Next week I am off to my first show which is the British craft trade show in Harrogate UK, it’s a unique show as everyone is a hand maker, other trade shows may be more designer led with the work being mass produced and not by the artist.
The basic way trade shows function are that you show your work, galleries visit and place orders then you go back and make the orders, it’s a bit like a retail show in reverse. There are of course some galleries that want to take your work on sale or return.
The thing I have always found strange is that any other industry would buy goods, sell them for a profit and maybe buy more whilst with galleries a lot will only take your work on sale or return which although it allows them to take a chance on an artist there is no risk if there judgement is poor. In the meantime the artist has taken all the risk in producing the work.
Next year I will have been potting for 35 years (eeek), in that time I have made thousands of pots, most of which have been sold directly to the public in one way or another. The ways of selling have changed over the years and now there are more ceramic and art shows but the competition to get into them is fierce and as much as I would like to think that entry is solely on how good your work is it seems to me that it’s a lot to do with if your name is known. I am probably among a handful of potters who sold their wares at Pottery parties ( bit like tupperware) for about the first 15 years, it was a very good way of selling with low overheads but in the wider world it did nothing to increase my reputation apart from hundreds of satisfied customers.
I do take part in the odd exhibition and next year I hope to mark the 35 years of making with a couple of exhibitions but when you look at my cv the list of gallery exhibitions I have taken part in is very low and I can see prospective galleries saying David Who?
You have got to put bread on the table but be more diverse in the way you sell, spend some time each week promoting yourself even if you are busy and if you only sell directly and it’s successful make yourself take part in the odd gallery exhibition even if it’s only once a year.
If you read this before midnight 31/3/14 you can vote for me on http://www.craftmaker.co.uk/davidmelville
My website has just been updated ready for the trade show www.potteryman.co.uk
Trade show http://www.bctf.co.uk