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made in america...and gift shows

updated wed 19 aug 98


Wendy Rosen on sat 15 aug 98

Don't get discouraged about the lack of interest in "American Made" stuff
at a GIFT SHOW. Over the years all but one American Gift show has declined
to serve only buyers looking for merchandise that appeals ONLY mass market
goods... (New York)

The craft community is NOT about the mass market... if you look carefully
at what artists are making for today's marketplace it fits a specific
lifestyle selector...

College educated females aged 35-54, driving Volvos, wearing Birkenstocks,
vegetarian intellectuals... this is our best market! ... it's also a
small segment of the world of consumers- one that big manufacturers avoid.

We have learned the hard way, that making work that appeals to EVERYONE is
VERY appealing to big manufacturers who can whip out this stuff in
boatloads. (Evidence all the bunny, kitty, duckie, cow stuff)

Competing in the gift world before saturating the craft shop/gallery
community is a big mistake... start with your most focused marketplace and
then grow... or you'll find yourself making $10 items forever...

The wholesale craft marketplace of galleries and shops is structured to
protect you from knock-offs, encourage you to make a wide variety of work
in many prices (from gift to sculpture) and offers you a focused
marketplace with educated buyers who CARE about where and how you make your

Seasoned artists who participate in gift shows regularly, have DESIGNED
their work so that they CAN'T be knocked off by the thousands of foreign
designers/manufacturers walking by their booth each day.

They have learned to identify "their" customers in that marketplace and to
qualify them... and also have systems for collecting bad pay accounts...
things that are less of an issue in the craft community.

The gift shows NEED your work because you help raise the "design level" and
the "sophistication level" of the products shown at their shows... without
you they would have only "Incredible Hulk Coffee Mugs" and "Snoopy
Erasers"... these aren't GIFTS... they are IMPULSE BUY products usually
purchased by someone under the age of 18 (physically or mentally)... but
gift shows seem to be unwilling to forfeit some of that generous profit to
cultivate a more sophisticated market for you.

The only gift show that has enough American handcrafted work and "high
design" to draw shop owners with "sophisticated clientele" is New York...
and even there you still have to deal with, qualifing buyers, credit and
collection, and other foreign imports from third world sweat shops...
mexican jewelers dont' have to identify the country of origin... and the
gift show doesn't care if they are misrepresenting themselves or knocking
you off.

It is critically important that the craft community has TWO viable
marketplaces each year ...separate from the gift show world. Our craft
retailers are playing with disaster when they order for an entire year at
the February Philly show... right now many of them are overextended,
overbought, and over inventoried... just as they have to buy for the
holiday season...

This is a very dangerous time... I don't know why artists let retailers
place orders a year ahead when they KNOW that they can't pinpoint a
delivery date... they KNOW they will need to design new work... and they
will be VERY tired of making what they've been making for the last year.
It's in everyone's best interest to leave flexibility for change... we need
to returnt to the days of "RESERVE" cards... allowing shops to secure
production time... but leaving flexibility for WHAT items will be ordered
for a later date.

I'll get off my soap box now...

Sorry for rambling...

BTW- we're looking for sculptural ceramics for February... also
dinnerware... more textured surfaces... we need to balance this
over-painted stuff with more matt glazes, and interesting forms. --we will
have room for 4 or 5 new clay exhibitors in Feb.... 25-30 in the July show.

From: Tara and Michael
Subject: Chicago

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I've been waiting for some of the other Chicago ACC attendees to pipe
in...can't stand it anymore, I've got to share my thoughts. Pull up a
comfortable chair or delete and move on!

I am the Jewelry half of our Clay and Jewelry studio, and so my perspective
is from a jewelers point of view... I WAS at the Chicago ACC.

Yes it was in one giant hall with the Chicago Gift show, probably 1000 or
more exhibitors total. There was no real transition between shows except a
change in carpet color. The row of exhibitors just adjacent to the ACC was
the Gift Show Handmade section, which included some "real" artists,
including Thom Mann.

