One of my goals is to show my jewelry at juried shows.
I can find these shows thanks to Lori Anderson who recommended Sunshine Artists magazine. This magazine includes lists of upcoming shows and reviews of recent shows. Reviews include attendance figures, fees to exhibitors, reviews of promoters’ services and advertising, and anecdotal evidence of how much money the exhibitors made.
As a result of this subscription I found the Craftsman Classic shows which consistently rank in the top 100 shows in the country. Yesterday I attended the Craftsman Classic in Columbia SC.
My first impression was good: plenty of cars in the parking lot, ample staff to get me through the front door, and patrons not only carrying bags but pushing wheeled carts in anticipation of buying.
By my count there were 253 exhibitors of which 41 were jewelry artists. The majority of those jewelry artists worked with metal- silversmiths and goldsmiths, wire wrappers, and two who specialized in coin jewelry. There were a few artists with strands of beads, one specialized in pearls, another was a lampwork artist who had completed pieces. Many of the jewelry artists had pendants: dichroic glass, silver bells (these were really nice thimble sized bells), and themed pendants. There were two artists who took a naturalist approach- one had fun and feminine dried lacquered flowers with gold or silver highlights and another had jewelry based on butterflies. There was a lot of variety in the jewelry artists and the promoters should be credited for this achievement.
I spoke with most of the jewelry artists. They all had nothing but praise for the promoters. One artist has done this show for 15 years and has a lot of repeat customers. When I ventured to ask artists told me they did well financially at the Craftsman Classic. I was unable to speak with some of the artists because their booths were filled with customers.
I have no doubt that my work is up to the standards I saw at this show. Since my passion is seed beads I also have no doubt that I could stand out from the other artists.
What I lack to exhibit in juried shows is a booth. I need curtains to frame my booth, lights, tables with adjustable heights, and countless other small items. I need to think more about my overall presentation.
Most of the jewelry artists at the show had their tables pushed to the aisle and stood enclosed behind them. Many of these same artists had their jewelry in glass cases. Plenty of my pieces would be at home in a glass case. Yet, I saw those glass cases as a barrier to interacting with the customer.
My current booth set up is eclectic: busts of various colors and materials, an earring rack made of wrought iron framed by patinaed wood, bracelets tacked in a black frame propped on an easel, variations in height achieved by props that differ from each other in material and color. I like the direction my booth is going, yet it belies some of the high end pieces I display. I have heard the advice many times: do not undercut your finest pieces by also selling inexpensive pieces. I think the same advice is applicable to presentation. If your presentation is not high end your jewelry will be perceived as having lesser value.
I am still processing all that I saw yesterday. I have to decide what I want to achieve, and what is the next step on this journey. Mostly, I have to think about my display. (Oh, and how to take better photos, how to process them, accepting credit cards, etc… the business of selling art is very different from creating art.)