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shawnhar

1st show this Sat, kinda freaking out

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Too fast! I just started in March and should not be trying to do this, but my wife is right so often on these types of things that I have learned to just trust her judgement and go with it. I have also been informed I'm kind of an ass when I tell people why I am not happy with the pots I've made so far, that I come across as elitist . I don't know how to not be super critical of anything I make and it is difficult to accept compliments. The studio owner, scoffed at my latest dissatisfaction and accused me of being a budding perfectionist. Conversations about crawling glazes or drips have yielded a response of "some people like that", to which I think "those people are ignorant". 

So this show is supposed to be "nothing to lose", no pressure situation, more of a learning experience to see what people say and what types of things generate the most interest, networking, etc... Trying to keep in mind it doesn't matter if I sell zero pots, but I am fighting embarrassment because I am ashamed of most of the things I have to offer.

Set up a rough layout last night after work so I don't have to think about that part of it, now if I only had some nice pots to put in it!

How was your 1st show?

 

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Shawnhar, congratulations on getting this far.

I suggest that when customers come to your booth you don't criticize your work to the customer or to the other vendors.

I am guessing you have priced your work at prices you think are reasonable for what you are offering.

Think in advance how you will respond within your own mind if someone visiting your booth says something  that sounds anything like a put down. 

What sort of event is this? Is it a craft show or more of a flea market?

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Shawnhar you've been holding out on us. I do not believe we have seen the gorgeous turquoise glaze.

Fear of the unknown.

Keep your mouth shut about anything negative. Grin when the customer expounds over a piece - good or bad.

Only you need to know why it is not the "perfect" pot. 

GOOD LUCK

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One thing I have learned over the many years I have been working in clay is that people will see something in your work you don't.   I usually keep a small stack of pots in my shop I consider failures.   There is nothing wrong with them I just don't like them.   When we have company from out of town I will give them a studio tour.   I offer them one of the rejects to take home,  they almost always take the one I was about to throw in the trash.  I had one lady look at them until she found one with a glaze imperfection,  she said she could get perfect ones from the store.   Have a great sale.    Denice

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Thanks Gabby, I'm not going to bash anything at the show for sure, I've just not had any conversations about my work other than critique because I'm still so beginner so it will be strange. I priced the mugs at 15, big bowls at 50, smaller bowls at 15 and 20 for vases and a bunch of seconds mugs for 10. I think that's fair since the prices will go up after the pieces get better. It's a local yearly crafts show with 45 vendors and local music all day, couple of other pottery booths. 

Thanks dh! The turquoise mugs are part of the "50 mugs thrown in a day" practice run, almost all the mugs in the pics are. I have around 20 more pots than the pics, been busy and forgot to post the results!

Thanks Denice, if folks are looking for imperfections they won't have any problems finding it, lol. Who knows, the seconds mugs might be the hit or the bowls with crawling glaze.

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ha ha, yeah that canopy will go airborne with just a little bit of wind.

Ya know I think at some point you will get more comfortable with this whole process. A good pot is a good pot, It really does not matter how new you are just as long as you don't take crap to shows.

I wouldn't let anyone talk me in to doing that. I also would not let others intrude to much in your pottery decisions. You're the artist, you make the call not spouses and teachers. 

A clearly marked seconds bin at a farmers market maybe but not regular shows. If you stick with that rule then your booth is good to go. As a new potter you may have a lot more pots that drop into the recycle bin or garbage but the stuff on the rack passed your inspection and is just fine. Relax and enjoy. Meeting and selling pottery to folks who like pottery is I think a blast. you will meet lots of nice people.

Ya know you can only absorb so much pottery in your own house and there are only so many friends to give it to, at some point, if you like to make pottery you kind of have to learn how to sell it.  

Edited by Stephen

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Good idea to use blue and green glazes and to put a few large things in front. Bad bad, bad,  idea to talk your own work down: absolutely no reason for that unless you don't want to sell it or have someone talk you into a lousy 'deal' to make a bunch of pottery for cheap for them.  Pottery is waterproof, is the wind sail really necessary? 

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Your setup is a good one for your first market, although enough can not be said about the importance of good tent weights. As long as there's no storms or high winds, a tent like that is fine for a first go-round to see if fairs are the kind of things you like to do. If you like them, you can upgrade later. 

I would suggest that you don't have a seconds selection at all if you're feeling self conscious about your firsts. You will find that a lot of the buying public has no idea whatsoever about ceramic process, but they will buy something they like the look and feel of. People are valuing imperfect and handmade things right now, even if they don't know (or particularly care) about how it was made. They are looking at your pots with different eyes, and have been taught to value different things.  Different doesn't mean better or worse: it means different. 

There will be a lot of people that will tell you "nice work." Say thank you when they do this. If you aren't accustomed to compliments, the level of them you're about to get can feel weird. It can either be a really needed ego boost, or trigger some serious imposter syndrome attacks. Try and aim for the former. It's a lot more fun!

 

You also asked about others' first show experience.

