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Chris Campbell

Craft Shows... Tips For Success

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LONG GONE are the days when customers expect festival artists to look like hippies. I repeat, LONG GONE. These days customers expect us to look like someone who can give them good advice about home decor

 

EXCELLENT and very important point Mea.

 

So in the forums I often mention Japan and selling there.  And most folks here reading this are already aware that in general the valuation of ceramic work by the public in Japan is generally far higher than in the USA (or likely any other country in the world). 

 

When working (I chose that word deliberately) a show opening when I am in Japan, here is how I am typically dressed:

 

attachicon.gifJohnBaymoreSoloOpeningInterviewInJapan-SuitAndTie.jpg

 

(Japanese press interviewing me in that shot)

 

In Japan ceramics is serious business.  Serious business deserves serious attention TO business.  In a business setting...... appropriate dress is required to be taken seriously.  So.... nice suit and tie.  With just the right "flair".

 

The USA is certainly not Japan.... but how might our approach TO business and our approach to professionalism here tend to affect not only our own succeess, but also the success of the field in general.  (Back to my pet peeve of the curse of,  "I play with clay!") 

 

Food for thought.

 

best,

 

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

 

Looking sharp my friend! 

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AveRenee    0

Does anyone have advice on choosing whether or not the fair is a good place to sell? I'm still new at this, recently graduated; but I've done 4 fairs now and haven't had much luck picking the right ones, I mostly just break even or a little ahead. The atmosphere of them were places to find cheap goods or more about activities rather than buying quality goods (i.e.: basement church holiday fair, festival with heavy focus on children's activities, columbus day festival, etc...) but don't particularly seem to be advertised as such to the vendors. 

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Stephen    139

Welcome to the forum AveRenee, here's an interesting post I saw on another site you might want to read.

 

http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/the-distraction-factor

 

There are a few websites that help you narrow down your search, http://www.festivalnet.com has a nice search tool that you can use to narrow down the search to shows that have or don't have the things you want. the free membership gives you access to the search just limits some of the details. there are others as well I think but I don't know them off hand.

 

Good luck! 

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Chris Campbell    1,088

You are going to get stung occasionally when you start out ... it's a learning curve. Most of us had to get over just being "happy to be there" and look behind the curtain a bit more critically.

Magazines like Sunshine Artist can give you excellent reviews of the bigger shows.

Crafts Report ( http://www.craftsreport.com/) is a magazine and a website serving the professional craft show sellers and wholesalers. They have a show finder and publish a lot of helpful articles.

 

For the small shows and local ones, you either have to visit it the year before you do it or start watching out for warning signs.

I can start the list of warning signs and others can add, I'm sure ...

- when the focus is totally on another activity with craft sales thrown in as entertainment. Bands, Food, Charity, Sports draw attention away from you. People tend to do what they set out to do and if they are just going to eat, drink and hear music that is what they will do.

- when most of the other booths are selling imports ... also known as 'Buy/Sell' booths.

- when they sound thrilled to hear a hand made artist is applying.

- when no one seems to know who is in charge.

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Mark C.    1,807

Artfair insiders as well as art fair source book and sunshine artists are all good ways to sort out the best shows.

That does not mean your work will sell well at those shows that takes lots of trail and error.

Mark

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Pugaboo    438

I agree all those sources help you narrow your search for shows but having subscribed to them for years also know there are a lot of other variables that go into making a show successful for you. Do your due diligence start with the resources mentioned here to shorten the possible list then go on the web and search some more on those shows. Facebook is a place to start since many events now have a page. Try and find some other artists that have done the event you are looking at, then try to find other artists in your genre that do the show. Ask them all questions about their experience. If it's local ask your friends if they go to the events and what they thought as spectators. If possible as said by others attend the festival the year before you apply and pay attention to what is going on... Booth layout, demographic of spectator attendance, type of artists displaying, etc. Your own eyes and sense of how the show feels can answer a lot of your questions since you know your art best.

