Baldauf blames the economy and the heat for last year's miserable results. But like many of the eighteen artists whom the Observer interviewed during and after the fair, he also says the event isn't what it once was.
"Ann Arbor used to be one of the best, if not the best" fairs in the country for sales, says potter Steve Howell, a twenty-five-year veteran. "Not any more."
Howell recalls that on good years during the 1980s and 1990s he would sell work worth $15,000 to $20,000 during the four days--50 percent more than at any other show. He describes one recent sale where a couple found a piece they liked; the husband wrote him a check for $1,000, and the wife gave him a kiss on the cheek. "There used to be ten like this," he says, not referring to the kiss. Recently, he says, his sales over the four days have been "more like $5,000."
Pastel artist Jody dePew McLeane has been doing Ann Arbor for twenty-seven years, and remembers when she could expect $25,000 in sales. "Clients would fly in from New York to buy." They don't do that any more. In 2010, she sold only one piece in four days, and 2011 "ended up only fair for me."