Thursday, July 13, 2006

Third show over - another bomb

I had my third show this weekend in Warren, MI. The show ended up being another bomb. Over the 2 days, I only sold about $300 worth of stuff, so I at least covered my booth fee, materials, gas, plus a small profit (probably about $100). At least I didn't lose anything, but that's certainly very little reward for a whole weekend of work.

Even though I've done bad these last few shows, I'm not particularly concerned. I know the problem here is that I've picked these shows all with absolute nothing to base my decision on. I've now got a list of about a dozen shows that I've heard are pretty decent, but they've all passed or I missed the deadline. For this year, I'm just going to tough it out. I've got 2 more shows planned, and then I'm going to try and hit a half dozen more shows this Sep-Nov. The idea is to gain more experience and exposure, pick up more tips from other artists about setup, sales, and good shows, get more inventory built up, and get a better idea of what works and what doesn't. Then I can hit the art show scene full on next year and hope for much better results.


Here's the summary, with less play-by-play than my first 2 shows.

Unlike the last show, traffic was not a problem this time. Although it was nowhere near packed, there was a lot more people that last show (probably 3 times as many). The problem with this show was that fewer people were buying things, and for those that I saw carrying stuff around, most of that stuff was tiny stuff that fit in small bags. While you can't say for certain, typically that means little $10 items. I checked out a couple of the most popular items I saw, and they were indeed around the $10 mark.

This show was handled a bit more poorly than previous shows. For starters, several of the artists were on ground that was half dirt patches. With the wind kicking up dust, those artists found it a bit difficult. During the show, there were no workers going around volunteering to watch booths while you took a bathroom break. You were pretty much on your own. There was also no Saturday night event for the artists. For the raffle, they gave out $20 gift certificates which could be used to make purchases from the artists. However, they failed to provide any information to the artists about this. When I had a customer come in with one, my initial response was "is this for real"? However, it was a nice older lady, and I figured she wasn't likely to be trying to pass off a phony $20 gift certificate, so I took it without question.

A few good thing I will say about this show. First, setup was easy...we were able to drive our trailer right up to the booth, so we didn't have to cart anything. The same was true for anyone in an outside booth (though the boothless artists in the pavilion had to wheel their stuff a short distance, but not far). The second is that the booth plots were roomy, with about 3 feet extra in back and on one side. Coordinating your setup with other artists (pushing your booths to opposite ends of your plots) gave a 5-6 foot area behind and to one side of the booth.

The booth was already feeling quite warm by early Saturday morning, so we ended up opening up the back and side walls. The artist behind me then took her rear wall, and draped it from her canopy top to mine, so we had a nice covered awning in back. Then the neighbors to the side did the same. It gave us all a nice shaded area. We had our own mini pavilion.

I finally figured out a layout for my booth that I'm pretty comfortable with. I took the back middle panel out and put it in the center of one of the side walls, dividing it into 2 areas, with my print bin in the front area. The only problem is that my print bin is almost at capacity, so I'm going to need a second one pretty soon, but I'm not sure where I'd like to put it. It's important to keep my booth feeling roomy and not cramped.

I'm happy to say that I did win an honorable mention ribbon for my West Point Impressions photo. I received a ribbon but no cash prize (cash was only for the top 5 in each category).

During tear down, it was a bit windy (but not bad). One artist who was new (not that I'm a veteran or anything) had borrowed his booth (one of the lower end easy up styles) from a friend. He had tied his concrete weights to the booth and suspended them about 4 feet off the ground (a big no no, especially with a booth that flimsy). A little push from the wind sent the leg at an angle, causing the frame to bend and the front of the booth to fall to the ground (at least it didn't happen during the show). Myself and 2 other artists rushed over to give him a hand standing the booth back up, untying the weights, and getting things back under control. We told him not to hang the weights in the future. I then showed him my newly purchased ratcheting cargo straps (which by the way worked great for holding the weights to the booth) since they are much easier to setup and tear down than tying/untying knots.

Anyway, that's how things turned out.

A few things I learned:

1) I definitely need to get some very inexpensive items. I've already picked up some notecards to work on before my next show. I'd like to find some good greeting card options before then too.

2) Keep an eye out for other artists, and be ready to lend a hand when they need it.

3) I need to start focusing on tying up some of the loose ends of my business, like building an email list, getting descriptive tags on each item, etc.

4) I need to get my panels covered soon, so that I can open up the back of my booth without people being able to see right through the grid walls.

1 comment:

livingood said...

Hi Ron,
Maybe a lot of the serious art buyers were at Plymouth Art in the Park, which was the same weekend. That show is huge. I know people that drive an hour or more to attend it. I spent $225 (bought a fountain), my sister spent $30, and friends I ran into had spent $120 on photography plus some other things. A lot of the photographers featured landscape and lifestyle shots from places like Europe and Mexico.
It seemed to me that there were fewer booths this year down two particular streets that are usually full. Maybe because that show is $400 to rent a booth, yikes!
-Liz