January 31, 2013

The First Show

It's 2013, which means its been 7 years since I registered Freshie & Zero as a business and started dragging my then boyfriend (now husband) to craft shows to sell my jewelry. I would like to share a little story about how it all began...

I remember my first craft show well. I was so excited! My glorious tent was so shiny & new. I had practiced setting up my clean, non-scratched display tables in my apartment, and I had crafted many unique display pieces out of dowels and plastic sushi grass. I was ready to sell my jewelry to the craft show hordes that would surely amass in my tent. I was a full blown rookie. 

Everything was so clean!!
I should have realized being set up right next to port-a-potties was a very bad sign.

The first day we were supposed to be open at 10 am but a storm in the area prevented us from setting up on time. It was the first of many irritating set up experiences, but I was unfazed. We were still set up by noon - the show wasn't over until 10 pm that night anyway, so I still had 10 glorious hours to sell my jewelry, plus all day on Saturday (literally - 10am to 10pm again - these are show hours I avoid like the plague these days).  I was READY.

On day one I sold a single pair of earrings.

I started to think I had made a very bad business decision. I don't remember what I sold on day 2, but it didn't get much better - maybe ten things? I realized that maybe selling my jewelry was not going to be the walk in the park I thought it would be!

I still laugh about that show. It was really more of a beer festival than a crafts festival - they should not have allowed crafters to participate but hey, they wanted to make money off our booth fees. Oh the memories - the constant complaining from the other crafters, the drunk festival-goers stumbling in and out of the port-a-potties (that whole 10 pm thing). If I had any real craft show experience, I would have seen the warning signs on the application (for example, listing our area as "arts & crafts" and allowing a first come, first served admission process). But I didn't know any better - I was such a freshman.

Today, I feel much more like an upper-classman, flush with years of real-world experience, and luckily I have come SUCH a long way from that day next to the port-a-potties! If I had let that awful show determine the course of my career, things could have turned out very differently for me.

The reason I am relaying all of this to you is because sometimes I still find myself at a show where the tumbleweeds are blowing and sales are not cha-chinging. It's annoying, but not the end of the world. Unfortunately, for some people, it is the end of the world. I have met crafters who change the entire course of their career based upon one miserable show. I think this is a grave way of thinking. We all have to start somewhere. We all have to pay our dues and learn the hard way.

We all have to be freshmen sometimes.  

Luckily, I had many things going for me at the time.  I had a supportive boyfriend who laughed that show off with me (and many more dreadful shows I attended that first year). I had supportive parents who believed in me. And I had gut feeling that I was doing the right thing; that making jewelry could realistically be my future. My success definitely didn't happen overnight. I did everything by myself for the first several years. Slowly, I made baby steps towards my current situation like hiring a photographer, an assistant, and moving my studio out of the house.  It's been seven years, people. It's been a long road, but a good one.

Are you feeling like a freshman? Or do you feel like you've earned your spot in the senior house?


Keelin Brett Jewelry said...

I love this entry! Thank you for writing it! I think every artist can say they have been there too.
I was very lucky that my first show went quite well, BUT then I had a full year with a bunch of terrible shows. I thought that doing as many shows possible was best, but that's not the case at all! It's now been three "official" years for me and my business and I finally can say I feel not like a freshman, but maybe a sophomore going on junior!
Best of luck to you! I love your work!

gina said...

That's definitely how I felt last week at POOL! Thanks for all your kind words of advice. It was so nice meeting you....I am sure we will meet again at future shows. Let me know if you plan to exhibit at POOL in August!