Mine was a pretty drastic rollercoaster. It was a one day Night Market that I had carefully scoped out a couple of months before to see if people going to it, and if they were actually shopping. (they were). I had rented a tent from the organizer that was up to city code, so they were in charge of setting it up and weighting it properly, thank goodness. I arrived early for setup, being all anxious and unfamiliar, and wanting to give myself lots of time. We were to unload our gear into our space, and then park our vehicles as quickly as possible. As soon as I'd unloaded my cardboard boxes full of pots and other gear onto the pavement under my tent, the heavens opened in a magnificent torrential show of what Nature is capable of! The storm lasted about 15-20 minutes, ruining my boxes with all the water that flowed from the centre of the road, through my booth and into the gutters behind. My BF who was helping me got soaked to the skin and had to have her hubby bring dry clothes. But onwards and upwards, because we are professionals! After that, the night was pretty chilly, but everyone came out anyways. Most people were very complimentary, but I had one guy. He decided that since his friend had taken a pottery class, her stuff was far superior to mine, and told me that "whoever made this bowl didn't make it very even." It was wheel thrown and faceted.  He didn't realize I was the artist, and that I thought his analysis was was kind of funny with its abject lack of knowledge, so I just gave him enough rope to hang himself with.  The friend caught on much faster that I was the maker, was totally mortified by his behaviour, and she hustled him out of my booth when I asked if they'd had a chance to check out the rest of the show. I made $250 that night, which I was enormously proud of, and had to pack my remaining stock up into my reusable grocery bags that were fortunately in the van for a change. It was pretty fun!

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40% chance of thunderstorms so I don't think I can go without a tent. I plan to weight each leg with a 30lbs dumbbell tightlined to the corner. Highly unlikely wind gusts will get above 40 mph. Someone gave me a "better" pop-up but it had already been trashed by the wind and I couldn't really fix it. It does however have a white canopy... I may try to use that.

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A 30 lb dumbbell on each leg sounds like a good plan. Good luck and enjoy yourself! 

The first show I did by myself was a wine festival. There were lots of people, spending money on wine not art. I did not even own a canopy yet. It rained some and the venue was muddy. The pots got wet but they were fine. I net profited $350 and was very proud of myself. Based on what I know now, I am aware that I knew nothing then, and it turned out ok. Trust yourself. 

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I agree that all white table coverings will show off your work and not distract your buyers with additional colors and textures.  Get ready to smile....a lot!  Be cheerful....get ready to bond with your fellow artists and have some fun!  Most of all bust of luck for your first show.  You really have an appealing array of pots to sell.  

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your buyers will never see you work like you do.  Pieces that I really don't like are often the first to sell.  

I don't do a 2nd s table, I think it looks cheezy.  if they are 2nds, I hammer them.  that said, your buyers mostly know NOTHING about  pottery and don't know what a 2nd is.  Something obvious, like a crack or glaze craters, I would not offer it for sale in the the first place, maybe give away to studio visitors, or experiments in reglazing, but never for sale.

Ditch the colored table drapes, go to Lowe's and get painters drapes in neutral muslim, or white flat bed sheets, but no color.

Pack in plastic if at all possible, rain will make cardboard fall apart, even if you just sit it down on wet ground.

be ready to explain what 'hand made' means and just smile , no matter what anyone says.  They probably have never made a pot. and don't realize how foolish they sound.

If you cover your expenses, consider it a good day and learn from it.  

have plenty of change, take a cooler for food, a good sale is one where there is no time to go get anything to eat, or to eat it!

take a picture of your final set up before show opens, to learn from for next time,  there will be a next time!

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At a Fall show that I have followed for maybe twenty years, I bought a couple of things from a first time vendor. It is one of the local shows one has to pay to attend unless one arrives in the last hour.

A week after the show the local arts organization that hosts the show sent out its recap newsletter. This vendor had been handling his booth alone and at the end of the second day he found his entire cash box stolen, several hundred dollars.  [This was included in the newsletter because the other vendors at the show all chipped in some money to cover his loss. It was that community aspect the arts organization thought everyone should hear about).

This story suggests to me that if you are taking cash rather than only credit cards,  or if the weather is ifffy in a way that might require trouble-shooting, it might be good to have someone there with you as extra eyes and hands.

But only you should answer questions about your work. You have earned that job and are also the only one who can give reliable answers. 

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In the future you might consider staining the wood display shelving all the same color, or painting them so the booth looks more cohesive (either for structures to receed more in the background, or maybe a nice black to stand out--either way, uniformity helps accentuate your wares and looks more professional.  I agree about the bedspread/tablecloth etc--go to a neutral light bone/white and use a product that doesn't scream that it came from your house.  Also agree-no "seconds".

Myself, I don't care for shows/events and try to avoid them, but I have found--even with yard sale experience--that it is really important not to look bored, even if there are dead spells.  Don't bury your head in a tablet or magazine--keep looking alert and alive (but not too eager). Hope you have business cards--if not, get some nice ones for the next time.  Best wishes!! :)

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14 hours ago, Babs said:

Put your pots on a white cloth, the coloured cloths hide the true beauty of your coloured pots imo.

