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Why I Don’t Do Shows…

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My booth at the Harvest Festival

This is a story about why I don’t do shows. It’s a true story.

I love making pots…I mean, really love. So much so that when I started making pots I overwhelmed my family and friends, which left me no other option than to see if others would like them.

I had the good fortune to marry a guy with a large barn and outbuildings. Kings Creek Pottery was born so I could justify making as many pots as I wanted!

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The Kings Creek Pottery Shop

My shop is an old milk house (about the size of a two seater outhouse) on our property and perfect for my needs.

When I started out I needed to get the word out that pottery was available for purchase and that meant doing shows.

Starting with small, inexpensive local craft shows, I was able to get my “name” out there in my community. But how to cast a wider net? The big shows are wildly expensive and 1) I did not have the money and 2) did not have the inventory so, easy decision to cross them off my list.

Booth display at ARTwalk

Booth display at ARTwalk – Cobleskill

Then there are the mid-range shows. I looked in a 60 mile radius, basically. These shows cost in the $100 – $200 range. After trying a few of those I quickly lost my enthusiasm… having a booth next to a kettle corn booth was one of the worst experiences, but mostly it’s the standing around hoping for a sale that wears me out. My mind keeps wandering to: I could be in my studio working right now. 

There have been shows where the booth next to me, selling little tchotchkes, was kicking ass while my booth, with awesome stoneware pottery was crickets. And there was the show that had a great venue but was so poorly marketed, no one showed up! I literally packed up and left  – I know, but seriously??

What I really want is for people to come to my shop in Gallupville.

Sooooo I started with an Open Studio event at my house. The first couple of years I did it solo – it worked out great, but what kicked it up a notch was inviting my artisan friends to join me on the lawn. Now it’s an annual event and we have a great time.

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Holiday Artisan Market – A view from my booth

When the coordinator of the other local show in town resigned, she asked if I’d like to take over. Now I run the Holiday Artisan Market as well – a once a year event in November (coming up on the 14th this year, just sayin’).

Still, about every three years I get a show invitation that tempts me. This year it was a Harvest Festival and the offer to be a part of a group of Etsy sellers. I thought it would HAVE to be good if it’s run by Etsy. And it was.

The pre-event emails were excellent, clear, & easy to understand. Directions were perfect. I got a great spot on the corner of the street, promising lots of traffic and the Etsy people were friendly and helpful. Seriously, it could not be better run.

BUT……

It was a two day show. As I packed to go I thought, Why did I agree to do this? I could be working in my studio this weekend…

The first day tons of people stopped by -ohhs and ahhs at my pottery…lots of love shown….except people just weren’t buying pots (at least not mine).

It was a long, disappointing day due in no fault to etsy people. The truth is I shouldn’t have signed up to do the show at all.

Heading home, I thought: I should have just packed up and ditched…but that’s such poor sportsmanship. So Sunday morning I got out of bed determined to have a better day. I worked on my attitude the entire 30 minute drive there.

When I arrived I could see that my tent was gone….weird. My display looked “off”…weird.

The etsy coordinator rushed over to explain that my tent was caught by the wind overnight. It blew into the telephone wires, and was pulled down by the town. The tent was destroyed in the process of pulling it down….as was a lot of pottery…and my bags, wrapping paper, business cards, etc.

A not-so-good photo of my tent in the trees

A not so good photo of my tent in the trees

She offered that I could just clean up and sell what was left…but in my mind: NO! All I wanted to do was pack up and get the heck out of there.

I stood in shock. She was so nice and all I wanted to do was scream! Then the tears tried to come out (back, back, I say!!)… Artisans trickled over to offer condolences and some bought pottery – one gal even bought a damaged pot! They were so nice, but a part of me didn’t want anyone to be nice.

Weird, right?

I wanted to be mad….I wanted to punch someone. Then weird things started to happen, I was offered hugs and kindness by the other artisans. Hard as it was (because I wanted to punch people), I took it in.

I did not stay for the day, instead packed up and cried the whole drive home. Chris was amazing and helped me unscramble the mess. I was able to dry out most of the bags and paper, the display, and took inventory.

Was it a sign from the universe? I’m saying a resounding YES!! Hahaha! I am done carting my hefty pottery to do shows and doubling down on selling from my shop in Gallupville, my shop on Etsy, and the two shows I coordinate (the Open Studio and the Holiday Artisan Market).

And if you ever hear me saying “oh, that show might be fun”… just remind me that I don’t have a tent!!

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5 comments… add one
  • Lori Watts October 4, 2015, 10:52 am

    Man, that sucks. I had shelves collapse once, due to saturated ground, due to the two days of relentless downpour…wasn’t that a fun show! I cried, too, while packing up and some jackass took a photo and put it in the local weekly paper.
    All my (cardboard) boxes fell apart packing up early due to torrential rain and tornado warnings in Nebraska. Didn’t lose any ware that time but getting stuff home was…interesting.
    I watched during a show in Iowa (a good show for me, BTW) while high winds threw a bunch of EZ-ups into the Des Moines River.
    Good times.
    This comes as I am sorting of mulling going back to doing shows (in my case I’d need to buy a tent AND a truck.) So it gives me an additional thing to think about: show disasters don’t happen often, but they DO happen.
    Sorry for your rotten experience. I hope your studio shows are spectacular, to make up for it. The universe owes you one.

    • Kathy@kingscreekpottery.com October 4, 2015, 11:50 am

      Thanks for checking in Lori. I admire people who do the show circuit – it’s not for sissys. Long days, the set up – take down, lugging our shit all over the place, and having to talk to so many people hoping they will buy!! I joke that in my next life I’ll be a jeweler, but they have their struggles too…just not so much weight to carry 😉 Maine has a lot of nice shows. We recently stopped by the Common Ground Country Fair which was amazing – but those people are there for THREE, long days…it would kill me!! I keep thinking there has to be a better way. Then again, I am not trying to support my family on pottery – it’s a side hustle for me, so a lot less stress on that front. Let me know what you decide…

  • Karen -ClayLickCreekPottery October 5, 2015, 12:26 am

    Timely posting! I just finished an open studio show in my front yard. Used postcard mailings and social media to advertise and am so glad I didn’t pay the fee for a show in St Louis for three days more people and way harder. I made a little less, but every car load except of 3 bought work from me. People who came wanted to purchase and I didn’t have to talk/sell to masses of people who are not interested. I’ll still do shows, but I am selective and my goal is to do more and more online. Cheers!

    • Kathy@kingscreekpottery.com October 5, 2015, 1:24 am

      Hey there Karen ~ Keep with it and I guarantee your show will grow each year. I also find direct mailing to be my best outreach. Like you found, the people who show up are true supporters and WANT to be with you! Congratulations. One thing I do (for what it’s worth) is sell my seconds “Pots With Personality” at my Open Studio. It’s the only time I sell them and customers love to come early to get the best picks. Thanks for checking in!

      • Karen October 5, 2015, 1:29 am

        Yep, did that too… the table o’ deals! The only time I really can do that is at the house!

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