"I respectfully ask that customers do not try to purchase my work when I am in between shows. Chances are I don't have any inventory, therefore I don't have what you're looking for anyways. Also, I am trying to adhere to a demanding production schedule, and don't have time to stop and pay proper attention to customers, either in person or via packing/shipping.
Here's what I am happy to do in between shows ... if you want to purchase a specific pot, you may request that I reserve it for you at my next show. Then I'll meet you there! Art festivals are really fun, I promise you will not regret making those plans. Festivals are fun for me too, I really enjoy meeting and talking to pottery fans, when I have enough time to do it properly."
This practice is becoming more and more common among my regular customers. When I designed a new shelving unit for my display last year, I included a shelf for the "reserved" pots. These days, that shelf is often full or even overflowing. In the photo below, everything on that bottom shelf is spoken for, and there are other reserved pots that didn't fit there. This makes things much easier for both the customer and for me. Customers don't have to waste time visiting a show only to find the items they want are sold out. I like knowing how to fulfill the wishes of my best customers. And sometimes this means I am having a profitable show even before a show begins.
If you are a customer interested in doing this, you only need to know what you want. In other words, you have bought my work before, or you have seen it enough times to know exactly what you want. A little bit of back and forth with me to help you make a decision is not a problem. But if your starting point is "I don't know what I want" or "do you have a pot like ....?" then it's probably not going to work. In those cases, come see my work in person first, then you can start planning your collection.
A very common sequence is for a new customer to buy one or two pots to begin with. Then a few more over the next year or so. Then "I'm ready for a whole dinner set now. Can I reserve it for this particular show?"
For other potters who wish to incorporate this type of selling into their business, here's what it takes: a consistent line of work that you are willing to make for years and years. Remember that a whole set of dinnerware is a lifelong commitment. Give your customers time to make that decision. Be ready for them when they do. And keep this in mind ... when you have a customer who understands your work enough to make a specific request, and also understands the making process enough to know it can't always be made available on short notice, and therefore is willing to wait for your next show, that is an amazing customer! Make sure they get what they want.