great success, then out of the blue we were asked to join several other photographers for a two month exhibition (extended to three) in the Yorkshire Wolds Gallery at Staxton. This came courtesy of our friend Helen Wrigley who recommended us, then just when that was coming to an end we got offered a two month exhibition (Also extended to three months) at the newly opened Belmont Studios Gallery at Wrelton. This has meant having our work continuously in exhibition from the beginning of February until the end of September, when we finally got a short break to gather our thoughts for the next busy run.

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While all this was happening we also entered a very busy run of art fairs, so life has become one long juggle of boxes of frames and prints, but it sure beats working for a living! We’ve just come off the back of Art fairs at Masham, Skipton, Staithes and Helmsley and we still have two more at Pickering and Masham to look forward to.

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Whilst most women’s spare room wardrobes are full of dresses and shoes, Janet’s is chock full of frames and mounts!

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Meanwhile the exhibition invites and new gallery outlets keep getting added to our list, so the house resembles a framing warehouse at the moment! Art in the Pen at Skipton proved a big success for us and has led to us being invited to exhibit in the Mill Bridge gallery at Skipton, then next Monday will see us delivering some work to the Three Peaks gallery in Settle which we are very excited about.

Once that lot’s sorted we have a couple of short exhibitions in October/November at Pickering Gallery and the Joe Cornish Gallery, courtesy of the Moorsview event which we are speaking at on 31st. October. David Ward is the key speaker, so it should be a great event. Meanwhile we are delighted to have been offered another exhibition on the run up to Christmas which we are also very pleased about. Details of where and when to follow shortly. Then just when we thought we couldn’t manage much more we have been offer a one day exhibition at the Moorsroom at Kirkbymoorside on the 28th November to coincide with the towns Christmas fair. We put on an exhibition here last year and it proved a big success.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, we’ve found time to run three five week beginners courses via the “Workshop for the Would Be Creative” at Ebberston and done an increasing amount of 1:1 workshops on the moors and coast.

So for the first time in the 18 months since I quit the day job, I actually feel a bit stressed! Now I must try and find a bit of time to actually take some photographs and relax a bit!

Art In The Pen – Skipton August 2015

I really admire people with vision. Some people don’t just spot an opportunity, they have the foresight to create the future. One such person is Anthea Rathlin Jones who 11 years ago had the imagination to look at a cattle market and see it not only as a space that had potential, but actually saw it as a blank canvass that could offer endless scope for artists to express themselves. She pushed the envelope and created the blueprint that others have followed.

2015-810-1-1195-REleven years ago most art was only viewed in galleries and she recognised that a lot of ordinary people were too intimidated by the thought of a gallery to even enter, so she has created a model whereby large numbers of artists can display their work to huge numbers of members of the public. She has also given artists a place where they can express themselves and show their work in a public and economic way. What she created, others have imitated.

2015-810-1-1193-R Art In the pen has grown from humble beginnings into a large and hugely successful event. This year 450 artists applied for 160 places and the event continues to grow year on year. One of the limitations of most art fairs is space, but at Art in the Pen space is available in abundance, so the artists can spread their work and reach a big audience. Art in the pen is so popular with the art buying public that this year’s event was attended by over 3000 people and vast numbers left carrying something they’d bought.Exhibitors and visitors travel from miles around to this event and we even sold a pair of pictures to a lovely couple from Italy. For us, attending a show like this not only offers an economic way to show our work to the public, it also opens up other doors with new galleries and outlets, as we found out this weekend.

2015-810-1-1189-R For us this year the major limitation was how much we could transport to the show. Setting up on a day of torrential rain was a bit of a chore and did mean dodging a few brown tinged puddles! But once inside the mart it makes a great exhibiting space and has the added advantage of good facilities like a café serving bacon butties and clean toilets. Sure beats holding it in a marquee.

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Art Fairs

I think it would be fair to say that most photographers nowadays base their sales on digital output, whilst we seem to be in a minority selling mainly printed work.
For us it all happened because we started out selling in galleries and exhibitions and have continued with that approach over the years. However, way back in 2009/10 also we dabbled in craft fairs with mixed results. We almost always made some money, but it soon became obvious that most people weren’t going to spend a lot of money at a craft fair with the average sale being relatively modest.

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At one point we signed up with Yorkshire Craft Fairs and the proprietor Don Olly turned out to be something of a retailing guru and it was worth doing a few of his fairs just to learn the trade. Don gave out a set of notes on how to be successful selling at craft fairs and these have proved to be worth their weight in gold over the years. Some of these pointers may seem like hard work, especially the first one, but they have proved an invaluable guide to selling our work.

  • Never ever sit down if there are customers about. This may seem tough, but we’ve often looked around the room and all the stalls with people standing had customers and all the stalls where the stallholder was sat reading the paper had none!
  • If you do sit between customers, don’t leap up as someone approaches as they will find this very intimidating, keep an eye open and get up early.
  • Don’t eat on the stand if there are customers about if you can help it as it looks bad.
  • Always engage with your customers. This can be difficult, especially if like us you are a bit shy, but it’s worth persevering.
  • Be attentive to your customers and don’t spend time talking to friends or the next stall holder.
  • Make sure your product is clearly priced. The average buyer is easily discouraged and will often walk away rather than ask.
  • Be professional and present your work and your stall to a high standard.
  • Make sure you stall is well lit, this will literally show your products in the best light.
  • Be organised. Arrive in good time and be ready by opening time.
  • Don’t pack up too early even if you’ve had a bad day. It’s not fair on everyone else if you pack up before closing time and we’ve lost count of the amount of sales we’ve made by hanging on whilst everyone else is packing up.
  • Be ambitious! Most people we encounter at craft fairs are happy to cover the table cost. This is nowhere near enough, you need to cover all costs and have wages for your time too.

  G1X-0641Art in the Pen at Skipton showing the huge range of stalls, numbering in excess of 100 I believe.

Once we figured out that craft fairs weren’t going to make us enough money we started to move towards better quality Art fairs and these have proved to be much more successful. Fairs like Crafted by Hand, Art in the Pen and Staithes Festival are quality shows entered by serious sellers and are frequented by visitors who come specifically to buy, so these bigger shows are definitely the ones to go for and have a great atmosphere too.

 G1X-0449 Purpose built stands at Kirkleatham near Saltburn

The fixed costs for a two day show like Art in the Pen can be high, but they regularly get 5000 visitors over the weekend, so it can still be very worthwhile and shows like Crafted by Hand are curated so only people with a good track record tend to get in. The atmosphere at these shows is also very good, so they can also be a great social occasion. Staithes Festival in particular promises to be a great weekend with loads going on, so that’s one we are really looking forward too.

crafted by handAnother purpose built stand at Crafted by Hand at Masham. Costs more to hire but suits us to hang framed pictures.

We’ve got a packed program of fairs for the second half of this year and we’re really looking forward to them, so why not come along and say hello.

Crafted By Hand – Masham         11-12 July
Art in the Pen – Skipton                15-16 August
Staithes Festival                              11-12 September
Crafted by Hand                              1st November (Subject to being accepted)