Yesterday I did my first show of the 2013 season – I took my clay to a craft fair at a local high school, an event meant to raise funds for their marching band.
Some background – I’ve been doing shows since the mid-90’s, and I’ve been to all kinds of events, small local shows and large multi-day events. I like doing shows. I enjoy talking with customers and hearing first-hand what they think of my work. I’ve made a lot of friends on the circuit and over the years doing shows has become a familiar routine for my family.
I started out selling knitted toy bunnies, got interested in quilting, moved into appliqued wall hangings. I did the fabric work for some years, until I moved into mixed media/collage work. That has been my most lasting artistic pursuit and I still do shows involving it today – I have several scheduled for later this year. I picked up the clay work several years ago – it was a casual hobby that I became more and more interested in, until I began to exhibit my work as well. Today I do both collage shows and clay shows, and I separate my two mediums – I don’t exhibit them at the same show, as people find it too confusing.
The type of show I can do with each medium can be very different. Collage/mixed media work commands a higher price per item and therefore the buyers need to be ready to spend the money when they come to the show; it’s not generally an impulse type of thing. My clay work, though is much less costly per item; it’s often given as a gift, and people don’t have to plan ahead to spend for it.
Collage shows I do, therefore, are usually billed as art or art/fine craft shows, and the rest of the work is comparable to what I’m offering. Clay shows on my schedule, though, are all over the map as to what kind of event they might be. They can be just as art-oriented as a show I’d choose for my collage work – or they can be family-oriented street fairs, holiday shows, and craft-only fairs. My fellow exhibitors can have high-quality, quirky indie crafts, as in one show I do every year in December (and particularly like); or they can be exhibiting items that are frankly pretty tacky. I do more clay shows now than collage shows; you can see that there are just more plentiful opportunities for the sales of lower-priced items than higher-end art.
Yesterday’s show was held in the south gym and south cafeteria of the school. We each had an 8-ft. table supplied by the organizers – a nice thing not to have to bring my own table. Arranged in rows, side-by-side, all these tables, and there were about 100 of us exhibitors or so. A lot to see packed into the space. At this time of the year, I don’t expect much in sales – people do not have an incentive to buy for holiday gifts as they do in the fall, for instance. But I’ve gotten itchy to do a show again by now, and it’s nice to have an opportunity so close to home.
I was pleasantly surprised by how things went, though – easy set-up, good sales, and some interesting conversations. The organizers had plenty of kids from the band very ready to help fetch and carry. And there is always the unexpected – As I was sitting at my spot right before the doors opened, I was surprised to see our family doctor coming toward me. (I greeted him with “What are you doing here?”, which wasn’t very polite, but honestly, I would never have thought he had taken up some kind of craft and decided to start doing shows…) Turned out his wife was the exhibitor, making some really lovely hand-built clay functional work.
The work at this show was varied as to type and quality, not surprising. I saw some things I wonder why anyone would put the effort into making them – my favorite being the wine bottle, emptied, and with a hole drilled in it, with holiday lights stuffed inside of it and the plug coming out the hole. There were several people selling this item, even more surprising to me. (And I saw people buying them, so that shows you, I don’t know everything.)
But I’d rather emphasize what I saw that I liked.
– Some really nice felted bags. The vendor was also wearing a beautiful knitted scarf she had made, and mentioned a pattern on Ravelry.
– Some extremely well-designed and beautifully constructed fabric purses and bags, several different styles. The creator of these items told me that she had retired and she simply loved to sew, and she was thrilled that she could spend her time now doing what she liked so much. She said she’d like to keep doing this the rest of her life.
– Beautiful turned wooden bowls.
– A very colorful display of crocheted items, including belts and bags.
I bought a couple of gifts – I won’t say what since it doesn’t seem right to tell the world before the recipient knows!
Now I’m ready for another show, but I’ll have to wait another month or so.