Saturday, March 10, 2012

What I Did on My Summer Vaction (or, the Summer Business Bucket List, and a bit about craft shows).

I have a secret.

As much as I LOOOOOOVED exhibiting at craft shows for the past five (six?) years, I am finally hitting a wall.

This is not good for someone who makes the majority of their money via craft shows.

I used to do between 15-20 shows a year from Virginia to Connecticut.  Most were outdoors, and that's where the proverbial "tough nut" came into play.

Outdoor shows can be awesomely cool or miserably hellish.  Depending upon the time of year, they can be balmy and gorgeous (April into May) up to heat-stroke-inducing hell-on-the-blacktop productions (June to September).  I remember one show in Pennsylvania where I had my feet in my ice cooler, a wet towel around my neck (OOOOH so lovely) and came thisclose to heat stroke.  Vinyl tent tops hold heat, the show was on blacktop, in August, and it got to 110 degrees under that tent.

The good part of the day was I sold almost all of my things by noon.  The bad part is I had to stay until 5pm, and most people by lunch realized they were frying like eggs and left.

My outdoor show booth, at a beach.


With heat and sun as migraine triggers, and exhaustion from that pace of 15-20 shows, two years ago I cut everything down to 3-4 a year.  The problem is they're in two cities -- and there are only so many bracelets returning customers can wear.

Polymer clay gingko bead by Courtney Breul.

Enter THIS year.

I haven't totally decided yet if I'm going to take next year off from shows or not.  I haven't decided if I'm going to concentrate on finding NEW shows.  But I DO know I can't wait for the end of March, because from then until mid-October, I have NO shows scheduled.

A looong, extended summer vacation.  But I still have to make money, so I've rewritten my business plan.  Here are the business-y things I plan to do during that time:

1) Create a wholesale line.  I'm not wild about making repeats but limited editions, I can do.  I'll probably explore

2) Spend hours in my lampwork studio.  I have a lampwork class lined up at Bead and Button this year.  FINALLY.

My lampwork studio, and some of my early beads.  I LOVE that orange!

3) FINALLY open my Bead Soup store, along with a vintage ephemera and book store.

4).  I want to experiment with resin, soldering, and stamping.   Those things have always interested me, but I've never made the time.

Two of my pieces -- metal smithing and stamping.

4).  I want to WRITE.  I have an article coming out in BeadTrends in May and I'm trying (trying!) to find other venues who'll like my style.  Along with that, I'm going to dig through the memoir how-to books and the story prompts I have collected.

5)  And, I want to learn to juggle.

Yep.  You heard it here first.  It has NOTHING to do with business, unless you consider I'm constantly juggling projects, so why not learn to do it for real? 

Why?  It's freaking cool!  You're NEVER too old to learn things!  And I'll leave you with one of my favorite juggling videos.  And if you don't take five minutes out to watch, you'll really miss out on something amazing (and the song is a sort of anthem for me).

What's on your Bucket List for this year?


Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. What a great post! I think it is good to change directions and shake things up. I want to see you juggle! For me... I want to WRITE MY BOOK! (Okay. First I have to write up the ideas that are rattling in my head and submit them hoping someone might still want to hear what I have to pitch for the past two years!!!)
    Enjoy the day.
    You are AWESOME.

  2. Hi Lori..hope you are feeling I can totally relate once again...I swear we are sister from another life...doing outdoor show is my only for of income...and I agree..hit or miss with the weather...and most of the shows around here are not art and craft but summer festivals...full of mostly teens...last year was a total bust...some shows I didn't even break even...spending an entire weekend sitting around in heat...rain...etc not to mension the countless hours of creating and the stress...I have no idea where to go from here...I have one huge one is a rib fest expecting 250,000 and I am the only jewelry could be amazing. It could be a disaster..idk..but it s the only one I have booked thus far...I think you
    are an amazing could definatly find your niche somewhere along those lines for have many talents and I am sure you will find some way to replace the shows...hugs xox

  3. I'm not sure what is on my list for the year (I'm not that organized), but I am with you on the subject of shows. All the applications are coming in now, and I just don't know if I have the energy anymore. I'm no spring chicken, and it really takes it out of me. Oh well, maybe it is time for me to retire from the show circuit.

