Chris Campbell on tue 14 aug 01
Referencing from John's post on Craft Fairs:
" I think it is a useful topic for this forum because it will help newer
potters to set realistic expectations about the craft fair world. My own
experience is that I don't do well enough to justify continuing doing fairs.
When I figure the true cost of booth fees, lost production time, travel
expenses, etc., my return is just notsatisfactory. "
Doing Craft Fairs is part of the 'joy' of finding out who your
customers are and where your work will sell.
I too have stopped doing craft fairs because they are just not worth
my time. I have made anywhere from $5 to $1,500 in one day. Trouble is that I
did the same amount of work for the $5 as I did for the $1,500. Sometimes I
thought that even if I were giving the stuff away, no one would stop. Once I
set up a .50 cent table so little children could shop for Christmas and had
adults demand the same price. Nice.
Trouble is you don't know until you try. Sometimes you have a lot of
fun. You might love it. A lot of the artists I met who do this all year round
are enthusiastic and would not run their business any other way. If you look
at The Crafts Report discussion board you notice a large portion of those
artists are full time fair people.
For anybody contemplating trying a retail fair, pick up the latest
issue of Pottery Making Illustrated. I have written an article on how to plan
for your first show. Go for it. You won't know until you try.
Chris Campbell - in North Carolina - where it is too hot to work with the
Southern Ice Porcelain that is sitting in my garage ... singing it's siren
flyifr on tue 14 aug 01
We only "do" art fairs in our local area...eliminates motel and other
travel costs. It is a
way to get people in your own area to become aware of you. We sell at
in River Falls, WI which is 12 miles from us. We have developed a nice
clientele and also
feel that we are supporting and promoting the arts in our area.
New Earth Pottery
WHC228@AOL.COM on tue 14 aug 01
I believe that I learned more about clay and the art of doing business from
other potters at craft fairs than I ever did in college. Going to craft fairs
will help you set up a network of friends that can help you market your work
and also help resolve some of your clay problems. There is a fine community
of craftsmen out there that is generally willing to help.
It is rather like the folks on this list. The real difference is that you
have more time to develop a good dialogue.
Years ago craft fairs were the only real market for our work. Later wholesale
markets began to open up and allowed us to go to fewer fairs. There are still
some "drop dead wonderful" shows out there, and once you start going to any
of them you will find out where to try to get in so you can sell your work.
Craft fairs have been a great learning experience for me. They also have
given me an unending supply of friends.
The money that you make will be important, but the intangible rewards will be
tomsawyer on tue 14 aug 01
I did 4 craft shows last year. I sold anywhere from $500-$1000 in the 2 and
3 day events. In the last two shows I won merit awards. Figuring the costs
of materials, time getting supplies, mixing clay and firing plus the 2 days
it took me to pack and load my truck, the day that I set up the display, the
2-3 days at the fair, the time packing and repacking, the cost of the rental
truck, tent and admissions fee and I felt like I was working for very
little. Interestingly, there were other potters who were envious of the
money I took in on sales. I decided after the last show that it just isn't
worth the effort. I'm concentrating on galleries and other outlets. I've got
a tent for sale.
Andie Carpenter on thu 16 aug 01
I missed the first post on this, but I do pretty well at craft fairs. I have a
personal rule that I only do one day shows, and only within a reasonable distance.
I've been told that the rule of thumb is that you should make, minimally, 10 times
your booth fee, or you had a crappy show. That sounded reasonable to me, so if I
make less than 11 times my booth fee, I don't go back. I also have a personal limit
of $100 total for submission / booth fees, as I can't imagine selling 11 times a
$300 or $500 booth fee in a day.
I also haven't invested much - I have simple tables, simple displays, no tent (if
it rains, hey - it's all washable), so I don't stress over that sort of expense.
I predominately sell via retail galleries/shops year 'round, so I just pull a few
pieces from each load and store them, so when the craft fair rolls around I'm set.
: ) Andie
> I did 4 craft shows last year. I sold anywhere from $500-$1000 in the 2 and
> 3 day events. In the last two shows I won merit awards. Figuring the costs
> of materials, time getting supplies, mixing clay and firing plus the 2 days
> it took me to pack and load my truck, the day that I set up the display, the
> 2-3 days at the fair, the time packing and repacking, the cost of the rental
> truck, tent and admissions fee and I felt like I was working for very
> little. Interestingly, there were other potters who were envious of the
> money I took in on sales. I decided after the last show that it just isn't
> worth the effort. I'm concentrating on galleries and other outlets. I've got
> a tent for sale.
> Tom Sawyer
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Dave Finkelnburg on fri 17 aug 01
I have to add to Chris Campbell's comments about craft fairs/shows.
