Because I live in Maine, selling my work from January to June means I have to travel out of state during those months. I often hear at those shows, "Wow, you're from Maine? You came a long way." I then smile and say, "yes, there are no people in Maine right now. I have to go where there are people." Insert laugh track.
Now it's June. I will be 'off the road', pretty much, until the middle of February. By 'off the road', I mean that I still have to travel to shows and may have to stay overnight, but I will be in Maine or New Hampshire. With the exception of a show in July in Connecticut, staying put is a huge relief. Nothing like sleeping in your own bed! For the Connecticut show, I will bring my little camper. Ahh the camper. That is a story for another blog.
|My van and camper leaving home.|
However, planning for the next year's shows has already begun. I just filled out my first 2019 application: the American Craft Council Baltimore (ACC) show. It's in mid February. For me, this show is the Super Bowl of Craft Shows. I've done it for the last 4 or 5 years and continue to be supremely honored every year I am accepted.
|My 5 ft. x 20 ft. booth in Baltimore|
Accepted? Well, yes. There is an extensive application process for larger shows. Not your grandma's church bazaar. Because of technology, now applications are done on line. Back in the 90's when I started doing show the application process was very different. You submitted photos of your work (usually 5) and one of your booth. Photos evolved to slides. Yes, the old fashion cardboard around a negative slide. The jury would have to gather on a designated day and view all of the applicants' work on a flat screen using an overhead projector. Nowadays, work is submitted digitally. This method is a giant improvement, for the jury members, as well as the applicants. The jury can view each artist's work at their leisure from a computer in their home or office.
For the artist, once the application is submitted, the wait begins. The artist waits and wait. I won't hear about my acceptance or rejection to the ACC Baltimore show until late September. The waiting is nerve-racking.
In the meantime, I will fill out the remainder of the show applications for next year's schedule. The next set of applications I will complete is for a series of five spring shows in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. These 5 shows are run by the same company or, as we in the craft community say, the same Promoter. This particular Promoter is Sugarloaf Craft Festivals. I need to fill out that application in the next couple of weeks.
As the months continue I have to keep track of which applications need to be filled out, submitted and paid for....da da da daaaaa. Yes, darn it all. Money must change hands. Shortly after acceptance, the promoter requires payment. We are not talking $50. We are talking hundreds of dollars, and in some cases thousands.
OK, so WHY do I do this?
Selling my work to individuals is very rewarding. It's instant gratification. I love having customers come back year after year, telling me how much they enjoy the bags they bought from me. For a manufacturer to get direct feedback from their customers is nirvana. I listen to my customers and incorporate their suggestions into future bags. Though I use my own bags in my daily life, the customer feedback about their experience is priceless as my bag designs continue to evolve. If I hear a suggestion or comment from customers often enough about a bag's feature, I can change the pattern for that particular bag.
I also like the gypsy life style! I like the traveling. I have an entire group of people that I see only when I am at shows, other artists and their families who have become very important people in my life.
Is it financially viable? For me it is. I have a very marketable product that is attractive, well made with attention to detail, and use lots of repurposed materials. I keep a tight grip on my material and labor costs. I work from home so overhead isn't astronomical as it can be for artists who have to rent studio space.
If you don't go to one of my craft shows, can you still buy my work? Absolutely. I have an Etsy shop. etsy.com/OldBagzz
My website, OldBagzz.com has examples of my work as well as my show schedule. Have you seen one of my bagzz and want one of your own? Just email me. I'll do my best to make it! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bags handmade and designed by Pam LeBlanc using vintage, reclaimed and original fabrics. You can find Pam's work at Oldbagzz.com; Etsy.com/OldBagzz