Wow... I hardly know where to begin.
The past 6 days have been an absolute roller coaster of emotions.
Rather than give you a play by play of each day of the show, and try to put a positive spin on things, I feel compelled to be completely honest... I just have to say it... after months of preparing, the show just plain sucked. There you have it. I don't want to look back on this as a totally negative experience and I know I can't just leave it at "it sucked", you need to know where that is coming from. The idea of this show in my hopes and dreams over the past several years verses what I actually experienced have left me feeling completely drained and utterly disappointed.
You might want to pour yourself a drink and grab a snack... this one is a doozie.
To start, let's get the money thing out of the way. I don't want to focus too much on sales, but I want to be realistic about the results of the show. Anyone that has met me in person knows I will pretty much share anything. I don't sugar coat much. So, let's just get this over with. I invested nearly $6000 to be in this show. That doesn't include the cost of the materials to create the jewelry, only booth fee, display costs, travel expenses, and show what nots. I had sales totalling just under $4000. That means I paid triple what I would to participate in a local (Rochester) two day show and made less than what I usually do. Yes, my sales were a big disappointment. The rational part of me knows that it wasn't my work, my work ROCKS! and I know thatyou hundreds and hundreds of amazing people that follow my blog are chomping at the bit to have new work posted. (Thank you for your emails telling me so!!) So, I am hopeful to make up the loss, but... this experience was supposed to be about so much more than just the sales.
What is the most disappointing for me was to discover over the four days that the show was absolutely NOT what was sold to me in the prospectus or through reviews online. It was not a Fine Art Show, it was a street show indoors without the fried dough. Period, end of story. Okay, I take that back... that isn't the end of the story, obviously. For me this was going to be about finally standing side by side with the best of the best. I thought my work, both in jewelry form and in the form of everything I have worked so hard to do to get to this place, was going to be recognized. And it wasn't. I felt like a single cow in a herd of cattle. No different from the rest. Sure, my coat might have been shinier and my fur pattern pretty, so to speak, but I was still just one of many and felt completely overlooked.
I took this paragraph from the OOAK Show website on the page for exhibiting at the show. This is an idea of what I thought I was in for...
"The One of a Kind Show is an extraordinary holiday shopping event featuring fine art and craft from a juried selection of North America’s most talented artists. The 4-day show provides an outstanding opportunity for exhibiting artists to sell to thousands of highly qualified and enthusiastic shoppers in an ideal location and premium environment."
First of all, I was shocked to learn that many of the artists exhibiting at the show are NOT juried in. Wait, let me correct that, they were juried in once, possibly 10 years ago, and since then have been able to place a deposit on the last day of the show and return the following year without being re-juried. There was a meeting on Friday morning where artists were informed this would be changing and everyone would be juried for 2012. The uproar was so great that show organizers retracted that decision... except for jewelers. The jewelry category will now be juried annually. No wonder I was wait listed for 3 years, with everyone buying their spot for the next year, it is impossible to get in. I was given an "intent to return" form which would have given me preferential treatment should my slides be approved. As you can probably guess, I did not turn it in to the Artist Services desk.
Without completely disrespecting the crafters showing their wears, I want to say, personally, I do not consider the following "fine art and craft"... silk screened t-shirts, belt buckles made in China with fabric glued on, rocks with a piece of wire stuck in them so the rock looks like a duck, and homemade cookies. And those were the types of things just in my aisle. So much of what was at this show was NOT handmade (even the homemade cookies). And as my friend Lindsey put it so well in a comforting text message to me... I'm sure both the woman selling $5000 gold jewelry and the man selling $30 silk screened t-shirts were frustrated that the other was there. To top it off, my booth was directly across from a show sponsor. The sponsor was a corporation selling "French skincare products and beauty beverages". The women, dressed in black from bead to toe, were so aggressively selling their mango juice at the special show price of $29 for 4 bottles that people were literally using my booth as a quick pass through to get around and away from the crowd waiting for samples. Frankly, it was insulting.
As for those thousands of "highly qualified and enthusiastic shoppers", I have a few thoughts on that as well. First, the size of the show is so massive with over 600 vendors that the people attending were like deer caught in headlights. It was just too much to take in. People stop in a booth only to wonder what the next booth holds and the next and the next and the next... and then can't remember where they saw what. The ones that did stop and browse my work were incredibly kind and full of wonderfully uplifting compliments. They really made it easy to maintain a smile and continue to repeat, for hour after hour, that "I hand make each and every bead you see and each design is unique." Sadly, I heard more often than not that the person was shopping for this person or that person and they weren't sure if she liked colorful things. I'm not like the saleswoman at the booth opposite me, I won't try to convince someone to buy something they don't love. Maybe my salesmanship is lacking, but I just can't represent myself in that way. The mix of people attending was as broad as those exhibiting. I saw older women wearing full length fur coats and I saw over weight women wearing acid washed jeans with cropped tops that had no front teeth. I am not in anyway knocking any of the people I saw... just putting out there they range of people attending.
To say this weekend was an eye opening learning experience feels like a vast understatement. I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't try to find the bright side to all this, though. So here is what I am going to hold close to my heart when I look back on this experience...
* I got to spend the first two days of the show with an awesome, awesome person. Bev! I can't thank you enough for your support and I hope you know just how much having you with me meant to me. I am a better person for knowing you.
* I never would have pushed myself the way I did, creatively, if it weren't for this show. I created more than 250 pieces of jewelry I am proud of in just 6 weeks. That is really saying something.
* I had been feeling for a long time that I was torn between two worlds... teaching and showing. I know now just which path I should focus on. I have never had a teaching experience I didn't love... I have had show experiences I never want to have again... why didn't I realize this sooner?!
* Oh how my friends love me. I was sent text messages and emails of encouragement and support that will stay in my inbox as visible reminders of just how lucky I am. I love and thank each of you... you know who you are.
* I spent Friday to Monday with my sister. We haven't slept in the same room since we were kids. I loved having her with me. I know it was a physically demanding weekend for her, and being there was difficult in more ways than one. Bonnie, there isn't another person in the world I would have rather spent that time with. Thank you, and I love you.
On that tear producing note, I plan to spend the next couple of days continuing to process everything and recover. I feel a little raw right now... I know it won't last... I'll be fine with some rest. This is the most wonderful time of the year and I plan to make the most of it with my family. I came home to a house covered in handmade snowflakes! There is a little girl here revelling in the magic of the season and I am going to feed off that. There is so much Momma-making to be done before the 24th!! I can't wait to get started. And as I make lots of love infused goodies for the family, I'll be updating my website with all the jewelry goodness I have to brighten your holidays too. Each and every piece is filled with love, people. And hey... all you need is love... right?