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Are big craft shows worth it?


#1

I’m considering moving back to the US from Norway and trying out my
jewelry on the crafts circuit, specificially markets like Sugarloaf
in the DC area. I went to one to visit and there were lots of
jewelers, but not a single one selling anything remotely like mine.
However, the weekend I visited, it was cold and windy and most of the
dealers seemed to spend more time freezing than selling. Is it worth
it? Can one make ends meet? Here in Norway, I have only the choice
between small amature markets where my work is above the standard and
price range of most of what is sold, or going clear to Oslo (5-6 hr
drive w/ gas at $6/gal) for a professional show and shelling out
about $2000 per stand plus expenses. I could not sell enough hand
made work to even make ends meet. It seems the stand rentals are
reasonable w/ sugarloaf, but can one make a living off that sort of
thing and is it worth it? I have two kids as well, 10 and 4, and am
a single mother. While I’m sure my 10 year old would be more than
happy to tag along, I’d have put my youngest w. friends or family for
the weekends. Another option that has been suggested to me is
Renfests.

Another issue w/ sugarloaf shows. They are jurried, and while I
suspect my jewelry might make it, as there isn’t much else like it
out there, they require pictures of your stand as well…something I
wouldn’t even begin to invest in until I come to the states again. I
do have a wooden cart w/ canapy…but that=B9s it. Does anyone know
how strict the ‘stand’ requirements are at these things?

Thanks,
Jeanne
Jeanne Rhodes Moen
Kristiansand, Norway
http://www.jeanniusdesigns.com


#2

Jeanne,

I have done 8 shows this year ranging from outdoor art shows to
indoor high-end craft shows. This year especially has been very
spotty, more than in the past couple years. Some shows have been
better than expected, though not by much, others have been huge
disappointments. Over and over you hear that right now doing shows
is a crap shoot. If you are doing shows and depending on making
your living solely from the income derived from it, you’ve got your
work cut out for you! If on the other hand, you have some other way
of supplementing your income (wholesale work, custom design, private
local sales) you will be more likely to survive. In general it’s
been really hard for those just starting out in shows. The old
timers with huge followings at shows they’ve done for a decade are
doing better (by how much it’s hard to tell) than those of us who
have fewer shows under our belts and thinner mailing lists. It’s
too bad, too. What the craft world needs right now is an infusion
of new work, new artists and new ideas. However, many shows focus
on, and in some cases depend on, maintaining the status quo in terms
of artists in their shows. For new people breaking in it’s hard,
but if you depend on getting into shows and building a clientele,
then your more interested in reliability than freshness.

Right now, the number of shows combined with the quality (or more
precisely the lack of quality) buyers and the amount of competition
is really making things tough. Some shows have had a lot of trouble
rounding up enough quality crafters in other media categories and
are allowing too many jewelers in shows. It seems that producers
can always find another few jewelers to fill up a show but not
enough wood, glass or ceramics artists. Some shows are way too
heavy on jewelry.

You can write to me off line for a specific critique of that show if
you like. I’ve not been to it, but I have a number of acquaintances
who have and can share what they’ve told me about it. It’s good
that you’ve been to the show you’re considering, but you still need
to do some research on the show. The question shouldn’t be “are
big craft shows worth it?” but "which specific show is worth it?"
You just can’t go to any show and expect that your work will sell
there just because others do it. I can’t tell you how many shows
I’ve done where people come up and say that the work is the best,
most unique in the show, yet you couldn’t get them to open thier
wallets with a pry bar and a small nuclear explosive! Your work has
to appeal to the group of people who are spending money at that
show. It’s really hard to determine this and getting into the show
is no guarantee that you’ll be successful.

As far as your booth goes; there’s a certain level of conformity
that you see at shows. While it’s great to have a booth that really
stands out, it’s also important that it not be so unusual or
different that all they see is your booth and not your product.
Shoppers don’t like to stand in the sun or the rain, so your canopy
needs to be large enough to cover all your booth, yourself and you
customers. If it is rainy you may need to move your cases back
enough to that they and your customers don’t get wet when it blows.
If your tent is too small you can’t accomplish this. Plus I doubt
many shows will let you get away with not having a canopy that isn’t
at least 10x10. You should keep in mind that even though the
quality of buyer isn’t the best right now, they still expect a
certain level of sophistication in the presentation of the work. If
your work is as good or perhaps even a little better than those
around you but your presentation is sub par, you can expect a less
receptive crowd. Jewelers I suspect are held to a slightly higher
level of expectation where image is concerned. Unfortunately you
just can’t really hold back here.

Larry Just back from two shows in NYC and canceling my next one;
waiting for things to get better.


#3

Jeanne, I absolutely adore your work and the style is similar to one
I was leaning towards (filigree) before I took a detour and got into
the business of making hats. IMHO I do believe your work way better
than just depending on craft shows and you should have no problem
getting your work sold at upscale boutiques and the like. I realize
this does not answer your questions, so I will let the more
knowledgeable step in here. I hope you find a place not too far from
me (I live in Clintwood VA a LOOOONG 6 hour drive from DC) so that I
may one day have the privilege of learning from you.


#4

Jeanne, I would recommend that you visit a the American Craft Forums
http://www.americancraft.com which hosted by the Rosen Group who are
the producers of the BMAC wholesale shows. These are active with
people who make their living through the US craft market both at
retail shows and wholesale though galleries. I would make clear that
you are planning to move back to the US though since imported crafts
are a very sore subject with most in that market.

Cheers,
Paul Ewing


#5

Jeanne,

You know I already think your work is stunning. :slight_smile: I don’t know
anything about the Sugarloaf shows, so hopefully the pros here can
answer that for you. But Ren Faires…I have to say, the ones I’ve
been to (one just about two months ago, in the Southeastern
US)–were really low-end, low-price markets. IMO the Faires (or at
least this one) are geared toward children, and I don’t know how many
people are shopping for higher-end jewelry items there. I don’t know
your price points, but looking at the complexity of the work, I
suspect they might be to high for your average Ren Faire customer.
Anyway, JMO. Good luck with the search though.

I hope you find a good market for your work!


#6
  I'm considering moving back to the US from Norway and trying out
my jewelry on the crafts circuit, specificially markets like
Sugarloaf in the DC area. 

If you are looking for on craft shows in the USA, I
highly recommend Sunshine Magazine. It is a great publication of
extensive show listings through out the country, both retail and some
of the more art oriented wholesale. Each show is rated by artists
that attended the previous year. They share opinions on the location,
promoters, weather, clientele, other artisans, product types, and
sales. In short, you are getting from selling artists
instead of a sales pitch from show promoters. Jury requirements,
dates, and prices with contact are listed for each show .
The following is a link to their website.

http://www.sunshineartist.com/

You will also find many advertisements and listings from the
companies that sell the supplies you need for a show.

Mary Latterman
http://www.latterman.com


#7

Any input helps, as to where I’m thinking of settling, it’s a bit
open, but I’ve been leaning to south central PA unless someone as a
very good argument for a better location. But, doing courses is one
option which has been suggested to me. I would be curious to know how
much interest there might be in such a course in filigree work. So,
if anyone has any input on that subject, please let me know!

Jeanne

Jeanne Rhodes Moen
Kristiansand, Norway
http://www.jeanniusdesigns.com


#8

I discovered a really good reason to have a canopy. At my first
outdoor show, the metal of my jewelry in my glass case got so hot you
couldn’t handle it! I wasn’t that hot outside either.

Leslie