The lack of separation between the 2 shows was a bit odd. The Gift show
buyers could roam freely into the ACC without ever registering as an ACC
Buyer. It was a mixed blessing, I think. We got some new buyers, people
who might carry some handmade items in their high end gift shop, but we
also got a lot of "lookie-looks", people wanting to buy one or two items
retail, and interior decorators placing minimum orders for gifts. The
extra business was welcome but also took time away from the "real"
buyers...the ones who will re-order and develop a long term relationship
with you.

My sense is that ACC is well aware that they need to make more of a
separation between shows, and I'm guessing we'll see that next year.

I also think that ACC is seriously considering combining the Chicago Retail
and Wholesale shows into one show. It may be too late to do that for next
year. I think that is necessary for the survival of both. 5 days wholesale
is just too long.

The Show overall seemed a little weak, though it was a very nice looking
show. It seemed to include too many artists of questionable quality, and
not enough of our targeted Craft Gallery buyers.

The Unions were not as scarry as we all thought they would be, they mostly
left people alone, though I heard 1 or 2 horror stories, including some of
the drive in exhibitors who had to wait 5 hours in the parking lot to

The show was VERY expensive to do. The Lakeside Center was away from
downtown and not near anything. It was a $10 taxi ride (one way) to get
downtown to a hotel or resturant. We stayed at the Hyatt at the
convention center and the food and rooms were exhorbitant. It was very
convenient, but we really didn't get to spend any time in the city, partly
because the show hours were too long...9 to 6.....should have been 10 to 5.
ACC should also consider having the show IN Chicago, nearer resturants,
shopping etc.

I was also surprised at the lack of exhibitor hospitality...No morning
coffee, no exhibitor meeting, (the gift show had a catered party which we
were allowed to attend). Chicago water is non-drinkable..bottled water is
a necessity, but the only water availavle was very small bottles at the
concession stand for $2.50...I drank a small fortune in water!

I will reluctantly admit that I lost money on this show, though there were
several exhibitors around me who fared OK. Most of them were tenured
artists who had been hanging in there for several years at Columbus and had
enough re-orders to carry them thru. Impetus for me to consider going back
next year.

My concerns have more to do with the BIG picture....People were saying
"this is a new show, it needs time". But I don't agree... This is the
wholesale continuation of the old Reinbeck show..which moved to West
Springfield...Which moved to Columbus...which moved to Chicago....
ACC has been searching too long for a venue where this show will work. I'm
not blaming ACC, I am concerned more about the "American Craft Movement".
I feel like it is loosing ground in a big way. "Handmade In America" just
does not carry the weight that it used to. It was painfully obvious at the
Gift Show. There is just so much more "cool stuff" being manufactured and
imported than there was 20 years ago, it seems to be getting harder to
compete with that.

Tara Kemp
Eugene, OR

Wendy Rosen
The Rosen Group
Niche & AmericanStyle Magazines
The Buyers Markets of American Craft
The Business of Craft
3000 Chestnut Ave #304 Baltimore, MD 21211
Voice: 410/889-3093 Fax: 410/243-7089

lpskeen on tue 18 aug 98

Wendy Rosen wrote:
> Don't get discouraged about the lack of interest in "American Made" stuff at a

You want discouraged? Try this on for size: I was in the
Asheville/Black Mountain area this weekend and was checking out the
possibilities of getting work in some galleries up there. I was
informed by one owner that she couldn't carry my work because I live too
far EAST. Shipping wasn't the issue; quality of work had nothing to do
with it. She liked my work, just didn't like my not being from the
mountains, like that's any kind of qualifier.

That chaps me just as much as every other person who comes in my booth
and wants to know if I'm from Seagrove. I know, I'm gonna hear it as
long as I'm trying to sell my work, but good GRIEF!!! Hello? Not all
potters come from Seagrove. I'd be willing to bet that there are as
many potters in Guilford County as in Seagrove; we're just not set up to
be as commercial as Seagrove. Ya can't have a big pottery inside City

Ok, I'm off the soapbox for the moment....

Lisa Skeen ICQ# 15554910 (who just got home from the first day of school
and can't find her notebooks from 2 semesters ago and reeeeeeeally
does'nt want to take these two Art Ed classes anyway...)
Living Tree Pottery & Soaps
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful
words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of
the good people." -- Dr. M. L. King, Jr. 4/16/63