 

Once you have done all that and decide to take the leap and do the festival get your best work together, do dry runs with your display to make sure it looks and says what you want it to about your art. Then sit back and hold your breath that the weather gods love you that weekend. Hold your breath that nothing else unforeseen interferes with the public attending the event, a large sporting event can kill a show! Not something you think about but I've seen it happen. Pray that the world is peaceful and kind with no tragic news, was at an art show when we went to war, there were tumble weeds blowing down the streets when it hit the news. Sad we had to go to war but also sad not to make gas money to get home. Same thing happened when the shuttle blew up, some things you can't control can affect you. A final uncontrollable thing that can ruin your show... Booth location, most of the time you can't control where the promoter sticks you and location can make or break your show.

 

All that said your attitude, appearance, and display layout can be the red line. If you drop the ball with these you might just as well stay home and save yourself the gas. No matter how slow, stormy, boring a show is be up beat let customers know you love your work and love doing festivals... But don't scare them away by pouncing as has been mentioned several times on the forum. Find that happy medium. Stay positive next week is always another show with a whole new set of opportunities to get your work out there, one great show get can you through a lot of clunkers.

 

That's my additional 2 cents on festivals!

 

Terry

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bciskepottery    925

Mel Jacobsen, the moderator of the Clayart forum, often advises folks to draw a circle 50 miles around their home town -- no need to go further, you can find all the customers you need inside that circle. My circle is a bit larger, but I live in a multi-state area and choose to only do shows in my home state to avoid outside state sales tax filings, etc. Start small, build a customer base (may take a couple of years, and grow from your successes. I do scout new shows the year before to see what the set up is, crowd and traffic flow, other vendors. And, sometimes I just take a chance. I try (now) not to do back-to-back shows so I have time to make items between shows.

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Mark C.    1,807

The 50 mile thing only works if you live around people-I did that for 1st 15 years until mid 80's-if you are rural then you need to go further unless you settle for meger sales. have saturated my 50 mile circle. If you want to sell super well you need to find those markets and travel to them.Once developed you stay with them and they build.

1/2 my income comes from way outside the 50 mile circle-more like a 1200 mile circle

as in real-estate- location location location.

Mark

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Chris Campbell    1,088

I agree ... I have seen folks who barely need five miles to make it work ... and others who need to get way far out of that limiting circle. You need to look at your work objectively ... try to figure out who your customer is and where they buy ... which is also sometimes different from where they live.

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Mel Jacobsen, the moderator of the Clayart forum, often advises folks to draw a circle 50 miles around their home town -- no need to go further, you can find all the customers you need inside that circle. My circle is a bit larger, but I live in a multi-state area and choose to only do shows in my home state to avoid outside state sales tax filings, etc. Start small, build a customer base (may take a couple of years, and grow from your successes. I do scout new shows the year before to see what the set up is, crowd and traffic flow, other vendors. And, sometimes I just take a chance. I try (now) not to do back-to-back shows so I have time to make items between shows.

unless you live in nebraska- then you need a 50 mile radius around your state ;)

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Min    783

 Try and find some other artists that have done the event you are looking at, then try to find other artists in your genre that do the show. Ask them all questions about their experience. 

 

I agreed with most of what you said except this part. I have found that vendors at art events come in tied with fishermen as to spewing bs. Spinning tales of how well they are doing when they have been in plain sight all day with few sales and saying how well they are doing. Um, I have the booth across from you, saw you had very little business and yet you are saying you had great sales. Really? A little more honesty amongst vendors would be helpful. Also, a great day for someone selling work done as a hobby who is only interested in recouping costs isn't in the same game as those whose livelihood depends on selling their work.

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bciskepottery    925

 

Mel Jacobsen, the moderator of the Clayart forum, often advises folks to draw a circle 50 miles around their home town -- no need to go further, you can find all the customers you need inside that circle. My circle is a bit larger, but I live in a multi-state area and choose to only do shows in my home state to avoid outside state sales tax filings, etc. Start small, build a customer base (may take a couple of years, and grow from your successes. I do scout new shows the year before to see what the set up is, crowd and traffic flow, other vendors. And, sometimes I just take a chance. I try (now) not to do back-to-back shows so I have time to make items between shows.

unless you live in nebraska- then you need a 50 mile radius around your state ;)

 

Pete Pinnell and the crew at University of Nebraska/Lincoln might take exception to that.

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Mark C.    1,807

No matter what show you get into take mugs-mugs and some mugs-hey did I mention mugs

Its a mainstay-everyone likes a good mug.

Yesterdays mug run.

Today I'm off pots getting some rest for a 4th show and a big Trip to the Far North where the sun never sets this time of year.Think I'll clean the house and water plants.

