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DMCosta

My First Craft Show

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GEP    863

Good luck to both of you! Breathe deeply and have a great time!

 

Mea

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DMCosta    7

Well the craft show came and went. It was this Saturday and Sunday. I have to say it was kind of a dud. I made enough money to at least cover my table cost but the "vendor scene" at the street fair wasn't what I had expected. Turned out I was one of the ONLY true artists there, my booth was two doors down from a guy that sold sunglasses 2 for $5. It was misleading because when I applied it the application said "You must hand make your own art to participate, no resale of items". To make matters worse since I had a range of prices where most items were between $10-$40, (and some high end over $50) I was probably the most expensive vendor there, I occasionally heard comments like, "Why is this sooo expensive," "I can get a mug at target for $5". Obviously maybe not people that appreciated the word "hand made".

 

If I had to say any positives about the weekend, I'd say that a lot of the focal point of what people were interested in was not the everyday functional items but rather my more sculptural work that I make to exhibit in galleries. An hour into Saturday one woman bought one of my large sculptural bowls for $75 without hesitation, and others asked if I had it in other colors etc. I wasn't even going to bring it this weekend. Others friends/family saw the advertisement I put on Facebook etc and asked about that sculptural bowl as well. Here I am thinking make functional affordable pottery because people nowadays don't have a lot of money to spend, yet nobody batted at eye at a $75 price point. Nevertheless, I am happy I finally got the courage to do it and it was a learning experience!

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JBaymore    1,432

Congratulations on getting your feet wet. It takes a lot of courage to actually do that. Good for you. Unfortunately, welcome to the current world of the "craft fair".

 

That whole concept of "craft fair" has declined over the years. Back in the late 60's and 70's they were a unique new marketing strategy for craftspeople. They were a great idea back when there were no local galleries carrying good handwork in most every town, and before the day of internet sales and such. In many ways they are a "dead horse" that we are still beating.

 

The good ones are few and far between.

 

Now mostly the smaller ones these days are money-makers for the organizers or give them ways to increase the traffic for some other cause. The reason to have people like yourself (along with the $5 sunglass guy) is to flesh out an event and make it look big and busy and do the "something for everyone" kind of deal. Their main focus is not on the craftspeople making a decent living.... it is on generating a crowd for some other cause. If you happen to sell well... well that is great..... but incidental to their goals. But if not... you did "your part" in generating more bodies at the venue for that other thing.... whatever it was. If you are "into" that cause... then not making money for your time is your "donation" to the cause. If is it "not your cause" .... well....... you donated anyway.

 

Because these types of "general purpose events" do not hit a specific target demographic...... a large portion of the crowd you will see flowing about is not in the market for what you are selling. They are there for other reasons. So can you make what you need to make for a day's efforts from the percentage of those that WILL be interested and able to maybe purchse your work? Usually.... not. Yes there will be the occasional person drigfting through that buys work.... sometimes even expensive work

 

BTW..... $75 is not "expensive" for a "large bowl" of any kind except when looked at from a typical potters economic point of view. Go into some place like a Sears or another department store and look at the pricing for the MASS PRODUCED in a factory ceramic work they sell. $75 is a bargain for a decent hand made piece. People drop $5 on a cup of coffee (often multiple times a day) without thinking about it. Car mechanics get $75 an hour.......plumbers usually make more than brain surgeons.

 

Do an analysis of doing a craft fair as a business person would look at it. Be ruthless in tracking every minute of your time and every expense along with tracking the gross revenue........ and then remember to subtract the payment to the POTTER you bought the the wares you are selling at retail from that too (which happens to be you also). Then do the math on being the potter making those wares to sell to the retailer (you again) at wholesale (typically 50% of retail price) the same way. Too few craftspeople do this.

 

And make sure to account for some percentage of profit in there. Profit is not "hourly wages".... it is the return for the risk of running the business and developing and refining the skills in which you have invested.

 

Search the CLAYART archives for some of my thoughts on this from YEARS ago. You'll likely find that smalller craft fairs are not all that great a deal unless they are STRONG targeted audience, juried, and well advertised established venues. (Also see GEPs recent analysis of income here on the Forums.)

 

You need to be VERY selective in deciding which venues are going to be worth your time. As a whole field, we need to find the next "craft fair" for the 2010's. Is it internet sales? Is it home parties? Is it cooperative showtrooms? Is it ?????????????

 

best,

 

.......................john

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DMCosta    7

John, thank you that was all very insightful. Yes I agree, so much overhead goes into making pottery that you really need to take it all into account. Between my electric bill to run my kiln, glaze chemicals, clay, and my time spent etc. its a very high "upfront" cost (as you know) to make a body of work and try and sell it at a craft fair or wherever. I feel there's a lot more invested for me, than the vendors next to me that were selling jewelry or handmade cards. I do recognize $75 is not a lot for a large sculptural bowl, I suppose I was stating that in response to the "street fair" prices there were around me. Thanks again for your support!

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GEP    863

First of all, congrats and kudos for getting through your first one!

 

Unfortunately, there are quite a few events that use language like "You must hand make your own art to participate" when the reality is nothing close to that. But these types of events do have some value in terms of experience, just learning the process of setting up/taking down a display, and processing sales. I got started in events like these too. it sounds like you made a little profit, and gained a bunch of experience, so you are off to a good start.

 

For those who are just starting out ... small, inexpensive shows that are committed to handmade work do exist. Or even if they aren't 100% handmade, some will deliver the right audience to sell handmade. I think your next step is to locate a show or shows that would be a better fit for your work.

