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Art Fairs with Ceramics


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#1 Mark C.

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 03:06 PM

Everyone has there own ways of business especially in the business of art fairs

Mine has evolved over a 35+-year career in shows

Some of this will not apply but a few may help if you arethinking about taking your wares on the road

Every rack I have breaks down flat for packing-I originally made my own funky racks but now these are about the 7th generation racks made by professional wood workers-most are silver maple with birch plywood with strong backs glue on front-they nest in fan flat on edge. If youare starting out think 10x10 booth as most are that size. Start with what ever you can-door skins with fabric covers can work. It does not need to be the cats meow at first. Now I have enough racks in all sizes to do a double booth or abooth and a half or whatever comes along-I carry two canopies at all times inspace case on van roof-but one is enough-white tops shed the best light I feel on wares.

For a sales table mine is a solid wood table which does not fold up-I put my bag box under it and it has a drawer for all that stuff youneed now and then for shows-clips pens –cards-tape-glue-new brain. It fits inmy vanload well.

I use a portable cash register that I will add the currenttax rate-as I always add tax to product. Some have tax built in price I do not.It’s your choice.

This makes cash sales a snap-I use a wireless nurit 8000 forcredit cards.

Shop your merchant services for the best rates and add ALLthe fees to compare apples to apples.

After my 1st 20 years of crawling in and out out trucks I got a extra long 1 ton van and that has helped my back-If you are starting out a VW is fine- just consider your back when you are young. Nuff said on that

I always carry extra bags and a few towels for rain. As wellas a box of wood shims for all the uneven ground you will be in. If you are doing a lot of street fairs on pavement a small box of kitty litter for oilspots will some day save you. As well as wood sticks to keep my box bottoms dry in rain and some white tarps to wrap them.

I also use a poly polypropylene rug from an oriental market to cover street at shows. It rolls up is light and does not hold any waterever. These are harder to run down and are very cheap.

I use paper bags for pots, as customers have to take custody for them, as they are not plastic bags that they swing around like a bag of fruit-plasticbags kill pots I have found. I cannot say how many broken pots come back afterthey rebagged them in a plastic bag s over the years.

On that subject my rule is when a person breaks a pot inbooth I ask them to buy something of same value or pay me ½ for it-they alwaysbuy and feel they are getting something-I feel its more than fair and so do they in an already bad situation. The faster you clean it up the better-nothing other than Godzilla gets folks moving away like smashed ceramics.

As far as packing I use banana boxes and apple boxes forpots-I learned long ago that you can pack a whole layer of mugs with zero paperas long as they are tight-then add one layer of paper and put the next layer of mugs right on top.

I have been doing this with most forms for 25 plus yearswith very little breakage. The whole trick is tight packing.

It is true with auto packing so if you hit the brakes it’s all tight.

I have a metal cage in van but you can use say a piece of plywood in your car keeping the load from killing you in a crash by coming forward. I have known potters who have died from no cage when the load got themin a wreck. -Ok safety tips done

Just consider this some.

Some other thoughts are get to show early and check out yourspace

Think about your neighbors-be considerate –we are all in this together.

You know the bumper sticker (mean people suck)-You will be next to them for 2-3 days. Talk out border issues before setting up next to theball toss booth.

Talk to promoter about relocating away from the ball toss booth before setting up.

Set up on time and stay for whole show no matter what happens unless there is a death in the family. Do not read books paper in booth-remember you paid to be here and this period is your sales time you can read all day on Monday? What matters most is your sales opportunity is only during these show hours. Keep involved and chipper-bad attitude is downer-Move stuff around be friendly dust whatever keeps you fresh.

I always pack a lunch so I can eat in or behind booth so I’mnot waiting in a 30-foot food line while sales leave my empty booth. Have some drinks handy cold or warm . All this is common sense but trust me I have seensome weird stuff at shows. It goes without saying do not bring your dog chicken snake or cat to show which I have all seen in neighbors booths.

I never try to sell my pots-only answer questions about use-making -firing -washing etc-pots sell themselves. Everyone evolves his or her own manners on this.

