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.