search  current discussion  categories  events - fairs & shows 

showing up for shows: rant

updated wed 13 jul 05

 

Jeanette Harris on fri 8 jul 05


>For the younger people who want to sell their art, get together and put
>on your own shows. Rent a building at a fair grounds or some other
>building. Charge a minimal fee to cover advertising, and let the public
>in for free. They will love you and buy from you. And, if you manage to
>make something successful never, never, never decide to make yourselves
>a non-profit arts organization. In just a few short years you will find
>your show taken over by people who have no clue what it is to be a
>street artist..
>
>Kathi

You are absolutely right.
I'm afraid I'm guilty of buying into someone else's show, but I've
found where my market is now and the shows I'm doing are run by
artists or at least started out that way. It doesn't do to be someone
else's window dressing. As a matter of fact, I wish artists would be
more aggressive about the whole show business thing, kick out the
organizers and run their own shows. They could do such a better job
of it.

For instance, I got a call today and it was all I could do to keep
from jumping down this lady's throat. She had been roped into
organizing a show for a little local marina/port authority. They want
to have an arts and craft show but it would be only one day. The
exhibitors must have a 10 x 10 canopy. No tables or umbrellas
allowed. The show will be outside in a designated area because the
port authority will be using half the building space for a spaghetti
feed fund-raiser. HUH!

I tried tactfully to explain that most people who aren't artists
don't appreciate the work required to pack up, load up, set up and
display for just one day. "Oh", she said, "That's why the entry fee
is only $5.00." Well Good Luck, Babe.


That's almost as good as the call I got last week where a church was
having a week-long Bible bazaar and wanted a 'Professional Potter" to:

1. Dress up in "Bible costume".
2. Spend 7 days out in a field, in a tent (supplied) showing about
150 - 200+ children how to make pots 'like they did in Bible times'.
(Clay supplied, I think.) And,
3. If I had a wheel to bring to show how to throw, that would be nice.

I didn't even get to the part about dates. I told her (nicely) that
all the professional potters I knew were busy either planning for or
doing shows. "That's how a lot of them make their living." I said.
Maybe she could contact the local Scouts,if they had any pottery
badge owners, 4-H or the school local high school pottery students.

It's not that I'm against volunteering, it's just the idea that
anyone could just whistle up a bunch of artists to serve their needs.

Okay, rant over. I feel better now.




--
Jeanette Harris
Poulsbo WA

Potter's Council member

Lili Krakowski on fri 8 jul 05


There are shows and shows.

Starting with lower case shows. You and three buddies live in the same
neighborhood, do similarly priced work, sell through diverse shops/galleries
and so on. At Christmas time or in May, when gardening begins, you get
together and have a season- related show. People come, they buy stuff, and
that is that. Swell.

The local Woman's Shelter, or Soup Kitchen, or your house of worship (NO!
I do NOT mean Starbucks!) wants to raise money...fine

Now we progress to Shows. The Snarglefoot Mountain Association has a
yearly "art fair" to raise money for little shoes for the search & rescue
dogs.

They send you a flyer asking you to take part.. Booth price $50, bring
tent, chair, and so on. You end up between someone selling disgustingly
inscribed T shirts, and a really fine belt maker. You may sell, you may
not. Probably end up swapping two pots for a belt, and being cussed by the
T-shirt guy for not wanting to trade with with him.


Then--take off your shoes and wash your hands before you read this: There
are SHOWS. I went public in a long letter to CM, several years ago.
about what I think of those. You spend money on slides. Not cheap because
you are a camera-klutz, so you pay a photographer. You mail the
slides. You send a check for an absurd amount of money. Then other
people sit around and say how much they hate your pots. They hate them
because: they are not in vogue; they are lowfired; they are not like what
the jurors' current heroes make. ( I am willing to wager that the Scheirs
work, that of many of their generation, even Marguerite Wildenhain's less
recognizable pots would not get in today.) The show is so popular they HAVE
to reject 7/8 of those who want to enter. And they do NOT tell you what
your chances are, just on the % of submissions basis.

Need I go on? You now are at least a couple of hundred poorer. Money you
could have spent on new elements, a second extruder. Even on getting that
tooth capped.

I think SHOWS are a tremendous thing for the organizers and a very bad one
for potters. The rejected underwrite the accepted. Not funny, I think.

If you need approval for your work, that really IS a problem we all once
had, and needed to overcome. You have to establish a relationship with your
work where IT satisfies you--and satisfaction does not depend on what others
think.

