Participating in Art Shows — Tips and Tricks

Email by Jason Peter Brown on September 11, 2007

This article was written by David Wilde and originally appeared in the Flat Glass Journal Volume 24 Issue 5.

In preparation for any show, I would have to recommend the following:

  1. Have a business card that is current. No scratched out phone numbers!
  2. Have some inexpensive visual materials available, even if it is for the mindless hordes who pick up everything. What I do is every two years, I get some postcards made up at Adfactor in Toronto. If the information on the back is no longer current, what I did is print up some new information on card stock and spent a night gluing them together with double sided tape. I still have cards left over from the mid eighties that at least covey the impression of contemporary design and colour possibilities.
  3. Have some information about yourself. Have some information about different things you do. I had one small sheet for residential commissions, one for corporate or commercial work, and one for liturgical work. On the back of each was a short description of the design and commission process. I made the mistake of saying a design fee would apply to most jobs, which I think acts as a deterrent, at least in Canada. You could mention this if you get asked to visit with a client, but I don't recommend mentioning it beforehand.
  4. I rented a booth that was Velcro receptive, but I didn't take full advantage of it. Pictures could be mounted on card material and very easily hung with Velcro strips on the back, I had a portfolio open, which was popular at both shows.
  5. Take good lights! I had two 500W halogen lights illuminating my triptych from below, and a couple of clip-on spots to sunlight from above. Jane and Kathryn have a collapsible booth with openings cut into It so that they can back light their works and use their own walls to hang their printed materials on. I think that worked well for them. My work was three pieces which formed a triptych, and it just about filled the booth in width, and was quite dramatic, just hung from a simple stand. The Velcro receptive gray background gave enough texture behind to really show off the antique glass, a good selling point when asked why stained glass costs so much.
  6. Take a comfortable stool or director's chair! Standing for hours is a killer. Sitting in a low chair is even worse because people think you're pooped and not interested. A stool puts you on eye level, and gives your back a rest.
  7. Take a notebook with you. I would use double sided carpet tape to put the business cards I would get from the trade right into my book, and make notes beside the cards so that when I followed up with the my mailed portfolio of colour Xeroxes, I would have something personal to say to get acquainted again. I send out a simple folder with about 6 or 7 Xeroxes, my CV, another business card or two and some press clippings. This format allows for updates. I get 5 x 7 colour prints of all my works because it looks a lot better on a sheet with printed information about the piece shown and about the studio in general. With colour Xerox, you only have to get what you need printed, the reproduction is fantastic, and you can change your information on the printed part and set up a whole new sheet very easily.
  8. Be prepared to talk with everyone about how their Uncle Fred used to make stained glass sailboats, I used to, and it was fun at the time, but I have changed since then. You are there to sell and you can't do that if you don't educate. Mind you, on the zoo days next year at the Interior Design Show, I think I'll just clear the booth of any colour cards, go for more breaks whenever the crowd gets too thick, or read the weekend paper.
  9. Move-in and move-out are stressful, and no one seems to ever be happy. The One of a Kind Show was the worst move out I've ever witnessed. After its all over, you go home, have a drink and hot shower or bath, and start thinking about next year! If you're prepared for some stress, its fun to sit back and watch all the others who can't deal with it try to take it out on the staff, who are there to help. So make good friends with the staff, especially the ones in charge of door access. Even if you get stressed, they'll try to help the ones they know who have been decent with them throughout the show, especially the longer ones. The sun rose the next day, just like it always does.
  10. Dress comfortably and neatly. Take a hairbrush or comb, and find a booth nearby with a mirror to check for ketchup stains from the hotdog you are inevitably going to have. Take some snacks, and plenty of water. Some people have candies in a bowl at their booths, which seems to work for them. I cleaned out my neighbours jelly beans as fast as he could fill them up again. Yum, yum!
  11. Have a quality product on display. No missed soldering joints, no oozing cement, no smudges or finger prints. Have back up light bulbs! Only put your absolute best works into your folder or portfolio, Don't be afraid to send the jerks to your competition. Ha, Ha! Seriously, if someone is from too far away, and you know someone closer, then refer. It's professional.
  12. Have fun. Life's pretty good.