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Thread: Another Slow Show

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    ABQ NM
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    Another Slow Show

    This weekend LOML and I showed turnings at an Arts and Craft show in Woodland Hills. This is one the local Rotary Club has been sponsoring for 40 years. We were a little nervous about this weekend, since it was rainy here Thursday and Friday, but Saturday was dry, with partial sunshine and nippy temps. In a nutshell, it was a slow day sales-wise.

    The turnout was better Saturday than we saw at the last show, but I only sold one bowl all day. Funny thing was, it was one of my least favorite bowls. I almost didn't even put it out on the table Saturday morning. Just goes to show ya never know what people will want to buy.

    This is the first show I've done that had other turners. I talked with both the other guys, and got some more feel for my pricing. My prices seemed a bit high on the scale compared to theirs, and they both did very nice work. They both do this stuff as their sole living, so they were concentrating on the smaller bottle stopper/pen/pill box type of merchandise, since that's what they can sell a lot of. After looking things over, I did a little adjusting of the prices on my bigger pieces. (I've suspected that my prices were a bit too high for a while.) One of the other turners came by my booth a bit later and checked out my stuff and my prices. He was complimentary about the work, and felt the prices were in a good range. One cedar hollow form in particular he thought was priced almost too low at $180.

    Sunday ended up being worse than Saturday. There just wasn't much of a crowd out...it was cold and windy. We had wind gusts to 30 or 35 mph at times. (Note to self: Think twice before doing any more outdoor winter shows. Sunny California, my eye.) The other turners at the show did OK, but they had a lot more low-priced selection than I did. My only sales on Sunday were a pen, another bowl, and a bell ornament.

    Fairly early in the day Sunday, our canopy got blown over in a big gust of wind, knocking over two tables worth of my merchandise, and pretty much emptying the third. The canopy wasn't staked, but I had 35 pounds of weight tied to each corner. After that, it was staked, and we removed the side panels to reduce the sail area. Lesson learned. Fortunately, we were on grass, and none of the turned pieces seemed too much worse for the wear. (My previous shows have all been on asphalt. I would have had some seriously messed-up pieces today on asphalt.) I did lose a little chunk out of a root ball bowl, but it's not noticeable. (Never did find the little piece that broke off.) After that, the quality of the display went to a very hot subterranean place in a handbasket. We took down all the elevated pieces and a shelf of little hollow forms and just spread everything around flat on the tables, with marbles in the bottoms of the lighter pieces. Even then, we had pieces blowing off the tables every once in a while. All day long we had to be on alert for flying merchandise...ours and other peoples'. We helped gang up on a couple other booths that needed a hand in the wind, too. Reminded me of my old hot air balloon wrestling days back in Albuquerque.

    It just doesn't seem like a lot of folks were eager to part with $150 to $250 for artwork this weekend. I had a lot of strong interest from several people, but their wallets stayed shut. So...to borrow a phrase from a friend, I'm still the proud owner of nearly everything I took to the show. I think in addition to poor weather, the general state of the economy is playing a role, and people seem to be more cautious with their spending. Between the Writer's strike and the housing market situation out here, things have been tight all over town. I'm going to have to find a place to sell this stuff, or I'll have to resort to picking names at random out of the phone book and just mailing turned pieces to strangers. I'm running out of horizontal space at the house to keep it all.

    As I've said before, I'm not relying on my sales to put food on the table, so I'm more interested in trying to sell what I like to make than making what I know would sell. Still, I want to make enough money to make the work involved in doing a show worthwhile. I need to find the happy medium...something I enjoy turning, that can be sold at a price point more people can handle. Of course I'd still make the other stuff I like, but I just wouldn't be relying on sales of decorative bowls and hollow forms to pay my entry fees.

    Although the sales were dismal, we still had a fun time. Probably won't be doing any more shows until springtime, and even then I think I might look for some indoor venues.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  2. #2
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    Oct 2006
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    Well, that is too bad, I guess you just never know eh?

    One or two good sales of larger items can make or break a show.

    A buddy here used to import motorcycle stuff, everything from full exhaust systems, to gloves and boots. We went to a big meet once, I tagged along to help him out (his Japanese is WAY worse than mine, and his was was not able to come that day) we sold next to nothing, had lots of interest, but next to no action

    He was really unhappy about it, as the fee to get into this place was NOT cheap. Well, the next week he got a TON of calls from various people who had taken the flyer or business card and he sold a HUGE number of things, to bike shops etc, so in a way, that show turned out to be one of his best weekends ever.

    Just to prove, you NEVER know.
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Do you think its just because the average American is now out of cash? I know we all have savings accounts and stuff, but I'll be the first to admit I am conserving my money this year a lot. With gasoline for commuting, and propane heating costs so high, I just can't afford to let myself spend frivolously. I wonder if you might be better off following along with those other guys, concentrating on the smaller stuff that people don't mind buying so much?

    Of course I say that, but cannot follow my own words of advice. I do one-off things and could never switch from say making models to making low-end toys that would probably sell better in volume, but lower in price.