Of course, if you can, get a potter whose work you respect to look at your
pots. Maybe like Frans Wildenhain s/he will say: "With this pot you could
kill a horse. " Maybe the criticism will be useful: "That is a lovely jug,
but you cannot clean the inside of the shoulder properly" "If that is a
lamp it will be top heavy once a bulb and shade go on" And like that.

In 1997 I was Artist in Residence at the Lee Center for a few weeks.
Besides teaching a class, I was asked by individuals to look at their pots
and comment. I think this is a good way to go. I was asked by a kiln club
to judge a show. There is no reason why a local group of potters cannot get
together, then invite a potter whom they admire to come, for a fee, and
review
their work. This is fair to all. The potter may be in the neighborhood and
do it for the sake of heaven, the potter may want travel expenses paid. But
it all is up front, decent, honest--no one exploited.

And while I am making enemies. WHAT IS WRONG WITH SHOP OWNERS? I do not
know why they get so little praise. These are people who invest their own
money in maintaining a shop. They know exactly what the public in their
area wants. So some sell salad bowls and some sell purely decorative
stuff,and some sell "art." They look you in the eye and tell you what they
think.Unlike show juries they send you home as poor as you came in. No fee,
no slides, no false hopes. Why not get your kiln club to invite one or two
andlet them look at your pots?

And yes. I profoundly believe in Kiln Clubs and the like.

As to those who do the Academic Route. Bon voyage. May Mapquest protect
you.


Lili Krakowski

Be of good courage

Andie Plamondon on fri 8 jul 05


Just my 2 cents:

The donation shows - well, we've been through this already. If they are my
customers, or are an organization that I personally support and use their
services, then I donate.

The big shows - I only enter if the total costs of slides, entry fee, and
shipping the piece are less than the cost of the piece I am entering. Why
enter at all? I teach at private schools and art institutes. And I find that
when people hear or see on a CV that I have been a part of a show somewhere
prestigious or won an award, they are sometimes more likely to sign up for
my classes. I consider an occasional show part of my advertising costs.

As for the holiday shows, the summer craft shows, etc - I try them. I have
three that I ALWAYS make some nice money at. The others I don't go back to.
But shows are a nice way to build a base of people who order off my web
site, who go to my shows when they see my name in the paper, and who will
buy another piece when they are in a shop and see a familiar glaze.

Maybe I just keep my expectations low and so I am always pleasantly
surprised.

I throw pots because I really, really love to throw pots. I mix up glazes
because I LOVE to mix glaze. I teach my classes because I really enjoy
teaching.

And if tomorrow every class dried up and no more pots sold, I would still
read about them, would still make them, and my family would get very heavy
boxes at Christmas.

Just thinking that maybe sometimes we should take a step back, remember why
we bother with clay at all (says the girl chipping off her kiln shelves this
morning...) and not let things like show fees, differences of philosophy, or
the cover of Ceramics Monthly get to us.

:) Andie Plamondon
Handful of Earth Pottery
Laurel, DE
www.handfulofearth.com

Kathi LeSueur on fri 8 jul 05


Lili Krakowski wrote:

><<<>for potters. The rejected underwrite the accepted. Not funny, I think........
>
>.....And while I am making enemies. WHAT IS WRONG WITH SHOP OWNERS? I do not
>know why they get so little praise. These are people who invest their own
>money in maintaining a shop. They know exactly what the public in their
>area wants.....>>>>
>

Lilli,

A terriffic rant and one I agree with wholeheartedly. In the 90's, when
being a functional potter was the kiss of death when applying to shows,
my wholesale accounts were buying all of the pots I could make. I
believe one of the reasons that sales at shows have declined so much is
that , in their efforts to "upgrade the quality", shows stopped having
artists who the public wanted to buy from. They were arrogantly
"educating the public".

However, I see problems for show organizers on the horizon and, with few
exceptions, it couldn't happen to a more deserving group of people. Look
around at any show and you will see lots of old, and many very old,
artists. There are very few young people doing shows. It just costs too
much for someone starting out. Newcomers are people who have retired
from a previous job and decided that the art fair circuit would be fun.
They soon learn. Meanwhile, booth fees continue to rise. Arts
organizations who count on jury fees to fun their programs for the year
are getting fewer and fewer people willing to give away $35 for the
privilege of being rejected over and over. Shows started as a service to
the artists and the public. Now they are every organiztions' fundraiser.

For the younger people who want to sell their art, get together and put
on your own shows. Rent a building at a fair grounds or some other
building. Charge a minimal fee to cover advertising, and let the public
in for free. They will love you and buy from you. And, if you manage to
make something successful never, never, never decide to make yourselves
a non-profit arts organization. In just a few short years you will find
your show taken over by people who have no clue what it is to be a
street artist..