Mark

 

post-8914-0-10016200-1404434019_thumb.jpg

post-8914-0-98270300-1404434019_thumb.jpg

post-8914-0-10016200-1404434019_thumb.jpg

post-8914-0-98270300-1404434019_thumb.jpg

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JBaymore    1,432

Um, I have the booth across from you, saw you had very little business and yet you are saying you had great sales. Really?

 

Sometimes this is not a malicious thing.  Some people have NO CLUE about what making money is all about or what a decent paycheck might be in today's world.  Some have no idea of actual business accounting practices... and if they sell $1000 gross of sales at a show,... they THINK they magically "made" $1000.  I've seen this kind of craziness ALL the time.

 

So their estimate of what is a "good show" might be WAY off the mark from someone who has different standards of accounting, lifestyle, and/or income. 

 

Some potters who have been working at this for 20+ years think that $25 K annual net is a "good living".  Maybe for them it works.

 

best,

 

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

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Mark C.    1,807

Heres a few tips I have learned

There are many factors for a good show and asking others should not be a big one.I only trust that type of feedback from my fellow professional potters whom I've known for decades and even with that my stuff sells different than their stuff.

As mentioned if its a hobby a few hundred bucks beyond expenses is not ok for a full timer but mnay be fine for someone.

If I'm driving say 1200 miles one way I need to make some serious $$ to make it work

A few key elements are the size of the crowd (the more the merrier with a few exceptions)I always do well in well attended shows

some shows like the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival drwas over 300K but its a cheap crowd-meaning big stuff does not sell well.

Its takes lots of street time to dial all this in.

Exceptions are the crowd is there for another event say a music festival(not good for selling anything large) or car race or -----fill in the -- blanks

Thats not to say you cannot sell 3-6 k at such an event it just takes a lot of small sales.

I like the shows that are in towns that happen once a year and its a big event say an annual art show-It can be twice a year as  well

The locals come out as well as tourists and out of towners

In areas that have shows every weekend then all the sales are diluted-the San Francisco Bay area is just such a place. Back in the 70's and early 80's-it had a few great shows 

Now there is a show everyweekend in some nearby town and the public thinks oh we can go in a week or two as their is always a show close by and you will be there.

They will ask you if you are in such and such next weekend?

I always say I live on another planet that is far away and only come once a year

You need to be aware of what else happens in your show area the whole year around as to art shows.

I tend to do large annual events-they are always better than an every week event in sales.

If you are a hobbist then weekly markets will be fine but I want more sales than they can provide.(our local famers market is only for food anyway)

Good luck with the selections

Mark

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GEP    863
Does anyone have advice on choosing whether or not the fair is a good place to sell? I'm still new at this, recently graduated; but I've done 4 fairs now and haven't had much luck picking the right ones, I mostly just break even or a little ahead. The atmosphere of them were places to find cheap goods or more about activities rather than buying quality goods (i.e.: basement church holiday fair, festival with heavy focus on children's activities, columbus day festival, etc...) but don't particularly seem to be advertised as such to the vendors.

 

 

I got burned a few times like this. The organizer swears the event is a high-quality art show, but it turns out to be the opposite. They do not lie on purpose, they are just wishful thinking. It's human. This doesn't mean all organizers lie. I've learned to tell the difference between someone giving me a straight story and someone puffing themselves up.

 

Artists lie or exxagerate to each other too. I kind-of expect it, and it doesn't bother me. If an artist I don't know asks me how my show is going, honestly I think it's none of their business, and completely meaningless to answer in specific terms. If I'm having a great show, the other artist might be a train wreck at the same show. Then they will feel like they were misled. So a specific answer doesn't matter, and isn't appropriate anyways. This is why, as Mark said, getting info from a stranger isn't worth much. Developing trusted relationships with a small number of artists, whom you know are operating at the same level as you, does provide valuable info.

 

This leads to a fundamental piece of advice for all professional artists: Define success by yourself and for yourself, don't measure yourself against anyone else. As others have said here, somebody else's idea of success does not apply to you, and your own idea of success does not apply to anyone else. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how others are doing compared to yourself. Or you can spend your energy making your work and your business better (not better than other artists, better than yourself from last year.)

