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Non-functional Pottery at shows - how to get the point across?

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Hi all, I am still refining my display as each show passes, but it is a work in progress and is coming along nicely. I do mostly Raku and Horse Hair pottery - items that are non-functional for the most part, and items that perhaps not everyone understands. Oddly enough, some of my venues are at high ranking horse shows (thus custom horse hair work) but I am noticing a lot of people either:

 

1) do not know what horse hair pottery is (Raku as well)

2) are confused by it

3) don't know what to think about it

 

I have made short 1/2 page informational blurbs to explain what each one (the horse hair and raku) are; but no one reads them

 

I have tried making a very short pictorial "story board" of what the horse hair is, and no one reads that

 

 

 

So - my question is - for those of you that display and sell more non-functional/art work - how do you display your work so people understand what it is, are not confused by it, and are attracted to it?

 

Any ideas?

 

Charlene

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Hi all, I am still refining my display as each show passes, but it is a work in progress and is coming along nicely. I do mostly Raku and Horse Hair pottery - items that are non-functional for the most part, and items that perhaps not everyone understands. Oddly enough, some of my venues are at high ranking horse shows (thus custom horse hair work) but I am noticing a lot of people either:

 

1) do not know what horse hair pottery is (Raku as well)

2) are confused by it

3) don't know what to think about it

 

I have made short 1/2 page informational blurbs to explain what each one (the horse hair and raku) are; but no one reads them

 

I have tried making a very short pictorial "story board" of what the horse hair is, and no one reads that

 

 

 

So - my question is - for those of you that display and sell more non-functional/art work - how do you display your work so people understand what it is, are not confused by it, and are attracted to it?

 

Any ideas?

 

Charlene

 

 

With these days of technology have you ever considered a utube presentation on an ipad or a laptop. Use extended batteries or plug in in indoor shows. A thought.

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Have you thought about a before and after approach? A display of a pot without the hair and after the firing with the pattern of hair? I considered this line for the major shows around me. but did not persue it. I will be interested in how it works for you. Are you offering to use the hair of customer's horses on the pot they choose?

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Hi all, I am still refining my display as each show passes, but it is a work in progress and is coming along nicely. I do mostly Raku and Horse Hair pottery - items that are non-functional for the most part, and items that perhaps not everyone understands. Oddly enough, some of my venues are at high ranking horse shows (thus custom horse hair work) but I am noticing a lot of people either:

 

1) do not know what horse hair pottery is (Raku as well)

2) are confused by it

3) don't know what to think about it

 

I have made short 1/2 page informational blurbs to explain what each one (the horse hair and raku) are; but no one reads them

 

I have tried making a very short pictorial "story board" of what the horse hair is, and no one reads that

 

 

 

So - my question is - for those of you that display and sell more non-functional/art work - how do you display your work so people understand what it is, are not confused by it, and are attracted to it?

 

Any ideas?

 

Charlene

 

 

A lot of the reaction depends on the show. Your work at an unjuried street show where people stop by to buy a genuine handmade mug by someone who has been potting for 6 months will get a completely different reaction at a prestigious juried show. At the latter, almost everyone will be, at least a little, familiar with the kind of work you do and those who are not will still appreciate your work if it is good and interested in how it is made. If the potter in the next booth sells orange mugs that say "Sexy Beast" on them, don't bother trying to explain your work.

 

Jim

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would it help to visually "dress" each area of your display? the functional pieces clearly labelled as such and the more attractively staged non-functional things in a clearly defined different area? tell them what you need to in signage and labels.

 

 

a rubber stamp saying "Do not use as a vase or for food" on the bottom will save you from complaints if anyone is foolish enough to try using raku to hold water.

