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DMCosta

My First Craft Show

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DMCosta    7

Hi, I am not a new ceramic artist but I am new to the "craft table" scene. I just applied for a craft table at a street fair coming up this August. It's a two-day Saturday and Sunday show. I was curious if anyone else had been through this and could give me some suggestions. Specific questions I have are the following:

 

How many pieces should I make? (I don't want to end up going back home with a lot because I made too much)

 

What are the price ranges you charge for a basic bowl, mug, teapot, etc.

 

In your opinion, what items do you think sell the best?

 

Any inexpensive ways I can set up my booth that will be visually appealing to my customers?

 

Thank you!

 

~Dianna

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GEP    863

Dianna,

 

The right number of pots to bring is "as many as you have." Don't worry about bringing too many, bringing a lot of pots back home is not a bad thing. Actually if you sell out of pots at the show, that means you missed out on some more sales.

 

Pricing is probably the hardest part. We did have a long, still ongoing at times, thread about pricing mugs here:

http://ceramicartsdaily.org/community/topic/1148-how-much-do-you-sell-your-mugs-for/

 

What items do I think sell best? Functional everyday wares, and things that would make nice wedding gifts.

 

You don't have to spend lots of money on your display. If your display is cluttered or too cutesy, people will be distracted by your display rather than looking at your pots. Simple is better. If your work will be displayed on a table, my best advice is to create several different levels of height, with risers or shelves, rather than having everything on the same level.

 

Good luck and have a great time!

 

Mea

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TJR    359

Dm;

GEP has some good advice.Price range for me is mugs @ $15.00, bowls $18.00 -$25.00. Teapots $75.00-$85.00. Plates $35.00 for dinner plates,$25.00 for side plates.

You could have some smaller items @ $8.00, but don't spend all your time making rinky dink stuff.

2. Have all of your work priced, and have the price tags visible on the rims of pots, not on the bottoms.

3.Place your work on a solid colour cloth, and have a skirting around your table so the customers don't see your empty boxes.

4.Do not have anything else on your table other than the work you are selling.

5. Provide wrapping-blank newsprint, and a bag. Nothing fancy.

6. Find out before hand if the table is provided.

7. I always use one 4ft. by 8ft. table and I provide a sturdy shelf unit.

8. Don't create visual barriers for people. You want them to come in to your space to browse.

9. Provide lights. Always makes the work look better. Often, I find myself in a dark corner of a hall.

10. Do not have a cash box. Keep your money on your person at all times. Cash boxes get stolen. I have seen this happen more than once.

11. You have brought enough work if you have 1/3 left when you go home. If you sell out, either your prices were too cheap, or you didn't make enough work.

12. You will get repeat business the following year. Don't get discouraged if it's slow the first time.

 

Did I miss anything? Make eye contact. Be friendly but not desperate. Do not read the paper. You can read it on Monday. Also don't stand there texting.

 

TJR.

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clay lover    133

All of the above.

It depends who your market is going to be, my area is broke, so a street fair is where I take the smaller work, mostly under $25.

At Lowe's they have painter's drapes, neutral sort of casual burlap, several sizes, . Make great table drapes, inexspensive, look good. I have a pile of them in different sizes. For your front table, plan on a size that will come low enough to hide boxes underneath.

I take a tool box with whatever in it, tape, sissors,pliers,markers,note paper, . Take some extra price tags for those that just won't stay stuck on.

Keep the booth simple, no decorations, the pots are what needs to show. Only exception, some fresh flowers if you make any vase forms, the ones with flowers sell first.

Take some drink and food and a stool for you. Put it at the back or side of the booth, the customers need to see the pots, not you., Leave them alone after you say 'Good Morning". Let them look, make a open ended comment if they hang around and pick up things other wise let them be.

Make lots of pots. You can pack similars together so if an item sells out you can find the box with more of that item and restock. You want to take pots home with you. The booth needs to look well stock all through the show, not skimpy at the end.

Have a good time, let us know. No one can predict what sells, but I have a general idea of best sellers and I do make more of that item. Functional, and right now in my area, green, or at least at the last show ... Maybe different next week.tongue.gif

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Chris Campbell    1,081

Congratulations on trying your first show ... hope you have a good time and sell lots of pots.

 

Some other tips ...

Water ... take water for you and a few spare bottles to offer to customers who BUY something.