I use umbrellas and sunscreen as I’m fair skinned (a realbummer)-Do not get fried in sun-it will not help sales.

Try to sell the stuff you have not the items you do not have like an order for a left handed double handled Uncle George custom name mug.

At pack out consider you neighbors as well-move youcar/stuff if its blocking folks. We all want to be elsewhere now. Work as a professional it will come back to you.

Take what will apply for you out of this. My show experiencehas been great overall for me after all these years I try to return every year to the shows that work for me-I have a large customer base in many western states and return customers are over 40 % of what I do-It can work for you to.

Heres some various booth shots as well as my newer van before the dealer crashed it.

Mark

Attached Files


Mark Cortright
www.liscomhillpottery.com

#2 TJR

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 04:52 PM

Everyone has there own ways of business especially in thebusiness of art fairs

Mine has evolved over a 35+-year career in shows

Some of this will not apply but a few may help if you arethinking about taking your wares on the road

Every rack I have breaks down flat for packing-I originallymade my own funky racks but now these are about the 7th generationracks made by professional wood workers-most are silver maple with birchplywood with strong backs glue on front-they nest in fan flat on edge. If youare starting out think 10x10 booth as most are that size. Start with whateveryou can-door skins with fabric covers can work. It does not need to be the catsmeow at first. Now I have enough racks in all sizes to do a double booth or abooth and a half or whatever comes along-I carry two canopies at all times inspace case on van roof-but one is enough-white tops shed the best light I feelon wares.

For a sales table mine is a solid wood table which does notfold up-I put my bag box under it and it has a drawer for all that stuff youneed now and then for shows-clips pens –cards-tape-glue-new brain. It fits inmy vanload well.

I use a portable cash register that I will add the currenttax rate-as I always add tax to product. Some have tax built in price I do not.It’s your choice.

This makes cash sales a snap-I use a wireless nurit 8000 forcredit cards.

Shop your merchant services for the best rates and add ALLthe fees to compare apples to apples.

After my 1st 20 years of crawling in and out oftrucks I got a extra long 1 ton van and that has helped my back-If you arestarting out a VW is fine- just consider your back when you are young. Nuffsaid on that

I always carry extra bags and a few towels for rain. As wellas a box of wood shims for all the uneven ground you will be in. If you aredoing a lot of street fairs on pavement a small box of kitty litter for oilspots will some day save you.

I also use a poly polypropylene rug from an oriental marketto cover street at shows. It rolls up is light and does not hold any waterever. These are harder to run down and are very cheap.

I use paper bags for pots, as customers have to take custodyfor them, as they are not plastic bags that they swing around like a bag of fruit-plasticbags kill pots I have found. I cannot say how many broken pots come back afterthey rebagged them in a plastic bag.

On that subject my rule is when a person breaks a pot inbooth I ask them to buy something of same value or pay me ½ for it-they alwaysbuy and feel they are getting something-I feel its more than fair and so dothey in an already bad situation. The faster you clean it up the better-nothingother than Godzilla gets folks moving away like smashed ceramics.

As far as packing I use banana boxes and apple boxes forpots-I learned long ago that you can pack a whole layer of mugs with zero paperas long as they are tight-then add one layer of paper and put the next layer ofmugs right on top.

I have been doing this with most forms for 25 plus yearswith very little breakage. The whole trick is tight packing.

It is true with auto packing so if you hit the brakes it’sall tight.

I have a metal cage in van but you can use say a piece ofplywood in your car keeping the load from killing you in a crash by comingforward. I have known potters who have died from no cage when the load got themin a wreck. -Ok safety tips done

Just consider this some.

Some other thoughts are get to show early and check out yourspace

Think about your neighbors-be considerate –we are all inthis together.

You know the bumper sticker (mean people suck)-You will benext to them for 2-3 days. Talk out border issues before setting up next to theball toss booth.

Talk to promoter about relocating away from the ball tossbooth before setting up.

