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My First Vendor Event – Recap and Tips

My first vendor event - recap and tips | selling my paintings in person
I survived my first event, selling my paintings in person. Here are my thoughts:

Table Setup: Aim for height and various angles – don’t lay everything flat. I like how my table came together. You could view things from far away. I brought a floor easel, a small wooden box, and a wooden wine stand to prop my paintings up.

Price cards. I know I never like asking people how much something costs. Having little price cards made it easy for people to learn prices and for me. People were handing me almost exact change when they were ready to purchase!

To talk or not to talk to browsers? I’m not sure of this answer. You want to be friendly, but people do like to browse without pressure. Because of the setup I wasn’t able to stand behind the table. And when the workshop started I was sitting a little bit away. If people were browsing for several minutes I said, “Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Several price points. Aside from whether or not someone likes your painting, purchasing a canvas, especially a large canvas is a commitment. A person needs the wall space in a room that goes with the aesthetic of the painting, not to mention the money. When you have items at several price points, including lower price points, it’s easier for people to buy. There aren’t so many hurdles. I sold the lower price points – pins, mini canvases that have a rope for hanging (like on a tree or small wall space), and prints. I did have a few people who expressed interested in the larger paintings and asked about size, etc. For them I had business cards on my table.

Entry Fee and Breakeven Point. This wasn’t an issue for me because I didn’t have to pay a fee for the event. My only “expense” was my time and I was supporting my friend Erin Andrews of Indigo House Interiors and attending her Interior Design workshop. But I thought about the vendor events I did many years ago when I designed invitations and stationery. If you are thinking about doing an event, think about the cost and how likely it would be for you to recoup the cost. For example back then I sold stationery for a few dollars. I would have to make quite a few sales just to cover a $50 or $75 event entry fee. Compare that to now, where selling one smaller canvas would cover the cost of the event.

Compare event fee to the size of the expected crowd. When considering an event you should think about the cost, how many attendees it usually draws and the type of attendee. If it is specifically an art fair, you know the attendees will be people interested in art, but all the vendors at the fair are essentially your competition. How many paintings is one person likely to buy? Not that many. But if you are at a more general vendor event there may be very few artists. You do have to keep in mind the type of fair. If the attendees are used to items for less than $25, it may be hard for them to buy a canvas that is priced well over $100.

Table placement. At a large event, the location of your table can play an important part in the amount of traffic you get.

I am considering doing another event because I learned I have the inventory and would like the opportunity to try to sell it to a larger crowd. Just before the holidays is good timing!

You may have missed the event but you can still shop at my website shop.eileenmckenna.com.

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“Can I sell this?” can squash creativity

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I used to start creating something, not even finish, and jump to “Can I sell this?” I think I was in this mindset because at the time my creative outlet was my custom invitation/announcement business. This type of thinking was stifling my creativity, and was getting annoying. It prevented me from following through on ideas.

I started drawing and painting and left the invitation business behind. Classes really helped get me going, but after a while I wanted to see what I would work on on my own. What would inspire me without class assignments? But I had trouble motivating myself, so I started this blog. There in my original notes for this blog was “spend 3 months creating then open an online shop.”

I had given myself permission to create whatever I felt like, and to worry about selling later, even if it was just for 3 months. Once I started working at it, projects led to other project ideas. Trying one technique led to the desire to learn and try other techniques. I fell in love with creating. The voice asking, “can I sell this?” got quieter and quieter.

But, I saw other artist selling on different sites, in different ways, and wondered, “what is the best way?” So after ten months, I wrote a post asking for input on “where to sell.” One comment closed the door on selling for me:

Robert McArthur wrote,
“Hi,
I know this doesn’t answer your question, but I do have a string set of thoughts on this that I would like to share with you. Unless you have a pressing financial need to sell your work, I feel it is best to not consider selling your work. Instead focus on your art. Do you need to sell? If so ignore this. Otherwise, the need to make your work marketable will, if even subconsciously, cause you to change what you do, thus preventing you from freely developing naturally.”

My reply was,
“I appreciate your comment! I have been thinking the same thing. As I think about selling, I’ve been playing around with creating things that are more marketable. Just as you say, it’s affecting what I create. I really enjoy playing and creating whatever comes to me. I love how the final piece can be so unexpected (to me). If I continue in this way, I risk taking some of the joy out of creating. And the pieces I really love I wouldn’t consider selling! Thank you for writing what I was thinking.”

Robert McArthur had put into words that “thing” that had previously ruined my creativity. I was having so much fun creating I didn’t want to ruin it. And spending my time filling orders didn’t sound fun either.

Currently my state of mind is that my business is print and web design. But, I draw and paint because I love it. It brings me joy. I create patterns because I think it is fun to turn illustrations into patterns, and I love seeing those patterns printed. (My patterns are available for sale, but that wasn’t the motivation in creating them.)

It is very freeing not thinking about selling or what other people are doing. Although those paintings are piling up. Never say never. 😉