Juried art shows can provide important opportunities for your craft business, but first, you need to apply and get accepted. These tips will help you get your applications in top form.
We'll begin this guide to applying to juried art shows with the assumption that you've already researched craft fairs in your area and have selected some that interest you. You know which shows you'd like to attend, and your next step is to dive into the application process.
Once you do have a list of shows that interest you, it's time to start the application process.
To apply to juried art shows you'll need to:
Before you apply to any show, of course, you need to find information about the application process. Look at websites for the shows that interest you to find information for vendors.
Typically, craft show organizers will have vendors apply in one of three ways:
When you check out the websites for the shows that interest you, you're looking for one of those application options as well as any other information show organizers have provided for vendors.
Once you're on the show's website, you might need to look around the site carefully to find information about how to apply. Keep in mind, a craft show's website is primarily designed to promote the show to customers who are interested in attending, so the information for vendors is not always front and center.
If there isn't an obvious link to information for vendors in the website's navigation menu, look at the smaller links that are often found at the top or bottom of web pages.
There's no standard language craft show organizers use, but you might find information for vendors under links labeled something like:
If the site has a search function, try searching for vendor information. Alternatively, you could also use a search engine and look up the name of the show plus the word application.
You can also check the list of participating events on zapplication.org (Zapp) for information about applying to shows that use the Zapp platform. You won't find all art shows listed on Zapp, but if the show you're interested in does use the Zapp platform, you'll find application details there.
Do not procrastinate!
The deadlines for applying to most juried art shows are many, many months before the actual show. If selling at craft shows is new to you, you might be quite surprised by how far in advance you need to apply.
You don't want to be disappointed and lose a great opportunity because you missed a deadline, so get on this job right away.
When you do find the application information, look carefully at any dates to check whether the application information is for the coming season, or if it's old information from a previous year.
Often, craft show organizers will leave old application information up on their sites until they are ready to post the new information for the upcoming season. If you happen to check out the website during an in between time, you might accidentally stumble upon the previous year's information instead of the information you need for the upcoming year.
If the application information you find is from the previous year, it can still be useful.
The requirements and deadlines for juried art shows typically won't change that much from year to year. Do go ahead and review the information if it's from the previous year to get a general idea of what to expect, but also make a note in your calendar to return to the site to get the current year's application information when it's posted.
Once you have found the current year's application information, before you do anything with your application, you should read it carefully all the way through.
Do an initial read-through of the application information right away. You don't want to miss anything important, like an application deadline or requirement because you didn't read the application form carefully and promptly.
If it's possible, I would suggest printing up a copy of the application to use as a rough copy. On your rough copy, use a highlighter to highlight any important information you need to remember such as deadlines, and all materials that must be included in the application package.
Why would you print a rough copy of your application information if you are submitting the good copy online?
Often, people process information that they read on paper more thoroughly than information they read on a screen. If you're trying to be super careful and ensure you don't miss anything important, a paper copy of the application will help you.
Before you do anything else with your juried art show application, you need to find crucial dates including:
All of the above dates are important and should be noted on the calendar you use to track business information, but if you want a chance of being accepted to the show, the application deadline is absolutely crucial.
Make note of the application deadline on your calendar.
Then choose a date that's well before the application deadline, and commit to completing your application by that date. Make note of that date on your calendar as well.
Do not wait until the last minute to prepare and submit your craft show applications.
As soon as you start reviewing applications for juried art shows, you'll immediately notice one thing - they all have different requirements.
Some requirements are easy to fulfill. Others take more work, particularly if this is the first year you're applying to juried art shows. Also, submitting your applications early can make a difference, especially if you work in a competitive category like jewelry.
If it's nowhere near the application deadline, that's great, start working on the application now, so you'll have plenty of time to put together a great application package.
Each show application is a bit different, but applications to juried art show typically require some combination of the following:
Occasionally a show application will indicate that some element (like a booth photo, for example) is optional but nice to include.
If something is optional, do include it. Some shows and some craft categories are quite competitive, and it's wise to take full advantage of every opportunity to make a great impression.
Let's take a look at some of the elements of your application.
Your product photos form the foundation of your craft show application. Other elements help, but your product photos tell the story of the quality and uniqueness of your products.
Do you have outstanding product photos? You'll need them to be accepted, particularly in more competitive shows. Ensure you submit the best quality photos you can obtain.
Organizers typically want three, five, or ten images of your products. Read all show application requirements before you start the process of getting products shots for craft show applications. That way, you can be sure to get enough photos to cover all of the requirements.
