Steven D. Lee on mon 22 sep 03
I recently had my first show, which means I forked out money for a
10' x 10' space in front of an elementary school and for four hours
attempted to interest mothers and fathers to buy my stuff.
The experience really brought to focus several things that have
already been discussed on Clayart but to which I really didn't pay
1. IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO SETUP A POTTERY DISPLAY!!!!
I tried to make my display simple and compartmentalized so that it
could be setup and taken down easy. I used 35 gallon rubbermaid
trash cans with 24" x 20" boards with smaller 1' x 1' boards to fit
against on top of the cans to make a tabletop. I had six of these
setup in an "L" configuration, draped in different shades of purple
cloth and using smaller boxes to create elevated areas on the
tabletops to display my "premiere" pieces. Each garbage can held
only the pieces that would be placed on that tabletop, wrapped well
in thin foam and bubble wrap. Luckily there was no breakage in the
35 minute drive there.
I thought that this would make it easy to setup as all the materials
for each sectional tabletop. I thought perhaps 30 minutes to setup
at most. HAH!!! One hour and fourty five minutes to setup six
tables and 85 pieces. When I tore it down at the end of the day it
only took 45 minutes.
2. CUSTOMERS PREFER AN EASY "OUT" OF YOUR BOOTH IF THEY DECIDE THEY
ARE NOT INTERESTED!
I found that placing the tables in a "C" configuration at first
tended to "corral" the customers in one section and one they cam in,
they would have to wait for other customers or myself to step out of
the way to get out of my booth. When I switched to an "L" with more
space in the front I found that more people came in. Fully half of
the customers went in back of the booth and preferred to look at
pieces on the back tables. I think this was because they could
peruse without actually entering the sales area (where all the vendor
booths were facing, and had an easy "out" of they looked but nothing
interested them and they did not want to engage in a conversation
with the seller (me).
3. PEOPLE WITH SMALL CHILDREN AND PETS NEED TO BE UNDER OBSERVATION
AT ALL TIMES!!!!
No matter how stable you think the tables, shelves, etc. you have
are, small children and dogs can dislodge and break pieces. Luckily,
the only breakage occurred when a mother, who just got out of having
her hands "moisturized" and massaged at one booth decided to pick up
one of my bigger pieces and proceeded to drop it into four other
pieces, breaking or chipping five pieces in total. However, I was
eagle-eyed and ever-ready with interception techniques when small
children or people with pets entered my booth.
4. PEOPLE NEED TO HAVE PLACED IN THEIR HANDS THOSE PROMOTIONAL
MATERIALS THAT ARE FREE!!!
I found that people would look at my business cards and see the sign-
up sheet for my holiday sale at my studio, but would be reticent
about picking them up or touching them. I would have to have cards
and the sign-up sheet ready in my hands when people were showing
signs that they were ready to leave the booth. Most signed up on the
mailing list but everyone handed a business card accepted them!!!
5. PEOPLE NEED TO BE REASSURRED THAT THEY COULD PICKUP THE PIECES
AND HANDLE THEM!
This is sort of a corrilary to # 3, but people almost need to have
select pieces handed to them for them to touch and feel them. I had
to reiterate over and over again that different mugs, for example,
fit different people's hands. Sometimes I would demonstrate where my
fingers and thumbs left their marks on some pieces that they could
feel, or encouraged them to feel how thin and light, or how think and
sturdy (for the kitchen mixing bowls) some pieces were.
6. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES OTHER VENDORS
I talked with some of the other vendors, giving ideas or praising
their work and I received two business proposals and tons of
invitations to visit their stores and talk about incorporating some
of my pottery in their shops or their presentations. (Most of these
were either outside my production capabilities but a few I will
7. SOMETIMES A GIFT OF A POTTERY PIECE IS WORTH MORE THAN ITS WEIGHT
There were a couple of college students that spent a lot of time just
looking at the pieces and when I went up to them and started talking,
found out that they had no money with them. I gave one of them one
of my "cuter" pieces ( a small 1 ounce jigger with a handle ) and
that started this whole conversation about how they were both
interested in hand-crafted work and that at my next show they would
return with money and buy several pieces. It just so happened that
during this time another customer overheard this and purchased the
three pieces that these two college students were really interested
in. I was one of the better sales of the day.
8. ALWAYS HAVE AN ANSWER FOR "SO WHAT CAN I USE THIS FOR?"
I knew that some of my pieces were outside the norm of functional
shapes and were anything but self-evident in their use. I had at
least three uses for all of them in my mind. One of the pieces that
I was asked about had a sharp, spiky interior (not sharp enough to
cur, but sometime like what the hooks feel on a piece of velcro).
When I told one woman that this could be used to grind spices such as
garlic against she bought it immediately!!! Another piece was so
bizzare that the only thing that I could think to say that it was for
was to put jewelry in when you take them off at night. When I told
this to a lady that was bedecked in a lot of jewelry she said "I
thought that was what it was but I just wanted to make sure!"
Anyhow, these are some of the things that I learned on my first show!
Steven D. Lee - The little Texas Potter
14341 FM 112
Thrall, TX 76578
Derrick Pottery - owner - Wesley Derrick on fri 26 sep 03
Just a quick line of thanks !!...I have my first public sale Oct 18th and
I'm really nervous. I've tried to think it all out but reading another's
experience has been the biggest help. These are ALL great ideas and
suggestions, some situations that will inevitably arise sooner or later.
In the buckle of the belt,
wesley in raymond, MS