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craft fairs, marketing, and business (too long)

updated sat 24 aug 02


WHC228@AOL.COM on fri 23 aug 02

Craft fairs have not been performing as a good sales tool for anyone, trying
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 to
do while getting themselves established, and a few select shows most of them
are a waste of time.
The expenses that come with doing craft fairs are too much. Fees for a booth,
transportation, lodging, food in restaurants, time away from the studio, help
at shows, writing to those on a mailing list, slides, advertising materials,
breakage, wear and tear on displays and their costs. your own wages while at
a show, and on and on the list goes. That is the dollar drain, not to mention
the emotional drain of preparing for a show.
The risk involved is not only getting rained or snowed out, but being "on the
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 slide
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 is
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 think
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 will
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 subject
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 the
best. you are then part of the community, and people will seek you out. You
become their potter. It only takes a hundred or two a day to make a bit of a
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, now
does much better than that and I have some employees to take care of it so I
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 in
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 having
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 Wendy
Rosen's Buyers Market of American Craft. I am going there to introduce a new
line of work that I am doing with another potter. Wendy Rosen's shows allowed
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 your
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