Chair .... take a chair but don't sit in it ... offer it to customers who BUY something and they can rest while you pack it ... or friends can sit while a serious shopper shops.

Quick snacks ... like trail mix, nuts, raisins, crackers etc that you can graze on since you don't want to be eating meals in your booth.

Flowers for a vase, pencils for a pencil holder, kitchen gadgets in a gadget holder, soap in a soap dish ... etc

Spares ... keep some pottery in boxes on purpose so you can say "Oh my goodness, I have the perfect one for you packed away." People love getting something no one else has seen.

Bags with handles ... even if its grocery bags, give people a handled bag to carry the pot in.

Odds and ends ... scissors, scotch tape, pens, price stickers, calculator, measuring tape, aspirin or some pain reliever ... nothing worse than going all day with a headache!

Pass out business cards to everyone ... have them everywhere ... make sure all your contact info is on them and hopefully a picture of your work too.

Accept credit cards

Arrive early so you are not harried during set up

Don't panic and start changing your prices

Don't sit around and read a paper, magazine or book ... people want to meet you, believe it or not!

Don't hide in the back of your booth

Smile Smile Smile

 

- Don't ask shoppers a question that can be answered yes or no such as "Can I help you?" or "Is there anything I can find for you?" People don't like to feel rushed or crowded and tend to do what they say they are going to do and if they say the dreaded "NO, just looking" they will do just that.

Its OK to be friendly if you can do it sincerely ... if not just keep smiling, moving around and looking welcoming.

 

- Another thing to avoid is craftspersons from other booths coming by to complain about how bad the show is or how awful the weather is etc etc ... they not only waste the time you could be spending on sales, but no customers want to hear artists grousing about conditions.

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kathi    2

I just did my first couple of shows this year. It was a great experience. I was amazed to find that people were so appreciative of the effort that goes into making pottery. My kids (both adults) helped me with the shows and convinced me to bring and display some items which I considered to be mediocre; I was delighted when they sold.

Things that worked for me:

- smile, be friendly...but don't hover.

- no pressure

- bring lots and lots of pottery...I was really quite surprised at how much I sold.

- it seems that people are drawn to things they can use daily. I sold a lot of coffee mugs, flower pots and egg separators (go figure, huh)

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clay lover    133

The comment about other craftsmen hanging around reminded me of something. People will see a friend while they are in your booth, and sometime a group of 2-4 ladies will decide your booth is the best place to catch up on old times and will be happy to stand in the center front of the space and talk with each other forever. Those are the people that I will walk up to after a bit when it obvious that they are not looking at pottery, and ask them something pointed like, "Can I help you with a piece of pottery?" They usually disperse at that and if one is really interested in my work, that 1 will stay around. This is a BIG problem in my small town venues, and sometimes at bigger shows, as well.

Once I had a woman who acted like she was my old friend, never saw her before, try to hang around in my booth , acting like she was my hostess! I discovered she was selling something, and advertising a store that was outside the venue, It was difficult to get her gone without being overheard by customers, and I finally called show management and they removed her. Go Figure. Just protect YOUR space, and unobtrusivly as you can, but get it done.

I also had to put my partner on gossip restriction, they like to stand in the front of the pots and visit with passer bys!

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Chris Campbell    1,081

Gosh, I forgot about those people! Even worse is when they congregate in the path in front of your booth where you have less ability to move them on.

I've never before heard of someone co-opting your space to advertise theirs ... funny story but bad scenario.

Another downer is a stranger/potter coming on like your new best friend to try to drain your brain of all the technical details, techniques, recipes, firing schedules .... etc. you might want to be friendly and supportive but what you need to do is serve customers and sell some pottery.

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DMCosta    7

Thank you so very much for all your help! Everyone had such great and thorough suggestions. I thought it was a great idea to add flowers to a vase, soap to a soap dish..etc. Also, the price ranges helped also. I live in NY so some people attending the fair may still have money to spend in this economy while others I expect to be more frugal. I intend on attending some other shows before August also to see what sells at which price range locally here. I continue to welcome any additional suggestions, and I'll let you know how it goes!

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LawPots    17

 

- Don't ask shoppers a question that can be answered yes or no such as "Can I help you?" or "Is there anything I can find for you?" People don't like to feel rushed or crowded and tend to do what they say they are going to do and if they say the dreaded "NO, just looking" they will do just that.

