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JessLynnBabblin'

  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

149: My Art-Vending Process


art booth setup featuring art in boxes on table with prices shown
Art Booth, sans tent

Howdy! I am a regular presence at First Friday in downtown Bryan, TX. If you aren't familiar, many cities and towns have a set day every month wherein vendors gather around the most walkable neighborhood to sell wares. Often there's live music, and it's a wonderful standing event that attracts visitors from surrounding areas, driving support to small businesses. I have sold art at other events but I've found First Friday to be reliably profitable. And while every vending opportunity is a little bit different, I figured I'd take this opportunity to walk through how I approach my regular set-up.


To begin with, I have to apply. Assuming I'm accepted, then follows a modest fee which I pay immediately..


A day or two beforehand, I plug in my portable power station to make certain it's fully charged, as I need that to power my lights. If it's not, I charge it. I also pull all sell-able art from my walls and studio, arranging them on a table so I can see how they fit. While my larger oil paintings are very much for sale, I am referring to those pieces I can feasibly stuff into my car and booth, so watercolors, gouache paintings, little mixed media pieces, original tattoo flash (Prismacolor drawings), and wood burnings. I sort these by price. Watercolors ranging from 8x10in to 8.5x11in generally go for $40 unless they're very simplistic. Detailed woodburnings go for $40. Tattoo flashsheets go for $20 unless very small. Simpler, smaller, woodburnings go for $20. There are a handful of watercolors that are ~5x7in but very detailed so they go for $20. Then the simplest smallest pieces go for $10 regardless of medium. The layout spans two small folding tables (think TV trays), and one large folding table (6ft long). If there is extra room or I feel like lugging an easel along, I'll also bring oil or acrylic paintings. All paintings and flash are either framed or matted. Woodburnings have metal hooks on the backs for hanging, though I'm debating throwing together a selection of woodburnings as magnets.


I recognize that my prices are low for not being prints. However, I don't have the space, or really any desire, to sell prints in person (I have outsourced prints to a couple of online stores). If I lived in a more affluent city, I could revisit my current pricing structure but I have taken the market into account. Online, I charge an extra $5 on top of shipping, because the trip to the post office means taking time away from work since their not open on the weekends here. Or, alternatively, if you take online as my standard pricing, I take off $5 when selling in person, a convenience discount.


My setup fluctuates with my art but I always sort my art by price, so $40 pieces share a row, as do $20 and $10 pieces. I used to have a $15 section but there isn't room for that now, so those pieces now go for either $20 or $10 depending on complexity and scale. My signed novels sit on a side table where I've priced them at $15. Unsigned novels sit in a box beside me during the event, should a customer choose a live-signing. The other table recently hosts the tattoo flash binder, but in the past offered $70 framed oil paintings (which is very cheap but they're also over a decade old). If I bring the easel, I'll post an oil painting there, generally either 16x20in or 12x16in. Prices for those vary a lot.


The day of, or perhaps before, I refer to my list.

Art

Table Clips

QR Codes

Chapstick

Bonus Table

Logo Sign

2 Ring Lights (& any bonus lights)

Cash

Easel

Plastic Bags (rain only)

Masks (in case a customer is masked)

Portable Power Station

Bags

Babywipes (People lean over my art while carrying beverages a lot.)

Plastic Wrap (rain only)

2 Waterbottles

Big Box

Tape

Signed Books


6ft Folding Table

2 Medium Boxes

Sharpie

Unsigned Books


Tent Legs

Small Box

Pens

Book Sign


Tent Tarp (listed separately because they are often stored separately)

Basket

Post-Its

Book Table


4 Multi-Gallon Waterbottles & String (Tent Weights)

Wand Box/es

Price Signage

Cart


Tablecloth

Purse

Chalk

Square Reader


Chairs

Business Cards

Sketchbook/Notebook

Headphone Jack



These contents are collected, checked off, and loaded into the car. We have a little car. If our vehicle was bigger, I'd arrange my booth more like a little gallery with removable walls for hanging my oil paintings. As it is, sometimes I can't get the easel into the car, on top of everything else.


