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crossing the border to canada with pottery to sell= tell us all?

updated fri 26 aug 05


Alex Solla on sat 20 aug 05


I think a lot of folks on the list think that Tony C has the market cornered up in Canada.
Personally I would love to know how to get pots through customs via a broker. Would sure make my life easier.

So, tell us all please!


Alex Solla

Cold Springs Studio
4088 Cold Springs Road
Trumansburg, NY 14886

607-387-4042 voice/fax

Kristin Schnelten wrote:
Hi all -

I just returned home from the craft fair in Canada. Surprisingly, the
process at the border turned out to be quite simple.

The one piece of advice I have to offer is this: Get A Broker. All of the
agents I spoke with on the phone told me I should get one, as it would make
the process easier. But when I prodded, they all said I could just do it
on my own if I like. They were all wrong, at least according to the
customs agent I got at the border. You apparently Have To Have A Broker,
unless you have an established office for your business within Canada.

I can share details with anyone interested, just send me an e-mail off-
list. Thanks so much for your help, those who responded to my initial
question. It was a great show!

- Kristin

Kristin Gail Schnelten
Functional Porcelain and Stoneware

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Kristin Schnelten on thu 25 aug 05

Well, to give ya'll the short answers ...

Why did I bother?
I'm moving to Moncton, New Brunswick, and opening a studio/gallery there
next summer. This show happened to be in Moncton. So this was really an
early marketing effort. Also, I was driving there anyway to visit my
fianc=E9, so it seemed easy to just throw some pots in the car with me as I

How did I get through without a broker?
Luck, I guess. You'll get a different answer for any of your questions,
depending on what customs official you talk to. So I wasn't surprised to
get to the border and find that the other 6 or 8 people I spoke with on the
phone beforehand all contradicted what this official guard said. In the
end he let me go through, sans broker, because I had a typewritten file
full of notes from the phone conversations I had -- including the numbers I
called, first names of customs officials, notes on what they had told me,
etc. He said it wasn't my fault, I had obviously done my homework. They
all just told me the wrong thing. (As I was filling out the paperwork, he
proceeded to call all of the phone numbers and give them tongue-lashings.)

Why did I bother declaring it at all?
I say this, because I know I probably could have just scooted across the
border on my way to my visit, and they never would have questioned the
boxes. But I didn't want to chance it. I'm immigrating soon, eh. I don't
want any problems with border folks.

How did the show go?
It was my very first art fair. The very first time I sold to total
strangers. And it was a blast! Everyone asks me how it went,
financially. I have of course absolutely nothing to compare it to, so I
don't know how to answer that. I brought 100 pieces. My goal was to sell
half of them, and I sold 52. Exceeding my goal, right from the gate! Ha.

I of course learned all about wind, rain, heat, sun, all-out tiredness. I
learned to love hearing "Oh, so beautiful! But oh my, so expensive!" This
was a craft fair -- most participants were selling hand-painted birdhouses
for $10 and the like. One painter, three other potters, a few jewellers,
but otherwise just a hundred or so craft tents. So most customers weren't
really prepared to fork over $20 for a little bowl or $28 for a big stein.
But some were. And I made enough to keep me afloat until the next big fair.=

I put a couple of photos of the booth set-up here:
We moved a lot of the hanging mugs higher throughout the weekend, added cut
flowers. I realized no one wanted to come in to the "counter" area, so I
moved some pieces out from there and onto the shelves on Sunday and they
sold lickity split. It really was a fun learning experience.

How were my prices?
A bit higher than the other potters there, but I had tax/duty figured into
my prices. One girl was selling her mugs for $16, another for $18. Mine
were $22. On Friday, my fianc=E9 suggested I move them down to $20. But I
stuck to my guns, leaving the $22 price tag on them. Sold out of mugs, in
two of my three colors, by Saturday afternoon!

This pottery stuff, it's fun, huh?

Time now to cram for the fancy juried art fair in four weeks. Those 100
pieces I took with me =96 I only took that many, because it=92s all I had. =
I=92m back down to 50 =85 Ack!

- Kristin

Kristin Gail Schnelten
Functional Porcelain and Stoneware