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Hi all, I am still refining my display as each show passes, but it is a work in progress and is coming along nicely. I do mostly Raku and Horse Hair pottery - items that are non-functional for the most part, and items that perhaps not everyone understands. Oddly enough, some of my venues are at high ranking horse shows (thus custom horse hair work) but I am noticing a lot of people either:

 

1) do not know what horse hair pottery is (Raku as well)

2) are confused by it

3) don't know what to think about it

 

I have made short 1/2 page informational blurbs to explain what each one (the horse hair and raku) are; but no one reads them

 

I have tried making a very short pictorial "story board" of what the horse hair is, and no one reads that

 

 

 

So - my question is - for those of you that display and sell more non-functional/art work - how do you display your work so people understand what it is, are not confused by it, and are attracted to it?

 

Any ideas?

 

Charlene

 

 

I only do funtional work but can suggest you have a small display board with photos of how the work is made which shows the process and its scrictly visual not cluttered with words. It just has clear photos.

Keep in mind the public is mostly clueless

The way they are displayed will help-it has to be a fine art display in my mind.

Mark

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Have you thought about a before and after approach? A display of a pot without the hair and after the firing with the pattern of hair? I considered this line for the major shows around me. but did not persue it. I will be interested in how it works for you. Are you offering to use the hair of customer's horses on the pot they choose?

 

 

 

I like this idea-- in the age of Ikea part of what people are buying is a process-- not just the object.

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Keep in mind the public is mostly clueless

 

 

Yes.

 

When you have something that is specialized like that (in addition to all the good ideas above) prepare and rehearse an explanation that is thorough enough but not too long. Then be prepared to deliver it over and over. And over and over. The hard part is to deliver it every time as if you have not already said it 10 times that day already.

 

Mea

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get hoarse for horse! (hair pottery). When anyone comes to my booth and I can see which piece their interested in, i say, " oh! I see you are atttracted to ________________(fill in the blank). without taking a breath explain the process. Others usually stop by to listen. Be brief in your description, but be sure to mention: hot temperstures, out door kiln, tongs, post fire reduction, combustibles (horse hair, feathers, whatever you used to make marks) and porosity.

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Thank you all - all good suggestions -

 

@Clay Lover- I do often display the before and after pot, sometimes that helps and other times they are clueless; they can't figure out the meaning even though the display is marked (what it is intended for, the before and after, etc),

 

@Pres - I have thought of a utube video or something of the like, but haven't had the time to do one yet. Unfortunately, my presentation skills in front of a camera are lacking; much better customer service skills in person.

 

@OffCenter - good point;

 

@Old Lady - I do have nice signage for my booth shelves that indicate at each shelf level that they are decorative, limited food use only (as an example) limited meaning wrapped candy, etc. and that does help....

 

@Mark - I am making a poster board now that is more professional that has pictures on it, and although I have done this before since the beginning and it hasn't helped, I am hoping a larger version will. Usually I only have three pictures on it, a girl loving her horse, a picture of a tuft of horse hair, and a finished pot; and I did try a tuft of hair, an unfinished pot, and a finished pot.....still having the same issues....but thank you will keep trying!

 

Mea and Celia - thank you - I DO need to get better at salesmanship; this is another topic in itself....But, how do you learn sales skills? I am not talking high pressure sales skills, and I have looked online for classes, but there are skills that definitely can be learned that make it better and easier when you know the "tricks of the trade" so to speak. I know one is to not ask open ended questions; but I have searched online for training, and without knowing what I am looking for, one could spend a lot of money in a hurry....

 

C.

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marketing was my field for many years. the easiest way for you to become comfortable is to start talking to people. people who attend craft fairs are interested in crafts. maybe woodworking or jewelry or something other than pottery so each person who passes by is not a "lost" sale, it was never going to be a sale in the first place. so do not fall into the negative thinking that says "my work is not good enough for that person to buy". horsehockey. that person is looking for glass, not pottery.

 

shyness never got anyone anywhere.

 

getting over the fear of talking to strangers about your work is a process. you need to work on gaining this skill the way you learned pottery. a little step at a time.

 

try this step first. at the next fair you set up in mention something to the first person you see about what the person is wearing, " nice necklace, is it handmade?" focus on that person and whatever the answer, say thank you when the conversation is over.

