Tag Archive | shows

Bead Fest Texas Report~The Buisness of Lampworking

Hey guys! Bet you thought I forgot all about you didn’t you? Nope. I’ve just been busy writing Witches of Bourbon Street, but I’m taking a break to give you the skinny on Bead Fest Texas.

This was the second year Bead Fest was held in Arlington, and my first year doing this particular show. In comparison to Bead Fest Philly it was much smaller. I’d say about a third of forth the amount of vendors as Philly.

The good:

It’s pretty close to me. It took eight hours to drive each way. Going I had my friend Susan Sheehan with me, so it seemed much shorter, especially since she drove most of the way. Our other friend Lisa Liddy was a vendor there, so for us it was kind of a girls weekend in addition to working the show.

The show was low cost (relative to the other ones I do).

I had a great day sales wise on Friday. (It’s a three day show). Easily my best one day total in a very long time. I had high hopes after Friday, let me tell you.

There were quite a few less vendors than I’m used to, so less competition which is always nice.

The bad:

We had to pay five dollars a day parking.

I had an artist’s table, which means one eight foot table (pretty standard). But all the artists tables were butted up against each other. I’d say there were twelve to fifteen tables all lined up with no room to get to the other side of the table. We had to trek all the way down to the end to get around to the other side. It wasn’t very convenient.

Perhaps the most unfortunate issue was the show was the same weekend as the World Series. The ballpark was literally right next door. The Rangers and Cardinals played both Saturday and Sunday night. To add insult to injury the Cowboys football games was Sunday at 3 pm.  Needless to say, Sunday was a snooze fest. I’m sure we lost many possible shoppers who were afraid of crowds and issues with parking. Luckily for those who did come out there was designated Bead Fest parking. However, if one didn’t brave it, they wouldn’t know that.

The good news is I made more than my formula on Friday, so the show was certainly successful for me. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Formula:

Table fee + electricity + travel fee + $100 a day I’m out of my studio (traveling, packing, manning my booth) = Amount  I have to make to consider the show successful.

Next show: Houston Bead Society November, 11, 12, 13. Only Greg is handling this one. I have a book to finish.

When Girlfriends Come to Town~Favorite Things Monday

So I guess it isn’t a secret I’ve been crazy busy. My poor blog. I haven’t written a Business of Lampworking article in a few weeks. I haven’t posted Book recommendation Thursday is over a month. And my online participation has been noticeably lacking in my favorite haunts.

You see, this upcoming weekend is Bead Fest Texas. I leave Thursday and will be back Monday. Speaking of Bead Fest, if you’re anywhere near the Dallas/Arlington area, here is a coupon you can print to get in free. I will be in booth 611.

Anyway, I had a show in Philly at the end of August, and Hottimes on the Mountain at the end of Sept. The combined events severely depleted my bead show stock. So the last four weeks I have been scrambling to catch up.

In addition I’ve been working feverishly on Witches of Bourbon Street, the second in my Jade Calhoun trilogy.

So you can imagine how excited I am to have some girlfriend time. My good friend, Susan Sheehan is arriving today in  about three hours now. We’re picking her up from the New Orleans airport, taking her out on the town, and then spending the next few days playing in the studio before we drive on out of here for the show. Susan will be in both 609 right next to me, and our other dear friend Lisa Liddy will be in booth 607 right next to Susan. It’s gonna be a great show!

 

Online Sales and Galleries~The Business of Lampworking

The International Society of Glass Beadmakers (ISGB) hosts a booth at The Buyers Market of American Craft (BMAC) every year in February. BMAC is the show gallery owners shop at to fill their stores. Members of the ISGB have the opportunity to participate in the show at a reduced rate. It’s a great opportunity for artists to get a feel for the show without a huge financial risk.

But how does an artist balance online sales with gallery sales? Many people will say galleries will not deal with artists who sell online. My question is as a modern artist: How can you not sell online and expect to be successful? The trick is to respect your wholesale accounts.

By this I mean: Do not undercut galleries by selling to the general public below your retail price. Your retail price is usually double your wholesale price. That means you should not list a piece on Etsy for one-hundred-dollars and expect to sell the same piece to a gallery for one-hundred-dollars as well. The gallery must mark your products up to earn a profit. If they can’t, why would they buy from you? And why would anybody buy a piece from a gallery for two-hundred-dollars when they can order it direct from the artist for half the price? Or worse, the person buys from the gallery, goes home and Googles the artist’s name and finds out they’ve overpaid. That gallery just lost a customer. Bad business.

