What kind of show you choose to do really does dictate what kind of tent you buy. If you're going to start out with church shows or smaller local shows that aren't juried, then you'll be safe with a single folding 6' table from Staples, a table drape that goes to the floor on all sides, and for outdoors, an EZUp tent.
Many long-time crafters SWEAR by the EZ-Up tent. As the name implies, it's, well, easy to put up. I've looked on jealously as one person pops the thing up like an umbrella while my husband and I are still clicking pole legs and maneuvering our roof onto the top of our tent. But a word of warning from one who's seen many a disaster.
- If you're going to use an EZUp, use tent weights on the legs or anchor them in some way.
- If it calls for rain, talk to veteran EZUp users to find a way to pop up the roof so rain doesn't collect and drag down your tent.
|wind disaster -- all that was left|
|wind AND rain disaster|
MANY people have used an EZUp for many years. However, if you're going to be doing a lot of shows in beach areas or in places where wind and rain is the norm, you may want to consider a sturdier tent, like a Light Dome or Finale (I have a Light Dome). Not only do their roofs have a barrel shape, allowing water to slide off easily, but their frame (with the top bars removed) can easily be transformed to the 10x10 pipe-and-drape of a juried indoor show. Bonus!
So just what is the difference between juried and non-juried shows?
A non-juried show is usually a show held at a school, church, or other civic location, and anything goes. You might be set up beside a Mary Kay representative or a fine art person, and the promoter probably doesn't care WHAT they bring into the show as long as the slots are filled. Unfortunately, jewelry is the easiest thing to fill that slot, so you're bound to have a lot of competition, and in non-juried shows, there will likely be a lot of what's known as Buy/Sell. Buy/Sell is when someone buys a ton of jewelry from a wholesaler like Alibaba.com or a similar company for pennies and then sells it dirt cheap as if they made it themselves. Bad bad no.
|"Did you make that yourself?" "Umm, aahhh, suuuuuure I did."|
That sort of thing is not allowed in juried shows. Sure, it can sneak in, but crafters are quick to spot it, quick to point it out to promoters, and depending upon how the promoter wants to handle it, they'll either make the offender leave right then or never invite them back.
I jumped in with both feet into juried shows and never looked back. A juried show involves having a 10x10 tent and/or booth appropriately decorated and three to four pieces of your jewelry professionally photographed to send in to an application "jury". I liken it to applying for college every single year. Most juried shows put out their applications for the following year right about now. Again, jewelry is the toughest category to get into, so your three to four pieces should
- be your best work.
- be cohesive.
- be unique.
- be PROFESSIONALY PHOTOGRAPHED.
I can't stress enough the importance of professional photographs. Taking shots yourself just won't cut it. Jurors expect a specific look, and anything less will unfortunately get pitched unless you happen to be that 1% that can knock them off their chair no matter if you sent them a cell phone snap. You're then picked from among your peers and alerted to your acceptance to the show -- or not.
one of my jury slides, photographed by Allen Bryan
Decorating your booth will take time. I tweak mine almost every time I set up. Below is a transformation of my booth from my very first show in 2003 to present. I like to take a photo at every show to see where I've been and where it's going. 2003 was a grim year -- I think you'll agree, I've learned a lot!
|2003, my very first show -- just tables, a couple of table lamps, and virtually no decoration.|
|By 2004, I'd decorated a little, started taking credit cards, but still wasn't pleased with how I displayed bracelets and earrings.|
|2005 -- Can you say DRAB?|
|2006 -- I started hitting Marshalls for props and painted some bowls and baskets to match my logo. I also added fake flowers where there were empty spots.|
|2007 -- I felt I was finally getting there with my outdoor booth.|
|And now -- I have the multi-level boutique look I wanted. Lots of folding ironwork to hold things, shutters for earring display, and color.|
And of course now that I've changed my logo and branding, I get to change it all again!
The downside to juried shows -- the cost. It's frightening to pay between $250/$700 for a show. I regularly pay $200-250 for a two-day outdoor show and around $700 for a three-day indoor show. HOWEVER, I've done my homework, and I only do shows that have a reputable name, a huge following, and proven track record. I also knew the price point of my jewelry would help me recover the cost of the show -- do the math before committing to an expensive show and make sure what you're charging will make the show work for you.
I also do a show for two years before I decide if it's a bad show. And I market, market, market all year round to those customers.
|My emailed Black Friday ad.|
It was a risk when I first started to jump in and start swimming in unknown waters, but I had faith in my work, and even with an iffy booth -- I did just fine. And honestly? It's the continued marketing to my customers, offering the 10% discount, offering free cleaning and fixing, keeping a smile on my face, that has made ALL the difference.
Please don't think you can't do it. You can! Whether you start with a church or school show or do what I did, you can have the most remarkable sales. You just have to remember it isn't always about you personally.
Take a step back and evaluate. Is there a tweak to your booth you could make? Are your prices easily seen? Do you welcome people into your booth (but not talk TOO much at first?)? A "Hi! Let me know if I can help in any way!" is a good way to start.
But don't give up on the first, or even the second try. Talk with others, mentors who can help you evaluate the situation. Take photos of your booth and the jewelry as you laid it out. Taking stock of things is critical and so much more powerful than thinking you suck and your jewelry stinks!
I hope this post was a good one. I could write for days about this and again, I'm just an email away if you need me. My goal and hope is to encourage as many of you as I can to have a prosperous, fulfilling 2011!
Lori Anderson creates jewelry and bead kits as well as collaborative mixed media art with her son, Zack. Visit her shops by clicking here. She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party® and author of the book Bead Soup.
Join her at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!