Its OK to be friendly if you can do it sincerely ... if not just keep smiling, moving around and looking welcoming.

 

- Another thing to avoid is craftspersons from other booths coming by to complain about how bad the show is or how awful the weather is etc etc ... they not only waste the time you could be spending on sales, but no customers want to hear artists grousing about conditions.

 

 

An old retail sales technique - "What questions do you have?".

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GEP    863

Dianna,

 

So as many have noted it's important to have lots of positive energy to share with your customers. But anytime you are in a public event, there are always going to be people who will be thoughtless or try to take advantage of you. Even at the highest quality shows, it's going to happen. Sometimes it will be another artist :-( So on some level you always need to be prepared to "guard your space" by asking people to move, asking parents to mind their children, saying no to a haggler, etc. It's just part of the process. Just make sure not to dwell on those things and keep your positive energy throughout.

 

We could start a whole thread on "horror stories from the festival."

 

Mea

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Mark C.    1,797

Most topics have been covered but as one who does fairs for a living I would make lots of small stuff as it sells the best everywhere-yes a few teapots are fine but its the small stuff that will make the show a better success week in week out. Mugs -sponge holder-spoon rests all size bowls always sell well-Larger pots fill in the gaps. For me having a huge selection of sizes and colors also helps with enough back stock to never run out-This will take you a few shows to master so just have fun and be open to learning.

Mark

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clay lover    133

I pay extra for corner spaces, more display area, but I keep an eye out for people with strollers, they seem to think my booth is a short cut and I see them coming and sort of step to the front and steer them ,with a smile, to go around.

I saw a toddler in a stroller with an absent minded parent bring down an entire shelf once. Same with dogs on a leash, those people rarely buy, but they can cause a HUGE loss to you in other ways. Keep smiling and stand your ground, quietly if possible, but firmly.

Stay aware of you neighboring booths, friendly and cooperative is best, but don't assume it will be that way. Your 10x10 can turn into a 8x8 while you are standing there if you aren't aware and proactive with your spot.

 

Most times it doesn't happen this way to me, but I plan ahead and stay sharp to prevent such things.

 

Usually I enjoy shows, hope you do, let us know how it turns out and your impressions. smile.gif

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TJR    359

Most topics have been covered but as one who does fairs for a living I would make lots of small stuff as it sells the best everywhere-yes a few teapots are fine but its the small stuff that will make the show a better success week in week out. Mugs -sponge holder-spoon rests all size bowls always sell well-Larger pots fill in the gaps. For me having a huge selection of sizes and colors also helps with enough back stock to never run out-This will take  you a few shows to master so just have fun and be open to learning.

Mark

 

 

Mark;

I wanted to ask you about your low end products. Those spoon rests-looks like a saucer with the lip pulled down? What is your price range on those? I have never made them.

Tom[TJR]

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Mark C.    1,797

They are not low end but value added-The spoonrests are 48 to a 25# pug takes me 40 minutes to weigh throw and put in sun -They are no trimmers thrown out and spout with finger.Cut the pug into 48 pieces with a wire-hot dip wax the bottoms and glaze them all different ways-Been selling them about 15-18 years now. Add 500$ to ever show and you will see the beauty in them.

I charge with tax 5$ anywhere I go (various tax rates)-most show I sell anywhere from 100 to 350 of them. My fellow potter friend sells them for 7$ and they are slow to sell. I feel for my out west sales the price point is perfect . Pottery sells for more the further east I travel I have noticed? I display them on pedestals and a small table out front of booth-most folks always add another item so its all adds to my overall sales. Before I made them this was sales I missed out on as all my items are 10$ or more. I sell them in large amount and track how many to take to each show so I never run out-That actually is a key part of my business concept-always have plenty of everything-never run out-That way I never miss a sale-its been a major point for me. Most artists run out of stuff. I try to never run out which means you have to make lots of items all the time-That also why my one ton extra long van always is packed full for show-so I have plenty of extra. This was a hard lesson for me but I got it in the late 80-early 90s and it really works-same is true with all my outlets-keep them stocked 100% of the time= more sales-every outlet is one or two less shows for me to do per year. I'm pretty disciplined as to ceramics production-

Mark

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TJR    359

They are not low end but value added-The spoonrests are 48 to a 25# pug takes me 40 minutes to weigh throw and put in sun -They are no trimmers thrown out and spout with finger.Cut the pug into 48 pieces with a wire-hot dip wax the bottoms and glaze them all different ways-Been selling them about 15-18 years now. Add 500$ to ever show and you will see the beauty in them.

