A successful show can be a real boost to an artist/crafter and a poor one can be a financial and personal downer. So how do you know when it’s time to start showing and which shows will work best for you? Here are six tips from pros.
Are you ready to show? You need to have mastered your craft whether painting or pottery or stained glass. Your work should be original and well finished. And, you need to have enough inventory to stock and restock your display. You’ll want work at different price points. An attendee may love your aesthetic style and want some “souvenir” to treasure but not be able to afford your highest priced work. Gourd artist Barbara Acker notes “People who like your work want a momento of you.”
What show? Here’s where it really pays to scope out what venues are available by attending shows and making notes on the type of work and price range they feature. Are they juried which usually means higher quality. Are they indoors or outdoors? Do you need electrical to display? Gather any information you can on how many attendees they get and what their demographics are. Talk to vendors who are not busy with customers. Potter Lisa Kovatch used to do 16 shows but has cut back to 4 or 5. “I know where my buyers are. For instance I do well at beach shows because the colors in my work are bright and feature nature.”
Think written budget. There’s not only the cost of the show booth, display materials but travel costs and food during the show. Then evaluate each show by matching actual to budgeted. You may have to make some hard decisions here. More expensive shows are not always better shows.
The joy of organization. Getting ready for a show is always frantic at the end. “Be organized and anticipate the last minute rush,” advises weaver Diane Meyer. “Make and keep lists and don’t forget change for cash purchases.” If you’ve forgotten something, folks are usually really helpful about sharing.
Maximizing display space. As you visit shows, observe and note great display ideas. Wool grower, processor and artist Bridget Brown advises a “good display but not too crowded. Think of how to add height to get more display space.” You’re paying by the horizontal square foot so that vertical display not only adds interest but it’s free. If you are new to shows, consider borrowing or renting displays. Stay on the lookout for interesting display ideas using vintage boxes or trays or furniture or even pods and branches from nature.
Make a dynamite first impression…and second… Weaver Diane Meyer advises “Smile a lot. Have fun entrees ready to break into conversation without intruding.” Wool artist Bridget Brown has two key pieces of advice. First have more than one variation of an item so the question the attendee asks themselves is not “should I buy but which one should I buy?” Her second jewel is to “tell a story about your work.” Talk about what it is or what inspired you or what special technique you used.” You’ll have more fun and so will your customer.