Kathi

Kate Johnson on sat 9 jul 05


Jeannette wrote, answering Kathi, who had said:
In just a few short years you will find
>>your show taken over by people who have no clue what it is to be a
>>street artist..
>>
A snip from Jeannette:
>
> You are absolutely right.
> I'm afraid I'm guilty of buying into someone else's show, but I've
> found where my market is now and the shows I'm doing are run by
> artists or at least started out that way. It doesn't do to be someone
> else's window dressing. As a matter of fact, I wish artists would be
> more aggressive about the whole show business thing, kick out the
> organizers and run their own shows. They could do such a better job
> of it.

I'll bet most of us have horror stories of this type. I had sort of learned
NOT to get involved with shows, but managed to let myself be roped in as a
consultant when our local Chamber decided to resurrect a show that I and
other artists had organized and run some 20 years ago. And they key to its
success is that it WAS run by and organized by artists--we knew what people
needed, what was practical, what worked elsewhere and what didn't. What
organizers need, what exhibitors expect, what inspires them to enter. (We
lasted 8 years till burnout set in.)

So I was willing to at least go to a meeting or two and tell them what our
experience had been, since these were local folk that I've known for
years--not artists, but people who care about the community. I knew we were
in trouble when they took everyone's email addresses, then never used them
to let us know when meetings WERE, then called 2 hours before a meeting I
knew nothing about to ask if I could come. Er, no...

I recommended a couple of other local and semi-local artists to consult--my
gallery owner, who is my pottery buddy and kiln man, and a photographer who
helped organize an arts guild in her nearby town. I figured that way they'd
benefit from the experience of people who'd done this sort of thing, a lot.
So. They did indeed ask for advice from all of us, gleaned from 20+ years
of experience, taking into consideration that this was a brand new show.

Er. Then they *ignored* all advice, and raised the entry fee to $50 (for a
brand new show in a new venue in a small town, with almost no
advertising?!), and did away with the judge and prizes (i.e., incentive).

And sent out a call for entries.

And got virtually none, shocked surprise!

So shortly before the show, I heard that they had WAIVED the entry fee,
entirely, in the hopes that they'd even have a show. However, they didn't
actually let any of us KNOW they had, other than by word of mouth.

My buddy begged me to have some things in the show, and against my better
judgement, I agreed. Er...there were no SIGNS leading people to the show,
the hours were different in at least two of the ads, and there was no sign
on the building where we were or on the street in front of it. I spent a
reallllll quiet weekend, with a very few other exhibitors, and VERY little
public. Most of whom were disgusted they had such a hard time finding us,
or parking nearby.

Can we say "goat rope"??

I think next time I know a show is NOT run by artists/craftsmen I'll run as
far and as fast as I can!!

Best--
Kate Johnson
graphicart@epsi.net
http://www.cathyjohnson.info/

Art, History, Nature and More at Cathy Johnson's Cafepress--
http://www.cafepress.com/cathy_johnson/

Graphics/Fine Arts Press--
http://www.epsi.net/graphic/

Earl Brunner on sat 9 jul 05


After a couple of years of shows, my take is, for get selling pots at the
things, I want the drink/food concession. THEY make all the money.

Earl Brunner
Las Vegas, NV

-----Original Message-----
From: Clayart [mailto:CLAYART@LSV.CERAMICS.ORG] On Behalf Of Kate Johnson
Sent: Saturday, July 09, 2005 7:01 AM
To: CLAYART@LSV.CERAMICS.ORG
Subject: Re: showing up for shows: RANT

Jeannette wrote, answering Kathi, who had said:
In just a few short years you will find
>>your show taken over by people who have no clue what it is to be a
>>street artist..
>>
A snip from Jeannette:
>
> You are absolutely right.
> I'm afraid I'm guilty of buying into someone else's show, but I've
> found where my market is now and the shows I'm doing are run by
> artists or at least started out that way. It doesn't do to be someone
> else's window dressing. As a matter of fact, I wish artists would be
> more aggressive about the whole show business thing, kick out the
> organizers and run their own shows. They could do such a better job
> of it.

I'll bet most of us have horror stories of this type. I had sort of learned
NOT to get involved with shows, but managed to let myself be roped in as a
consultant when our local Chamber decided to resurrect a show that I and
other artists had organized and run some 20 years ago. And they key to its
success is that it WAS run by and organized by artists--we knew what people
needed, what was practical, what worked elsewhere and what didn't. What
organizers need, what exhibitors expect, what inspires them to enter. (We
lasted 8 years till burnout set in.)