    Either way, sorry for the slow sales Vaughn.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  4. #4
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    Dec 2006
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    My wife used to do the outdoor art circuit. We had display panels that folded up and a tent. I love my wife but I hated the hauling, toting and set up of the dislplay. She did sell a lot of her work at the larger shows and enjoyed herself.

    I remember one show on the Virginia Beach boardwalk when a thunderstorm came in suddenly and very violently. Paintings started to take sail. We were able to close the display panels and protect my wife's work save for a few that got a little wet.

    I have only done the outdoor craft circuit twice and both times it was more trouble than it was worth. I know there are people who do very well at these venues but I have not had much luck.

    Vaughn, in my opinion, your work is better than the typical arts and crafts venue. I recommend you start exhibiting in juried art shows. In many shows you will be allowed to enter 3 or 4 pieces and even if they do not get juried in for the full run of the show you may get to show them on the first day of the exhibit. I sell more of my expensive pieces that way and make contacts with people who have an appreciation for what we do. The arts and croissants bunch buy beautiful things. Nuff said.
    I may be getting a little older physically but mentally I'm still tarp as a shack.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Stafford View Post
    ...Vaughn, in my opinion, your work is better than the typical arts and crafts venue. I recommend you start exhibiting in juried art shows. In many shows you will be allowed to enter 3 or 4 pieces and even if they do not get juried in for the full run of the show you may get to show them on the first day of the exhibit. I sell more of my expensive pieces that way and make contacts with people who have an appreciation for what we do. The arts and croissants bunch buy beautiful things. Nuff said.
    Thanks for the compliments and advice, Mike. The shows I've been doing are juried, but seeing what else is being allowed by the juries, I suspect you're right about these shows still attracting more of the "Dunkin Donuts and crafts" crowd than the "croissants and art" crowd. I need to find some real juried shows. I know there's a big one every year down in San Diego County (Del Mar, perhaps?) where the pieces that are shown make my work look like the rookie attempts they really are. I need to seek out that type of venue and make contacts with that type of clientèle.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  6. #6
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    Dec 2006
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    Melbourne, FL
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    472

    Craft Shows Slow

    My sales at shows this year have also been slow but contact and sales after the shows via cards that were picked up at the shows has been good.

    I guess my goal at the shows is to get my name out there and to sell enough to at least break even.

    That said regardless of sales my wife and I enjoy the shows. We get to meet a lot of nice people.

    I sell all small items - pens, pet tributes and special engraved items. We have a system down where setup is very quick and easy. Not much of a chore at all. We stick to inside shows where they supply the tables. Three good size plastic storage boxes and we are good to go.

  7. #7
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    Nov 2006
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    I get the impression from reports like yours, and my limited experience with shows, that they are not unlike operating a retail store. Often there is no logical explanation for what happens. When I had my stores I kept careful notes on weather, local activities and other factors that might affect traffic and sales. I did this for many years. Never did I spot a common thread or trend to explain why one day might be busy and the other slow. There were days when few, or no, customers would even come in. Then, inexplicably, it would be like tour buses pulled up outside and we would be swamped for an hour. Then back to death valley. Go figger. I would guess that most Christmas shopping has been completed and folks budgets are slim right now. In Arkansas, there is a big, and I do mean very big, arts and crafts show in October. Folks come from all over the country to do Christmas shopping at that time. Better luck next time.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  8. #8
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    This type of uncertainty is why I am not good at nor will I ever be any good at sales. The slow times would depress me so much that I might not stick to it long enough to get to the good times. I do not know how much the economy has to do with sales of this type of product but I do know that the way it is now it is not good for a lot of other things around here and as you say the weather might have played a big part also. If the weather is bad I do not go out to do things that I consider non essential.

  9. #9
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    Hey Vaughn, sorry to hear it was a slow show, but it sounds like you're getting some good advice. I think you're on the right track, make what you want to make and try to sell it, otherwise its little different than working overtime at the day job

    Every year I help a friend at his booth at the Tucson gem show. Last year was about as slow as I've ever seen it, and I'm expect this year to be worse (there's a huge I-10 construction project going on). My friend still gets a lot of business in the months after the show from people who saw us there but didn't buy. Crowds are funny too. One year we were off in a corner - best place to be is right near the entrance - and the crowd was thin all through the show. We didn't sell as much of the usual small stuff, but we did sell a couple of large items that surprised me. I'm still kind of wondering if that was just dumb luck or if having thinner crowds gave some of the serious buyers more time to look and consider

  10. #10
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    I was just talking to the LOML yesterday about your turnings and show attendance. We reflected, as I have mentioned here before, how you cannot predict your audience or sales at a show. Hang in there. I have Friends who do shows with other items. Sometimes its slow, sometimes its not. The economy isn't helping but, putting yourself out there will buy exposure and later folks will know where to find you. You have cards or some-such that are available to browsers, right? My thoughts are with you. Your work is solid. Keep on going and keep having fun.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

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