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SUMMARY: When preparing for an art fair, remember that despite advice to the contrary, most people will judge a book by its cover. If your works are poorly framed and messily displayed, few if any potential customers will be able to look beyond the surface treatment. It doesn't matter how wonderful your paintings or prints are—their eyes will simply stop at the shabby presentation.

Purchase or build a display

For most situations a simple tri-fold design works best. Depending on your mood, you can make the display convex or concave. I have always been a bit of a do-it-yourselfer, so I bought some pegboard and some hinges from home depot, painted the board white, and screwed everything together. One advantage of the pegboard is that you can easily insert a variety of hooks with which to hang your work. Keep in mind that you are probably going to have to force the display into your jalopy, not to mention lug it across the fairgrounds. Keep it small and light.

Hang your six most eye-catching pieces

These pieces will entice the customer to look over the entirety of the collection. From thirty feet away, even the most eagle-eyed customer will be unable to appreciate minutely detailed work. Instead, opt for bold works that work well from any distance.

Mat and frame these pieces carefully. The frames can be simple and inexpensive, but it is important that the whole presentation appears professional. I have discovered that cheap, black, aluminum frames work wonders. They are a snap to put together and they don't distract from the work.

Set up a browse bin

Chances are that you are going to have far more artwork than you can tastefully hang in your stall. (I find that I can rarely hang more than six paintings before things start looking crowded.)

The bin can be little more than a clean cardboard box with the top flaps cut off. If your box is labeled "Christmas Decorations" in magic marker, you might want to cover it in contact paper. Alternatively, you can find all sorts of attractive boxes at storage stores.

Within the browse bin, all your prints or paintings should be matted and placed in poly bags. It is especially important to mat work that will go in a browse bin because customers won't even be seeing the print hanging on a wall. Chances are they will simply flip through or, at best, pull the piece out of the box and look at it in the sun. The mat helps separate the print from its surroundings. The poly bags protect your work from greasy little fingers. They also provide some protection from the sun, so that your work won't fade while you are selling it.

Be an Active Seller

Remember why you entered the fair in the first place. Chances are you are hoping to make some money and get people interested in your art. You are not there to read the paper.

Greet customers who are looking at your booth. A smiling face does as much as a masterpiece to draw people in. Tell them about your work and ask them what they are looking for. You will rarely scare away a real customer by striking up a conversation.

By the same token, you don't want to come off as a used car salesman. If people look like they want to be left alone to browse, don't talk their ears off.

Be Positive

Few people are successful at something the first time they try it. If you don't make a fortune at your first art fair, don't give up hope.

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