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My First Craft Show


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#21 GEP

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 09:28 AM

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!

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#22 BeckyH

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 06:35 AM

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.

#23 clay lover

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 08:34 AM

Matt,
I am sure there are venues that can produce that price range , what part of the country is your friend doing shows?

#24 SShirley

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 12:29 PM

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.

#25 DMCosta

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 11:10 AM

My craft show is this weekend, I will let you know how it goes!

#26 SmartsyArtsy

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 03:09 AM

My first show in 20 years is Saturday. I appreciate the tips in this thread.

Good luck DMCosta! Have fun!

#27 GEP

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 09:13 AM

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

Mea
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#28 DMCosta

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 12:27 PM

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!

#29 JBaymore

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 02:32 PM

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
John Baymore
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Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#30 DMCosta

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 03:21 PM

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!

#31 GEP

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 03:35 PM

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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http://www.goodelephant.com

#32 SmartsyArtsy

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 04:47 PM

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.

#33 Chris Campbell

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 05:30 PM

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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#34 SmartsyArtsy

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 05:06 PM

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.

#35 buckbuck

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 07:46 PM

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!

#36 GEP

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 09:08 AM

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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#37 Bobg

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:05 PM

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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