A recent conversation with local footwear designer Julie Pederson has shed some light on the world of larger handmade artisan shows. Julie focuses her attention on retail shows for her one of kind mukluk inspired footwear. Check her work out here. Julie does not sell wholesale and has spent years developing her client base by setting up booths across the country and meeting her clients face to face.
In 2008, Julie took her first big jump into the larger pond by participating in the ‘One of a Kind’ show in Toronto. This was a turning point for her. I asked Julie what she would say if the woman she is now met the woman she was back in 2008, as she was preparing for her first big show. The first thing she said was, “Be very organized!” She also suggested to consider these things while preparing for your first big show.
1) Research who attends the shows that you are considering doing.
2) Check with other vendors about how much stock is needed for such a show.
3) Determine in advance what you are willing to do for your client in regards to special orders.
4) Do all the number crunching and determine accurately what all the costs are before deciding if it is worth it.
5) Plan to have an email list ready for people to sign up, and invite customers to contact you later to join the email list if they wish.
6) Good lighting is soooo important; consider this well when planning your booth.
7) If you haven’t done the smaller local shows first, working them is an important step in determining what people are going to buy before doing the bigger shows.
8) Always be nice to your neighbours at shows!
Julie also shared with me her success with ‘Pop Up’ shops, particularly working with already established stores. The idea in this case is for the artist to arrange to bring in their stock for a short time, possibly only one day and be present to sell the work. Arrangements are made in advance to determine the commission the store will take which would be less than a consignment arrangement since the artist is working to sell the work. Both parties promote the event and both parties benefit from sharing each others’ client base. Works well for everyone involved!
Some of the more popular retail mega shows to potentially sell your work at are listed below:
One of a Kind
Art Market (Calgary)
Kelly Ruth is an MCC member and fibre artist who is, to quote her, “causing mischief by daring to carve out a lifestyle that is most authentic to who she is.” Find her last post on wholesaling here.