search  current discussion  categories  events - fairs & shows 

thinking outside the show (was: an observation on shows)

updated thu 27 dec 07


Lois Aronow on wed 26 dec 07

Larry's post was most informative, and hit on several points I wanted to
make. I also wanted to expand the thinking a little bit.

The point I found most important (at least, to me) was:

" Was shocked to find part way through the year that my work
> seemed stale, that it did not excite me as much"

This was the most important thing I learned when doing shows - how
everything looked as a group; a body of work. It was far more than what
my booth looked like - it was the work, and seeing how it related to
each other. My main focus was that it all looked like MY work. I put
away work that didn't "go" with everything else. I learned to
streamline and see my work as a whole, rather than as mugs and bowls and
vases, whatever. I put together a "line of work", which made sense to
the buyer, and helped me grow as an artist. I bunch of pots in every
color glaze and every style is just going to confuse the customer.

Another "outside the box" thought larry mentioned was:

"Good advertising and got a nice write up in the paper that sent new
clients to my gallery but sales that weekend were very sorry"

It occurs to me that many potters are only looking at the till and not
the big picture. I do a balance sheet after each show, but I also
include - and count on - after show and ancillary business. This, to
me, is as important as at-show sales. These people have had my work on
their mind and made an effort to seek my work out. As a general rule,
they are repeat business and buy more work than the show attendees.

Granted, the shows I do are "top tier", and it is imperative to add in
expenses as well as a very steep booth fee. I look to the actual show
to cover the expenses, and make decent profit, but not a windfall. The
real profit for me comes after the show with commission work (the
majority of my work) gallery inquiries and wholesale orders, studio
visits, press. A year later, I am still getting a great deal of
activity on my web site from Baltimore and the design show I did, and
that has kept me in consistent profit throughout the year.

Bear in mind that after-show sales require a bit of footwork on the part
of the artist, such as maintaining a mailing list, following up on
potential sales with both galleries and individuals, following up on

I will also tell you that the indie show I did this year - perhaps the
ugliest show on earth - generated huge aftershow sales and press. I
plan on making my booth MORE elaborate next year in an effort to raise
the bar. At some point, perhaps there will be a mentoring program which
will help newer artists bloom.

Having "fun" for me is a bonus. I approach shows as work, which they
are. This means turning on the charm and focusing fully on my work and
my customers, not having a beer and seeing the entertainment. I will
walk the show, but I am looking at the customers, the crowd and the
other work to determine if my work "fits" and if the customers attending
are "my" customers. It also helps me to determine what to bring in the
future: some shows are more conducive to smaller work and some shows
have fewer sales but bigger tickets, and I'll focus on groupings.

A good number of people are belittling other work, and yes, there is
tons of crap out there, even at top tier shows. Just ugly, useless
dreck. But you know what? There is an audience for everything, and if
other work is bringing in generous buyers, then be thankful for it.

I only do 2 major shows a year, as I, ike Larry, found "the circuit" to
be exhausting on many levels. I have been selling professionally for
roughly 8 years. I never do outdoor anymore, as I hate it with a
passion and find that potters don't sell work at them. (Having fun is a
bonus, but having a miserable time is a dealbreaker). I realize I have
the gift of gab, and am good at talking to people,which helps a lot. My
mentor taught me that the only way to learn about your own work is to
hear yourself talk about it, so I do.

Happy holidays all.....lo

Lois Aronow Porcelain

Brooklyn, NY