Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What do You Mean by Show?

Two Sunday shows in a row made this a fairly busy month. Four boxes of pottery are back home, still packed, stacked in boxes in my garage beside the show shelves and stands. Two boxes are empty now.

These two shows are not very much alike.

Show 1: the Potters Guild of New Jersey's annual Fall holiday show, at the Community Presbyterian Church in Mountainside, in its social hall. About 40 of my colleagues showed and sold nothing else but pottery, of all flavors. The show ran two days. I was there only the second day, when it runs for 5 hours. Although our mailing list is 700 addresses long, the crowd was fairly sparse.  I sold 3 moderately priced pieces. You may think that sounds like a bust, but sales were not my main criterion for this show. I went to hang with the potters, which is fun, informative, and supportive. I did not expect much in sales with a roomful of clay competition, although I did expect to make back my table fee plus a little. In short, my expectations were real, and were more than met. A nice thing about this show is that the minimal table fee is the only fee charged, necessary to cover administrative costs. The Guild does not take a percentage. Because there was a table fee, I took home 78% of my sales.

Show 2: The Nanuet Hebrew Center Art Festival in New City, New York, also in the social hall. This is a fundraising show for the Center.
Still lovin' the new banner.

About 30 vendors showed and sold work. There was jewelry of all kinds (it was a very jewelry-heavy show), and handmade wearables and needlework. We had one sculptor, and three potters (including me) showing work both Judaic and non, I sold 9 pieces, not as moderately priced as the ones at Show 1 the Sunday before. My expectations, however, were higher for this show. On the fully enjoyable side, I networked with other vendors/artists and enjoyed shmoozing with browsers, show volunteers, and customers, and I did make sales. I took some emails for my mailing list, which is always good. But this show had twice the table fee of Show 1, and took 20% of my sales in addition. Although I sold a respectable amount considering that this crowd was also pretty sparse, and certainly earned more than at Show 1, I brought home only 51% of my sales.

So when I say "I'm in a show," that means something different every time. At Show 1, low expectations were met and exceeded. At Show 2, higher expectations were not met, but an analysis of the show afterward indicates that I did not factor in projected crowd size or potential spending money in the room. My sales indicate that I really did pretty well before the Hebrew Center took its fee and percentage (and that "pretty well" is a relative thing). My expectations were just too high to be met by these challenging costs. It was an appealing show that I've now done twice and must consider whether I will do again now that I have better perspective.

Another important aspect of shows not reflected in my take-home, is that these venues are good places to test out new products. Here are two tulipieres (many-spouted flower containers) I was showing for the first time. I engaged people in some conversation about these. They had price tags of $110 each and did not sell, but both item and price are experimental. We shall see...
Two different tulipieres, about 11" tall. I put flowers in them at the show to forestall the inevitable "What is that?"

Remember, shows are a small part of what I do. There are also my website sales, and word-of-mouth drop-in shoppers at my studio gallery (now emptied and ready to be painted and set up with new shelves; re-opening date TBA). The reasons to do shows are like journalism's rules; they lead me to some better understanding of who is buying what, when, where, and why, and so help me focus my creativity productively.

More on the business of pottery when the renovated gallery goes back up!

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