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Craft Shows... Tips For Success


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#41 Mark C.

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Posted 03 July 2014 - 10:05 PM

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 professinal 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 atended shows

some shows like the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival drwas over 300K but its a cheap crowd-meaning big stuf 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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#42 GEP

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 10:07 AM

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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#43 GEP

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 10:25 AM

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.
Mea Rhee
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#44 DirtRoads

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 03:26 PM

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. 



#45 Mark C.

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 09:35 PM

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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#46 Mark C.

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 10:30 PM

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


Mark Cortright
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#47 clayfeetpottery

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 11:49 AM

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!  


-with dirty feet and happy hands,

 

   Mel

 


#48 TJR

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 06:28 PM

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.



#49 Mark C.

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 01:56 AM

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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#50 oldlady

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 05:24 PM

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.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#51 Brian Reed

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 06:24 PM

I just started tracking each show I attend with what I have sold.  last year I did not keep an inventory and did not really track what sold, it was always what I could remember.  For the most part my recollection was close enough, but now I have it all on paper.  Square has helped me do this by using their cash register function where I add each price for each items, and punch it like they do at a restaurant.  Now I know what I sold each day in great detail and I have a report that I can pull up for next year.


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#52 GEP

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Posted 23 July 2014 - 07:30 AM

I use a system for tracking and market analysis too. I'm analyzing my items and also analyzing shows. Before a show, I make a list of my inventory before I pack it. Then at the end of a show, I make a list of what's left before I pack it to go home. The "leftover" list is the start of the new list for the next show. This is all done in a spiral notebook. It's the same notebook where I total up my sales after a show. It becomes a journal that I can refer to for many things.

Now when I go back to a show I've done before, I know exactly how much total inventory to bring, and how many of each item. "I sold out of mugs last time, better bring more." "This was a good show (or a bad show) for my higher end line of work. Better bring more (or fewer)." Or even sometimes "I sold nothing but low-priced items, not worth going back." Just taking the time to record this information makes for confident decisions later.
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#53 art81usa

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 04:29 AM

Would you show with another artist in a tent? I did this recent weekend and I feel like I sold her artwork instead of mine.  She was out of the tent more than she was in it.  Let me know what you think.  I hardly sold anything and she sold lots.  I do more hand building and she does throwing.  Could this be the reason why?  It rained the entire weekend too, but I tried to stay positive. Any suggestions would help.



#54 clay lover

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 07:37 AM

No. I would not. no matter which end of this issue you are on, it ends up being a relationship problem.   Better to take a non participating buddy who can help with sales and wrapping and give you a break. And really, If you have enough stop for a show, there is no room for someone else's work in your booth.



#55 GEP

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 10:37 AM

In my early years I did some shows in pairs or small groups. I quickly learned it's a bad idea. Lots of people falsely believe that booth sharing will save money, not realizing you are forfeiting sales, by giving yourself less space and putting forth a less-than-professional appearance. People also think partnering up means less work, but the truth is it takes so much more effort to coordinate and share. And like claylover says, it often results in relationship problems.

But really I believe that "saving money" and "less work" are just a cover up anyways. The real reason people want to share a booth is because they don't have enough courage to be out there by themselves. My advice is that you need to have enough inventory and enough confidence to fill a whole display, before doing shows will give you a worthwhile result.

I hardly sold anything and she sold lots. I do more hand building and she does throwing. Could this be the reason why?

No, sales are not based on this factor.
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#56 Chantay

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 11:08 AM

 

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.

 

I was looking at this show also, for next year.  bciskepottery or Mea may do it as it is in there areas.  If you go let me know how it turns out.

 

Many years ago I use to work up by Harper's Ferry.  I remember it as being very beautiful and country like.  Has it been ruined by over population?


- chantay

#57 art81usa

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 11:33 AM

I didn't share the booth, because I didn't have inventory or courage.  I needed someone else there to help man the booth and thought that others shared booths when showing.  I am new to this and didn't realize that this would not be beneficial.  I also realize what you are saying about it not being good for the relationship.  I like to do things by the rules of the show and she likes to do things her way.  If anyone can give other advice though I would appreciate it.  I am newer to the area, so having help that is affordable may be an issue for me at the shows.

 



#58 GEP

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 11:55 AM

art81usa,

I should not have assumed what your motivations were. I was talking about my own experiences and observations. If these do not apply to you, then I stand corrected.

Helpers are not really necessary. I do shows by myself without a helper. You manned this recent show by yourself most if the time, right? There is always a friendly artist next door who will keep an eye in your booth when you need a bathroom break. Eat small snacks throughout the day so you don't need a lunch break.
Mea Rhee
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#59 GEP

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 12:20 PM

 
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.

 
I was looking at this show also, for next year.  bciskepottery or Mea may do it as it is in there areas.  If you go let me know how it turns out.

No I've never done this show, and don't know much about it. My impression from afar is that it is not an "art festival" but rather a "town festival" with some art. But I've also heard there is a huge crowd. If I were to do it, I would bring affordable things that are broadly accessible to a general audience, rather than things that require an educated art crowd.
Mea Rhee
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#60 bciskepottery

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Posted 13 October 2014 - 12:42 PM

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.

 
I was looking at this show also, for next year.  bciskepottery or Mea may do it as it is in there areas.  If you go let me know how it turns out.
 
Many years ago I use to work up by Harper's Ferry.  I remember it as being very beautiful and country like.  Has it been ruined by over population?


I do not do this fair. I do the Clifton Day fair which is held the Sunday before Columbus Day (and the day after the Fairfax Fair). Some of the Clifton Day vendors do Fairfax the day before. I will be doing the Fairfax Holiday Show in November; more costly but multi-day and its indoors! Hard to figure out why the City is doing fairs in both October and November.




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