Monday, July 26, 2010

Lesson in Marketing -- Less is More

When I first started doing craft shows I tended to display as much jewelry as possible. My theory was that I didn't know what the customers were looking for so the more I had out the better the chance they would find something. Over the last couple of years, my daughter, who comes to all these shows with me, has been trying to convince me to display less. So this weekend we tried a little experiment.

Our jewelry made from recycled found objects, i.e. steampunk, pretty much sells itself. It is so unique and artsy that it appeals to everyone. Even men who won't ever wear it stop and smile and comment on it. So on Saturday we sold lots of steampunk but only 3 pieces of traditional jewelry.

Our customers were primarily well dressed women between 30 & 65. My display of traditional jewelry was minimalist, in my opinion, but Bethany felt we needed more "white space." Her display on Sunday was even cleaner and her thinking was that we would sell more of the traditional jewelry if we made the pieces seem more special. And we did.

We sold equally as many traditional pieces of jewelry as we did steampunk. So I guess I'll have to get over my fear of empty space on the display tables.

Lenox in Retrospect

We spent the weekend at a great little craft show in Lenox, MA. In its 23rd year, the Church on the Hill Fine Arts and Crafts Fair is a higher end show with some of the same vendors you would see at the Old Deerfield shows. There were only 75 booths on a large lawn beside the church but it is right in the center of a town full of tourists. It was our first time there but many of the vendors nearby had been doing this show for several years.

As usual we had great neighbors.
Gail Markiewicz had the booth across from us and we had the pleasure of viewing her ceramic masterpieces all day. She was visited by several repeat customers who collect her work. I ended up buying one of her teapots. I just had to have one.

Cheryl Kumiski Glass Studio was in the row behind us. She was very informative about how this year's show compared to past years. We survived the oppressive humidity and hour long torrential downpour of Saturday together chatting about other shows, critiquing other vendors, and discussing the handmade arts movement and the economy.

Our customers were visiting from Lebanon (the country, not the one in NH), Texas, and Alaska. And folks who live in Lenox and attend this show yearly told us that this year's show had an even better selection of artists than previous years.

Nice to know as I made the cut.

AWM members should go to my craft show review page for more detailed information on this show.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Our Customers

We're heading West this weekend, to Lenox, MA. for the yearly "Church on the Hill Fine Arts & Crafts Fair" and hoping for some sunshine for a change. My tent just dried out from the last show.

We found some typewriter keys for our steampunk line.
And we'll have our usual collection of gemstone & precious metal jewelry.

It's been a 3 year journey so far, trying to turn this hobby into a business and finding our customers has always been Goal #1.

So far we found that we are most successful at shows that--
1. focus on arts and crafts (not wine tasting or music).

2. are higher end shows. These are harder to get into because there is so much competition in the jewelry category.

3. are juried (and usually cost over $100 for a booth space.)

This year all our shows except one fit those criteria.

We found the sale of our steampunk jewelry has surprised us by really taking off. There aren't many local artisans making this particular style of jewelry so we have little or no competition. Our prices are reasonable. And this unique jewelry seems to appeal to all ages and economic levels. The woman who purchases the $125 gemstone necklace also buys a steampunk piece because "it's so different!"

Check out our list of shows in the right column for one closest to you. And maybe we'll see you in Lenox on July 24 & 25.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"After running hundreds of shows for 36 years, we have seen it all in every situation, we know what we are doing."

Well that's questionable. Fellow arts & crafts show exhibitors — Apply to Cape Cod Craft Shows produced by L & R Productions at your own risk!

I was supposed to be at a craft show in Falmouth, MA, on Wednesday. While I normally review craft shows on a separate page, I think it’s important to put this out where other crafters can easily find it. My message here is not about the show itself, which I have never attended, but about L&R Productions, the people who produce this and other shows on Cape Cod. I wish I had been able to find some information on the internet about L & R and their shows before I applied. For the booth fees they pay, vendors should at least expect clear communication and answers to their emails.

L & R Productions is Linda and Richard Rogers. You can apply online to be accepted as an exhibitor in their shows by sending in pictures of your work & booth display. Once accepted you choose which of their 10 shows you’d like to attend and either pay in full or put down a deposit. I received a receipt for my payment for the one show I applied to and it read “status: pending approval”. An additional note read, "Your order will be reviewed in the next couple of days and you will get another email with the shows what (sic) we accepted.” This was at the end of February.

