Opportunities for Artists Who Wholesale

by Carolyn Edlund

Do you sell your collection wholesale to galleries and retailers? The American Made Show presents a marketplace that draws members of the trade, and all types of buyers for handmade goods.


Trade Show Floor


Selling wholesale is a business model that helps create sustainable businesses through repeat sales to retailers of all types. It’s the primary way I built my own production studio business. Wholesaling also works as a complementary method with retailing, commission work, and selling online, helping to provide steady income and offer the opportunity to work as a full-time artist.

When I exhibited at trade shows, the Buyer’s Market of American Craft was a major driver of sales for my studio. With over thirty years’ reputation as a top marketplace for the handmade and fine craft industries, Buyer’s Market has recently re-branded as the American Made Show. The event will take place in Washington, DC in January, 2015 and is accepting submissions from artists who wish to exhibit.

Mary Strope is in exhibitor services at the American Made Show, and works closely with artists who are interested in developing their lines for the wholesale market. I spoke with her recently about this opportunity, what is offered, and which artists would be a good fit.


Glass display


AS: What does exhibiting at a wholesale trade show involve?

MS:  At a wholesale show, exhibitors bring only one sample of each item they wholesale, unlike a public craft fair where multiples of each item are brought to restock the shelves. Buyers will place orders and the artist will produce the order after the show and ship it to the store, usually within 4-6 weeks. In this way, artists are not required to keep a large inventory of their work on hand or purchase raw materials far in advance of the show.

Artists must be able to travel to Washington, DC to show their work. Many artists drive to the show, but those who are farther away would need to ship their display and their work. A trade show space is divided using a pipe and drape system. This means there is a drape around the perimeter of your space which is supported by a metal pipe system. Your display sits inside the draped area. A pop up canopy is not appropriate.


Buyers at a Jewelry Booth


The American Made Show includes 1,000 watts of electricity for each booth space. Exhibitors would bring or rent their own display equipment (pedestals, shelves, and tables), lighting fixtures and flooring. Anything you need for your display can be rented from the show’s decorator. Booths range in size from 6’ x 10’ for first time exhibitors to multiples of 10’ x 10’. Corner booths carry an additional premium. Most exhibitors go all out to decorate their booth. It’s really one of the most beautiful and dazzling shows I’ve ever seen!

Artists need to bring order forms and catalogs or brochures with images of their work. The goal of selling your work at wholesale is to sell in small quantities and get re-orders from store buyers. The re-order can come in at times that are traditionally slow for art fair artists, thereby keeping an artist at home and in the studio more than on the road. Artists who wholesale tend to do fewer shows than artists who sell at craft fairs.


Trade show booth


AS: What kinds of store buyers will attend the show?

MS: The show is well known for attracting quality art galleries, craft galleries, and museum gift shops. In addition, we also draw gift shop buyers from aquariums, zoos, and national parks, boutiques, clothing stores, home décor stores, jewelry stores, catalogs, online stores and specialty gift shops.


fiber art booth


AS: What type of work is appropriate for your show?

MS: Small batch production and some one of a kind works best for our show. We require our exhibitors’ products to be designed and made in America or Canada. Any casting, printing or outsourcing of the production must be done in the US or Canada under the supervision of the artist. We require the raw materials to be purchased from American/Canadian companies.

There are some exceptions, of course. For example, certain gemstones are not mined here, but are still acceptable. We will ask you to give us the names of your top three suppliers when you fill out an application. Ceramics, glass, jewelry, furniture, greeting cards and stationery, clothing and fashion accessories, home décor, table top, body products (soaps and lotions), functional and decorative work will be exhibited.


NICHE Magazine


AS: Should the artist do any advertising?

MS: The show provides advertising opportunities that are both free and paid. For example, each exhibitor is asked to upload high quality images of their work. Our talented marketing team chooses exhibitor images for ads, email blasts, the show’s website, social media, and mailers aimed at buyers. Exhibitors can purchase ads in the show directory and in NICHE Magazine. Every registered buyer gets a NICHE Magazine subscription. Exhibitors should bring their press kits to the show for the media.


Mary Strope can be contacted at (800) 432-7238 or by email at [email protected] Follow the American Made Show on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter for more information and images of the event.


Want to stay current on cutting edge business articles from Artsy Shark, plus artist features, and an invitation to the next Call for Artists? Click below to sign up for our twice-monthly email. You’ll get all this plus opportunities and special offers that you can’t get anywhere else!

Sign Up For Updates!


  1. Is this reasonable for fine artists, say oil paintings? It seems more geared towards fine craft.

    • It is very appropriate for fine craft, which is made in a production studio (multiples) but artists have opportunities here, too. Artists who create original art can sell reproductions, and they can also use their designs in other formats, and on products, which can then be wholesaled. Take a look at this article which shares some ideas: http://www.artsyshark.com/2014/05/13/scale-your-art-business/

      It’s all how you think about your business, and how you want to grow it.

  2. Tara Rieke says

    Thank you Carolyn for sharing your interesting article. Now you have me thinking!

Speak Your Mind