An Inside Look at a Craft Fair Jury

Including Tips for Applying to Juried Shows
© by Barb Macy; all rights reserved

Today I had the pleasure of being part of the jury for a large art & craft fair that takes place each fall in Corvallis, Oregon.

Fine silver rings by Barb Macy

Approximately 180 artists sell their wares there – including textiles, jewelry, wood, ceramics, watercolors, etc. There’s a little bit of everything at this show.

I’ve attended the past two years (as a shopper) and was impressed at the layout and the huge number of people in attendance.

Of the 180 vendors at this show each year, the top 1/4 to 1/3 in each category are asked to return the following year and don’t have to go through the jury process again.

I’m guessing the top sellers had sales well over $10K – easily. (What the heck am I waiting for?!)


What is a “Jury”
for a Fair or Show?

A juried show is one where your acceptance is based on the approval of a “jury” that screens the applications and slides, looking for quality vendors and products.

Some juries consist only of the show promoter and a staff member or two. Others consist of a group of art educators, artists, art patrons, or gallery owners.

The jury usually accepts only a limited number of artists from each medium to the show, so your jewelry (and application package) are competing against those of other jewelry artists.

Turquoise jewelry set by Barb Macy


The Jury Process

There was a jury of eight people, with two of the art fair organizers directing us.

Among the jury group, there was a woodworker, a potter, a painter, a jewelry maker (me), a fiber/sewing artist, and a couple others. So, from what I could tell, it was a well-rounded group of people.

All of the artist applications and photos were grouped according to category/medium.

Each category group was passed around the table, and the jury members looked at every individual application and accompanying photos.

With each application and photo, there was a piece of paper where we rated the artist. We were instructed to consider the following:

* Originality – Is it different from work we’ve seen before?

* Craftsmanship – Is it well-made? Is the work complex? Broad range of skills and experience?

* Presentation and Photos – (see below).

After we reviewed each application and photos, we were to rate it. Obviously, the artists/applications with the highest rating would be getting an invitation to join the fair next fall.

The booth fees start at $100, plus 15% of total sales.

After the show, artists report their sales and submit their portion to the Fall Festival organizers. Top sellers get invited back the following year.

So, for a few hours today, I learned quite a bit about the jury process for an art and craft fair.

Here are some thoughts for you, if you are thinking about applying to a juried show:

Sterling silver swirl earrings by Barb Macy


Tips for Applying to a
Juried Show

* PHOTOS! Please submit good photos.

If your photos are horrid, you will not be accepted, much less even reviewed. You might be the best metalsmith or quilter on the planet, but if your photos are crappy, you’ll never even get a toe inside the front door.

The jury doesn’t have an actual piece of your work to touch, feel and examine, so the only thing we can go on is a photo example of your work. I probably passed and gave a very low rating on 20 applications just due to poor quality photos.

An example of what to submit for a jury: simple, good lighting (no flash, please), no busy background, close-up as possible of details, and clear/focused (please use a tripod!).

* Complete the application and provide details on your work.

I liked reading what types of materials were used and how much of the process was actually done by the artist. Of course, you also need to meet the deadline and include any fees.

* Make a professional presentation.

Whatever the jury asks for on the application, provide it!

Extra photos were fine and welcome, but I especially liked the photos that had descriptions and labels of what I was looking at. Several of us often asked, “What is this supposed to be?” – and that isn’t good for the artist.

Also, the professionalism in the application process made me wonder what kind of booth the artist would have.

If their application and photos were sloppy, would their booth be sloppy and tacky, too?

* Know your market.

If you do crafty country themed stuff and are applying to a fine art show, you probably won’t get accepted.

There were several applications of crafty stuff you’d find at your local craft store. These items (in my opinion) just wouldn’t fit in this type of art fair.

All in all, I had a great day and learned a ton about the jury process for an art fair!

Of all the groups, fiber/textiles, 2-D, and jewelry had the most applications. Leather had the fewest.

There was some really amazing work included, but also a lot of crap.



Author Barb Macy of Accent Yourself makes handcrafted sterling silver jewelry from her home in Wisconsin.

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