Applying for a Million Craft Fairs

It’s probably not a surprise for me to say that Illustration is competitive. Having a makers business in general is competitive, but print makers especially so. 

Did you know in the U.K. you are never more than 3 feet away from an illustrator?

Ok, so I made that up. It’s not true. Sure feels like it though, right? Thing is it’s not just the attention and adoration of joe public you are competing for. Shelf space with stockists and table at markets are competitive too. Not to mention anything from big social media account shares to commission opportunities. 

In this post though I’m going to focus on fairs. At the time of writing this it may be summer but we are coming to the end of the season for applying for Christmas craft fairs. There seems to be more and more popping up, but still not at a rate comparable to the amount of new stallholders emerging all the time. 

Christmas is, obviously, the busiest time of year for makers’ retail sales. It’s exactly the time of year you want people to be thinking of you and browsing your products. But successfully applying for good fairs this year has been difficult for me this year. At the beginning of this year I was accepted to some really well regarded fairs and it was brilliant. Fast forward to now and I have currently applied for a whopping 20 fairs for the Sep-Dec 2019 season. I have been rejected by 8, accepted by 2 and still awaiting the outcome of 10 (although I wouldn’t like to hold my breath for any). These are fairs in my home city and across the country too.

So what to do?

What to do indeed. Although it’s upsetting, it’s just a reality. I’ve come to terms with it and have a few ideas for things to do. Firstly, I still have my stockists and online store. I am not going to miss out on Christmas sales altogether, just some market ones. I’ll ramp up my online promotion, focus on my stockists and promote the butt out of commissioned pieces. Plus I have some commissions to complete right now anyway and last Christmas I got a few specially commissioned Christmas orders. This year my business has grown and so I expect more this year.

Secondly, I could just let myself have a break. I have plenty of other things to keep me busy beyond markets, and I have worked really hard this first half of the year. I did a lot of markets in the spring and I have had a fair few large painting commissions over the last few months. Not to mention new stockists. I haven’t created much art for arts sake and I’ve barely touched clay in months. A break without fairs is pretty well deserved at this point. 

Thirdly, I can just critically analyse my stall and try again. I’ll see what the success rate is of these outstanding applications. Ultimately, I can just work harder to improve my craft and branding. This is something I would do whether I got accepted or not, but it at least gives a clear response to my work from a stall organisers point of view. I can think how to stand out from the crowd a bit more. On the other side, maybe I can look into new markets too. Find my audience, my crowd, my niche. 

Lastly I just want other makers to know that I am going through this too. A rebellion against all that is making yourself look flawless in the internet. It is hard work, it was always going to be. Accepting rejection is just part of business, and if you can do that then the only way is up from there! 


Dealing with Rejection as an Artist

January is famous for being the longest month of them all. With what feels like 97 cold and dark days it is a nightmare for everyone. I can’t think of anyone who does well out of January, certainly not artists. Sales plummet as everyone feels the pinch after Christmas, and if you’re thinking of creating daylight hours are a rare luxury this time of year.

One thing that January is good for it admin and applications. It’s the perfect time to research new opportunities, new stockists and new markets. With the great stock clear out that is Christmas shopping, stockists will most likely have some spare shelf space going. Markets and Fairs are buzzing off their pre-Christmas rushes and getting their new year dates and applications in early. There seems to be a range of artist call out opening this year too. Whether it’s because everyone is taking the quiet time to get organised, budgets are renewed with the new year or perhaps this is the perfect time to prep busy artistic summer ventures.

The R Word

However, with more artist call outs comes more chances for dreaded rejection. I don’t believe that there are any artists out there who haven’t had to face it. None worth their salt anyway. If you aren’t willing to step outside your comfort zone then I can’t imagine you are even really trying. Pairing up those rejections with this dark, cold, fluey, broke time of year and you’ve got the real potential for some pretty down feeling artists.

I started to become one of those at the beginning of the year. Tired from all of those Christmas markets and missing daylight. I became a manic whirlwind of applications. Funny thing is that it wasn’t even receiving rejections that was making me anxious, but more like the waiting period where I was hopeful of success but mindful of receiving a slew of them in a short space of time. The absolute chasm between those two emotions was the stressful part. The idea that I could be taking part in some incredible opportunities, or that I could get shut down repeatedly in the space of just a few days was an absolute rollercoaster.

Art always feels so personal to us and we are so passionate about it that I know that there are lots of people in my shoes. However, it is precisely that thought that unlocks the route to handling rejections as they come in

The are a lot of people in my shoes

Arts opportunities are finite. There are tonnes of talented artists and there are only so many jobs going. Some might have a tonne more experience than you too. In my case, with only a year into my business, that’s most.

Whenever I am not successful it just means that someone out there, someone just like me, has been. It just means that it wasn’t my time that time. Perhaps it sounds like the cheesiest thing ever but when I started viewing unsuccessful opportunities as ‘try agains’ instead of ‘nos’ it made a huge difference to me. It helped me to keep a level of confidence, optimism and high self esteem that guided me through even more applications.  

Of all the applications that I made that had decision dates in January and early February I didn’t succeed in securing six of them. That’s six whole applications that I spent time, energy and hope on that didn’t come through. I filled out forms, created proposals, mocked up artworks and it didn’t pay off. Not even any feedback. The thing is though, seven applications were successful. Plus, I have seven more I am still waiting to hear back from. If I let the unsuccessful ones put me off then where would I be now?

One rejection doesn’t guarantee any more rejections

I hope that anyone facing rejection can find it comforting that everyone gets it. If you find yourself getting it almost exclusively then maybe take some time off from applications. Focus on your work, or ask someone to cast a critical eye over one of your applications. Are you following the brief? Are you applying to the right sort of things? Perhaps there are other opportunities out there that might suit you better? We all have our audiences and there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ artist.

I am really looking forward to sharing with you the new stockists, markets, exhibitions and commissions that I am going to be creating this year. Especially more so because I know what it’s like to not be able to take part. After all, the bitter always makes the sweet taste sweeter.