On the Show Circuit in Colorado
On the Show Circuit in Colorado
Those of you who are veterans of the show circuit will recognize everything that I put down here on the page. I’m sure you’ve had the same exhilarating times, depressing times, disaster times and those times when you wished either for more shows or to be done with them.
This was my first 3-day arts and crafts fair show out of my home town with a clothing line and a cohesive stock of “product”. I can honestly say that it wasn’t fun; that it took hard preparation both before and during the show sparked with sharp emotional jolts I couldn’t have prepared for.
Getting ready for the show is another blog. Right now I need to spill out everything to do with the 3 days while it is fresh. Carbondale, CO, spitting distance from Aspen, provides the worker bees for the ski slopes as well as the labor for road and housing construction up and down Interstate 70. It is a mixture of the very young, the very well-heeled mixed with a healthy Hispanic population. Those who can’t afford Aspen live in Carbondale in turn pushing the less economically endowed down the mountain towards more affordable housing. This is the home of the Mountain Fair, a juried art vendor show of some 30+ years.
Setup was easy and quick since I had practiced my booth before going up. I think it looked beautiful until I got up to the park and started to put up the tent. I truly hadn’t realized that tents had dress codes and mine didn’t pass. It was the only beige tent in the park of blossoming white.
I walked around in the morning on Friday before the official noon opening to see who all was there. There was lots of beautiful and extraordinary jewelry and leather work ranging from basic to fine craftsmanship. As far as garment booths – there wasn’t near the range I expected. There was a tie-dye booth, some nice batik shirts with a few crafty but not high end clothing booths. Color Creek was definitely on the upper end of the pricing and product spectrum.
All three days the temperatures were in the high 90’s – an unusual event for a mountain town at high altitude. Certainly temperatures played a part in my landing in the medical tent the first evening. That plus not eating and coming off the stresses of preparation. No sales that day although I was well aware that on a 3-day show many come to look the first day.
Saturday was better. I had eaten a large breakfast and I was prepared for the long day. Better yet, friends from Grand Junction were filtering through and brought me a cooler of ice, water and watermelon. I had thought to bring two-yard lengths of dyed fabric to have as some lower end prices for anyone who wanted a sarong, something decorative for the home or whatever reason. 4 college-bound girls bought those to take with them for room decoration. I wasn’t ready for the New York couple who arrived in the afternoon.
They came in, she tried on a couple of the reversible swing vests and promptly said it was too much and would I negotiate? I told them tomorrow on the last day but not thinking that today. They both praised the work and said they were in for a wedding and leaving Sunday morning. I told them to walk around and come back later. Back in the booth again – he asked if I would take $175 ($90 off the asking price). It struck me nearly dumb that anyone would ask for such a reduction. They said “we’re in the business too – we get that it’s your artwork. We make sweaters for the retail market. Then went on to ask why I was at this show and to tell me I didn’t belong, that the artwork was too good”.
I was still stuck at the $175 but did respond with $200. “Can we meet in the middle she asked”. Middle, which middle? I thought. Anyway we ended up agreeing on a price and she left with a beautiful new vest and I was left wondering what it all meant. Finally came to the realization that if it were a gallery, they would have taken 40 -50% anyway and I was ahead of that a bit. Also came to the realization that I care more that the garments go home with someone than I do about the money.
The last big lesson is how grateful I can be to have a couple come at the very end of the show and make me unpack the silks enough to finally purchase a swing vest and reversible jacket. Now there was a couple I was happy to negotiate with – because they didn’t ask; I offered. That sale came to over $700 at a time when all I wanted to do was cut and run. I am so very very grateful.
#1: Just because a fair is next to a wealthy ski town doesn’t mean that it is the right fair.
#2: Outdoor fairs are not necessarily good for business- weather dominates clothing.
#3: Check equipment before going. The wrong color tent doesn’t set off the colors to advantage and worn tents create a whole new level of stress.
#4: Practice self-care by bringing the right food and eating it.
#5: Learn to negotiate and know what amount stays within the value of the art (both high and low).
#6: always be prepared to unpack at the end of the show to accommodate a potential customer.
There were probably more lessons learned over the course of the 3-days but these turned out to be the most important ones. It was a trial run but I did make expenses. I also got feedback on the work. Over and over I heard “beautiful colors, amazing work, why are you here at this show…” That felt good.
So would I do this again? Not this one. I need a more predictable environment for my work. I would say that indoor shows vs outdoor and fall or winter vs summer. Not sure about springtime. I have some clothing that needs to be tried on to purchase. I did provide a changing area but the reality is that when the weather is in the high 90’s no one wants to touch clothing, especially if it needs trying on in a sweltering tent.
To complicate the decisions I may actually need two different types of shows to best showcase the work. The poly work may do better in a wholesale market while the silk work would do well at a high end art event that features other fine art garments. All this means is my education is not complete yet and I doubt it will be anytime soon.