 

if you are a male talking to a female just stick to simple lies. " my sister would love that sweater, where did you get it?" simple stuff starts them talking. even if just for a minute. avoid the obvious pick up lines.

 

as you become more comfortable talking about nothing you will eventually see a way to talk about your work. try it with older people by asking their advice. " could you please give my your opinion on this new color i am using? is it something you would like in your home or should i make it in ...................? do you think, etc. nobody ever talks to old women so they will all be flattered by the attention especially if you ask the oldest in a group. look at the person with interest in whatever they are saying. pay attention. nothing is as flattering.

 

just be yourself and try talking. eventually you will be able to talk about your work in front of the camera so you can record the process you use.

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I got over my shyness by teaching classes. Been teaching pottery now for 6 years, before that I taught lots of design and computer graphics classes. I was terrified the night before my first class, but I got used to it pretty fast. I can definitely say that this experience makes me very comfortable with strangers at art festivals.

 

So maybe instead of looking for a class to take, look for a class to teach!

 

It's also a very effective form of salesmanship ... to teach people about your work.

 

Mea

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Hi there - I am a little shy, but I have gotten over approaching people for the most part; I am female - so for the most part most of my clients are usually pretty nice to me. I usually say hello, smile, and if I am working in my friends booth - she likes to just say "hi, let me know if there is anything I can help you with, or if you have any questions...."; That seems to work for her, but still I would like to learn the more "art and technique" of selling, be more interactive, and learn to "close the sale" so to speak

 

It isn't like I want to go out and sell a car lol, but there is an art all in its own to selling; it is a skill :0). I am friendly, I smile and say hello to everyone.

 

Thanks for the tips - will work on them!

 

Charlene

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Back in the day when I'd set up a booth and tote everything in, I had a hard time talking about my own work. Partly because I figured someone would declare me a fraud. I never have had problems talking with strangers, but about my own work?

 

A friend, a fine painter, felt that way about her work. We ended up trading booths--I sold her work (being an oil painter in a previous life gave me the background of how the paintings were done), she sold mine. We always said we were helping out a friend, but I really loved her work, and she was a collector of pottery so had the knowledge to sell mine. We did this for two years, until we both relaxed enough to become friends to ourselves.

 

Would you be able to do a raku firing in front of people? It's hard to describe especially going into post-firing reduction (their eyes glaze over). I wish we'd had the opportunity of making videos back then, 'cause that's what I would have done. Get a couple of friends to help you do a raku firing, have one of them video it, and make sure the video includes you taking the pots from the kiln and putting them on the combustibles. Everyone loves a good fire, that's wny some of the raku "parties" are done around sundown.

 

Hang in there, you'll bring everything together successfully.

 

Shirley

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......she likes to just say "hi, let me know if there is anything I can help you with, or if you have any questions...."

 

Unfortunately that phrase (or its close relatives) is the first thng that any formal sales training you get teaches you to NOT use when dealing with customers. It invites the answer "Thank you.... but I'm just looking". And the psychology of that answer is that it moves the person further away from making a purchase. This is not my "opinion"..... but what is taught in countless professional sales courses.

 

You want to first engage the potental customer with questions that they can easily answer, and lead slowly them toward questions that have suggested altrernate answers that relate to your work. Such as "Do you think the red one or the blue one works better"?

 

Eventually you will work toward what are known as "trial closing" questions. Such as "Would the larger bowl or the smaller bowl fit better in your cabinet"? Two easy choices ... leading toward a commitment. The harder thing for them to say then is something like "neither"... or I don't want either of them".

 

Then to the "closing questions"......... "Do you want me to put that in a box or a bag"? Note that BOTH answers there comit the person to buying.

 

Get a book on salesmanship or take a class.

 

best,

 

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

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where did my post go??

 

i started a post and tried the bold type mea has used to such great effect and lost the post. re-typing is such a pain in the fingers.

 

the phrase used by your friend is the worst, it sounds as though she is really saying "let me know......................." and then followed by a silent "but don't bother me if you are not going to buy".