 

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GEP    863

My guidelines for picking good shows, not saying that I always make the right choices, but over time I have learned to distinguish a lot of things:

 

I like shows that are not run for profit, and yet still managed by a paid professional event planner. These are not always easy to find, and I won't automatically avoid shows that don't fit this description. Shows that are run for profit are prone to making non-artist-friendly choices, just because they need to. Shows that are run by non-professionals are prone to being disorganized or insider-ish (i.e. best spaces given to the friends of the organizers, hate that).

 

For my work, big city venues work best. Like Mark, I think a very high attendance number is a good thing. I also rely on a diverse population, because my work has a distinct Asian style and the people who like it are more likely to live in cities. I do great in DC and Baltimore, but even the mid-size cities in between (Frederick MD and Annapolis MD) are not nearly as good for me, even if they are affluent areas.

 

I also avoid the weekly or monthly markets, at least the ones where they expect you to participate regularly. There is a real down-side to this, customers tell themselves "I can get it next week." The once or twice-a-year big events are much better for this reason.

 

I used to stick to local shows only. Like bciske I did not want to deal with other state's sales tax. But that was when I was only trying to make a part-time income. Now that I am full time, it is too limiting to stay within 50 miles. Expanding my zone out to neighboring states has been a big growth factor in the past few years.

 

As I mentioned above, I have developed relationships with other artists who I trust, and I will rely on their advice too.

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DirtRoads    145

Back when I did those Junior League shows, there were always a portion of exhibitors that went around claiming that they used to do a lot more at that specific show.  And always talking about how much better "other shows" were.  And for the most part, none of them seemed satisfied with what they sold.   Or they sold this exorbitant amount.   I found I could not trust what most of them said.   Like Gep said, they lie or exaggerate. 

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Mark C.    1,807

Gep said (I like shows that are not run for profit, and yet still managed by a paid professional event planner. These are not always easy to find, and I won't automatically avoid shows that don't fit this description)

 

These also fit my best shows in my year-run by professionals and not for profit-

If a promoter is making all then show money you are at the bottom of the list to start.

I try to avoid % shows(they ask a % of your gross) but do one great one every year

You need to really do well for this to make sense.

Mark

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Mark C.    1,807

One other note is the age group of your market in terms of sales vs your product.

I have a younger crowd equals more sales than a fellow potter I know-we share a room when at same shows to keep hotel expenses down.

That means we share market data as well. He has does better in older crowds (the polo shirt county club two house conservative crowds)

I do better in younger mixed age crowds

He can top my sales by 1/3 to 1/2 in his crowds I can do the same in my market crowds.

His pots are much more decorated than mine-still funtional ware but with fish and frogs and more overgaze painting

Mine are free flowing lots of glazes but less decorated.

All this stuff takes time to learn

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hello all!  I am not new to clay, but am new to selling it.  (been a HS teacher for the past 9 years)  I just wanted to say thank you for all the generous sharing of info on this forum.  I am SO overwhelmed but these threads are helping to sort through the process!  

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TJR    359

I really dislike sticky price tags on the front of work .... Bottom for me.

I want folks to like the piece first, then pick it up to see the price.

Chris;

My price tags aren't sticky. they are always coming off. Put them where you want. I like mine to be visible, so people don't have to ask.

To each his or her own.

TJR.

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Mark C.    1,807

I use removable 3/4 inch round stickers for price tags put near the handles or inside the bowls or another propionate place for the eye to see.

Price tags promote sales at least for me its one less roadblock for the customer along with a great display well stocked.

 

One other point for a potter like me is to track your best sellers at any given show-I make a list of stared items (that sell best) as well as second best forms for the next year. I make this list right after show while that oinfo is still fresh in memory.You also learn over time what colors sell best where you travel ( I make note of this as well)-

I look at this list a month before going to that show so I cover those bases forms and colors.

This over time can change as my lists show over say a 10 year period.

 

Just when you thought selling would be easy now you have to track some of it?? who said this was a cake walk

Mark

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oldlady    1,323

has anyone done the  Fairfax City Fall Festival in Fairfax, Va?  the website was for 2013 and when i called i found that they are still accepting applications for the show on Oct. 11.  it is a few blocks from where i used to live but i moved away when it was in its second year.  this is a low cost looking show with a sizable crowd and i know they have money to buy, i just wonder if they do buy.

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