My First Art Market

2015 was the year that I actually got serious about being an artist — no more moaning to my friends and repeating that I want to explore the more artistically creative sides of design and not doing anything about it. I applied for open calls, made my own projects, took part in competitions, had 3 exhibitions (one of which a pop-up show), and most recently — an art market. As I live in a very artistically oriented city, I’ve been to many art and/or design markets and was not too pleased with the taste either left in my mouth. They remind me too much of actual farmers markets — loads of people, noise and most importantly — “art” prints sold in every size, shape and color, which for me personally strips a piece of any sort of artistic integrity. However, by the end of 2015 I noticed that I had accumulated quite the pile of finalized sketches, negatives I’ve used in projects and doodles, and since I don’t subscribe to the idea of throwing away work that I’ve put time and effort in, I decided to either sell or give away my pieces.

Make the work presentable

If you, like me, have the itching desire to doodle on any surface that allows it, you will find that your doodles are quite frankly— all over the place and paper. As I don’t doodle with any specific purpose other than practicing my hand, I would end up with fit-to-be-seen-by-public doodles on both sides of the paper, clustered on top of each other or ink from one bleeding onto an other doodle — rendering them useless. Some doodles were stand-alone, nicely (in most cases) centered on a page and ready to pack, but other ones needed adjustments based on position, size etc. — for continuity I used self-adhesive cellophane pockets’ sizes as a guideline. The doodles that made the cut (literally) were neatly packaged in said pockets, signed and dated, with a business card inside.

At the market

Display

A few days before the event, contact the organizer and ask for a picture / description / to see the stands and space in person. Getting an idea of how the area is set up and what you have at your disposal will heavily influence the way you set up your work, any display assistance, table décor etc.

Pro tip: To avoid this situation every time you display your works at a market, invent your own unique set up that works for your style and the products that you want to sell, so that you are already half way done.

Pro tip: Group pieces that are related based on topic, medium or size to create order and ease of access to your potential customers.

Pricing

This is extremely painful to me — putting a price tag on my work, so to help me decide how much everything costs I researched what other artists do. As a rule of thumb, it is easiest to price by size — the biggest pieces are more expensive, in that logic — the price goes down along with the size. However, don’t overlook factors such as materials used and time spent working on a piece.

Pro tip: At the market — make the sign / tags displaying prices in an obvious way, so that people don’t have to ask you about each item, and they can decide for themselves whether an item is too expensive for them or not.

Payment methods

Do NOT rely on people carrying cash. In Denmark, people are becoming more and more reluctant to carry notes or coins around — it’s just so much easier to swipe a card or use mobile methods of payment. Make it as easy as possible for people to pay you.

Deliver the goods

Consider this situation: most people make it a fun all-day activity of going around art markets, and why shouldn’t they? It’s cozy; there are usually food and beverages nearby, so they can always charge up when they feel drowsy from all the paint fumes, and continue exploring. After making a sale, your customer has to carry a piece they have bought at noon from your stand and show it off at home in the evening without any damage or harm coming to it. Ensure that they have a reliable, bag, envelope or package to withstand wind (bending) or water (rain/coffee spills).

Table

Apart from your actual pieces, you designated space should include several key items:

  • Business card / any kind of contact information should be prominently displayed for a number of reasons from passersby wanting to get in touch with you for potential business collaboration to potential customers wanting to see what else you got on your portfolio;
  • Some kind of eye catcher to make you more approachable, to use as a nice gesture or to make you more memorable — candy / coffee / tiny trinket to give away (freebie);
  • Sample ideas of how your product could be used

Selling your art

There is a lot of controversy on this very sensitive topic. Many artists defend the position that they should focus on the art and if it’s good then people will buy it — no questions asked. The opposition, however, claims that artist should possess the basic marketing skills in order to be able to actually sell themselves i.e. to make a living. Both sides make an excellent point. In my experience as an artist, your main concern should be focusing on making art that is meaningful to you. Then, as a designer working in marketing, I can vouch for social engagement as the key to distributing your work in a face-to-face setting. During my 2 days at this art market I noticed that asking people what they like, what other art pieces they have or telling the backstory of the pieces they are looking at and explaining what you’ve used as materials interests a potential customer.

Pro tip: give people the space and time to decide, never pressure a potential customer into buying a piece — it exudes extreme desperation and is quite off-putting.

/ Thank you for reading about my first experience at an art market, hope you’ve gained some know-how based on my mistakes — if not, then I hope this has made you chuckle. What was your experience like? What do you think of art markets?

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