A Sign Of Times – Oksana Prokopenko

31 03 2009


St Francis         At a recent art show, what was most on view was not art but human anxiety over the current economic situation.  Sales were slim to none. Mood was grim and all talk had to do with bank bail outs. Not your usual happy go lucky opening night.

        It was only natural for  artists showing to get uneasy, if not downright scared.  Those of us with day jobs quietly promised to do a better job so as to keep it safe.  Those of us without- afterall, we make art! at least that’s how the reasoning went for years- well, we entered into a heated discussion of why exactly do we do what we do.  Questions like these seem to generate a lot more fire (and not just smoke) when economy slows, slumping art sales.  So why do we?

        This is where one could potentially write a multi point list of all the various personal, spiritual, societal, cultural, etc  etc etc reasons for making art.  And they were listed, vocally so, then and there at the art show (and elaborated further during the days after). 

        Watching and listening to all this was a much older lady,  a great fan of the gallery, and a supporter of the arts-

-an emotional/psychological supporter which, even these days I would argue, is at least equally as important as all other support. Though the  lack of the latter, in particular financial, support caused the discussion in the first place. 

 She touched my shoulder gently and, addressing all of us, said with deep gentleness in her voice: “Seeing all of your, young people, work – it makes me so happy, thank you!” 

       There was a palpable shift in the mood.  Question answered.

She then leaned into me, and whispered: “ Good choice with St Francis. Good for the times!”  Now, I was happy too. 

Shows – Annette Piper

18 09 2008

Shows.  I love them.   I really enjoy getting out and meeting prospective and established clients, showing my new pieces and sharing my passion.  


The not so good points are the early starts, late finishes (I’m ALWAYS the last one to pack up – people are like moths to a flame when they think I’m going!), plus the packing, the loading into the car and then all the unpacking at the end.  Oh, and the tablecloths – the ironing of the tablecloths before the event is always a long, drawn out affair!


I haven’t ventured into doing any really large shows like expos, trade fairs and so on.  Instead I tend to stick to smaller events and arts/crafts shows.  I did do a large art/craft show one year.  It cost a fortune and was a massive learning curve.   I did well, although not as well as the fees might have suggested!  


I’ve also done a couple of markets although they tend to attract the wrong crowd for me.   Some have surprised me, most didn’t.  Those ones that give you a slightly sinking feeling when you say ‘yes, I’ll come’ are usually the ones that make you wonder why you bothered getting out of the house that day.


Finding the right show for you is difficult.  It can be a hit and miss affair if you take everything that is offered.  The best idea, if you can manage it, is to visit the prospective show as a visitor and gauge the crowd, the other exhibitors and make an educated guess at how you might fare if you were participating as well.


I have found one of the best ways of finding shows is through your clients.  A loyal client can be your eyes and ears on the wider horizon.  They may go places you don’t and may happen upon an event where they think you will do particularly well.  Remember, they are already your client and will automatically associate with more of your target market base.


It is also important to remember that it can take time. If your product is aimed at the higher end of the market, people aren’t going to just stop and offer you money immediately (although a couple hopefully might!).  The majority are going to want reassurance that you will be around next year or the year after that, that your product is of high quality and that you can be trusted.  But once you have gained that trust, the show that was a bit questionable the first time round may become one of your best venues after some time.


Once you are there, though, regardless of it is a success or not, remain happy and upbeat.  Enjoy your time there and people will be attracted at your positive energy and hopefully that will translate into sales!


Happy shoppers at Annette's jewellery booth

Happy shoppers at Annette's jewellery booth

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.



Shows – Lori Anderson

30 01 2008

Shows are my bread and butter – the majority of my sales are made at shows, and in this article, I hope to share some of the ways I make them successful for me.

First, of course if finding the right show.

If at all possible, visit a show that you’re interested in and take a look before making a decision. You can learn a lot this way – are there a lot of customers? What genre seems to be predominant?

If you can’t visit a show beforehand, do some research. My favorite tool is Sunshine Artist Magazine (www.sunshineartist.com). What makes it a wonderful publication is the tons of show reviews that are written by the vendors, not the promoters. You get the skinny on how hard it is to set up, what last year was like, how busy it was, and what selected vendors made over the course of the show.

Be careful about putting too much weight on what any one vendor tells you. Someone may say, “OH this would be a GREAT show for you!”, but you don’t know what that person’s definition of “great” is. A good show for them might be $300, while a good show for you might be $3000. So take all suggestions with a grain of salt.

Decide if you would prefer a juried or non-juried show. Non-juried shows are usually inexpensive and they pretty much take anyone who applies. Juried shows require you turn in slides or digital photos of your work (about 4-5 pieces) as well as a slide of your booth, and the competition is high, particularly in certain categories like jewelry. These shows are normally more expensive, but can also net a lot of money.

Applying to shows is a lot of work.