 

how many times have you been to a multi-day show and found the artist reading a book in the middle of the aisle. i saw this fairly often at the ACC baltimore shows. i know the artist has been in top gear for the entire week, but really.

 

nearly lost this post, too.

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Charlene, I can understand your dilemma as I sell only "naked" pottery, none of it is remotely considered food safe. We have found out differently things that have worked over the years to make this a little easier. We developed an info sheet that basically is part artist statement, part process education. We print these on bright colored paper so people notice it and read it, we also make certain one of these papers goes into every pot sold. We added a photo album of the firing processes with labels, which has now evolved into a bound book. These two items more than anything else we have tried have opened the conversations and then we talk, talk, talk about how each piece was made. We talk about the shape, or how the colors were formed in the process, etc. When they balk about the piece not being "functional" other than to look at, we discuss things things they can do with it, increasing the functionality of the piece without making it "functional. We have discussed adding a video player to the booth, but have not made the leap yet. I already have some videos done and I'm planning on making more.

 

 

hope that helps,

 

Chad

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you all - all good suggestions -

 

 

 

Mea and Celia - thank you - I DO need to get better at salesmanship; this is another topic in itself....But, how do you learn sales skills? I am not talking high pressure sales skills, and I have looked online for classes, but there are skills that definitely can be learned that make it better and easier when you know the "tricks of the trade" so to speak. I know one is to not ask open ended questions; but I have searched online for training, and without knowing what I am looking for, one could spend a lot of money in a hurry....

 

C.

All good suggestions in these replys. Of all the shows (not LOTS) I have been to, they have not allowed printed or presented (videos, displays, handouts, etc) materials. The most I could put out were business cards. I am a very different person when I try to sell my work. I think I am becoming an actress, I normally am not an extrovert, but i do try to have some enthusiam left over from booth set ups and all that pre show stress. I tell people all I know about my craft and don't try to bluff about anything I am aboslutely not sure of.

 

And speaking of business cards. on the back of mine, I have a discount coupon for the next purchase, and also, acts as a receipt . It says : Thank you for purchasing my pottery in the amount of ____ on ____. This card, when signed by me entitles you to a 15% discount on your next purchase. That way, when they are torn between two pieces, its easy to offer them a better deal on both. It is not an uncommon thing to do. Many of my customers are repeat buyers, and why shouldn't they be rewarded for their faithfulness...... It also gives them something they might want to keep in their wallets. They may decide after the show that "Oh, I wish I had bought that...............I hope she still has it. Good luck to you.

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Rather than discount your work ... or have "sales"....... all of which devalue your products in the consumer's eye (why buy full retail....... the true value is something less than that) ........ maybe make some small quickly produced items that you can ADD to the bag/ box when you deliver the order or piece at a show.

 

In Japan this is called "Sabisu".... "service".

 

It is a very pleasant surprise for the customer to get something MORE from you than what they paid for. It is very erffective. And keeps your prices as THE prices for your work. The nature of the "service" piece can vary with the overall sale price of the original item...... as you see fit. It could even be a quite high price piece on a VERY high end purchase or from a serious good repeat customer.

 

Sales and discounts are for competing with the philosophy of Walmart and KMart.

 

"Sell on quality, not on price." - Tom Peters -marketing abnd business guru

 

best,

 

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

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Rather than discount your work ... or have "sales"....... all of which devalue your products in the consumer's eye (why buy full retail....... the true value is something less than that) ........ maybe make some small quickly produced items that you can ADD to the bag/ box when you deliver the order or piece at a show.

 

In Japan this is called "Sabisu".... "service".

 

It is a very pleasant surprise for the customer to get something MORE from you than what they paid for. It is very erffective. And keeps your prices as THE prices for your work. The nature of the "service" piece can vary with the overall sale price of the original item...... as you see fit. It could even be a quite high price piece on a VERY high end purchase or from a serious good repeat customer.

