Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stealing Second...

"Progress always involves risks.
You can't steal second base
and keep your foot on first."
Frederick B. Wilcox

A recent show where I had to be flexible and adapt to a different set-up on the fly.

I really enjoy working with glass. I love creating with it, experimenting with new glass and new techniques. Its just fun!

Soon after I started working with it several years ago, I realized that unless I wanted a garage full of my creations, I would need to find ways to sell it. And so, I began to explore the possibilities...friends, galleries, shops, art shows and festivals. It wasn't long before I sent in an application for my first show.

Now, after doing them for a few years, I think I've gotten better at it. I feel more comfortable with the application process. I have worked and reworked my setup, streamlining where possible. I've met lots of great people and networked with amazing artists. I am getting better at knowing how to deal with potential customers - there is a definite balance between engaging them and making them feel pressured to buy and uncomfortable.

But, the thing I'm still haven't figured out, and I'm beginning to realize I may never figure out is which shows to do and which to take a pass on. There is always the risk that a show will be a total failure. I've had more than a few of those. I had one where I didn't make a single sale. I was stuck there for 2 whole days and in the hole a $100 show fee and the piece I donated as a door prize...depressing.

Occasionally, the risk pays off. There was one show that I hesitated to do because it just seemed to have "dog" written all over it... ended up being the very best show I've ever done.

I would have to say that the best shows seem to be the ones that are organized, that stress marketing and advertising. These shows seem to have a buzz about them that make people want to attend. They usually have a cohesive look and great signage. They have volunteers that help you unload, direct you to your setup area, and even booth sit when needed. Some shows have a built-in clientele - think trade shows and conferences. These good shows usually have a little higher show fee and are juried and selective about vendors. They also may require vendors to have white tents, table clothes, etc. to create an certain look.

The worst shows are unorganized, have little advertising, obscure locations and terrible signage and buzz. In my experience, shows that aren't juried, aren't primarily about art (family festivals with rides and jumpy houses, health fairs, etc) are the ones to think about avoiding.

Of course, none of this is set in stone, I have been pleasantly surprised in the past. Sometimes, it's good to trust your intuition and take a risk. Because, no risk, no progress.

I've also found it helpful to anticipate what you can and learn to be flexible and adaptive. No show ever goes exactly like you expect - there are just too many variables...rain, wind, sun, a bad spot full of tree roots, water draining through your booth, neighbors that block/take part of your space, no customers, no sales, too many customers at once, no bathroom breaks, no parking near your spot, no place to unload, rude people who say loudly that they or their child have seen/made better and cheaper, and this list could go on and on.

So, I will keep trying new things. I will keep being positive, keep learning and growing, improve where possible, and to keep leaning toward second base.



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