Set up on time and stay for whole show no matter whathappens unless there is a death in the family. Do not read books paper inbooth-remember you paid to be here and this period is your sales time you canread on Monday? What matters most is your sales opportunity is only duringthese show hours. Keep involved and chipper-bad attitude is downer-Move stuffaround be friendly dust whatever keeps you fresh.

I always pack a lunch so I can eat in or behind booth so I’mnot waiting in a 30-foot food line while sales leave my empty booth. Have somehandy cold or warm drinks. All this is common sense but trust me I have seensome weird stuff at shows. It goes without saying do not bring your dog chickensnake or cat to show which I have all seen in neighbors booths.

I never try to sell my pots-only answer questions aboutuse-making -firing -washing etc-pots sell themselves. Everyone evolves his orher own manners on this.

I use umbrellas and sunscreen as I’m fair skinned (a realbummer)-Do not get fried in sun-it will not help sales.

Try to sell the stuff you have not the items you do not havelike an order for a left handed double handled Uncle George custom name mug.

At pack out consider you neighbors as well-move youcar/stuff if its blocking folks. We all want to be elsewhere now. Work as aprofessional it will come back to you.

Take what will apply for you out of this. My show experiencehas been great overall for me after all these years I try to return every yearto the shows that work for me-I have a large customer base in many westernstates and return customers are over 40 % of what I do-It can work for you to.

Heres some various booth shots as well as my newer van before the dealer crashed it.

Mark



#3 neilestrick

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 04:58 PM

Always pack a full change of clothes, including underwear, socks and shoes. You never know when you'll have to pack up in a downpour. Been there.

I typically leave my pots in my booth overnight, but packed up. I stack two large tubs full of pots in the middle of my booth and strap them to the center post of the ceiling. It adds another 100lbs of weight to keep the booth down if it storms overnight.

Always pack in plastic tubs, not cardboard boxes. Again, you never know when you'll have to pack up in a downpour.

Suncreen and hat. Bug spray.

Water bottles.
Neil Estrick
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Owner, Neil Estrick Gallery, LLC
www.neilestrickgallery.com

neil@neilestrickgallery.com

#4 TJR

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 05:00 PM

Mark;
Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I knew that when I said I packed my work in newspaper and Plastic grocery bags, that I would get a response from you. We are the same age, and have been doing it for the same length of time, but I have a day job teaching art in a high school. I do two studio sales and 3 art fairs in the summer as well as wholesale orders. I am looking to hit the craft fairs seriously when I retire in two years. I have to say that I have only had one pot break when I wrapped it up, and nobody has brought back any breakages from the plastic bags. Good advice though. I will try the paper bag idea.I like your shelves too.
TJR.

#5 Joanie

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 05:18 PM

Thank you for the great advise. I am changing up my booths (I always get 2 10 x 10) and your information and photos will help.

#6 Mark C.

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 05:46 PM

Mark;
Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I knew that when I said I packed my work in newspaper and Plastic grocery bags, that I would get a response from you. We are the same age, and have been doing it for the same length of time, but I have a day job teaching art in a high school. I do two studio sales and 3 art fairs in the summer as well as wholesale orders. I am looking to hit the craft fairs seriously when I retire in two years. I have to say that I have only had one pot break when I wrapped it up, and nobody has brought back any breakages from the plastic bags. Good advice though. I will try the paper bag idea.I like your shelves too.
TJR.


I gave up newsprint long ago for cleaner hands at show
The best racks are the muti-tiered ones so every pot is out front to touch
The bags make folks carry pots like a baby which is good
I'd like to say when I retire I'll teach High school art as a joke but not sure how you'd take that-really as I age I'm just doing less shows now.
I still like my customers and the shows -the shows I'm down to are my favorites .
My other advice id do not get burned out with to many shows.


TRJ-what part of Canada are you in? I sell pots to Canadians every year in Anacortes Wa. show
Mark

Edited by Mark C., 17 February 2012 - 05:54 PM.