  4. You for it! It's hard to cut back on something you really love to do, but sometimes necessary to make room for other adventures.
    Those outdoor shows can be brutal. I've been through 100+ degree weather and gale force wind and rain.

  5. Anonymous2:41 PM

    Wow I'm the first to comment on this one. That's like never happened. I immediately read your post because it's about the way I'm feeling about shows this year too. I'm going into my third year of shows and I kinda feel the same way.

    I have some similar goals this year. I've already kind of created a wholesale line, but I'm not ready for I do know people that have had much success with the site though. I also want to see my products in more stores. I currently have it in one store, but I'd like to see it in more. And also increase my fan base through blogging and my website. I have neglected blogging, but I'm discovering so many good blogs and how to increase and get your name out there.

    Opening a store sounds like a great venture! I hope you are able to do it!

  6. Sounds like you will have a busy schedule ahead of you. You are right - you are never to old to learn.:) Wish you luck what ever you decide to do.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  7. Awesome, I had latin my sophomore year in high school and one of the requirements of the teacher was to learn how to juggle, it was such great way to learn and have fun. And I learned how to juggle!

  8. If you're burnt out on shows, and they can actually have an impact on your health, I say you're perfectly justified in taking time off.

    And besides, the list of other things you want to do? Awesome. Including the juggling. I do hula hooping with adult-sized hoops that I make, so I'm all about stuff like that. :)

  9. What a great list you have! I'm thrilled that you want to open a store--how cool! I'm looking forward to what lies ahead for you!

    Like you, I've been forced to quit the outdoor shows because the wind never stops blowing here, and the weather is just too unpredicitable. And the gallery isn't working either, with this horrible economy. Right now I'm at a loss as what direction to go. Making it even worse, everybody and their neighbor is selling jewelry, either mass made or handmade. I'm just a small fish in a big pond. If things don't get better I'll have to give up my business. But first I need to try some new ideas, like your earring lunch show etc. I'm in the process of designing a postcard to send to businesses.

  10. Anonymous4:07 PM

    Awesome post & Video Lori:
    I love your evolving energies.

    Performing music shows sounds similar; putting out lots of energy on a constant schedule, but many are just so-so...
    One idea I'm doing more of- cutting back to the ones that are the most fun, in best of weather, &/or rewarding other ways.
    It helps keep it all fun, to be picky. ;)

  11. Show wise, if you're worried about your customer base getting bored, just swap locations each year; Do one year of this city, then do the other city the following year. That said, I hope you achieve your goals for this year :)While having your own store to keep stocked and open would be stressful at times, I seriously doubt it would be even close to what you're dealing with now. Plus with your store, you can work on new pieces or your writing while you mind the shop; you'll just have to set aside time to create your own beads in your studio so you can get them on your shelves ;)And consider offering classes !

  12. Wow - love your bucket list for this year. I would love to see you juggle!!! You go woman - you are AWESOME!
    I would love to be able to cut back on our shows but that is where mom and I make our money to buy supplies. We are trying a new show this year in Nappanee, IN (Amish Country) and I hope it is a good show because we have to stay in a hotel for two nights (OUCH!).
    I have submitted two of our enameled necklaces to two different magazines this year and I have my fingers cross that they are selected. I would love to try the torch fired enameling more. I haven't touched it since 2010 and it looks like so much fun!!!

  13. I'm about to do my first indoor show next weekend, I'm nervous and excited and very happy I don't have to worry about the wind or the heat (we're in the middle of our 8th heat wave this summer).
    The only thing on my bucket list so far is to use social media a lot more. How I wish I was a lot more tech savvy than I am.
    I'm so glad you are feeling better too and that you will one day get rid of those migraines forever.

  14. Wow! If anyone can do all those, it is you Lori! Now, when everything IS accomplished, will you please juggle for us and video it:)?