Don't  talk down your work.  Filter on your mouth.

All the best.I 

Yes that is spot on advice .

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I love seeing the great advice that this Community offers up.  Things that a lot of people might not even think about; weighting the tent legs, using a white canopy.  

That's why this is such a excellent Forum!

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Thanks all, solid feedback all around and I appreciate you sharing your knowledge!

I've decided to keep the seconds shelf, but with great "pontiferication". There are no full time potters there and the show was described to me as more oriented towards beginners and  very local. It was very difficult, because my inexperience creates a challenge, A challenge to judgement, where to draw the line. I know that not one single piece exceeds my expectations, a few of them "approach" what I want to do, and what i will be able to do, and the rest are on a gentle slope of degregation in achievement, down to the last boat anchor of a cofffe mug with crawling glaze. So, at what point do I draw the line. It seems a daunting task,  to choose, at what point is the gate, to oblivion... I get it, I see the newbs in class saving the worst bowl ever made. I didn't think I'd have a problem culling but I am. Thinking someone might give me 10 bucks for that thing I made, it's a trap I know, but I'm just trying to be honest in this journey. I want to make a living at this, and throwing away that 10 bucks is hard, especially when I've never sold anything at a show and measuring my success of this by the 1st goal of making it pay for it'self.  

I will have to change over to white "accouterments" after this show,  but I do have a light beige tablecloth for the large table I can use. I was not ready for this and scraped up some sort of display shelves last minute, so yeah, lol, none of it matches

Just found 4 50lbs hex dumbbells on cregslist and going to get those on lunch, that makes me feel better about the kite of a canopy. Great tip on the cash box! I plan to use a fanny pack for cash and the event organizer said she will run credit card purchases for me since I don't have that set up yet.

I can't thank you all enough for the wonderful feedback, I feel much more mentally prepared than a few days ago! 

 

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If you have a smartphone and a Staples nearby, you have time to get a Square set up to take your own credit card payments. The online account takes about 15 minutes to get sorted out (including time spent fumbling around finding your bank account information), and Staples sells the swipe unit for $10, which Square will credit back to your account when you get your account set up. The chip reader is worth purchasing if you really get into this.

In terms of deciding on the seconds: If you can't decide on a specific item, don't put it out yet. If you come across as desperate for sales by putting out items you don't think are adequate, it makes it that much harder to not talk down your own work and loose sales that way. Hang onto them if you must, and once you feel more confident in your abilities, you'll find you're much more able to make a more dispassionate decision about them. 

Think about the story I told about the guy commenting about my "crooked" bowl:  It would have been impossible to process that without an emotional meltdown if I hadn't been confident about the piece. If you're already feeling self conscious about your work, you aren't able to say to yourself " that person didn't buy it because it just wasn't their taste," rather than saying to yourself "I'm not selling things because my stuff sucks."  Set yourself up for success and leave them at home.

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Thanks Callie, I will def get cards working for my next show, but I din't want to tie our bank account to this and will be getting a tax ID and account specifically for it.  

 I have started to realize there is nothing wrong with a crooked bowl and it actually adds something organic and human to a piece (within reason, lol) I have decided to remove anything with an actual structural fault like a crack, and the rest on a shelf labeled "Land of misfit glazes". That way I know it is still functional and feel alright about selling it. All of the pieces are seconds to me, every single one.  OK there might be 2 or 3 pieces I think are OK, but 6 months from now I would consider them unworthy, nothing I have created yet demonstrates the kind of skill required to make a living at this. At least to my eye anyway. This is a lot like music to me, there are a ton of mediocre musicians out there but when you hear skill you know it, most of my pieces have obvious mistakes in the 3rd verse, just sayin, I'm like the guy playing on the patio at the bar and this show is like that, and so are all the musicians playing at this festival, all local, all amateur. That's how I got roped into this thing in the 1st place, because I'm amateur and the bar is low. But I think my wife is right, hope is the enemy of survival and I should just do it for the experience, listen to what people say, get a feel for having a booth, document what sells, make connections, treat it like you would any other business by taking what you learned and applying it to the next opportunity.

 

  I am making progress and each new kiln result makes me feel better, still some disappointment yes, but the trendline is pointing in the right direction. I wish I could take a year off and throw 20,000 pots. If I could find the right apprenticeship that's exactly what I would do and never look back.  I have reached out to a local potter for a meeting and made connections with some other folks involved with local crafts, baby steps. 

The Vases are still heavy and that bottle is a murder weapon, but I am getting better at making the forms I want and glazing,  both need about the same amount of work for improvement and that is my next goal set, lots of cutting thrown forms and my 1st set of test tiles.

This was the last batch to come of of the kiln, just in time for the show, they were all warm in my hands like a comforting blanket just out of the dryer, what a great feeling!

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