The required size of photos, the file type, and the delivery method will also vary from show to show.
Many shows will specify required dimensions for your photos, as well as the size of the file, so check this information carefully. Don't assume it will be the same from show to show.
Organizers may also ask for specific file types, such as .jpg or .png files.
Many shows have moved to online application submissions, but some organizers still want you to mail in a hard copy of all of your application materials. Depending on what the organizer specifies, you might be asked to:
Not all craft show applications ask for a photo of your booth, but some do. If you're new to selling at craft shows, and you don't have a photo of your booth - you might not even have a display yet - then you have some decisions to make.
If you don't have a display at all, you might stick to applying to shows that don't require a booth photo at first, and then create your display once you've been accepted into your first shows.
Alternatively, you may have already decided you're fully committed to selling at craft shows and ready to dive in and create your display. If that's the case, you can set up your display somewhere (in your back yard, for example) where you'll be able to get some good shots.
Whatever you decide, do be sure to take some booth photos at the start of each show you attend. You can use the best shots for future craft show applications.
Give yourself plenty of time to write your artist's bio or statement. They can be tricky if you're not used to writing to promote yourself.
You can include details about any education or training, the way you approach your work, and possibly other shows you've participated in. Often show organizers will provide a bit of guidance on the application form to let you know what they're looking for in this part of your application.
Sometimes your bio will be used in promotional materials for the show. If that's the case, as you write your statement or bio, be sure to consider how it would be perceived by potential customers.
You can sometimes check out other artists' bios on the websites for shows you want to attend. Just look for a list of exhibitors from the previous show, and see if there are any bios posted. You can also take a look at other artists' websites and read their artists' statements to get some inspiration.
Just don't copy them! Use examples for guidance and inspiration only.
Your bio can be used on your website and in any other promotional materials you develop. So, once you write the bio, it will have uses beyond craft show applications.
If you're providing URLs for your website or business social media accounts, take some time to review those accounts with a juror's perspective in mind. Do any necessary clean up to ensure you make a great impression.
For example, if you have an Instagram account for your business, look at your posted photos with a critical eye. Imagine what a juror might think looking at those photos, and add or delete items as needed to make the best impression.
Show organizers will likely ask you to provide proof that you have business insurance that will cover any problems that might occur at the show.
I'm not an insurance expert, so I can't provide specific advice about business insurance. An insurance provider in your area will be able to provide information. You could also talk with someone at your local business development office (Chamber of Commerce, or, in the US, your local SBA) for advice and possibly referrals to appropriate insurance providers in your area.
Shows require payments at different times. Some shows require payment at the time you apply, and they will refund your fees if you aren't accepted to the show. Other shows will ask for payment at a later date.
All shows require payment in advance of the date of the show, so you'll need to be smart about managing your business cash flow. Read the payment policies carefully, and note payment dates, so you can ensure you have the fees covered in your business bank account.
Be meticulous when completing your applications for juried art shows.
Even if you are submitting your application online, I would suggest printing up a copy of the show requirements and a rough draft of your application.
Most people proofread much better on paper than they do on a screen. Printing your application and the show requirements and checking them carefully against each other can go a long way to ensure you don't miss anything important.
Make sure you have included everything that's required.
Don't rely on notes you may have made along the way. You may have forgotten to note something important. Instead, go directly to your original copy of the requirements to ensure you've completed and included everything.
Ensure that you've filled out everything perfectly. Do not omit anything, and follow the organizer's instructions exactly.
If you're sending an application the old fashioned way by mail, first make a copy of everything in your application package for your own records. Label everything exactly as required, use the exact envelope or folder size requested by the organizer, and organize documents in the order they request.
If you're submitting an application online, do exactly as the organizer has asked. Make sure photos are the correct size and file type, and ensure you've completed all sections of the online form and answered questions appropriately.
Some organizers are more specific than others. Whatever they require, follow their instructions perfectly.
You're finished your craft show application. You're almost ready to relax with a well-earned glass of wine or cup of tea.
But first, you need to organize all of the application information you just created, so you'll have it for future craft show applications.
Collect all of your materials, including written materials and photos. Store copies of paper documents in an organized filing system that will allow you to find them easily in the future. Likewise, store digital files related to your application on your computer in a way that allows you to find them easily. Be sure important digital files are backed up, so you don't lose them.
Copies of completed applications will help you to complete future applications more easily. Initially, applying to juried art shows can be a big job, but if you maintain good records, as you apply to more shows, you'll be able to refer to previous craft show applications, and this process will become much easier as you apply to more shows.