The show ended at 5:00 and by 7:00 we were packed up and waiting for a big dolly so we could load everything in one go and take it all down on the freight elevator. After I moved my van to the loading dock and got back upstairs, we had to wait... and wait... and wait.
An hour later I finally figured forget it. No way with my back the way it was could I manipulate a heavy dolly around anyway, so I moved my van back underneath the hotel, got my own small dolly and we started loading up and hiking stuff down to my van.
Our biggest thrill was getting stuck in a broken elevator for 20 minutes.
Finally at 9:00 we were almost ready to go. Last load.
Off to the Elephant & Castle for reeeally good French onion soup made with beer instead of wine. Except... they'd only just closed the kitchen due to how quiet it was that night. Nooooo... I told the waiter how much we'd been looking forward to their soup. He asked if that was all we wanted, that maybe he could convince the cook to do those up for us (I assume they just needed nuking). Came back a minute later to seat us, we got our soup and were able to sit in relative peace and quiet for a good hour playing with beads.
Then it was time to frap la rue. A clear night and quiet and fast drive home, but since it was below freezing, I had to unload the van. Took me another half an hour. I could barely move on Monday and was so sore for a couple more days.
Some of the goodies that I got from the Gem Expo:
Purple Chalcedony from Brazil, which I'd never heard of before. So pretty.
Carved Jade bead, either a koi fish or a dragon... Depends which side of the bead you're looking at, I guess.
Still haven't sorted or priced all the beads I got, but off the top of my head, I got matte pink quartz, lots of black tourmaline and other beads in three sizes, 6mm, 8mm and 10mm; raw citrine, some 10mm carved white flowers, some carved Indian jasper flowers, matte labradorite rounds which are quite amazing, no blue flash but pretty watercoloury greys; and many, many other neat colours.
Final Thoughts in No Particular Order:
I primarily do bead shows, but I also do a weekly farmers market, I share an antique mall booth, buy and sell collectibles and estate jewellery and occasionally sell beads out of my house. I also have a real job.
Here are a few more notes and tips for people contemplating their first show:
1. Wear layers and comfortable shoes. Outdoors, the weather will always do something you don't expect, and indoor venues become hotter and stuffier than you can imagine with all the people and the lights blazing at all the booths.
2. Outdoors under a tent, TRY to get a site where your tent opening is facing east. You do not want the afternoon sun hitting your booth. You will cook and metal jewellery in particular will get really hot. If there's nothing you can do about the direction you face, bring some gauzy curtains that you can hang and lower easily to follow the sun and attach to the tent flap with bull dog clips. I used a white cotton shower curtain one year which was perfect because it already had holes along the top and I used S-hooks to hang it up from the tent frame.
3. Bring lots of water with you. Have lemon or lime in little squirt bottles to put into the water; makes it very refreshing.
4. Bring food that is easy and clean to eat and handle and doesn't stink; wet wipes are a really good idea. Guaranteed, someone will come up to your table just as you've taken a bite of something.
5. Bring extra light bulbs, power cords and power bars.
6. Be aware that there is a rhythm to a show. I primarily do two or three-day bead shows, and the first day it's usually mostly jewellery-makers who show up to buy beads, and the people who sell finished jewellery do very little business. It's the reverse on Sunday.
7. I sell zero at craft shows, so I stopped doing them years ago.
8. Always, always, always push to get an answer out of "artisan craft show" promoters as to whether they're allowing party people in as vendors. Since when is Tupperware an "artisan craft"? I've had show organisers bald-face lie about party people to my face when I've asked who will be there and I know other people have, too. It's a different crowd that comes to those shows and they are NOT artisanal hand-crafted jewellery buyers.
9. Demand to know how many jewellery vendors will be in a craft show versus other crafts. I've done craft shows in the distant past where a full half to two-thirds of all the vendors were selling jewellery (see #7). People will look at the first four or five jewellery vendors' tables inside the main door, and after that they will walk on by, no matter how good, inexpensive or wonderful your stuff is.
10. Make time to get around to at least a few of the other vendors in the show near you, introduce yourself, see what they sell, let them know what you're selling. If you're in this for the long haul, these people will become your friends. You'll bail each other out when someone needs another extension cord, or a light bulb blows, or take part in a coffee run. If I don't have something, I can send a customer to someone who does, and vice versa.
11a. Always say hi to the customer, give them a few seconds to look, then ask if they're looking for anything in particular. If they have a little bit of that deer-in-the-headlights look (fearing a hard sell) explain to them them that if you don't have something, maybe you know someone at the show who does and you can save them some time. That usually gets them chatting about what it is they do and what they're after.
11b. Someone who's carrying a lot of things, ask if they want to take their coat off or put their stuff down for a minute, and if you're having a great conversation and there aren't other people there, ask if they'd like to sit down. Offer them a bottle of water.
12. Never ever ever get caught up in gossip.
13a. Be positive even when you and everyone else are facing financial disaster and there are no customers at all. It happens: could be atrociously bad weather, could be other events going on. There's no predicting it (just like there's no rhyme or reason for a crazy successful show). That kind of negative atmosphere can be felt like a physical punch in the face when people come through the door. Been there, done that.
13b. For the times when there's a lull, bring something to do so your hands are busy (and the show isn't a total write-off). Don't sit there with your face buried in your idiotPhone or a book. Show people who do stop at your booth what you're working on. Most of them have never seen anything actually in the process of being made and they'll be fascinated. I've sold half-finished things many times (or sparked someone to ask if I could make something else for them), so it's definitely not a dumb thing to do.
14. Buy the sturdiest dolly you can afford with bigger rubber tires, but also make sure you can lift it by yourself in and out of your vehicle. Don't get a cheap spindly one with tiny wheels. It'll shake itself apart and the wheels will collapse on cobblestones or brick lanes or humping over door sills, not to mention they're impossible to manoeuvre across gravel roads or lawns.
15. Always bring your tools and put together a little kit of jump rings, clasps and maybe some extender chain. It's amazing how many jewellery-makers don't bring their tools to shows. There are always adjustments that need to be made that could literally help you make a sale.
16. Oh, yeah. My first two bead shows? I sold zero. Not. One. Single. Bead. ZERO. I still have shows and markets where I don't even make my table, let alone the hotel or gas. It happens.
Interesting to see the Show from the vendor perspective. Based on your advice I'm going to attend the Gem and Mineral Show in Toronto in late April. Looking forward to seeing you at the next Gem Expo.
Thanks, Laura. The biggest downside of doing shows is I don't get to talk to many of the other vendors or do my own buying, only if I can find someone to stay at my booth. I love having a booth, but also going to the shows as a customer. If you have the time and wheels, there's the Brantford Rock and Mineral show this weekend (April 2nd & 3rd) at the Paris Fairgrounds -- many of the same bead vendors will be there, as well. There's a circuit and many of them do the mineral shows. I don't because there's a years-long waiting list to get in as a vendor.
See you again soon!
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