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Finding The Right Show For You

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#1 moh


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 07:01 AM

I did a show in LA last weekend. Drove 15 hour (plus fuel break)

Although it looked good on paper, it didn't feel like the right show for me (not enough handmade work, lots of mass-produced products which they didn't reveal) In the end I came just shy of recouping costs.


I've made myself a list of shows to do this year and it's Renegade (many of those), American Craft Council and Smithsonian.


Since I'm just getting started in pottery selling business, I'm in a "whatever it takes" mindset and doing about 12 shows this year. All retail shows, no trade yet. Perhaps NY_NOW next year.


I want to find the right audience and do the shows with the most impact in terms of ROI.


This would be a question for the westcoast potters -- what are some shows that draw clientele who understand value of handmade art and have the money to pay for them?


Aside from American Craft Council and Smithsonian, what are some other shows that would be considered the gold standard in the world of craft shows for ceramic?


Thank you

#2 GEP


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:06 AM

Here's my blog post about picking shows:


I think the most important advice in this post is to visit a show in person before you apply. You can tell so much more from an in-person visit than you can see from anything on paper. Show organizers lie and exaggerate about their shows (as you just learned). This means you should be thnking about what shows you want to do more than a year in advance, so that you can plan a visit.

And for gold standard shows, in addition to ACC Shows and Smithsonian, there is the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) Craft Show, CraftBoston, American Craft Expo (Chicago). In the west, there is the La Quinta Art Festival (SoCal) and Cherry Creek Art Festval (Denver).

moh, having not seen your work, it sounds like you are in the early stages of launching a pottery business. This means you are years away from getting into gold standard shows. This doesn't mean you shouldn't apply for them, you absolutely should! But keep your expecations realistic about how competitive these shows are. They are very difficult to get in. So in the meantime, you should be applying to more accessible shows in order to gain experience, while working your way up to the gold standard shows.

Having said that, ACC San Francisco should definitely be on your list. ACC is very supportive of young and up-and-coming artists. And it's not that far from you. They have a program for emerging artists called Hip Pop, which allows you a space in the show for an affordable price.
Mea Rhee
Good Elephant Pottery

#3 Roberta12


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 09:40 AM

Moh, Everything that Mea is spot on as usual.  I live in a somewhat remote area, so I have started with small shows in order to learn the ropes.  I am branching out a bit now by applying to other venues, but like Mea pointed out, you really should visit some of the shows first to see if you are a good fit.  I have done that and have definitely crossed some off my list.  It is a lot of work to do shows so you need to minimize your risks in order to have it worth your while. If you read some of the threads here on this forum, you will see that even if you have covered all your bases (suitable venue, quality show, appropriate work, good looking booth) sometimes the crowds aren't there, or are just not buying for whatever reason.  I really encourage you to actually visit shows.  That also will give you more ideas about great displays. 



#4 oldlady


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 10:26 AM

for years i had heard about a show in the middle of august close by in virginia.  i finally applied and took a sample of my work because i was late to register.  the lady in charge said "of course, i have some of your things at home" so i got in.


it had the usual paper description and limits on only handmade crafts but i found that i was immediately next to an importer of French linens with piles of tablecloths, towels, etc.  next to her was someone selling perfumes whose truck i had seen in the parking lot advertising where that came from.  when i walked around i found i was in a tiny minority of hand work by an individual.  


the man selling australian leather hats was there.  he had been refused entry into Bluemont when my friend took it over and insisted on handmade crafts only. so was the person selling the afgans you can find in any highway turnoff gift shop.  


i sold fairly well considering the temperature but will not go back.

"putting you down does not raise me up."

#5 Mark C.

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 10:28 AM

Starting out with shows is hard-there is no easy way to work thru this other than trying shows to see what fits.

I did small time shows for years working my way up-I do not know any other way.

If you are looking for shows with no buy sell (which is best for us potters) you should be able to weed those out before going to a show.

If you have high price points then stick to gold standard shows but be prepared to get rejected a lot but keep trying.

It took me 10 years of apps to get into one Bay Area show. I then did it for 20 years before quitting it 4 years ago.

Another approach is think outside the box -for example try the Portland or better yet the Seattle flower show if you have high end work.

This is only if you have high end work.I have some 2 d friends who do these shows

Another thing to keep in mind is many shows you will only get in now and then. My career has blossomed due to the fact that I get into the same shows over and over and build my customer base. That has paid off very well after 20-25 years doing the same show as my customer base is now huge.Like last weekend I did large numbers for three days as I have been going for 24 years now to that show.Its not a high end show but is not a buy sell show either.

If you want high end west coast shows

my list would be-these shows will eat up your funds with application fees but sooner or later you will get into one

Just be prepared to not get in every year or even ever again.

Bellevue museum show in covered parking lot-Wa state

Seattle Flower show -Wa-this one is out of the box-folks with money go but do not expect to see art-but will buy it

Art in the Pearl-Portland Or

Sausalito art show-Sausalito Ca


Cherry Creek-Col

La Quinta Art Festival-Ca

Park City-Ut


​I used to apply to some of these and have done some but gave up that concept and stuck to shows that I get into every year and really do better as my base built up.

I have a friend potter (younger guy) and he does one or two of these every year but since they turn you over so often he is struggling as these shows eat up lots of application fees and you never get to build a base as they let you in a year or two and then turn you away.

​We out west have huge distances to cover with shows so you have to be wise about this. Back east they think a two hour drive is a long way as things are so close. Out west this is not the case.

Mark Cortright

#6 moh


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 12:22 PM

Mark, great comment about building the customer base through repeat shows. That's one thing I learned through a vendor I met at last week's show.

Thank you for the list, super helpful.


Mea, I've actually been accepted in the Hip Pop show this year for ACC SF. Very excited about that. Seems like a good way to get the work in the door for us emerging potters!

#7 Chris Campbell

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 06:25 PM

Welcome to the "I got into a buy/sell show and survived" club.
They are sooooo happy to see us because then they can call it a Handmade Show ... they get the buzz and we get to sit around watching people buy foot long bubble gum.
It is however a good lesson to learn. Visit the show if you can get there before you apply.
Nowadays you might even be able to Google images of the show which is great too.
I wish you the best of luck from now on!
Chris Campbell Pottery
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