So if you want to sell to galleries and maintain a working relationship, respect them and their need to turn a profit.

Also consider making pieces specifically targeted for galleries. These are pieces you do not offer online and are exclusive for wholesale accounts. That way there isn’t any danger of undercutting and the gallery can then charge whatever they want for the piece. The rule of thumb is wholesale is fifty percent of your retail price, but galleries sometimes mark things up two to two and a half times. If you’re selling it at double your wholesale, you are still undercutting them and they may choose not to do business with you.

I’ve already mentioned the BMAC show which is one way of introducing your work to galleries. Another is Wholesalecrafts.com. They are an online gallery exclusive to wholesale venders. Consider putting together a brochure and mailing it to the galleries you are interested in.

For local galleries call to set up appointments to meet with the gallery owners/buyers. Do not just show up with your work in your hands. Often the buyer won’t be in, plus you need to respect their time. Also they could feel put on the spot and that isn’t a great way to start a business relationship.

Be prepared. Know your wholesale terms. What dollar amount does the gallery have to meet in order to qualify for wholesale? Do they have to meet it again each time the order, or can they reorder less at wholesale rates after the relationship is established? Will you accept net-thirty payment terms? Does the gallery have to pay upfront? Are you willing to offer pieces on consignment? If so, have a boiler plate contract ready to go. Does the gallery pay you if items get lost, stolen or broken? What is the consignment rate? fifty-fifty? Sixty-forty?

The more professional you are, the more likely they are to take you seriously. We artists can be flaky. You don’t want to give them a reason to say no.

With all this said, I confess, Greg and I don’t sell much work through galleries. We have done some in the past and may in the future. But currently, I just have too much on my plate with online sales, shows, wholesale bead and murrine accounts, and the books I”m writing. Adding wholesale gallery accounts and doing it right is just one too many things right now. It’s important to know your limits.

Good luck!

New Addition

Psst, remember to come back tomorrow to join us in the Bead Soup Blog party.

Big news in Chase land this week. We have a new addition:

Greg finally decided to sell his 1971 VW Bus. Sad, I know, but she’d been hanging out in the back of the house ever since we moved here four years ago. It was only used when we needed a bigger car to haul something or when my car, the Altima, had to go in for service. Not too great for a car to just be sitting around.

Last year, we put a total of one tank of gas in her. She ran perfectly fine. But with no air-conditioning and no reason to take her out, she was becoming a lawn ornament. Now she has a new home in sunny California and is getting a make over. The buyer said he’d send us pics when she is finished. I sure hope so.

Anyway, we had been thinking we’d get a truck to make it easier to haul stuff, or Greg wanted to get me a Jeep to use for shows. However, all the Jeeps we found were less than desirable and Greg didn’t want to get a truck that would just sit out in the back collecting pecans from the tree back there.

It appears the Suburban is the ultimate compromise. The funniest part is my sister also drives an Altima and has a Suburban. I’m pretty sure she’s convinced whatever car she gets next will eventually end up in my driveway.

The  beasts are pretty happy about it.

They went a little crazy when we got home yesterday. Little dog syndrome? 🙂 I don’t know, but Puck wouldn’t stop barking at it. It was pretty dang funny. Puck is the white and black one.

Bead Fest Philly Report

Last week I drove up to Philadelphia to attend the Bead Fest Bead show. It’s a two-day trip both ways from here. Luckily, my friend Angie Ramey lives in TN at pretty much the halfway mark, and I was able to visit with her on the way up and the way back.  Though it really would have been much more convenient to fly. But then how would I get my gorgeous light bar and all my stuff there? The murrine bins are a particular problem. So, after mulling it over, we decided the car was the best bet.

You should see the car after Greg packs it up.The trunk and backseat are full with the light bar running the length of the car and poking out between the front seats. Hey it’s only me in the car, so who cares? Plus I can bring a cooler of food and throw in anything extra I deem necessary. Like extra bubble baggies I was able to share with a friend who ran out of packaging for her beads. Yay me! My last show I used a fair amount of another friends bubble baggies so it felt good to pay it forward.

