Monday, March 2, 2015

Post Show Update

The ACC show in Baltimore last weekend was quite an experience for me. Cindy Silas and I got to Baltimore just as the Wholesale show was closing. I took a few minutes to walk around and take a look at the booths, then met Cindy, Lorena, and Lore's sister Xochit (pronounced Sochi) to help Vickie pack up. Donna Penoyer showed up just in time to take down the Abstracta Display unit, and we all helped box it up. With all 6 of us, it took 2 hours to break down, pack up, and put it all on the shipping pallet. What a job! Can you imagine how long it would have taken if Vickie had to do it alone?

Vickie Hallmark's booth at ACC baltimore.

The weather this past week has been frightful on the east coast, and Baltimore was particularly cold and windy - to say nothing of snowy. I'm pretty sure that's why this year's show was under attended. Some vendors wrote a decent number of orders, others didn't even make their expenses back. This was Vickie's 2nd time at the show. It is said that it takes at least 3 times displaying your work in any kind of venue for customers to really take notice of you. This is true for big shows and for small neighborhood craft fairs.

Although the retail show looked busy on Friday (the opening day), I'm not sure how well the artists did. Saturday was a horrendous day for anyone to be on the road and I hear the floor was as quiet as a library. Perhaps Sunday was a little better. Having a bad show is the cost of doing business, though. Something to take into account.

Deciding to do a show takes a lot of commitment. Not only are you going to lay out money for your craft/jewelry supplies, but there are a number of other things that will drain your wallet. Do you need a tent? Will you rent pipe and drape? How will you put together your booth? What about lighting? Do you need to travel? Stay in a hotel? Are there application fees? Booth fees? Do you need to pay teamsters to transport your goods from the receiving dock to the show floor? Once you've totaled up all the various expenses, take your labor into consideration. Are you able to set up and break down by yourself? Can you drive to the location? Do you need to have an assistant? Can you stand on your feet for the duration of the show? (Buyers don't really like to see vendors sitting - it gives a bad impression - although you can grab some time off your feet occasionally). The first year, if you make your expenses back, you'll have done well! If you've made some profit, celebrate with a glass of something fizzy. I've heard that you're supposed to make 5 times your booth fee to consider an event successful. Of course, it depends on the venue, the location, and many other factors. When I first did the Contemporary Craft Market in Santa Monica, California, I was thrilled to make 3x my booth fee. But the show was literally down the street, I loaded in and out myself, and had no expenses other than the low booth fee (I had the smallest booth at the show).

Shrink wrapping the pallet. Ready for transport.

The final, and arguably most important, thing to take into consideration is - does your work fit in with the other work being shown? Not that it should look like other artist's work, but if you have low price points in a high end show (or vice-versa), or if you create romantic/steampunk/fantasy type designs and the show is being set up at a county fair or by the beach  - are you marketing to your customer or taking a shot at breaking into new territory? As long as you keep your expectations in line with the reality of the situation - there's no wrong choice. It may be a hard sell, but you'll learn a lot!

My days of doing shows in outlying cities is at an end. I have no interest in all the pre and post labor expending activities. ACC debuted a new exhibit this year during the retail show called Hip Pop. They set up 3 or 4 small areas that housed 6-7 micro booths for emerging artists. I was seriously considering applying next year - but then I thought about the standing - for three days - and am now seriously reconsidering.

                                                                                                                        Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor


Carol-Ann Michaelson said...

I agree with all your comments and I would like to add to them.
I have done all kinds of shows for years but I only do juried shows that have a track record. In the past three years, I have stopped doing craft fairs and I now only do studio tours as a guest artist. I go into the ones that are in areas that have an affluent customer base. Time, energy that goes into a show and costs are too important to waste time doing a show that doesn't give me a return on investment. My studio is open to the public so I am fortunate that I also have an ongoing customer base that comes to our studios.

Lora Hart said...

Thanks for your thoughts Carol-Ann! Deciding how to sell your jewelry (or other work) is a very personal decision, and each artist has particular goals, needs, and opportunities that factor into the decision. You seem to have found your niche, and that is really the ultimate goal to achieve!