Here are the framed pieces I submitted for the art show:
The art show was a definite learning experience. First and foremost, congratulations to the artists that did well (i.e. sold a lot of stuff), and thanks to my friends and family who stopped by the show. It really meant a lot to me.
I only sold one piece, a matted 11×14 swan photo for $35 (that someone I knew bought). I invested a total of $884 for framing and matting the pieces that were in the art bin, $40 entrance fee to enter the show and a total of 15 ½ hours volunteering at the show, for a grand total of $924 in costs (which doesn't include the time I spent volunteering). Of the $35 I earned from the sale of my photo, the Guild keeps 10%, so I will get a check for $31.50. The framed photography did not sell well for most people. Another new Guild member I met sold 8 matted photographs from the art bin. They were all Chesapeake Bay themed, and were priced higher than mine. She charged $40 for her 11×14 matted photographs. The photography I entered for this show was not focused on the Bay. I thought I would offer something different. I took a gamble, and as a result, my stuff didn’t sell.
It was really disappointing not to sell more than one thing, especially considering the money I spent on framing and matting. Lesson learned. Another lesson is to offer a product that will sell to your target market. The people in this area love anything to do with the Bay, nautical, boating, crabs, fishing, etc. I should have had some Chesapeake Bay themed pieces as well. One woman bought a sunflower painting for $400, I had a framed sunflower photograph that was priced about half of that, but I guess the customer was drawn to this painting. You just never know what will sell or what people are looking for. One of the women who sold a ton of stuff did silk screening on scarves, wall hangings, purses, and cards. She offered something different that no one else was doing and it sold really well.
I am putting all of my experiences out here for the next person who wants to do an art show. Start small. If you are a photographer, focus more on matting pieces for the art bin rather than spending a small fortune on framing pieces that may not sell (because there are so many photographers and it's a really competitive field), make some note card sets, or post cards, or products from another hobby like book making or hand made jewelry.
For a first show, less is really more in terms of inventory and money spent. This should really be research and development — keep your eyes and ears open and watch what sells and adjust accordingly. Of course, every market and every show is different.
Go with your gut. I wish I had.