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Art Fair Etiquette

My husband and I do art fairs together. After doing it for only a few years I have compiled a do’s and dont’s list..

I’ve participated in craft and art fairs, too.  Even coordinated a large one about 28 years ago.

1. If someone says hello as you are walking by and looking, acknowledge their hello.

While saying “hello” would be courteous, if I had to run a gauntlet through the booths of artists and owners all greeting me with an expectation that I return that greeting, I’ll probably stay home.   The booth owner/artist has a vested interest in greeting customers so as to provide a pleasant shopping experience in order to draw them in and increase sales.  Standing there like an alien is off putting and will not get you sales.

2. Compliment the artist. They worked very hard on their art and they are proud.

I’m sure they are proud of their work but if it is not worthy of compliments, none should be forthcoming.   Besides, the highest compliment is a sale.

3. Don’t tell the artist that you have a brother, sister, cousin who does the same thing. They might do something similar but it’s not the same.

Didn’t faze me a bit when people said that to me.  My reply?  A cheerful, “Great!   I hope you enjoy their stuff!”   And then I ignored them to focus on a new customer.

4. Don’t offer the artist suggestions on what they should do. If they wanted to do it, they would have.

5. If you break something you should pay for it, not just walk away.

This is true. But I would also suggest that valuable, breakable items be put in glass display cases or out of reach.  I still remember the inlaid wood and brass belt buckle artist at a D.C. show who got offended that people were picking up her buckles to examine them.  As soon as they put them down, she would pick the buckle up and wipe off the skin oils with growing angst at having to do it.  I had no interest thereafter in buying one as her disdain for her customers was palpable.

6. If it costs more than you expected simply put it down and walk away. Don’t grimace or comment on the price.

Bartering and haggling is part of the experience.  Bring it on, I say, because once they are engaged in a price battle, you know you have them on the hook.  The only question is whether you can seal the deal.   The problem with artists is they think their work is more valuable than it is.  It is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it and if you are not getting sales but are getting comments that the price is too high, then the price is too high. I’ve known any starving artists who would rather stick to their inflated prices than actually sell a piece and make some money.

7. Keep an eye on your kids. They could actually get hurt.

8. Don’t tell the artist that you saw something similar for cheaper.

Again, a cheerful, “Great!  I hope you enjoy it!”

{ 55 comments… add one }
  • Anna H July 24, 2012, 1:46 pm

    Twice on fairs (art and other) I have been answered, after asking for the price on an item: “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” and “you are just asking, you are not going to buy anything, are you?” :-/

    Needless to say, a meeting starting like that never ended in a purchase for me.

  • Enna July 30, 2012, 11:58 am

    I think it depends what and how things are said. For example if someone wants to make conversation with an artist to show apprication for their work I think saying “my abc relation does something like this, wonderful isn’t it?” whereas “my five year old could do better then this” is just plain rude. As for prices it depends on the price and how much it is worth. Quibling over a few dollars or pounds is silly. If something has cost £20 to make including materail and labour the artist won’t sell it for anything less then £20 but chargin £2oo would be silly.

  • How Tacky August 2, 2012, 4:21 am

    /Bartering and haggling is part of the experience./

    In what world? You wouldn’t go into Sears and haggle! Have some respect for the artists! You want to haggle and barter go to a flea market or garage sale not a art show!

  • How Tacky August 2, 2012, 4:23 am

    Also you come off like a doormat. Seriously people should be polite to artist and saying “I saw this for some place else cheaper” is TACKY and RUDE. Just because something doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it’s not horrible rude. I pity the artists that have to deal with all the people that now think treating people like crap is okay.

  • erica September 9, 2012, 8:40 pm

    There is a difference between a flea market/craft show and an “ART show”.

    And I personally think it’s incredibly rude for someone to not acknowledge a greeting..even if it’s just a smile or nod.

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