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art fairs and making a living

updated tue 25 dec 07


Deborah Thuman on mon 24 dec 07

We have a Renaissance Faire here in Las Cruces each November. Jim set
up three years, I shared his tent the last year. The fees for us ran
around $350 to apply and set up. We had to decorate the booth
(translation: I sewed lots of stuff). We had to have costumes
(translation: I sewed Jim's tights, tunic and little pouffy pants as
well as my tutu). They wanted the artists to do demonstrations so I sat
in a chair that was a prop from a recent play and knit socks. People
would ask where to get knitting lessons and buy yarn so I sent a lot of
people to the local yarn shop where both Jim and I have our work. Jim
made less each year at the Renaissance Faire, and we decided it wasn't
worth it to us to even submit work to the jury this year. Worse, the $5
admission became mandatory. Between the parking fee and the admission,
the customers were paying out a goodly sum before they got into the
park. That's less money they had left to spend on art.

We have a Farmers' Market every Saturday and Wednesday morning. It cost
$3 to set up on Saturday and it's free on Wednesday. There's no
admission. There's no parking fee. There's just about anything you can
think of to buy from vegetables to food to craft to art. If we wake up
and it's miserable out, we go back to sleep. We only pay to set up if
we actually set up on Saturday morning. Nice day? Okay, take a shower
and set up. If we don't sell a thing, we're only out $3 and we've had
fun talking to folks. There have been several times when Jim has come
home with more than $100 in sales. Can we quit our day jobs? Not at
this time. Are we having fun at the Farmers' Market? Oh, yes. Are we
making money? Yes. Are we going back to doing the Renaissance Faire?
Nope. Not worth the cost, the hassle, and the worry that we won't make
our money back. I want my art business to be fun. I've got plenty to
worry about with my day job.