Why I'm singing "I'm a loser baby"
The true cost of art.
I had good reason to expect that the two festivals I got into to would be decent shows for me. I did my research on both events and I heard great things. But I'm not naïve, I know that doing any art show - especially if it includes large travel expenses - is a huge gamble. But I figured that if I could double the amount of sales I made at one show last year, it would be worth it.
"I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?"
Unfortunately, the end result of this experience has left me not only in debt, but also questioning my art. I've decided to share the true cost of selling my art at these shows. This is not an easy decision; I know that people unwittingly prefer to support winners and I could lose sales over this. I usually try to be as upbeat as possible about my art career in public. But I'm not sure it can get much worse; this week I definitely feel like the loser in Beck's song.
Two Art Festivals in Florida, February 2023
Costs and Expenses
What costs are not included here?
Artists are not paid for their time.
It's hard to imagine all of the time the entire art-festival-going process takes. Usually I try not to think about it since none of it is paid time. But, in an effort to be transparent, here's a look at some of the time I put into doing these two art festivals.
The hardest question I always get asked is:
"How long did it take you to make this?"
"Okay," you're probably saying, "but how much money did you make?!"
Here is the dismal truth...
Show one: $698.00 in sales
Show two: $2,323.00 in sales
Total after expenses = -$3,290.00
This result is extremely embarrassing to share. Sure, there are places I could have cut costs. I could have slept in the cheapest (worst) hotels available. I could have driven through the night (dangerous and stressful). I could have done the second show without my husband's help (no lunch or bathroom breaks and no support) and saved on his airfare. But regardless of expenses, the amount I made in sales wasn't worth it.
Where do I go from here? I don't know. I have more questions than answers.
Is it me? Does my art suck? Should I get a "real" job? If so, what makes something a "real" job? Maybe it's not me, maybe it's the economy? Perhaps people are too worried about inflation? Do people ever spend money on art? Do any artists make money at art fairs? Maybe it's my medium? Perhaps people aren't interested in purchasing textile art? And around again: Is it me?
Who knows. All I know is that I can't NOT make art. (I've tried to stop.) So despite the huge emotional toll all of this puts on me, I'm already planning for my next art festival.
2/24/2023 03:55:19 pm
Your work is really amazing. Truely. You're amazingly talented. I'm no artist. I've been saving, waiting for the opportunity to buy pieces. I wish I could buy them all! I hope you find guidance and support from those peers who know more than I do.
Mary, I'm sorry you had this experience. I totally understand. This is why I quit doing art fairs. Too many days coming home crying, exhausted, demoralized, with no $$. And that was only doing local shows. I admire your honesty. I think it's important for people to understand the challenges of selling art for a living. Compliments don't pay the bill. 100%! Artists aren't entertainment. I think too many events offer up art as "ambiance" while people eat, drink, and browse. It's completely depressing and not at all sustainable.
Lee Ann Wahi
2/25/2023 09:22:52 pm
Please don't let two shows bring you mentally into the gutter. it's not about your work (it's top drawer). Maybe your work was not right for this audience. That is the only lesson to be learned from any art show experience. You know as well as I that even in Minnesota, some shows generate great sales and lots of affirmation, while others stink!
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I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.