Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wyandotte show so far

I just returned from a vacation a few days ago and realized I never posted my show review. Better late than never.

After starting the year off with my worst 2 shows yet, I went into my next show in Wyandotte a bit concerned, yet hopeful and with a promising gut feeling. When it was all said and done, it was a long 4 days, but my best show yet.

Setting Up
When I went to setup Tuesday night, it was very windy. There were scattered thunderstorms in the area, and although it looked like they weren't going to hit the show area, there were some very strong winds that did affect the area.

When I arrived, before I even turned onto the street, the first thing I saw was the bent up frame of an EZ up sticking out of the dumpster. Not a good sign. As I turned the corner onto the street where the show would take place, the road was blocked by 2 more tents lying upside down in the road.

Being that I also have an EZ up style tent, I was a little concerned. However, I chose to setup anyway, because 1) My tent was a sturdier design than a lot of other EZ ups, and 2) once setup with my weights, gridwalls, and cross braces, I've got around 250 pounds holding it sturdy. My tent had survived through stronger winds in my backyard (however I didn't have the advantage of anchoring it the grass as I did at home).

Setting up was a bit of a chore, and when I was done with the tent and walls, I decided it probably wasn't prudent to be setting up merchandise yet, so I just left everything in rubbermaid containers in the middle of my tent and closed up.

I went back early the next morning to start hanging up frames, filling the print bins, hanging signs, etc. When I got there, the front corner leg of my booth was pushed in about a foot. At first I thought maybe some idiot had hit the booth with a car, but there didn't seem to be any indication of damage (no dents, marks, scuffs, etc). I concluded that the wind must have just pushed that corner in overnight.

A Long Show
The show was quite long. My longest so far had been two 8 hour days. This show was four 11 hour days. 44 hours total, plus driving back and forth each day, plus time to replace inventory at night. All said, I had almost zero time to rest (though I made sure to get plenty of sleep...didn't want to be sleep deprived for such a long show).

The show ran from Wednesday to Saturday, and I was really expecting most of that time to be a waste. I honestly didn't think there would be very many people there on Wednesday/Thursday. However, I was very wrong. Every day except Friday was pretty well busy from about 15-30 minutes after open until 15 minutes after close. For Friday, the traffic didn't really pick up until about 1PM, but was pretty steady after that. Other than that, there were very few lulls in the crowd on any of the 4 days.

First day sales were terrible, but that was exactly what I was expecting for day 1. Most of my sales were cheap gift cards. Day 2 sales were pretty decent. It would have been disappointing had it been a weekend show, but given that it was a Thursday, it actually exceeded my expectations. Day 3 I was expecting to be considerably better, but I actually had lower sales...about the average of the previous 2 days. The final day ended up being a great day, though...over twice the previous 3 days combined. While not a spectacular amount for a long 4 day show, it was my best show ever, so I consider that a success.

Mostly Well Organized

Overall, I was very pleased with how well the show was organized. I'll start off with the few small complaints I have. First, the setup seemed like it could have been a bit smoother. Unlike most other shows I went to, there was no check-in...just show up and setup your booth. That wasn't a problem for me, but other artists had issues. A few artists couldn't locate their spot. Others had someone else already setup in their spot. Asking other artists if there was someone around to help with setup just resulted in shrugged shoulders. Now, perhaps there was someone running things further down the street (the show was 4 blocks long), and all one had to do was go down and find them. However, if so, this was still in contrast to most of the other shows I've done, where the volunteers were very visible during setup.

The other complaint I had was regarding parking. With 350 artists at the show, we were given a lot big enough for maybe 50-100 cars to park and then just told in the informational packet "there is plenty of parking around the downtown area". True, there was plenty of parking in lots and streets, however almost EVERYTHING was labeled as 2 hour parking. I figured the police would not be enforcing it for the show, however, if that was the case then the welcome packet didn't say a thing about it. I chose to play it safe and ended up finding a free (and mostly empty) lot about 15 minutes later.

Other than the 2 small complaints, things were handled nicely. Booths spaces were only 10'x10', so that meant no back space. However, the show had booths laid out in 2x2 quads, which meant that every booth space was a corner space (for no additional fee), and double booths were double corners.

In the morning, there were free cookies, donuts, and coffee in the city hall. Several times a day, volunteers would come by and hand out free water, cheese or peanut butter crackers, or mentos. They had teams of volunteers come by every hour or so to sweep up any trash. In addition to the standard awards, they had an additional award where artists could choose their favorite artist. My only complaint was that you were allowed to vote for yourself (and artists were expressly told so), so I imagine most artists voted for themselves (I certainly did). The award would have been more meaningful if that were prohibited. Finally, on the last day they gave out a free battery operated fan to anyone who filled out the show survey.

Quality and Variety of Vendors

While there were a few booths with low quality "arts", overall I felt most of the booths seemed to be good quality. In addition, despite this show being much larger than the other shows I've been in, they kept a good variety of arts in the show. The number of photographers in the show was about what I've become accustomed to in shows half the size, and their wasn't a whole lot of overlap in subject matter. I generally felt the same way about the other categories, too.

Talking to Other Photographers

Early on Saturday morning, I left my wife in charge of the booth and went to speak to some other photographers. The first one I spoke with had stuff similar to mine. He complained about how poorly he was doing, and when he stated his sales so far, my heart sank a bit...3 times what I had done. When he told me he had been doing art shows for even less time than I had, it sank again a bit further. However, when I continued on to talk to a lot of other photographers, many of them weren't having a whole ton of luck. That was a bit reassuring, but still, it definitely made me stop to reevaluate a lot of what I do. If someone with even less experience and comparable work was doing better, there are definitely things that I need to change.


When it was all said and done, I felt that it could have gone better for me, but since it was better than anything I had done so far, I was satisfied. I'll almost certainly be going back again next year.

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