The question is...

Did that title grab your attention?  If it did, and you're eager to know what the question is, you're not alone.  I'm at a questioning crossroads after a pretty awful show season.

One of the questions is:

Do I continue to offer my work for sale at juried outdoor festivals? 
The time, travel, and monetary outlays for these events make them costly ventures.  When there's little or no return (yes, I'm referring to you, Art on Main!), is it even worth considering?  My friend and artist extraordinaire, Larry Poncho Brown says a show's value isn't always about sales, and I can understand that thinking.  But, if nothing results from a show (no additional mailing list names, no after-show sales, no follow up contacts from galleries, no contact from the multitudes of "I'll be backs"), my inclination has been to write that show off my list, and move on to other, more potentially fruitful ones.  Now, I'm questioning even that line of thinking...shouldn't I be only doing the shows which have been good for me in the past? 

And another question is:
What other ways can I get my work seen and sold?
Of course, this is the proverbial $64,000 Question. Fellow artists, weigh in here please.  Here are some thoughts to get you started:

Conventional Galleries/pros:  work gets exposed to more people than I would be able to reach on my own.  Can potentially sell well, without cost to me besides shipping, insurance and the gallery's percentage (is this is really a "pro" after all?). The gallery takes on responsibility for marketing and advertising.
Conventional Galleries/cons:  many are struggling themselves, usually take a huge chunk of the selling price, can't represent my work as I would, and require that I sell my work at the same price they do, and potentially could tie up my work for long durations. 

Co-op Galleries/pros:  usually less demanding in terms of pricing than a conventional gallery, would conceivably have artists with whom I'm compatible, potentially more autonomy in how my work is displayed.
Co-op Galleries/cons:  usually require a buy-in and/or time commitment to sell at the gallery (with my teaching schedule, this would probably be difficult to manage), could have much lower foot traffic and fewer funds for advertising, which could equal no or low sales. 

Restaurant displays/pros:  usually free (?), potentially good exposure for my work on a constant basis, I imagine I would be able to choose the work I want to display, and shipping wouldn't be an issue, since I'd deliver to local sites. 
Restaurant displays/cons:  I bet the biggest one is that people don't think of buying work off the wall of a restaurant! ( If you've done this--either as a displaying artist or a buying customer, please comment here.). Other potential hazards are damage, work taking on the odors of the food, and being 'part of the scenery' rather than a money-generating entity. 

Home shows/pros:  less travel, friendly conditions (either in my own home, or the home of friends), a ready-made audience (would do it only with people who know of or want to learn more about my work), pricing isn't hampered by gallery constraints, one-time event.
Home shows/cons:  display challenges, calendar challenges (potentially competing with many other events during holiday periods), marketing/advertising challenges and costs, one-time event could equal lots of work for little return.

I realize this is only a partial list.  What other ways have you tried?  Would you recommend one over all others? 

Thanks for reading and sharing. 


Linda Poche said…
My mom and her art group created an annual event around the holidays and opened three or four of their houses to the public as a studio tour. They divided into groups of three or four and each group helped prep the display places and set up their works. Each artist provided some beverages and snacks and holiday music was played in the background. The first year, they got mostly the folks on their mailing lists and neighborhood curiosity seekers, but each year after that grew significantly. The costs were pretty small and the ability each artist had to connect directly with potential buyers was great. (And it was a lot of work but also a lot of fun for us family members!)
Michelle said…
That's a wonderful idea, Linda. Maybe some of us in the Guild could put something like this together next year. I do prefer the personal touch when selling my work, and I think smaller, more intimate gatherings may be the direction to think about for the future. Thanks for your comments!