Every year around mid December I start to contemplate the past and future of my business. What went well and where can I improve? What aspects of my business have I not touched upon and what can I do about it? It’s an end of the year assessment and nit picking that is a very individual process to me, by me, for my business.
I sell my hand-made jewelry out of my studio, through a few galleries and at indoor and outdoor craft shows nationally.
Limited with craft show locations, since many I have wanted to do are so far away, this year I’m figuring out how to fly with my displays…driving four days to a show would be much more fun, but when would I find time to create my work?
Over the past several years I’ve been collecting information on flying; names of shipping companies, what do people pack, can they simply use UPS or FED EX? And I’ve learned about “drayage” fees, costs associated with union event centers that can highly increase your expenses, simply for having your displays shipped to the venue. I would need to rent a tent, making sure they’ll provide weights or pipe and drape for an indoor show – either choice is an added expense. I’ll price out shipping my own tent but then I need to deal with weights so it may not be as doable.
I like to keep my overhead low. Craft shows are a gamble. You pay for the booth fee, your lodging, travel and food costs and then hope to sell your work… I have no idea how much I’ll make at any given show and these days it’s highly unpredictable.
This year, with the ability to fly (under development), I’ve decided to apply to many more shows than ever before. In a future post I’ll explain how I organize this overwhelming list of details.
After mulling over the scenario and options for flying to shows and how to get my displays there, I’ve decided to carry my display bags with me when I fly, as checked luggage. My husband goes with me to shows and since there’s two of us, that allows more bags to check. One of my resourceful friends mentioned Southwest airlines bag policy-2 free bags per person. Southwest happens to fly directly to a few of the shows I’ll be exhibiting at this year. Four checked bags along with a carry on will work.
I should mention I have one large sized case that may cost extra. If I keep the bags under 50 pounds, I will not incur a charge, but given circumstances there may be the need for one heavier bag. This allowance is up to 70 pounds and may cost $75 depending upon the airline. I’ve taken out the cases, weighed them with a shipping scale and figured out how to disperse the items while keeping them secure from damage. I’ve stopped at a local foam store to price out what I’ll need to cushion the plexi and plastic tops for my displays, when I finalize it all, I’ll go back and buy the foam. The legs go into their own hard case box, which is well under 50 pounds and allows me to add a few extra items such as fabric, office supplies and track lighting.
I’ll still need to figure out how and where to pack my display props, necklaces boxes and other packaging along with postcards and a mirror. Some of these items may go in with my clothing.
Now that the packing configuration is mostly resolved I need to get back to working on the rest of the details for my booth. I’ve got lighting to build for inside the cases; this has already been scoped out. I’m buying LED puck lights at Al Lasher Electronics in Berkeley, wiring them up and using them inside the cases. I already have track lighting for indoor shows and can rent an extra pipe to hang them from. I’m still working on how to hang my fabric banners, which have images and my name; telescoping poles, bungees, clips…this one is still in the works. Fabric will be velcroed to each individual display case, I usually use patinaed aluminum panels but they are way too heavy to fly with and fabric is a light and easy solution, although I haven’t found anything that I like yet. I’m looking at fabrics from a theatrical supply company called Rosebrand, they have a huge selection of fire proof materials in all kinds of colors and textures. On their website, you can choose a color and go through the myriad of choices, my next step is to get samples. The reason for fire proof material is that I’m covered with indoor show requirements.
It’s all coming together. I’ve paid my booth fees, rented my airbnbs – cheaper than hotels and I prefer them – and I’ve got plenty of time to carry out the rest of the display tasks so I’ll be ready in late April for my first show that I’ll be flying to. I still have to make my airline reservations and determine the need for a car rental and that too is all in the queue.
In between it all, I’m working on my jewelry, making parts for future pieces, arranging stones and coming up with variations in designs. Little by little it’ll all get done. There’ll always be new problems waiting for solutions. I have no doubt. This is an ongoing process that never ends and gets reassessed yearly.
If you have comments, ideas suggestions, I’d really like to hear them. Have you flown for a craft show? If so please share your experience.
*This article is one of a series in which Alison will be sharing her experience as a professional jewelry artist in both business and on the craft show circuit.
Alison B. Antelman is a 2015 Niche Award Winner and also won First Place in the 2014 Charles Lewton Brain Fold-Forming Competition and 2015 Best of Jewelry at the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival. She exhibits and sells her work from her studio, galleries and at craft shows nationally where she has received numerous awards, including Best of Show at the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival in Ketchum, Idaho and the Scottsdale Arts Festival in Scottsdale, AZ. Her work is published in Showcase 500 Art Necklaces and 500 Gemstone Jewels by Lark Books, Art Jewelry Today 3 by Schiffer publishing, Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist magazine and The San Francisco Chronicle. She exhibits and sells her work from her studio, galleries and at craft shows nationally and teaches workshops through art centers, schools and Guilds. She is often found creating one-of-a-kind jewelry in her well-lit studio, The Sawtooth building in Berkeley, California.