Where Do I Begin?... Shows, Shops, Website

Hi all,

I’ve been a “lurker” here for quite a while as I’ve been learning and
beginning to develop my own style. Even without participating, this
has been a very valuable asset to my education. Now I’m ready to
stop lurking and start “getting out there”, but my question is, where
do I begin? I’ve sold some pieces to one store and had some pieces
on consignment in another. Most of my work is one-of-a-kind and

Overall, I am not comfortable with the consignment sales because my
own resources are not great so consignment merely ties up my modest
inventory while providing only sporadic payment. I would like to
begin by doing some shows in my area (Chicago), but what will I need
in order to do this?

  • How much inventory should I reasonably expect to require for a

  • What will I need in terms of display, tables, etc. and do I need to
    buy these items, or can these things be rented?

  • How do I estimate how much to spend in relation to how much I will
    be able to recoup (sell)?

I’ve also considered setting up a web site for selling, but it seems
that unless my sales are moderate to high, it would not be cost
effective. Has anyone established a selling website that would like
to pass on any pointers to a beginner with limited resources?

Or am I jumping the gun and should I simply approach more retail

I realize these questions are pretty basic for you seasoned pros, but
I’ve got to start somewhere.

Mark L. Milanich
Chicago, Illinois

Hi Mark, I know exactly how you feel…unfortunately I have none of
the answers. I am in the same boat you are in…however, I have
found using auction houses to sell my stuff works fairly well over
the net. Sorry couldn’t be more help.

Christopher B Conaway

I have heard from artists who work them that there are some good
shows in your area. If it was not so far from Texas, we might
consider them. Order the September 99 issue of Sunshine Artist and
you might want to get the central division of Artfair Sourcebook.
There is also the Harris List - I have never seen that one, but it is
supposed to be a good critique of shows, also. It depends on the show
what equipment you need. Some indoor shows will rent tables and
backdrops, but you might need your own tablecovers - and some kind of
secure display for your jewelry. We use glass cubicles which we put
together at each show. But they are very heavy to carry. We also
have our own tract lighting system. Many shows have limited wattage
on each booth, which makes halogen track lights advantageous. But you
might want to start out small - not at granny craft shows, but at a
moderately priced smaller show sometimes what you learn at a show can
make it worth your while. I do not know the price range of your
goods. My husband has one of a kind but most are on the pricey side.
So he has many other items around 85 to 250 ( many of them rings ) -
the one of a kind pieces will draw the customer, but the cannot always
afford them - but once in a while, they surprise you and buy the one
of a kind piece. As soon as you can (and check out suppliers
carefully) get set up for at least Visa/MC. If you do outdoor shows,
you will usually need a secure canopy. We bought an Ezup and wish we
had bought a craft hut - much sturdier.

If you have any web questions feel free to ask me. Jewelry is my
“hobby” business. Web design is my “real” business. I’d be glad to
do everything from answering questions to reviewing pages to building
it for you.

-Sarinda (aka Spider)

Hello Mark Milanich in Chicago, In your area there must be several
shows scheduled every weekend! Initially, look for a few non-juried
shows that last one day and have a fee within your budget. You want
a show that has been around for several years and advertises. In my
area those shows are usually sponsored by charitable organizations or
art associations. There is no better way to find out how your
designs are received by the public than to be in contact with them,
one on one. Shows will do that. Plus YOU reap the financial
benefits of eliminating the middle man.

Before leaping into the show frey, do some research. Spend some time
at several shows and take notes on attractive displays, pricing of
jewelry similar to yours, size of booth, number of booths in the
show, and determine which shows have good crowds. Try to figure out
what attracts the crowds; those factors become criteria in your
selection of what shows you want to do. Show dates near common
paydays (ie. first and 15th of the month) are good. Finally talk to
the sponsor or promoter and ask for a copy of the application for
future reference.

If you don’t already have one, get a sales tax license, permit, or
whatever it’s called in IL. You don’t want to get in trouble with
the tax people. Any more, shows require you have one to apply. Also
get BUSINESS CARDS! Really essential and you should put one in the
bag with the receipt for each sale.

Tables and chairs? Some shows include them; if not, a couple card
tables covered with an attractive cloth and folding chairs work for
starting out. Spend as little as possible; be creative and use what
you have. If you like shows and continue to do them, you can always
invest in better equipment. Presentation is important, so don’t
forget the table cover- it hides a multitude of sins.

Try to do indoor shows to start; you don’t need the extra expense of
outdoor covers. Plus if the weather turns nasty, the crowd leaves!
If you’re outdoors, you will want protection from the sun and
possible rain. A market umbrella on a stand isn’t too expensive and
if you’ve already got an umbrella for your patio furniture use that.
Again, you can always buy the nice canopy later. Keep a couple
inexpensive tarps with gromets on hand and a bunch of those bungee
hooks so that you can quickly cover and secure your table display.

Whatever equipment you take, you’ll be doing the hauling, set-up, &
take-down, so keep it lightweight and simple. A hand truck or dolly
is useful. In your research, go at the end of a show and observe

Shoplifting can be a problem, so you really do need some form of
display case or secured display. I think there have been some
previous discussions about various displays that “leash” rings, etc.
Your observations from researching the shows may give you some ideas.

So far as inventory, just take as much as you can display well. A
well-stocked display doesn’t mean crammed full, but you can always
have extras to restock. If your inventory is small, take all of it.
At this stage you don’t want to miss a sale. Don’t expect much from
your first couple shows - they are really learning experiences and
you have much to find out.

I’ll close with a list of other things you will need. Hopefully,
others will have suggestions and all together, you’ll be well

Lockable cash box with change -note how much cash you start out with
Sales tax license and tax tables
Sales slip pads that make a receipt duplicate (NCR type is nice)
Pens, paper pad, extra tags or display cards
Sacks or bags for merchandise sales
Ring sizer and sized ring set
Pliers for small adjustments or repairs
Small cooler with drinks and snax - handi wipes
Polishing cloth
Small hand mirror for customer's use
Straight pins, "SticTac", adhesive tape, stapler, scissors
Your ready smile and friendly attitude!!!

Best of luck, Judy

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

Anyone out there have any advice! We do custom polishing, but we
also have our own custom deigns (14K gold & dia/stones). We’re
wondering about selling on the internet? Does anyone know if your
own web page is better than selling at an auction? How does one find
a good and reputable place to go? Is selling on the web as good as
they say, or is it better just going to local stores and doing it the
old fashiones way? Are there other alternatives I haven’t mentioned?
Has anyone out there tried using the web? Please tell us of your
results - good and bad.

Esti & Victor

There is no better way to find out how your designs are received by
the public than to be in contact with them, one on one.  Shows will
do that.  Plus YOU reap the financial benefits of eliminating the
middle man. 

The show itself is a middle man! You will pay a fee to participate.
You might pay for transportation, lodging or help. You’ll pamper
yourself by dining out. You will probably use a few days of studio
time packing up and unpacking – time is money. And you will be
working for the duration of the event. The right show is a good
investment and might just get you better than wholesale pricing when
all is said and done. The wrong show can be expensive and
discouraging. If you go down this road, ask a lot of
questions, choose carefully and keep your chin up. - Dana Carlson