Shows – Susan Sheehan

13 08 2008

Many artists are solitary people. We love the time alone in our studios to do as we may. Selling online has made this even easier to embrace. I can list at all hours and the money comes in while I’m sleeping, torching or cooking dinner. I think if not for my family, I could easily lose all sense of reality. But the day I realized I was holding conversations with fixtures about what colors to use I knew it was time to get out.

Years of doing art shows for my photography left me dreading the idea of doing a bead show. The set up, the hours on my feet, the feeling of hope slowly deflating away as I left yet another show with comments of “I could do that.”, echoing in my head. What I had forgotten was the important information garnered from watching what people touched, lingered over and asked questions about. I realized I can’t see how long someone looks at my listings. I can’t know how many times they click through the pictures and what questions they are asking the screen. I needed to break free from my safe little world and face the world of shows.

I decided my approach to shows had been all wrong. Instead of making money being the primary objective, I needed to change focus. Market research was going to be priority number one. Unless nobody actually looked at my beads, I couldn’t fail.

I prepared for the first bead show in my most anal of ways. Lists galore, setting everything up in the basement to ensure a good looking table and focusing on a wide range of price offerings. I pulled out my dusty Bruce Baker craft show sales tape (where on earth did I have a tape player anyway?) and pumped up my ego.

I was in for a treat. First of all, carrying in 3 loads of table displays, supplies and beads was practically liberating. I was used to heavy grid wall, boxes of matted prints and framed pieces. Band-aids and a change of clothes weren’t necessary for a bead show. After setting up in merely an hour I had two to spare. How glorious! I promptly got a cup of coffee and a bagel. I browsed the other vendors’ tables and even had time to make a purchase or two.

When the show started I realized not only was the set up a dream, but the room was full of motivated shoppers. Bead shows aren’t the kind to draw in those looking for mere entertainment. The majority of participants were women in fashionable clothing and wearing handmade jewelry. What a bonus! I had actual examples of styles, colors and designs my target market liked to wear.

As the shoppers stopped by, I found I was unusually comfortable. Joking and chatting as if they were my friends. I wasn’t selling, I was sharing information. I had so much fun. I was learning plenty about what people wanted and what they loved.

After a break down in under an hour I drove home from my first bead show basking in my achievement. I had a head full of ideas, an exhausted voice and a sense of pride. I am good at what I do and others noticed.

I didn’t make thousands of dollars, but I did discover shows are good for my work and my sanity. They mean much more to me than a sales venue. They validate what I do, feed my ego and inspire me to make more beautiful beads.






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