I’ve always equated it with applying to college – fill in the application way in advance, pay your application fee, then wait and wait. Most juried shows have applications out in the fall and winter for the coming year’s shows. Here are some things to keep in mind:Pay a professional to photograph your work. You have literally seconds for the jury to see your work, and you want it to look its best. Additionally, the difference between professional slides and do-it-yourself slides (no matter how good) is easily seen to juries that see thousands of slides each year.

Keep a calendar that is JUST for your shows. I print out mine off the computer, pencil in shows that I’ve applied to, mark them out if I don’t get in and highlight them if I do. That way, you don’t accidentally apply to two shows on the same weekend, and you can pace yourself and not overextend yourself (or your inventory).

Be prepared to get rejection letters. I do about 15 shows a year, 95% juried, and I get my fair share of rejection letters. As I make jewelry, I’m already at a disadvantage – promoters get far more applications for jewelry than they do anything else. People who have done the show in the past usually get preference, so there may be only one new slot a year for your category!

Your booth is important!

When jurors look at slides and find two people whose work they love, the booth slide is often the tie breaker. You want your work to be presented in the best possible way. For jewelry or similar items, get your tables UP – I use bed risers to get them closer to eye level. I’ve collected pretty boxes from Marshalls or TJMaxx that I set busts on, to give height and levels. I tried to make my booth reflect a cute boutique – you may choose to make yours ultra-modern, with all black, white and silver, or go for a whimsical approach, and have all kinds of colors and cute stuff.For outdoor shows, you’ll need a tent. If you are just getting started and are not sure this is what you really want to do, an inexpensive EZUP will work. As the name says, it’s easy to put up, but it won’t stand up to abuse and if you are going to do tons of shows in various environments, you will probably want to invest in something else. I have a Light Dome (http://lightdomecanopies.com), which is expensive, but I love it because it’s quite sturdy, and I can use the frame for my indoor shows as well.

At the show:

Smile, have fun, and enjoy yourself, no matter what happens. There’s nothing that turns a prospective customer off quite like a vendor that is grumpy and busy talking to anyone who will listen about how slow the day is/how little money they’re making/how the booth two over is selling cheap stuff and killing your margin. If I encounter someone like that, I just walk away. Who needs the negative vibes?

Never ever ever read a book or newspaper at a show. Never. I can’t tell you how many vendors I’ve walked right by because they had their nose in a novel and I didn’t want to bother them. On the other hand, I do encourage you to work on a related project whenever feasible. I take chain maille or another time-intensive project with me to every show. Some shows, I’m too busy to even touch it, but when I do work on it, people like to stop and look, and it shows them that yes, you DID make all that stuff!

Whenever you make a sale, ask if they would like to receive your email or snail mail newsletter. A lot of people don’t like sharing emails anymore due to the huge increase in spam, but don’t mind giving a home address. This will allow you to market to them, promoting web sales or other shows in their area. I get a lot of repeat business this way.

Doing shows takes a lot of work, a lot of energy, and a lot of practice. I’m fortunate that my husband sets up my tent for me and is Chief Schlepper, but we also have learned to set up in rain/wind/with a three year old screaming. You just never know WHAT will happen! Here’s a couple of hints to keep you sane:

Keep a packing check list so you won’t forget things.

Keep a tool kit JUST for your shows.

Carry water. And aspirin. Oh yeah. And band aids.

Keep your sense of humor.

Before leaving town, go online and find out where the closest Walmart/Lowes/Home Depot is, for emergencies.

So there you go – a bare scraping-of-the-surface about shows. If you have more questions or need help, please feel free to email me at lori@lorianderson.net and I’ll gladly assist!

Shows – Suzanne Tate

27 11 2007

I think it is very hard for an Australian beadmaker to get their head around the concept of a Bead show, the way they are held n the US.  We just don’t have the population to support something so specific on such a big scale.  It was an absolute eye opener for me to see the bead bazaar at the ISGB Gathering in August. I imagine it is still quite different from the regular shows that are on across the country, but it was an absolutely amazing experience to see a huge exhibition hall filled with artisan beadmakers selling their art. If I wasn’t forced to narrow my focus throughout the day, by selling at various booths, I think my head would have imploded – there was just so much amazing art to see and fondle, and amazing people to meet and share with.

The first actual ‘bead shows’ started in Australia about 3 years ago.  The Bead and Gem show.  I went to the first one in Melbourne, at Flemingtom racecourse, and was quite disappointed. Crowded overheated exhibition space, and a majority of gemstones and imported beads, with a handful of glass artists. But what a great opportunity, to finally meat several Australian beadmakers I had talked to online, some from as far field as Perth.  I started my real bead collection that day, purchasing a beautiful Chevron bead from Anne of Glass Manifesto in WA. The shows were planned for all the major capital cities the next year, although several had to be cancelled due to expected low numbers. But the Sydney Bead and Gem show has turned into a large successful event, and even attracted overseas beadmakers this year, with Larry Brickman running a class.  Perhaps I will try and make the trip to Sydney next year, as I still have my doubts that the Melbourne show will live up to it. Although, I am very casually considering whether I should be aiming for a booth there next year. But they are very expensive, more than I currently make selling beads over a year, in my hobbyist status, and quite frankly, I think I’d rather put that money to a return trip to the USA for another Gathering.  But it is tempting, to get my name out there with Australian jewellery designers, as currently most of my customers are from the US.

