The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was the first show, and the one I was hoping to like the least. It was the furthest drive, and the most expensive given that it requires four nights in a hotel. I loved the show. The logistics were easy, the sales were amazing. Factor in that the veteran artists there said it was a down year. I did notice there were hours when the crowd was very light. But still, my sales were gigantic. Wonder what a "normal" or "good" year would be like? I met Simon Leach there. Yes, that Simon Leach. It wasn't an accident, he and his wife saw my work on the festival's website and came to meet me. Very humbling, and I hope my pots impressed them in person too. As if I needed more reasons, the show invited me back for 2015. No jurying or jury fee for me to return next year, they offer this to the top 50 or so artists according to their onsite jurors. Definitely going back.
Then there was Artscape Baltimore. Holy crap, Artscape. The event was blessed with unusually comfortable weather. There was a full shoulder-to-shoulder crowd for most of the show hours, easily twice as many attendees as usual. Here's the story about Artscape this year: at the beginning of the year, they announced the booth fee was increasing from $500 to $700. Ouch. The announcement was respectful, like "please understand we have been eating costs for many years, we can't afford to do it anymore." It wasn't like "we're greedy and we hate you." (That might sound like a joke, but trust me there are shows where you can sense the organizers are greedy and hate the artists.) There was much hand-wringing and discussion amongst us artists. Some artists decided they simply couldn't afford it. But most of my friends and I decided that, even at $700, it would still result in a meaningful net profit. I noticed there were fewer ceramics exhibitors, I think there were fewer exhibitors overall. This probably helped my bottom line. I scorched my previous best sales mark for that show. I was stunned. All of my friends were in the same boat. And I don't think the huge crowd was just from the good weather. I saw and heard a lot of marketing leading up to the show. I also noticed my tent was clean with properly working walls (not so in previous years). I went into the show with some wariness, looking for signs that my $700 was not well-spent. But it wasn't the case at all. Everything was done right. The results were spectacular. Kudos to them, they chose to make a risky move, and pulled it off successfully. I will definitely keep applying.
So after having big successes at CPFA and Artscape, I was thinking I should stop doing the Pennsylvania Guild Wilmington show. But by the time this show was over, I was thinking "why would I do that?" This show is indoors in a convention hall. Air conditioning. Carpet. The new hotel next door was like staying in a palace. The restaurant in the hotel was incredible. Compared to four long days outdoors at CPFA and three long days outdoors at Artscape, this was literally a vacation. A vacation that yielded a handsome income. It was only two days with reasonable daytime hours, so this show's gross sales were not as high, but in fact the sales per hour were the highest of all three shows. And the effort level was by far the lowest. I really can't imagine passing up on this show either.
There were a few negative aspects of doing this many consecutive shows. I got a large wholesale order from one of my favorite gallery accounts in June, and had to ask for an extra month to complete it, because of the amount of inventory I needed to produce for the shows. This is an amazing account, and I would like to be available on shorter notice for people like that. I also forgot about the deadline to apply for one of my favorite fall shows (Bazaart at the American Visionary Art Museum). It was due on the Saturday I was away at CPFA. I sent in my app a few days late, and learned this week I did not get in. I take full responsibility. Realistically I will be ok without it, but I will miss being there. I will try hard to do it on time next year.
I have already pulled out of a September show, and didn't get into the AVAM show in November, so my fall schedule looks like four shows (one X-Large, one Large, one Medium, and one Small), plus my Open Studio. My production should be lighter for the rest of the year, and I should be available for some wholesale orders. Next year, I can certainly eliminate some spring shows (ahem ... Columbia), in order to create some space in my schedule, then go all out for the three show marathon in July again.
Here is the "after" photo of my inventory shelves. Scroll down to the next blog post to see the "before" picture. I didn't make any pots this week, because I was glazing that large wholesale order. Next week I will start filling these shelves up again.