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craft fairs, marketing, and business

updated thu 29 aug 02


terry sullivan on thu 22 aug 02

I have been reading all the various posts on this subject. Here are some

Yes, many art/craft fais degenerate into more commercial venues due to
the intentions of those who run them. Very often these folks are just
trying to keep the thing viable financially and don't see the viewpoint
of the artist above the need to make enough profit to make it worth
their time and effort. Remember that it takes one hell of a lot of time
to put on such events. It is like the gallery thing. We forget the large
investment in time and money folks put into making these events happen.
We might also not realize that for those who do this, that "art/ craft"
is a secondary consideration to providing a public / social event to get
folks out on a weekend. They are not some "evil" group trying to
devaluate the level of art. They are just trying to have a community
I agree that such motivations may, and do, degrade the quality of the
art and craft presented. It is that they may not see this unless the
artists take an active educational part in the particular organization
promoting these events. You have to get involved !!!! And that means at
the beginning stages. Go to the meetings and express the views of the
artists. Help with all the planning etc,

It's like NCECA. We have over 4000 members. Voting members ! When I
attend the conference board meetings I see about, 200 or so, of us
willing to take the time to attend these meetings and express their
feelings. At the final meeting, at the end of the conference, there are
less than a dozen members present.
If one wants to see things change then one has to take the time to be

The folks who run these various organizations that we benifit from are
giving much of their time and effort so that we can enjoy the conference
or the art fair or whatever. Almost always they give t heir time for
little or no pay. Certainly this is the case with NCECA. I know this
is the case with many other groups.

I know that this is not the case with some groups that promote art
fairs and such. However; I know that if artists got more involved in
the process that we would see a turn around in the degeneration of
some of these fairs.

Some thoughts,
Terry Sullivan

David Hendley on wed 28 aug 02

I know this has been beat to death, but I'm wondering if you-all
noticed Bill Campbell's take on marketing, sent in last Friday.
There were no responses to it, and I consider it the best, most
reasoned response to the craft fair question posted to Clayart.
Remember that Bill has been a professional potter for decades.
He's done it all and knows what he is talking about.

Anyway, there have been a series of deaths of friends and
acquaintances in my life recently that really made me pay attention
to Bill's lines:

> The risk involved is not only getting rained or snowed out, but being "on
> road" too.

> The real downside is being away from your family and community.

This summer, I missed the deaths and funeral services of 2 friends because
I was "on the road". Not for craft fairs, but still business related
(workshops). I was supposed to have an urn in one case, and the
spouse was really let down that I was not around.
This Sunday night another friend was killed instantly when, coming
home from out-of-town, an oncoming truck hydroplaned and hit him
The fact is, the more you are on the road, the more likely you are
to experience rip-offs, robberies, accidents, and even fatal wrecks.
It's not just about $$$$.

If you didn't read Bill's message the first time, read it now.

David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, August 23, 2002 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: Craft fairs, marketing, and business (too long)

> Craft fairs have not been performing as a good sales tool for anyone,
> to make a living, for a long time. Every year it gets worse. with the
> exception s of those starting out that need to figure out what they want
> do while getting themselves established, and a few select shows most of
> are a waste of time.
> The expenses that come with doing craft fairs are too much. Fees for a
> transportation, lodging, food in restaurants, time away from the studio,
> at shows, writing to those on a mailing list, slides, advertising
> breakage, wear and tear on displays and their costs. your own wages while
> a show, and on and on the list goes. That is the dollar drain, not to
> the emotional drain of preparing for a show.
> The risk involved is not only getting rained or snowed out, but being "on
> road" too.
> Those are the simple issues.
> The real downside is being away from your family and community.
> Not being in control of your own business is also not good. Being one
> away from being "good enough" to be in a quality show is no way to have to
> conduct your life. The whole political issue with craft fairs stinks. This
> not about that and I don't need any nasty mail about that.
> It is just too iffy a way to earn a living to have to rely on.
> If you take a realistic look at the cost of doing business at craft fairs,
> and compare it to the cost of doing business in the wholesale market I
> that you will be surprised that you may be able to keep more of the money
> that your pots have earned.
> I believe that wholesale is a better way to market. Once established you
> be working with the same galleries and stores. The cost of going out after
> new accounts gets lower every year. It is a lot less like being in the
> carnival and a whole lot more professional. Mel sent a post on this
> several days ago and it was right on the mark.
> Being able to retail your work from your own studio or store seems to be
> best. you are then part of the community, and people will seek you out.
> become their potter. It only takes a hundred or two a day to make a bit of
> living. When I started my store It took a while to get to a hundred a day,
> but it didn't take long after that to reach another hundred. The store,
> does much better than that and I have some employees to take care of it so
> no longer need to watch it.
> Having a store means never to have to do all of that kind of labor that it
> takes to move everything to and from some distant show. I feel like I was
> the moving and storage business rather than being a potter.
> I feel like I am more in control of my life just doing wholesale, and
> my own store. There are really no compromises.
> I don't miss having to make an excuse for missing my child's birthday, an
> anniversary, or some event in my community that I want to attend.
> I like the time that I can spend at home doing those things that I had to
> give up while running all over trying make a living.
> This next year will be the first time in five years that I am going to
> Rosen's Buyers Market of American Craft. I am going there to introduce a
> line of work that I am doing with another potter. Wendy Rosen's shows
> me to meet and keep enough wholesale customers that I don't need to go to
> market very often. There are lots of stores out there that need and want
> work for anyone that makes nice work.
> I feel that it is time for most of us to walk away from the dying craft
> fairs, and let them fade away. They make our work too accessible and not
> special anymore.
> Bill Campbell