I charge with tax 5$ anywhere I go (various tax rates)-most show I sell anywhere from 100 to 350 of them. My fellow potter friend sells them for 7$ and they are slow to sell. I feel for my out west sales the price point is perfect . Pottery sells for more the further east I travel I have noticed? I display them on pedestals and a small table out front of booth-most folks always add another item so its all adds to my overall sales. Before I made them this was sales I missed out on as all my items are 10$ or more. I sell them in large amount and track how many to take to each show so I never run out-That actually is a key part of my business concept-always have plenty of everything-never run out-That way I never miss a sale-its been a major point for me. Most artists run out of stuff. I try to never run out which means you have to make lots of items all the time-That also why my one ton extra long van always is packed full for show-so I have plenty of extra. This was a hard lesson for me but I got it in the late 80-early 90s and it really works-same is true with all my outlets-keep them stocked 100% of the time= more sales-every outlet is one or two less shows for me. I'm pretty disciplined as to ceramics production-

Mark

 

 

Mark;

As always, thanks for the great info and for taking the time.

TJR.

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Chris Campbell    1,081

Thanks Mark ...

Spoon rests are the kind of item the "artistes" might scoff at, but knowing what your customers want will put your kids through college!

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Mark C.    1,797

A few key points on those spoon rest-they work faster with really SOFT clay-I throw on small plaster bats and they dry very quickly.

I'll try to take a few production photos next run.

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clay lover    133

Mark, thanks for sharing info. Chris, sometimes I get a bit down about the amount of guaranteed sales items I make, and wish I could fee free enought to make more of the 1 of a kind pieces that I really enjoy working on. But those little under $10 pieces have paid for my studio, pay the booth rent at all shows, and I make them constantly. I wish I was as efficient as Mark. that would increase my profit margin on the little items. Having a pugger would cretainly help with production.

Oh, well, make more pots, buy pug mill.

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Matt Oz    67

I have a friend that makes a living doing art shows, with items $25 and up. Mostly non-functional though.

 

 

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GEP    863

This conversation is making me want to try throwing some spoon rests, especially since they were described at "no-trimmers." Music to a production potter's ears!

 

Mea

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BeckyH    42

We make sure to have an assortment of small items at the $5.00-$8.00 range so that when small children wander up and grab one of the "tinys" their parent will often just get it for them. This usually leads to a purchase for the adult. Although I understand not pressuring the buyers, we also enjoy bantering with them/at each other during slower periods. Mind you, we are often selling at Rennasaince Faires, so the whole "everyone is a character" thing is more prevalent. It keeps us laughing, which is very helpful on a long day.

One way to ensure that your space stays 10x10 is to get an ez-up tent that size. Then your tent legs mark the exact amount of space you can claim. And you have shade and protection from the rain.

Our best show for the season is a huge ethnic festival in Milwaukee, where we can sell in one day what it usually takes us a weekend to do. We start building up stock for that show months in advance, so we don't have to push through three weeks of hell making sure we have enough product. If you have a day job, remember that your product will be fine stored in a bin in the garage, and make it whenever you can.

As for pricing, much of the time you can offer a 10% discount to people who buy more than two pieces and not lose money. They love the idea that they have gotten a special price! We also find it's much easier to take care of sales taxes after the show, because we sell in many different municipalities. Having just started using a wireless tablet and a "square" to take credit sales, it's a wonderful thing, and much easier than the old fashioned knuckle cruncher. They work with smartphones, too! Bring a friend, and you will not only have help carrying heavy stuff but someone to make more sales and help keep you going. If you aren't having fun, or faking it well, people will not buy from you.

Whilst at the Ren Faire we wear "period" clothing. For regular shows we have embroidered polo shirts and khakis. Easily identifiable and professional looking. Remember to wear comfortable shoes! You only have one set of feet, after all.

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SShirley    9

Don't forget about bathroom breaks. Sometimes the fair promoters have "sitters" who come and sit in your booth while you take a quick break. If not you will have to make your own arrangements. If you are alone at the show, and don't have an assistant, try making a deal with the booth next door to watch each other's booths if the need arrises.

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