What I learned from my first art market stall

A week ago I had my first ever art market stall. It was at a yoga and music festival in Adelaide called Sanctuary. The theme of the festival was ‘air’ and there were aerialists performing at the event. So it seemed the stars were aligning to bring me the perfect event at which to sell my art. However, I did not end up selling any of my work. This blog post is about the things I could have done better to set myself up for success. I will also talk about the things that were out of my control.

What I learned from my first art market stall

My artwork set up for sale showing the original ‘Yogi Twist‘ and the printed towel version

My first art market stall

On the internet, you often see a very skewed view of people’s lives. They may only post the positive and exciting things that happen to them. I can be a bit like that too. However, after my first art market stall, I think it is important to be honest.

Although the day was a positive experience, I did not have any success at selling my artwork. So on the bright side, I want to document the things I learned from the experience. I also want to emphasise that people do not always find success initially, but need to work harder to reach their goals eventually.

What I learned from my first art market stall

Me standing behind my table (which you cant even see because there are so many paintings)

Things I learned:

You need volume of people

I think that the major issue that prevented me from selling any of my artwork was that there was a smaller turnout at the Sanctuary festival than expected. There are many possible reasons for this, like it is close to Christmas and people get busy or the weather was a bit overcast….etc. All of these factors are outside of my control.

So I have tried to look at the experience not as a failed art market stall where I put in a lot of effort and did not get any sales, but rather as a learning experience. As they say in Monty Python ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ πŸ˜‰

Having said that, there were several things that I could improve upon for my next art market stall…

I ordered too much stock

I had visions in my head of running out of stock, so I ordered way too much. Then because I had all those prints and products all over my house I figured I should take it with me to the market. I now think that was probably the wrong move.

I am just starting out in my art business, so I probably should not have invested as much money in paying for inventory for my first time. Instead I think that I should have taken only my best-selling and standout pieces with me to test the waters and see how people responded to them.

I think that part of the problem that caused me to over-order stock, is that as an artist I think that each of my pieces is unique. In the past I have seen how people can instantly fall in love with one of my pieces of artwork when all of the others don’t really appeal to them as much. So I thought that I needed to have examples of all of my pieces to maximise my chances of this happening.

This would have been fine if I had have had infinite space in which to display my work, but that is not always the case. So I think instead I should have ordered a smaller selection of prints and products.

What I learned from my first art market stall

Stacked prints from my art store

Do a practice run

Since I had so much artwork, I was reluctant to do a test run of my art market stall setup. This should have been my first warning sign that I had too much stuff.

When I arrived at the Sanctuary festival, it took me a lot longer than expected to set everything up. The way that I had imagined I would set up my art market stall did not end up working out, so I had to reorganise on the fly. It also meant that I was still putting on price tags and rearranging things as the festival started.

What I learned from my first art market stall


Talk to experienced people

I am so glad that I talked to Elicia of Art By Elicia Jane about her experience with art market stalls. She gave me so many helpful tips about things that she had learned so far and about things she is also hoping to improve upon in her stall. Elicia and I have very different styles of artwork, but a lot of her learnings are still very relevant to me.

I learned from her that you need public liability insurance for art market stalls and that you can purchase it in partial year chunks. In addition, she gave me great suggestions about how to take credit cards.

I think that the best tip that I got from Elicia was to try to do things to make people spend some time at your booth and interact with you. She suggested that I stack some of my prints in front of my table so that people would need to rifle through them in order to see them all.

Based on this, I also set up a bunch of my work behind my table. This meant that people could wander through it like an art gallery. Therefore I could see what pieces people were most interested in and tell them to let me know if I have any questions.

What I learned from my first art market stall

I need a cheaper price point

I think that a lot of my artwork is at a higher price than what people are willing to spend at a market. It is not possible for me to drop the prices of my work since I order the prints from Society6 and I need to cover the costs of creating the prints and other products.

However, I think that I could introduce some cheaper products that cost me less to make. The cheapest product that I had in my art market stall last weekend was the tank tops for $30. Perhaps in the future I should have some greeting cards so that there are some products in my stall that cost less than $10.

What I learned from my first art market stall

On the bright side

The Sanctuary festival was a really fun day.

What I learned from my first art market stallWhat I learned from my first art market stall

Left: Group yoga with my mum and auntie modelling my ‘crabby pants‘ and ‘look at me leggings‘ with my adorable cousin participating. Right: the collaborative mandala artwork that I supervised at the Sanctuary festival

Since the Sanctuary festival, I have had an uptake in the number of orders that I have had in my online store. I am not sure if that is because I handed out a bunch of business cards to people who seemed interested at the festival. It is possible that it is just because it is close to Christmas time that I am getting more organic art sales online. However, it is also possible that the people I met at the Sanctuary festival have looked up my site and put in some orders.

What I learned from my first art market stall

Me with my mum and my auntie all wearing leggings available in my online store

Big thanks to my awesome friend Clare and my mum who helped me set up and run the art market stall at the Sanctuary festival! Clare was also the photographer for most of the shots used in this post.

Do you have any other market stall tips? if so I would love to hear them!

All of the products you have seen in this post are available in my online store.