  15. Wow! If anyone can do all those, it is you Lori! Now, when everything IS accomplished, will you please juggle for us and video it:)?

  16. You said you wanted to juggle before. It just takes practice. I can juggle 3 balls but never got past that.

    If you are thinking wholesale visit She does both wholesale and retail and has written more than a few good business quotes. (Not to mention that it is a great blog that makes me laugh.)

  17. This is a great post Lori! DH and I used to average 27-30 shows a year. It was a killer.

    I think I need a bucket list too!

    I'd really like to try a few magazine articles - or DIY articles. I'm on the not so spring chicken list too.

  18. Having done several shows in 100+ AZ desert heat and then also sitting on the other side and actually Juroring the Juried shows (such at the Tempe Arts Festival) and getting to decide who's in and who's out, I'd have to say that there's something to be said about those who can endure the types of conditions an outdoor show throws at you while still maintaining a high level of sales - way to go Lori - that's an awesome accomplishment all on it's own!

    And, congrats on opening your store. That's so wonderful!!

    As for my bucket list,...that's still in the writing! ;-)

  19. Fatboy Slim, gotta love'em.

    This sounds like a great plan Lori and I know you can juggle this and learn to juggle.
    The bracelet is a stunner

  20. That's a great bucket list! You wouldn't be signed up for Jari Sheese's class at Bead and Button, would you?


  21. I can't imagine so many shows...I made the mistake of one every weekend last Sept. and I was completely worn out!

    Are you participating in the Gilmore show in Chantilly at the end of March? We're headed out today to the one here in Richmond to check it out for maybe next year. I've never participated in one and have no clue what to expect with one of the "bigger" shows!!

  22. Geez... quotes in my last comment should have been posts. I have to concentrate more on what I am doing.

  23. That guy is AWESOME! And the music is great too! If you find yourself in CT I'd be happy to teach you how to juggle :) My brother taught me many, many moons ago and it's seems to be like riding a bicycle - I can pick up 3 balls and get going fairly quickly. I suggest you pick up one of those Klutz books w/ the bean bags, they're the best weight and they don't go bouncing away when you drop them.

    Good luck with your list. Enjoy ~~T

  24. I'm looking forward to summer immensely this year. I was so messed around by my job last year, that I barely got to see summer, (and in England our summers are brief these days), but I changed my job at the beginning of the year, so when College is done for summer I have three months of just making jewellery ahead of me. I might even open an Etsy shop, Oh the joy, I can hardly wait

  25. Love the juggling plan!

    Reminds me of my mom. She'd always wanted to be a clown. At 70, I signed her up for clown classes. For the past five years, she's been so excited to do her "gigs." They give her so much joy!

    Who knows, maybe this will be the year I learn how to fence. I've always wanted to. Since my big 5-0 is in just a few months, why not?

  26. This is a great to do list -- juggling has especially blown my mind and I would love to be able to say someone I know can juggle, even if it's only through blogging =] If you do decide to look for new shows, I would love if you came up to Chicago! =]

  27. sounds like a great list, I dont like shows at all, so On line and on etsy is my favorite place for now to sell, although we have one christmas show a year at the studio...
    love to see your lampworking grow...classes are great, if you are ever in California, you have a free one day with me, anytime I am here and I can do it...
    as for juggling...well that sounds like fun too...
    on my bucket list this year, another teaching trip to Turkey, losing some weight, more out door activities and yes more time at the torch...

  28. thank you for a great post! now i know, I need a plan too!!! after 15-20 shows a year you DO deserve a vacation! some time for your new projects but also time for youself. I only do 5-6 shows a year and I can not imagine how hard should I work to get enought jewelry to sell on 20 shows!!! you ROCK! and I love the picture of your lamwork studio, wish mine looked the same....

  29. Amazing video! I love it. Never heard that song before, and I'm desperately trying to work out where it was filmed - I'm off to google it now. Fab post, very inspiring and lots of food for thought.

  30. Love your post! Juggling sounds cool and I definitely agree with shaking things up a little and trying new things. I want to learn to play the trumpet and have a bigger shed/studio/shed....xx


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