 

Sales and discounts are for competing with the philosophy of Walmart and KMart.

 

"Sell on quality, not on price." - Tom Peters -marketing abnd business guru

 

best,

 

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

 

 

I really like that idea John! A small piece could be made for a lot less than what might be a percentage discount on another piece and it doesn't devalue the work....it says 'thank you for buying one of my pieces' in a way that a verbal 'thank you' does not.

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I really do not see why you want to explain what Horse Hair or Raku is to potential buyers, unless they ask.

You are not selling pottery classes, where people might be interested in how to do things.

If you sell art then people will like it or not, you would not normally explain how you made it, whether it is a painting or pottery.

If you walk into an art gallery then things are usually on display without explanations on how it was made.

Explaining the technical aspects of your art can in fact distract from it.

So it does not suprise me at all that you experience disinterest from customers.

Rather focus on the presenting and selling aspect - John Baymore has given you good advice.

Good luck!

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This specific topic has been brought up before on the forum, I will state my position again too. It all depends on the type of work and the nature of one's business, but there are plenty of scenarios where offering discounts for volume purchases, and repeat purchases, is sensible and good business.

 

First of all, I don't think discounts are appropriate for one of a kind art pieces. Where sales are pricey, and seldom, and offering a discount on one sale has a wide ripple effect on the value of your other pieces.

 

But not all of us are making that type of work. I am making everyday ware, and hoping to sell them in multiples. I price a lot of work to sell them in pairs. i.e. $40/each or 2/$75. It's clearly marked for customers to see the value of buying two. I have thoroughly examined the time/expense factor, and know that I am satisfied with the trade off. It works for me, and I will continue to do it. This does not make me Walmart, not even close! At most of my shows, I am still competing with potters who are offering similar items for half the price.

 

As for repeat customers, these people are extremely valuable to a pottery business! It really pays to notice who they are, and to show them some gratitude somehow. There are many ways to do this, but I don't think a discount is out of the question. For me, there is no practical difference between this and a small freebie, in terms of setting the value of my time, and managing my customers expectations. Again, I am making everyday ware. For other types of pottery businesses, this might be different. One rule does not fit all.

 

I am currently compiling a short list of customers who have been unbelievably supportive of my business for years. They have always been willing to pay full price, and treated me and my work with complete respect. When I have my open house at the end of this year, I am going to write a personal note to each of them offering a juicy discount at my open house. I have no fear that they will respect me less, or expect discounts in the future. My plan is to offer this "excellent customer" discount every five years or so.

 

Yes I think there are wrong ways to do it too, such as a person who is so anxious to make one sale, they start offering bargains to anyone who shows a little interest. I've seen people do this, it's painful to watch. But I also remember how terrifying those early days are, and I don't condemn those who lose their cool. It takes time to learn. Also, I know someone who has a "sale" with substantial discounts on the same day every year, and now unfortunately it seems all his customers have learned to wait for the sale.

 

If you offer discounts too broadly, and to any customer, then you are devaluaing your work. But if you do it with a lot of thought and selectiveness, it can be very beneficial.

 

Mea

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One thing we do in the store I work in ( we do not ask the customer if they want help....they always say no). Is we ask them if they have been in the store before and then we hand them a pen with a chocolate ( I work in a chocolate store) attached to it and thank them for coming in. Is there anything you could make cheaply that you could offer lookers. You could attach your

Info about the raku on the note with the item tied to it. If they don't stick around they will be taking your info home to possibly read later. Make sure your contact info is on note

 

If you have a hard time talking to people offering them something for free usually gets their attention and ' breaks" the ice for you.

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It's hard explaning work to people when they're in shows. You'll get questions abound, mostly about process and things. Even if you put an explanation of the work people (in my experience) would rather talk to you if you're there versus actually read it. If you put up a short blurb, that will be good for when you're not there outside of opening night and are not there to answer questions. For a show where you will have visitors to the space, you'll still be asked, people will still muse. I normally put up a small blurb and just answer questions when opening night occurs.

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