Constance Mettler

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Three weeks ago, while I was in Louisville, Ky, for the St James Court Art Fair, in the week preceding the show, my van was robbed and 3/4 of my beaded jewelry was stolen. I didn't realize it had happened because I wasn't using the van for driving around (I was there also to visit my son and granddaughter who live in that city) and didn't even notice it until I started out that fateful Thursday morning to go set up for the show.

Well, you can believe that I was devastated, in shock, thinking that somehow I had just misplaced everything and that it was somewhere else in the van than I remembered. I didn't actually start to cry until I got to the show, and after having torn open every box, told the show organizers that I had to withdraw from the show and blubbered out what had happened. The loss represented over 2000 hours of work and about a $30,000 loss.

I spent the rest of that day talking to the police, composing a flyer to hand out (like a lost cat), and going to local pawn shops with the few pieces that I had left to show them my work and ask for cooperation. Eventually, one nice lady at a pawn shop told me to not bother with pawn shops anymore as my work was beaded and beautiful, but they only bought precious metal and gemstone jewelry. My husband, back in Los Angeles, had contacted the local paper and written a press release for them. They then posted that on their blog and that connection became vital to the proceedings.

The next day, starting day of the show, I was armed with 200 flyers and went to the show, handing them out to every jewelry vendor at that show, thinking that they would be the most likely candidates to be approached if someone was trying to sell my work en masse. It's a huge show, 750 vendors, and I was happy to have an excuse to go and see ALL the booths. Just a side note: it is a real mix of the good, the bad and the also-rans. It was a fine day and I had a mission.

Talking to the other vendors was great therapy; they were wonderfully receptive and sympathetic and helped to ease my shocked nerves. Mid-day, I got a call from the local news channel asking for an interview which would air on the evening news. They had read the blog site for the paper! I drove to the TV station and did the interview; it went pretty well. Next day, I canvassed my son's neighborhood, a cute shopping/eating section of Louisville called The Highlands, posting and handing out my flyers to likely store owners and inside cafes. Many of those to whom I spoke knew about what happened from the newspaper and the TV news! I was amazed. I got a wonderful flow of support from them all and everyone promised to watch for my work if it surfaced.

Connie Mettler posted my sad story on this site and I got many emails from fellow artists with warm wishes, prayers for a good outcome and offers of help. The Louisville show organizer wrote to me to tell me she was refunding my booth rent amount in full with an open invitation to participate next year, should I decide to come back. CERF+ contacted me offering assistance in the form of a grant or loan to get me back to battery. The police even called me a few days later to see how I was doing and find out if I had any leads for them, which I didn't.

So, even though the situation was bad, I was bombarded with good thoughts, warm wishes and positive energy as well as actually help and advice.

Then something incredible happened.

This morning the Louisville police called me to say that they had recently been given a tip that someone had been seen entering/living in a vacant house near to where my son Cassidy lives. They went there to check it out and caught the fellow who had been squatting there, hiding up in the attic. A look-about showed them piles of stolen goods that this fellow had stashed, including my jewelry! It was all there, plus much more!

The officer looking over the confiscated goods saw that my jewelry was unusual in nature and so took one container-ful over to a little shop in the Highlands area, Edenside Gallery, 1422 Bardstown Road, Louisville, to get an opinion from the owner, Nancy, as she was known to this officer to be an expert on hand-made crafts and unusual jewelry.

She recognized my work instantly because she was one to whom I had spoken and handed out my flyer when I was canvassing that neighborhood after the theft. Nancy pulled out my flyer, showed the officer and together, they called me with the good news. It was only a few hours later, after some paperwork with me to finish up the business,
that all the jewelry was released to Cassidy and he is shipping it home to me tomorrow!
What a success story!

Oh, happy day!

Kathleen Caid

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Comment by Connie Mettler on November 14, 2014 at 8:39pm

Your case was all packed with your work (jewelry?) in it. You left to get your motorhome and when you returned it was gone? Please keep us up to date on this Carol. What kind of insurance did you have? Will you get at least wholesale value for your pieces?

Comment by Carol Larsen on November 14, 2014 at 10:05am

I forgot to add....there was one more thing we did that we had never done before, my business partner had taken panaromic pictures of the booth 1 hour before breakdown. I have proof of all the pieces in the original line versus the remaining line. Just when you think you have learned it all, what a fluke. There was no disputing right down to the last piece what was taken. I can match everything against the sales slips and remainder stock because of the photos. Insurance company wasn't too was a huge loss...I am not represented over 100 hours of my work

Comment by Carol Larsen on November 14, 2014 at 10:02am

I wish to thank you for writing about this experience. I just had one "case" of goods stolen during breakdown inside a building where more than 1/2 of the other exhibitors had already packed up and left. Unfortunately because of the style of cases I use...the stolen one blended in to much on the security cameras (one wasn't aimed at my location unfortunately) and so after the police report, searching online for posting of it, etc...I am filing the final report with my insurance.

However, I want you to know...I thought about your article and all the things you went through to get your work back. My loss was discovered the following weekend 300 miles away at another show during set-up. I will prosecute if my work is found...but since it was a unique line I had the base custom made for me, the likelihood of someone being stupid enough to list it online to sell is minuscule.

I will continue to ask at shows and events what is the security like before during and after from now on...and make sure the organizers and others don't just pack up and leave when the show closes....which I believe was part of the problem. They had just left a few minutes before this happened. I had left for 15 minutes to go get my motorhome and back it up to the building and within those 15 minutes is when it had to have happened.

So here is my recommendation and what I will be doing differently. ALL the cases and packing materials will have shocking pink duct tape on all sides with the name of the business blazoned across them. I stupidly left the cases unmarked. Please, learn from my mistake. People are becoming more bold each day...and it saddens me.

Comment by Nadia Korths on November 1, 2014 at 4:26pm
Wow! What an encouraging of what determination can do.
Comment by Connie Mettler on October 24, 2014 at 4:14pm
Check out this news story shown last night in Louisville:
Comment by Melanie Rolfes on October 23, 2014 at 5:17pm
Great news and impressed how pro active you were in getting back your work. Congrats and be proud of your hard work
Comment by Christina L. Towell on October 23, 2014 at 8:54am

So thrilled that this story had a happy ending...congratulations and thanks for sharing it all with us.

Comment by Annette Piper on October 22, 2014 at 7:48pm

What an amazing story of support and luck (and some hard slogging too!)  I'm so thrilled for you!

Comment by Cindy Welch on October 22, 2014 at 6:18pm

I am so happy you had a postive outcome.  Doing the happy dance down here in Louisiana!  <vbg>

Comment by Robin Miller on October 22, 2014 at 4:47pm

Kathleen, your story brought tears to my eyes. I'm so happy that you  had the outcome that you did! Your work is exquisite, by the way.


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