I've been thinking about writing this since the last show I did.
I totally agree with Chris, John H. and others that usually craft shows
do not pay, in terms of financial return per hour of time spent.
However, I find ample returns in other ways. For example, I have not
found any other way to get so much immediate, direct feedback about my work.
I come away from a show encouraged to keep doing some work, to drop other
work, and to modify yet other work. Most of this is usually not news to me,
but it is affirmation of my suspicions and opinions.
Second, I almost always hear from a customer looking for some piece of
functional pottery that I have never seriously considered making. That
inspires me to try something truly new to me. That's always energizing.
Third, I renew my mental picture of who the people are who buy my pots.
I am reminded, over and over, for a couple days at least, that real people
who laugh and sweat and cry and growl and care about pots are the reason I
make pots. Sure, I'm driven to pot, but beyond massaging my ego, throwing a
bowl for a person whose face I can see in my mind as I work is far more
rewarding and motivating than just throwing a bowl so I can have a stack of
bowls to look at.
No, none of this makes house payments, or buys toothpaste, like sweating
out production for a good wholesale account will. However, if this were
only about money, I wouldn't do it. Would you?
If you do a retail show, I hope you are able to glean from it all the
benefits such a show truly offers....
Dave Finkelnburg in Idaho, watching the pine siskins and
goldfinches just outside the window, only a few feet away, clinging to the
sunflower blossms to eat the seeds before sunrise
WHC228@AOL.COM on fri 17 aug 01
The real value of craft shows really isn't completely about money. It is a
place to come to some sort of agreement with the market. You get that
opportunity to hear first hand about your pots. People can be pretty
insensitive about how they talk about your stuff. While it can shatter your
ego, don't let it discourage you. Listen to what they have to say. You do not
have to change your work, and then again you may want to.
The really best part of going to craft fairs is becoming a member of that
wonderful community of craftsmen. They can become your best friends. They are
the only people in this world that really know what you are really going
through. They have been more help in growing into my craft than my college
experience ever was. They also are tuned into how business is done, and you
can get more information by networking with those people than you can imagine.
I loved that part of being on the road. The downside of having to be out on
the road and its expense both financially and emotionally is a lot for what
you get in return. Being away can be tough on family life.
Fairs and the contacts that you make can prepare you for whatever the next
Once you have paid your dues on the road you will have a support group that
can and will help you in ways you can't imagine.
In some ways it is like the support group that you have here on CLAY ART.
While they are your competitors they are here to help you. I know of no other
industry that is as willing to reach out and help one another.
Coolpots@AOL.COM on fri 17 aug 01
After 3 years of doing craft fairs and having my ups and downs, I know they
are hard work and sometimes not financially feasible. There are other reasons
why I do them.
After spending my days alone in my studio, it is nice to get out and meet
people and TALK to someone. People are very complimentary with my work and
that feels good. I do shows that are close, haul them in my "retired from
selling real estate" van and have low overhead. I take special orders and
have lots of people come to my home/studio to pick up their orders and
usually they buy more. Yes, shows are very hard work and I have always done
them by myself, but it only takes a day to recoup and I have finally started
enjoying them. I just don't go to a show expecting to make a huge amount of
money and then I am not disappointed. Doors open every time I do a show. A
new gallery to sell at, a tip on another good show, an upcoming workshop
nearby, or someone who wants more of my pottery. If I was wanting to make big
bucks, I would still be selling real estate. I just happen to love making
pots and choose to do it all day, everyday. The pots start multiplying, so
shows are a quick way of making room for more work. I also look at the hard
work such as packing, lifting, unpacking, etc. as excersize and time I don't
have to spend in a stinky gym.
A lot of it is attitude. I made myself enjoy doing shows so I do.
Vicki in Cool, CA
Merrie Boerner on fri 17 aug 01
I started doing the art fair thing because, after selling in galleries and
wholesale, I did the math....then I thought, why should I let the gallery
owner hear all the good stuff while I'm stuck at home in the hot, dirty
studio, alone and they are getting 40 to 50 % of my hard earned money. SO, I
began to travel with pots....making great friends...coming home with fun
stories.....so hubby gets jealous. I realized in the nick of time that I
needed to include the dude....so, we started thinking of these trips as a
tax deduction and going to anything that had beer, food and music. Lately
our life has become more complicated with weddings and our parents moving to
town.......so we haven't been to many shows in the past few years....but,
never regret the times we had and the friends we made while sitting in a
booth in storms with no customers. It is all about learning and growing and
moving on...isn't it. Now, I refuse to sell wholesale, look for a gallery,
do one guild show per year, and have a house full of so much pottery that it
looks like a museum. The beer, food and music is just not enough incentive
for me to let go of my work.