On March 25th I received an email from Karen Cifelli with the subject line “Cape Cod Craft Shows By East Coast Craft Shows" telling me, “We would love to have you in our shows this summer.” After some communication I found out that she no longer worked for Linda Rogers, had started her own business, and that I probably shouldn’t expect any communication from Linda Rogers. (Bad sign)

In April, when I didn’t hear anything more (and being a bit disturbed by the “status pending”), I sent a few emails using the “contact us” button on the L&R website. I received no response to any of them or to emails sent to another address I found, and phone messages I left were not answered. I found a couple of artisans who had included the Falmouth show in their 2010 schedule so I emailed them to find out what kind of notification they got. One was kind enough to reply "We DID receive notification a few weeks ago via snail mail. Call them at their store..." A little googling helped me to find Linda Rogers’ business phone (she has a gift shop that’s up for sale on Rt. 6). (Another bad sign)

On the positive side—this Falmouth mid-week show has been around for over 30 years. It’s advertised on the town’s website and a few other Cape Cod event sites. It boasts having an attendance of 50,000 people. And, according to the website, I should “get information in the mail about two weeks prior to the show with your space and your car passes as well as instructions”. OK!

Four days before the show I still had nothing. I made another call to Linda’s store and Heather told me that Linda told her to tell anyone who called that the packets are going out late (I should get it Monday or Tuesday) and she’s sending emails to everyone. (No email received, no packet arrived. Not a big surprise). Now I’m wondering if she even has my name on her list of exhibitors.

The forecast called for rain and thunder showers on Wednesday so I followed the weather channel on Monday & Tuesday. L & R’s website reads, “The rain date is the following day, only if we have not set up yet and only if it is pouring or the threat of rain is ver (sic) strong before we set up. This decision is made the day of the festival. NO REFUNDS DUE TO RAIN.”

The show begins at 10:00 and in order to be there by 8:00 I have to leave the house at 5 am. So I called the store once again (on Tues) and was given a phone number that would have a message as to whether the show was postponed or not. On Tuesday the message was that packets DID NOT go out and they could be picked up at (place garbled). (I’m starting to fume now). Later Tuesday night the message was re-taped and clearer (Hamlin St.) but still no decision about postponing would be made until 6am. (Not good if you have to leave at 5)

The weather forecast at 5am on Wednesday morning predicted thunder showers starting around 11 and rain all afternoon. A large green, yellow, & red blotch was moving slowly from NYC toward Providence and the Cape. Despite the car being packed & ready, I just couldn't get up the energy to drive 3 hours each way to do another show in the rain (or find out it's been postponed once I got there).

I called the hotline number after 6 am redialing off and on for a couple of hours just in case the show had been postponed. I got nothing but a busy signal until around 8 am. When I finally got through, there was no message at all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Crafts on the Common

We're heading to the common in Amherst, MA, this weekend for the annual Crafts on the Common show sponsored by the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Hampshire County. I've never had a booth there but have attended a few times. It's a nice show with quality yet affordable crafts, a silent auction, and music.

The Sustainability Festival in April in the same location told us that Amherst is a great venue for our steampunk jewelry. So we've been working hard to replenish our stock after almost selling out in West Hartford last month.

We hope to have a few new things from our youngest designer who lives in Virginia as well. Hope to see you all there on July 10, rain or shine.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"If they want to keep it like something from Macy's back in the day, then put it in a museum,"

A little while back I wrote about my daughter's and my trip to NYC and shopping in Macy's. I talked about our ride on the escalator and how the original escalator still being used on some of the lesser traveled floors.

Well, there's a reason why those "well-made product(s) of another century" are being replaced with new ones. I just read today about a little boy who severed his finger in that same antique escalator.

His mother is right. Some things should be relegated to a museum.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Riding the Deerfield River

Father's Day was almost 2 weeks ago but we just received the picture of Dad and company on their annual adventure. This year they took a white water rafting trip on the Deerfield River with the people from Crabapple. They had a great time but next year want to try some bigger rapids.