holiday (6)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of doing the Royal Oak Farmers Market Holiday Show. It was a winner for a first time event and it has the potential to be one of the better shows in the Metro Detroit area. This show is put on by the Guild. This is the same group that has its own Ann Arbor Show, the two Birmingham shows and a few others within a hundred miles of Ann Arbor.

First a little history. This show was started a couple of years ago as the Ann Arbor Holiday Show. It was held at the Eastern Michigan university arena where Eastern plays its basketball being part of the MAC. It was a strange place for a show because of the location. The arena is built into the ground so as a customer, you enter at ground level and walk down to the floor. This was not so good if you were old or had a hard time walking. If you ever attend a sporting event you know what I mean. And, yet, it was a good show for most of us. I was looking forward to doing it again last year until I looked at the dates and saw that it was the week before Christmas. The reason for this was that EMU had home basketball games the weekends leading up to Christmas and The Guild couldn't get the arena and earlier. So, I skipped it last year.

This year, they decided to move it to Royal Oak at the Farmers Market building the week before Thanksgiving. My first thoughts were "not another show in Royal Oak, bleech." Then I went to the web site and looked at who was already in the show and I was impressed with the quality of the artists who were doing it. Plus, if I did the show, I could have Thanksgiving and spend time with my brothers. So, I did the show. I had very low expectation because I don't really have holiday items. I thought that maybe I could pay for my trip and have some fun. Surprise, surprise, I did twice what I expected to do. I got to hang out with my brothers and their families, went to a Red Wings game, watched Michigan lose to Ohio State (lol), took a side trip to Ann Arbor to see some friends, dropped off some pieces to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association gallery that I sell out of year round, and had a generally great time.

The Guild tried some things with this show that was somewhat new and different. The show was held on a Thursday and Friday, probably because it was in use on Saturday and Sunday with farmers coming in to sell their produce and the other stuff that gets sold at farmers markets. While it wouldn't be my choice days to have a show, I think it worked out. Another thing they did was run the show from 12-9 PM both days. The reason they gave for extending the hours until 9 was that they wanted to take advantage of all the people that come to downtown Royal Oak to eat and hang out at the bars at night. Those people didn't come to the show and the few that did were not buyers. I had no sales after 6 both days and the people who did come, were there just to be entertained. I'm not a fan, anymore, of entertaining people with my artwork. If I have any influence, it would be to change the times to 10 AM- 6 PM.

The one thing the Guild did above all else that made this show work is that they sent some targeted email to specific zip codes from their database of loyal customers. They sent a listing of all the artists at the event with a thumbnail of their work. Since the show had a number of top quality artists, that email was impressive. I know that worked because I had customers who told me they came because they knew I was there. Two of them bought multiple pieces to give as presents. It wasn't crowded, but, that didn't matter. The people who did attend were knowledgeable sophisticated buyers. It was my kind of crowd. There were not many walking zombies except maybe in the evening. Many shows like to tell you how big their crowds are and most of them are there just to look or to see the music and all the other distractions. If you eliminate all those people, most shows would look like this one. I heard that many of those people who attended called the city to tell them what I nice show it was and how impressed they were with the art and the artists.

This show has earned a good reputation and should be better attended in the future. Hopefully, the Guild will keep the quality of the art high. I liked that there were only 85 booths. I hope that stays the same. Also, the art was the focal point of the event. I've pointed this out many times, that the best shows only have artwork and very little, if any, sideshows like a music stage. There were a few food vendors and they were high quality too, including Slows Barbecue.

Setup and take down were are easy as it gets. Setup was on Wednesday or Thursday before noon. There were plenty of people on hand to help unload and load back into your vans. Nicole and Allan did a great job of helping artists with any problems that might have occurred. Their crew was impressively friendly and helpful.

In conclusion, this show could be a gem for years to come as it gains a reputation. It is imperative that the quality remains high and the number of artists stay low. There may be a temptation to make it bigger, charge more for booths, and add things that take away from the artwork. There may be a temptation to add more food booths, too, which would be ok if the quality of the food stays high. If the Guild could get the building for Saturday and Sunday, that would help. I'm assuming that the booth fees would have been higher for a weekend event because the building rental would be higher. That would have to be taken into consideration. Thursday and Friday were ok. And, I would change the times to open earlier and close earlier, especially at the end of the show. By being open Friday night from 6-9, there were assuming that some of the best sales would have taken place at the end of a show, which, almost never happens.

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St Pete holiday art show by Paragon

I just did this first year show this past weekend, it's in the same place that I think mainsail is (i might be wrong on that) its on bayfront drive and ne 2nd street in that little park just south of Vinoy.  it's a friday set up and load in is EASY. - yay!

Saturday had just PERFECT weather and people seemed super enthusiastic, I mostly sold small to medium things, but I sold a lot of them. It was the best show I've had in a while and I dont even think i was on the busiest side of the show.  A buddy of mine who is also a painter however was across the park in what I would have assumed to be one of the best spots and he did not do so well on saturday, (I havent spoken to him about sunday, could have been a game changer, who knows).

