Q: I have had to flee New York City in order to continue my life as a craft artist. I am now located in southwest Virginia. Although I am concentrating on wholesale, it is imperative I include retail shows in my schedule. Previously, the kind of shows I did where Artrider, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and high-end fine crafts shows. This is my customer base, as my product is a somewhat sophisticated artisan candle. Recently, the Renwick Gallery has purchased them, as well as Fallingwater. They have become a staple at the Taubman Museum of Art store in Roanoke.
I have just done the Crozet show near Charlottesville and found it to be a good show.
Could you recommend some other shows that might give me a discerning client and charge reasonable prices for exhibitors? I can now travel to surrounding states, including Virginia; Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; North Carolina, etc. I look forward to hearing from you and would gladly supply you with any additional information that might be helpful.
—Jessica Lauber, via e-mail
A: Finding the best market and getting the product to that market is always a challenge for the maker. You have left the Northeast, the area with the largest concentrated population and, therefore, customers. Your move to a far more rural and isolated life appeals to me. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t continue to do the high-end quality shows in New York City; certainly, exhibitors come from all over the country to do the Artrider shows. However, if you are committed to staying in the mid-Atlantic area, let’s see what might be a plan for you.
To begin, I need to be clear that I am not comfortable recommending particular shows. There are two reasons for this stance. First, I don’t know your work well enough to suggest where I think it will sell well, and, second, I wish to remain impartial and not write about one show at the exclusion of all the shows in an area. That said, let’s think this through. In addition to the full-range craft show, there may be other venues that would be good for you. Consider any shows that emphasize interior design, table-top shows, and certainly any that address outside entertaining and garden living. There are nationally recognized craft shows in your area that you might try. You also might want to consider the annual flower shows that usually take place in March. You’ll also want to keep your eye on any holiday shows. If you are in an area with other craftspeople, why not organize a group open studio day? There’s always power in the group, plus you get to share the promotional costs.
Donald Clark is the author of Making a Living in Crafts and was a partner in Ferrin Gallery for 25 years. In addition to writing, he is currently a consultant to artists, a personal property appraiser, and a collection manager. He also continues to create his constructions that have been shown extensively and collected internationally.