I usually drop a flier for the event in my Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok stories that afternoon.


First Friday runs from 5pm-10pm, officially. Setup is allowed after 4pm, once roads are closed, and must be concluded by 6pm. Takedown is expected to begin around 9:30pm, and must have concluded by 10pm. I can't drive, and even if I could, I can't get my tent setup without help. Meaning I'm on my husband's time and he has a full time job. We rarely get down there before 5pm, but we always arrive before 6pm. It's a little chaotic. If there is a police officer at the street blockade, they'll let us drive up to our assigned space. Otherwise, we park where able and make many trips carrying everything over. Truthfully, I only carry for one trip, then begin setting up while my husband lugs the rest, less because I'm lazy or weak, than because I worry about theft if I just left everything unguarded in the space. Bryan TX is a very safe area but I'm pretty sure I have had a painting stolen before while I was actively manning my booth.


I stop by an event host to grab a placard acknowledging permission to vend, and arrange that visibly at my space, at which point I'm good to go.


I have a little spiel for interested customers. I'm careful to state that these are all original, handmade pieces, not prints, and if they look to the binder, I assure them I have frames for those pieces as well. Otherwise, I mostly stick to greetings. The event can be loud with live music and the train that runs nearby, so I have to shout to be heard, otherwise I'd be chattier. For payments, I have cash to give change back. I also offer Cashapp, Venmo, Paypal, and I can now accept credit or debit card payments with the Square Reader. Cash is king as those others rely on the 4G/5G to be functioning, which can be slow when everyone is gathered. I jot down every purchase, what sold and for how much, so I can refer to that when updating my inventory files.


At 9pm, I remind my husband to return to assist with takedown, which is a gradual process. If there is an officer at the blockade, he is able to pull up close to my space. Otherwise, this becomes a process of many trips. I generally begin packing the tent and chairs first, in case there remain any last minute shoppers. Again, I can't dismantle the tent alone so I am on my husband's time. Many vendors have an assistant throughout. I manage fine without for the most part, so long as I have help in the beginning and end.


First Friday is run through Destination Bryan, currently including the Art Loop, and they encourage artists to either showcase their craft, live, or offer interactive activities for familiesand while that's fine in concept, it's difficult to paint and acknowledge customers in a timely manner.


The day after, I unload the car. I charge the portable power station and put the unsold pieces back on the wall. Then I do inventory. I keep a list of nearly every piece of art I make. The list details the date made, medium, size, title, content, current location (home, a gallery, or otherwise away), gallery exhibits it's been submitted to, gallery exhibits it's been included in, when/if it sold or gifted, and if sold, for how much. I also have a very basic file where I track income and expenses for my taxes. Then comes the small matter of updating all relevant social media posts to reflect each sale.


As I learn of recurring vending opportunities, I visit as a customer to see what the crowds are like. I can't justify spending money to sell art if I won't make it back. I'm about to start selling locally via Facebook Marketplace as well.


Anyway, I hope if you're an artist or a maker considering taking part in vending opportunities, that this information has been helpful. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!



Newsletter

Howdy! This past week I mainly focused on producing new artwork for First Friday in downtown Bryan TX, where I manned my art booth on May 3rd, 2024. In the same vein, I also went through my art stockpile to frame old pieces to sell, and to remove unsellable art from my binder of tattoo flash sheets (which I now include in my First Friday setup).


I intend to start selling art on Facebook marketplace this week, locally. I've only heard bad things, but it feels cowardly not to give the place a shot.


yellow flower surrounded by green and brownish leaves
Joy, gouache on paper, 8x10in

As far as marketing goes, I finished moving over the important videos from TikTok to Youtube and the Clapper app, in light of the upcoming ban.


As for reading, I finished A Natural Man by Gary Soto. Haven't begun a new book yet but I expect my next read my be the sequel to Soulmates: A Metaphysical Love Story, which is Fated Tides, by Sarah Faeth Sanders. I have it on my Kindle. I just don't know yet if I'm feeling a romance novel this week.


Thanks for stopping by! I drop a newsletter every Monday!


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