 

Long-term success or failure has a lot to do with picking shows. This is hard work because thre are lots to choose from, and many are not what they claim to be. I've learned to never apply for an event unless I have visited it first. Judge with your own eyes if the event is appropriate for your work and your price range. That often means visiting a show a whole year before applying. This month I am planning to visit two shows that I might apply for next year. Yes it is a lot of pavement-pounding, but this will save you lots of time and money in the long run. Attending a show as an observer will also teach you a lot about the dos and donts of exhibitor behavior :-), and you can get a lot of booth ideas too. Besides it's fun to just be a spectator once in a while.

 

Here's my vent ... a show director recruited me at an ACC show, she said her show was ACC-caliber and that I should bring a lot of my high-end pieces because that's what her audience wanted. It turned out I had a bead-stringer on my left and Hello Kitty merchandise on my right. Even the bead-stringers work was too expensive for that crowd. My lowest price item was $20, and people were sneering and huffing at me when they saw the price. What can you say ... people lie. That's when I decided I would never again skip my "visit first" rule!

 

Mea

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DMCosta, sorry you were taken by surprise. consider the value in going through the process of setting up, displaying, breaking down. I sure learned a good bit about how to make this easier for me next time.

 

The event I did was one I was familiar with, knew some of the vendors. Being a late entry, though put me at a far end of the garden which meant carting my setup and wares a good distance through soil paths. Seattle was at the start of a heat wave-- no laughing now-- it went above 90. I should have hired a setup assistant. We had good attendance until about 2 pm (unusual for this event and probably due to the intense sun and lack of shade)

 

I was fine under the canopy, and my spot became a respite for those who had gone through the center of the garden, and a Watering hole for the pups who came by. The venue was perfect for me, and the sculptured flower and bird tiles sold well. as for functional pieces, only 2 mugs and a pitcher sold. I had a selection of $5 soap dishes and spoon rests that got almost no attention, but 3x3 tiles with organic/geometric designs were sold out in one glaze and did ok in another.

 

I am very happy with the way things went and am wondering if anyone looks at the ratio of Sales Total to Registration Fee to rate your success. I know that does not address your time & cost of doing business, but for someone like me, those values are difficult to quantify.

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Chris Campbell    1,081

Mea has posted in the Business area a seven part series on Hourly Earnings for a Potter ... it is invaluable reading if you want to learn about how calculate costs and assess profit. Just put that title into the search area above and it will come up.

 

I think we all get sucked into one of those craft shows when we start out ... mine was beside the guy selling "Santa Stop Here" signs as fast as he could grab the $5 from hundreds of shoppers. Letting you in means they can advertise the entire fair as "Hand made" ... apparently you only need one to qualify! Hope that's not the case for Local Foods ... does one local tomato qualify the whole bin??? <_<

 

"Sunshine Artist" magazine used to do a pretty good job of describing craft fairs by the type of goods sold so you had a chance of avoiding these scammers.

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Thanks Chris, I had reviewed Mea's methodologies previously. I should have stated that I do not want to quantify the hours I put in.

 

Right now, this is my passion. I am in forced retirement because of illness, so I work very sporadically and am not disciplined enough to track hours. I look at it this way: I need to supplement my fixed income to purchase materials and pay studio rent, take some workshops, travel a bit. My time is best spent in the studio, keeping creative and "alive".

 

I was just wondering about a general indication of a good take at the event.

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buckbuck    3

I just did my first two shows this last weekend. A first Friday and a farmers market/craft fair. Went well, did better at the first Friday. I took my wheel and invited people to try thir hand. Most of the people that tried the wheel bought something 5-6 more sales!

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GEP    863

Thanks Chris, I had reviewed Mea's methodologies previously. I should have stated that I do not want to quantify the hours I put in.

 

Right now, this is my passion. I am in forced retirement because of illness, so I work very sporadically and am not disciplined enough to track hours. I look at it this way: I need to supplement my fixed income to purchase materials and pay studio rent, take some workshops, travel a bit. My time is best spent in the studio, keeping creative and "alive".

 

I was just wondering about a general indication of a good take at the event.

 

 

 

First of all, don't compare yourself to other potters in terms of sales! I know it's hard to resist the urge to do it, but really it doesn't mean anything. Everybody has different work, is at a different level of experience, and with a different level of financial need behind the scenes. So define success on your own terms based on what YOU need, and when you hit your benchmarks allow yourself to feel good about it.

 

Measuring success as a ratio to the booth fee is also meaningless, because booth fees vary by so much. At a small show with a teeny booth fee, I can make 25x the fee. Whereas at a fancier show with a hefty booth fee, I'd be glad to make 5x the fee, even though the latter would overall be a more successful show.

 

If you don't want to count all of your hours for production, you can measure shows based on the show's hours. For example, a typical 2 day show is open for 14 hours. Take your gross sales, subtract the booth fee, then divide by 14. Over time you can see which shows are delivering a better value for your time, or when you've had a good show or a bad show compared to your own average. I did it this way for a few years before I dove into my "count all your hours" project.

 

Mea

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Bobg    4

I am very happy with the way things went and am wondering if anyone looks at the ratio of Sales Total to Registration Fee to rate your success.

 

 

My brother has been doing pottery for 35 years and he says that the higher the space cost is the more money he makes. He just finished a show in Big Fork Montana and he made $7500 over two days. He keeps pressing me to take the chance and pay the high space fees in my area and see how sales go.

 

Bob

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