One of my neighbors was a local large scale sort of impressionistic painter of palm trees and stuff and she straight up killed it.  I dont know how much she did but she had to have done close to 10K or more. Most of her business she said was return customers though, because she's lived here for 17 years.  My other neighbor was a sculptor of stone and he did well also. 

I spoke to a few who did not do great, 2 were because for some reason (uncharacteristic of Paragon) there was a freakin time share tent so buyers just scurried away from that tent and as a result the artist neighbors of these obnoxious people suffered severely.  Sunday wasnt as great as Saturday, largely because the weather, it didnt rain until the afternoon, but there was an impending storm that was obvious all day. 

I totally recommend this show, and as with all Paragon shows, its really nice that Bill is walking around seeing how everyone is doing, I have never complained about anything, so I'm not sure if he solves any problems that you have, but he certainly seems to care. 

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The Fall Craft Season Local Wrap-Up

As some of you know, I have a fine art painting habit which takes me to up to 20 events per year. As we all know, art shows are rediculously expensive when you note the entry fees, entry preparation costs, travel expenses, booth fees, sales tax collection and income tax filing requirements.. Since I sell nothing but originals, getting to the point of my work being self supporting has not yet arrived despite my years of doing summ outdoor events..So when my nearly full-time part-time day job evaporated when it became inconvenient for my former employer to allow me to have the time to do summer art shows on the weekends, I had to come up with some sort of an income stream to replace the money I was making at Home Depot (they treat and pay their average employee like a roman galley slave and most of their products come from the people's from the other guys)....So I started to make and sell scented soy jar candles. I make an all-soy candle with no dyes or other additives and I put it in a very plain package. They have been well-received. I do several events with the candles where my wife works the candle booth and I work the art booth. The promoters for these events are very accommodating and will often place us side by side. These events are usually in the early spring and early fall. Then I do a crazy 12-15 weekend season where my wife and I are doing 1-3 events per weekend. This runs until the 2nd or at best 3rd weekend in December. Then it's sleepy time/art show applications until spring.The fall craft show season is a whole bunch of one day events for the most part which have table fees of less than $100. Many are churches, synogogues, and high schools. Average attendance is under 5000 people But, I think I had a great fall season thanks to all my repeat customers, phone orders and wholesale orders...if any of you are out there reading this, Thank You! I am sure that I made more in 15 weekends than I did doing art shows all summer.. Especially if you look at net profits after expenses... No overnight travel, lower mileages, lower cost of goods....Along the way, I noted some things:1) the local craft show scene is awash in wearables. I see a some of the 'jewelers' that I see on the summer show circuit plus the next crop of summer show 'jewelers' at these events. I also see a lot of folks trying their hands at women's wearables. The jeweler all complain that there are too many jewelers at the events. I ask them, well, what are you going to make to sell which will get you out of the over-supplied category. They all expect the other folks to get out off the business for them so they will be one of the few survivors. Makes sense to me....2) Buy/sell is officially prohibited at most events, but the events are awash in it. I did an event in Delaware which has a lot of documentation requirements to participate, including submission of raw material receipts, workshop images, paperwork, restrictive contract..... So I get there and someone has bought a 10 space suite of booths and is vending a total obvious buy/sell paradise. Then I look around and see multiple 3-4 booth 'suites' which are more of the same...The promoter is surprised when I complain and later asks how to spot it..... It's a good event for me and it's her first year doing this event as chair, so we do a little touristing and chat. Hopefully, she brings the hammer with her next fall and does a 'Carrie Nation' on these folks before ejecting them. There was no stomach for it this year.3) times must be getting harder for the promoters. More and more of them are allowing 'consultants' and 'vendors' into their events to fill the available spots. There are no end of these folks...cosmetics, candles, jewelry, fashion, and food.... the number of franchisees and consultants is increasing...again, the focus is on the female customers who make up the bulk of the attendees who buy anything. One promoter simply announced that it was too hard/too much trouble to screen out buy/sell, so they were no longer trying..As long as I am making a profit, I will keep doing these events, but there will soon either be a reckoning in the wearables division, or one group will fade, with another eager group to take their place (more likely). The promoters would be hard pressed to fill their events with original craft if all the jewelers and wearables makers dropped out..
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Craft shows do not work for me...

So, I added a few craft shows in November thinking Holiday sales would help. Well, I was mistaken. I participated in a craft fair this weekend and only had $235 in sales for a two day show. I think my photography (even though it is Lego minifigures) is still too high end for craft shows.

I am an original artist. I have no buy sell items in my booth. This show had a lot of exhibitors who were selling buy sell items. Maybe my prices were too high for a craft fair. But I had little traffic in my booth. People were buying, just not my art. It was a very frustrating weekend. But a learning experience nonetheless...

So, next year I vow not to participate in craft shows. They do not work for me. I earn much much more at art fairs. Is the clientele different for those who attend art fairs and those who attend craft shows? And why are there not a lot of holiday art fairs? I would like to finish out my year with a few nice shows in November and December here in the midwest (Michigan and Ohio primarily). I think my work does do well in the Holiday Season. My Etsy shop always sees a spike this time of year. I would like Holiday art fairs to finish out my year...

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