Mark Cortright
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#7 Guest_Joe the Lion_*

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 09:13 PM

Wow, Mark, thanks for this post, it has given me some great ideas.
We have been doing shows for six years using only our four door sedan, and it has been challenging fun. As you might expect, we don't have an elaborate display, limited as we are.
As for dogs, I don't have one, but I know of one potter who brings his Mastiff to all shows, and that dog is huge. I guess it gets him attention, then maybe sales.
I also always bring somthing to eat, as fair food can be expensive, and not too good for you, but I also like to have SOME fun having a hot dog or ribs or ice cream.
As far as beverage(s) we usually bring water. Since most of our shows are outdoor summer shows, I have two plastic V8 bottles(gallon size) thta I fill from our tap the night before the show, then pop them in the freezer overnight. The morning of the show, I put a little water in them , and as they melt throughout the day, we always have cold water handy. I can usually find a place to refill them at the show. at the end of the show, they are usually empty and nice and light.
As far as packing, we do very little wrapping of the pots, cause you know how it is Sunday night, you just want to get home and relax. It's suprising how tiring sitting in your booth all day can be, answering questions, wrapping stuff, restocking, etc! We have had only three things break in the six years we have been doing shows, so wrapping each pot carefully doesn't seem to be that critical, especially if you pack 'em tight, as you said.
For bags and paper, we have the Uline plain newsprint, and two sizes of their 'T-shirt' bags. They've been fine so far...
Anyway, I'll stop there for now, maybe post some other ideas later.
Since we only have our car for transportation, I look at packing and display as kind of a game or puzzle, and try to solve the puzzle with the smallest, lightest, cheapest, quality item that will get the job done, and might even do double, (or triple) duty.
Several times our show neighbors have expressed amazement that our whole tent and display comes out of a car, and we still have room to ride comfortably.
So you don't need a big vehicle, lots of money, or a super elaborate display to get started and be a contender. Just use your noodle!

#8 GEP

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:24 PM

I do art festivals with a Subaru Forester. It has a decent amount of cargo space, and a roof rack, but I definitely need to be picky about how much gear I can pack. Also, I am always thinking of ways to make setup and takedown faster and more efficient. Honestly I think this is the reason that many artists give up on art festivals ... they decide it's too much work ... then they quit before putting any thought into making the work easier and faster. I've heard potters complain that their setup takes 7 hours, and I think "then why do you do keep doing it that way?"

All of my display falls into a narrow balance of lightweight, flat-packable, and sturdy enough for pottery. In recent years there have been neat advancements in "hollow-core" building materials, doors and shelves and such, which are very sturdy and light. I also use lots of fabric, which packs down very small. Even if something meets all of these criteria, it still needs to be efficient time-wise. For example, unless I can figure out a faster way to hang my vinyl banner which I produced last year, I may just stop using the banner. Another example, I just bought 25 yards of new fabric to replace my curtains. The new fabric will not wrinkle no matter how hard you try, therefore this will speed up my packing because I won't need to fold the curtains so carefully. I realized during last year that I spend way too much time folding curtains after a show.

For my "full setup" which means an outdoor show where I need my own canopy, I can do it in 3.5 hours. For shows where I don't need a canopy, I can do it in 2.5 or 3. I'm hoping to cut that down this year.

Below is a recent photo of my setup for an indoor show. It's pretty much the same as I use outdoors, only without the lights and with a canopy.

I also have strategies for food when doing a show. I always pack my own food. I agree that festival food is too expensive, and it will surely kill you! ok, I admit that near the end of the show, if I'm happy with my sales and feeling like a splurge, I really like funnel cakes. But otherwise, I think it's wrong to take a break to eat. Every minute you spend on a break is booth fee wasted. I pack food that I can eat without taking a break, without utensils and without getting my hands or clothes dirty. Granola bars, trail mix, cookies, grapes, etc. It's the same as packing food for camping, you need lots of calories in dense little morsels.

Does anyone else have more tips and strategies? This is a great thread for all of us who are now planning for our 2012 shows. Thanks for starting the subject, Mark!

Mea


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#9 Mark C.

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:01 PM

Mea
Great clean looking booth
Mark Cortright
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#10 DirtRoads

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 02:08 PM

Thank you for the time and effort devoted to sharing this information.

:)




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