Farfl's House on sun 10 jul 05


I was able to witness this unfortunate situation firsthand on Friday
evening. I went to the Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square
here in Toronto (couldn't find the Sour Cherry booth like I wanted, but
then again my back was acting up and I didn't want to spend an hour
looking), and found that a lot of the ceramic items were priced much
higher than some of the smaller shows I've attended recently. Apparently,
the booth fee is $300 for artists and $100 for students. I found that
some things were priced just to try and recoup the booth fee. At least
that's what it seemed like. There were a few desperate-looking potters
that I assume were new (I didn't see them last year) and at the time I was
there it didn't look like they were making brisk sales. I imagine it
would be hard to arrive at pricing that would allow you to sell all your
wares, but at the same time make a reasonable profits over your costs.


> Lili Krakowski wrote:
>
>><<<>> bad one
>>for potters. >

>Kathi wrote:
> There are very few young people doing shows. It just costs too
> much for someone starting out. Newcomers are people who have retired
> from a previous job and decided that the art fair circuit would be fun.
> They soon learn. Meanwhile, booth fees continue to rise. >

Anne Webb on tue 12 jul 05


just back from evacuating because of hurricane dennis and taking a quick
peep at clayart.
i think i missed the original post in this thread.. unless lili's was..
anyhoo..

Still a problem with "shows", eh?. I guess it depends WHY you choose to do
shows or why you do not. When you pot for a living, you dont do shows just
to be seen or to get your name out there. It comes down to whether you can
make enough money at this show to justify applying or not. If you think you
can make more money from your studio than sitting around all weekend at a
craft show, then stay home and work in your studio and sell out of your
showroom (IF you have one). Stay away from the "crocheted toilet paper
cover" shows (as i like to call them) unless all you make is kitch, your
work is bargain bastment priced, and you know you have a market there.
Otherwise, you will do better at a juried show as the quality is (usually)
better... work and customers.

As far as jurying goes... A show organizer/jury knows what kind of *look*
they want for their show, good or bad. Same with a shop owner with their
shop. Ideally they want work in there that people will buy and will
hopefully attract the buying public back again. If you cant get into a
juried show.. maybe your slides arent good enough or maybe your work isnt.
You are allowed to call and see what they did/did not like about your
slides. If your ego gets too bruised by having your work juried or
critiqued, either get over it or avoid the process.

i will not say that doing shows is the be all and end all because its not.
There's no law to say that you *have* to do shows to be "a potter". Its
your choice. Like i have said before, I personally think that
diversification isnt such a bad idea, especially with the way the economy is
these days.
As far as all shows or fairs being EVILl, ..or at least a horrible idea... i
cant say i completely agree. Its *always* a good idea to research your
market beforehand, no matter what it is. Just smart business. Check out a
show before you apply, even if it means waiting another year.. see what
sells, see what doesnt, do you think your work is marketable there? are
people buying or just out for a sunday stroll?

A lot of shows definitely are a racket. I was just talking to a friend of
mine about this. The main reason why these organizers feel they can charge
inflated fees is simple because they can get them. Sometimes, unfortunately,
they kill a good show by jacking up the prices and slapping an admission fee
at the gate. All means more money out of the artists' pockets and less money
for art.
The face of shows is changing too. Less younger artists coming up and a
growing population of retired people who decide to become "artists" once
they turn 65, doing shows and fairs. They have seem to have the time and
some income to fall back upon to feed themselves. The quality is sometimes
questionable. (no, i am not retiree bashing)

An interesting observation my friend made re show fees going up.... After
most shows the organizers get u to fill out a survey and included on that
survey they usually ask approx how much you make. Well there are some
dummies who put down an amount that far exceeds what they actually made. I
dont know what they're thinking ...perhaps they think that this would make
them look good or maybe even they think it will increase their odds of
getting into the show next yr? Organizers look at these numbers and say "hey
if these artists are making all this money, we need a bigger cut of the
action" not "gee..this guy did really well, lets make sure he's in next
year." duh.
Then there are other show organizers who start up a show and ask the same
fee their first yr as a show that has been going and has an established
track record of 20+ yrs.
You have to be selective.

Not everybody in this world will like your pots but that's ok. Is a jury the
final authority? of course not. Ultimately, you should make pots that you
can respect yourself for making and ones that will help you grow. It really
shows if you make pots that you hate.

Anne
..watching for Emily to transition into a hurricane this week and follow
Dennis' path. yippee...

_________________________________________________________________
FREE pop-up blocking with the new MSN Toolbar get it now!
http://toolbar.msn.click-url.com/go/onm00200415ave/direct/01/