Local businesses are often the best places to sell your original arts and crafts. If your goal is gallery representation, local sales can build your reputation, and fill in your resume. In addition, income from local sales can exceed what you earn with some galleries.
JOIN REGIONAL ART ASSOCIATIONS
Most communities have an art association of some kind. You'll find them listed in the yellow pages of your local phone book, and sometimes online. Look in categories such as "Clubs", "Associations", and so on.
These groups are usually a mix of professionals and eager amateurs. At their meetings, I've seen everything from gorgeous, $10K watercolors to crocheted dolls in unnatural colors & fibers. No two groups are the same. Visit as a guest before joining, and see if the association or club is right for you.
Most art associations sponsor regular gallery shows in their own meeting place or in a town hall or library meeting room. They often have at least one outdoor art show, at which you can display your art and perhaps demonstrate your techniques.
Art association meetings include regular demonstrations (of art technique) by artists who will usually sell some art to the members, too. This can be a good outlet if you want to do demos.
Start by creating a form letter that you'll send to every art association in the phone book. When the demo is announced, make sure that the publicity mentions that you'll have art for sale, too. The art association takes a commission based on how much you sell, and everyone goes home happy.
USE THE ART ASSOCIATION'S CONTACTS FOR LOCAL SALES
Many art associations have working relationships with local businesses, especially restaurants, bookstores, beauty salons, and banks... anyone with blank wall space that wants an "art show" to generate interest. (They use this to attract visitors and for press releases, publicity, etc.) Libraries are less likely to be able to offer work for sale, but it depends upon the local laws.
This works best if the sales go through the art association. Next to each piece of art, place the art association's business card. On it, write the title of the art, the artist, the price, and how to contact the art association for more information.
Of course, this should be something better than voicemail; someone needs to be on hand to answer the phone. A member who works at home is good for this job.
If your local art club hasn't done this before, help them to set it up. The art association can have a single phone number, and use Call Forwarding to whomever is manning the phones that day.
HELP YOUR ART CLUB TURN PROFESSIONAL
If you are in an art association that doesn't have a working relationship with local businesses, bring it up at the next business meeting. Some members may already work at offices or shops that would cheerfully display your art.
There are issues to sort out, including how the art is insured, if it's protected from damage, and so on. You can check with other art associations and see how they handle it.
Once you start contacting businesses about displaying local art, you may be surprised at how easy this is.
ART ASSOCIATIONS AND CREDIT CARD PURCHASES
In most cases, the art association makes the sale, and has a merchant account that accepts checks and credit cards. The art association takes a percentage of the sales, usually about 20%. At the end of the month, the association issues a check to everyone whose art sold that month.
IF YOU CAN'T FIND THE RIGHT ART GROUP FOR YOUR WORK
If you don't have a local art association--or if their interests don't match yours--start your own. A simple, free announcement in the local newspaper will attract interest, and your public library can probably provide a free meeting room.
Selling your arts and crafts locally is a great first step for any artist. In addition, it's usually fun, brings you recognition from your neighbors, and adds a little extra beauty to the businesses that participate.