For me personally, a ‘show’ has a very different meaning.  Every year I attend the Australian Blacksmiths convention as the only glass artist.  I demonstrate to the public all day, and sell beads and jewellery.  I love the opportunity to educate the public about what I do and to see a crowd of onlookers get so fascinated in the process.  That is when I am ‘on show’ as a beadmaker. We often have a radio or TV reporter drop in, and every year the Blacksmith’s Association make a DVD of the event.

In Australia, there are not a lot of venues for selling your beads.  Online, weekend craft markets, and tourist galleries are really the only options. I got started mainly selling to friends and colleagues, and it grew from there.  Now online venues are my market place, and I wonder how much time and money I should invest in the ‘real world’ – will a booth at the Melbourne Bead and Gem show recoup my expenses …and can I make enough stock to warrant it?  But it can only be good for beadmaking in Australia, that there is a growing movement towards bead shows, which in turn will educate and inspire the buying public to consider Australian made artisan beads.


Finding the Right Show for You – Alexia Petrakos

1 10 2007


Every year starting in around April and ending somewhere just before Christmas is a frenzy of craft fairs and art shows. So if you’re thinking of starting on the arts & craft show circuit, here are a few tips to help you find one that fits you and your artwork. 

Finding Shows:
First of all, start offline with your neighborhood papers or if they’re published in your area, get a copy of Creative Loafing magazine. There’s usually an events section that advertises all the upcoming shows. Contact your local business associations, chamber of commerce and arts leagues/guilds. Most of these associations host shows as well as provide lists of local arts and craft fairs for their members.


Online, check Craigslist or search for regional sites. If you’re looking for shows in the northeast, search for “Craft shows northeast” or “Craft shows New England”.  Indiecraftshows.com is a great resource of indie craft shows, trunk shows & festivals. Other places to find shows are Craftlister.com and  Sunshineartist.com. There are tons of sites out there, and I’ve highlighted a few of the ones that don’t charge for access.


Keep a record of each show that sounds interesting. List the name, dates, places, application fees, deadlines and names/addresses of promoters. Record all the potentials, no matter how far away, but I recommend starting off with several local shows before traveling. If you can find the applications, keep them in a folder with this list – if you want to apply, you’ve got the paperwork handy.


How to pick ‘em:
One of the best ways to get an idea of how well you and your products will perform at a particular show is to find a list of previous or current vendors that have a complementary style. Look at their work and contact a few of them to discuss their experiences. If you can wait a year, shop the shows and talk to the artists. Ask about the event, the promoters, traffic, sales & advertising. Pay attention to people – are they just looking or are they buying?


For each show you visit, record your impressions, the names and contact information of the artists you spoke with and the other types of vendors. If you like what you saw or heard, find the application and send it in when the time comes.


Juried or non-Juried:

Some shows allow just about anyone who has the money to set up a booth, others select vendors by jury to control the quality of the show.


The advantage of non-juried shows is that you’ll most likely be accepted, and the only reason you may not is due to space. Non-juried shows may come in the form of county fairs, neighborhood gatherings, church holiday bazaars, and business association-sponsored events. Disadvantage: your gorgeous sun-catching lampwork beads may end up next to fake-flower embellished flip-flops that sell for $10 a pair or one of the 6 PVC marshmallow-gun vendors.


I sold my handmade journals and bags at a “country gathering” in 2007. If my mother-in-law didn’t pass by my tent, I wouldn’t have made my booth fee. However the folks next to me making wire-wrapped crosses out of horseshoe nails made a killing! I did, however, find a shop to sell my books on consignment – their cut: 10%. Lesson: know your audience and research the shows, but always keep an eye out for opportunities, even if it’s not going that well for you.


Juried shows, on the other hand, are “serious” art & craft shows put on by art guilds and leagues, or have very limited space. Vendors submit their applications with slides or photographs of their work. A panel of jurors selected scrutinizes each entry and gives the thumbs up or down. Jury fees are in addition to the booth fees and are non-refundable, but they may not require a booth fee until you’re approved.


Upside: some juried shows award prizes like “Best in Category” or “Best in Show”.  If you’re keeping up an artist resume, acceptance to a juried show and winning an award will definitely boost your artist cred.  The downside: lots of competition & higher vendor fees.


Selecting the right craft show for you and your art is a big part of ensuring your success (among other things like product, displays & marketing…). If you choose a show that’s not a good fit, not only will you waste time and money, but a bad show can also affect your motivation. If you find yourself at a bad show due to factors other than the weather, remember to keep a positive attitude, use the opportunity to learn from other artists, and reflect on how you can improve your product, display, booth and marketing for next time.