Anyway, this was my first year at this show so I don’t have anything to compare it to. This was also the first year for the new venue: The Expo at the Oaks. Some people we not pleased, but the old venue is being turned into a casino (or so I heard). Hard to hold a bead show in all that construction. I heard some complain about the parking. Since we got there before the show opened each day I didn’t notice a parking issue. There seemed to be plenty. It is an Expo area. But since the show attendance was over a thousand people I can see how some would end up with a good walk. It doesn’t help that it thunder stormed all weekend. No one likes to walk in torrential downpours. Despite the new venue and rain, the promoter said the show attendance was up from last year.

That’s good. But how were sales? I can only speak for myself. I have a formula for what I have to do for the show to make me money: Expenses + $100 a day for all the days I am not torching (prep, driving, and actual show days).

For this show the expenses were:

$495 table fee
$110 electric
$400 travel fee (gas, I was lucky and ended up with a free hotel room)
$800 (Eight days away from the torch)

$1805 Total amount needed to make for the show to be worthwhile.

I made more than that.

For me Bead Fest Philly was successful. I heard mixed reports from other vendors. Of course, without hard numbers I have no idea what they consider successful.

Better yet, I met three long time customers of mine in person for the first time. It’s really awesome when someone stops by your booth looks at your stuff and says, “Hey this looks like Chase Designs.” Then they look up and say, “Are you Deanna?”

Pretty great right?

Plus I got to spend the weekend with my good friend Susan Sheehan. I think I may have talked her  into Bead Fest Texas in October. Hopefully she’ll be able to work it into her schedule.

Too Many Pies, Not Enough Oven Space–Lampworking Business Extras

Don’t you just hate it when you set out to make a dozen pies and you run out of time and oven space? Then the apples start to turn brown and the chocolate filling ends up curdled?

 

What? Don’t tell me this has never happened to you before. Don’t you have family over for holidays and lose your mind cooking for five days before they come over? No? Me neither. I actually live out-of-state from my family. Holidays are usually very relaxing.

But I’m intimately familiar with taking on too many projects. Like five out-of-town events in six months (four of them shows), publishing a book and scheduling another one for December, and trying to run four successful online stores.

 

Thank the powers that be I don’t have kids. As it is the dogs think my butt is permanently attached to my office chair. If I go anywhere else in the house besides the kitchen or the studio they get seriously confused.

 

Tomorrow I leave for Bead Fest in Philadelphia. I have my good friend Susan Sheehan to thank for talking me into this show while we were at Bead and Button. It’s made for a crazy two months while I worked furiously to get my book Haunted on Bourbon Street published. I’m sad to say my online venues have suffered like the oldest child left to fend for herself. Oh, I still listed stuff, but not at my normal rate.

And the sales data really shows the hit. If you’ve been reading my The Business of Lampworking series, you should know by now the best thing you can do for your business is to constantly list new items. Of course, the last four weeks I have been focused on getting my table ready for the show and holding inventory back.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure these shows are the best business strategy at this point because as hard as I work, I’m having trouble keeping all of my pie plates in the air. One was bound to splatter or at least wobble. Online sales for me are wobbling. Luckily Greg does this with me and since the shows don’t focus on his work, his stuff is selling at the usual rate.

I’ve always said which ever direction you’re looking is the direction you’ll go. I started looking at shows. The last few I did have been successful, but not successful enough to take away from my online business. I have two more shows not including Bead Fest Philly. After that I will need to run some numbers and do some evaluating.

Moral of the story? Don’t take on more than you can handle. Something will suffer. And in this case, it’s my bread and butter.

But I’m ready for Bead Fest. I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

Profitability of a Bead Show-Chapter 6 The Business of Lampworking

There are all kinds of reasons for selling at a bead show. Being part of the community, making contacts, building client base, picking up wholesale bead stores, hanging out with like-minded people. But when it comes to the business of lampworking, the main and most important reason should be to be profitable.

When deciding if you want to attend a certain show you need to know just how much money you have to make in order to be profitable. Be realistic with yourself and as always, remember shows are a gamble.

Here are a few examples:

Bead and Button (I’m using approximate numbers because I don’t have everything right in front of me, but they are close):

Table fee: $895
Electric fee: $150
Hotel (Shared a room): $200
Travel (gas, I drove from LA to WI): $300

Total fee not including food: $1545

$1545 before I’ve bought one display or sold one bead. Ouch! I’m not including display costs because those are business costs that are used for all my shows, not just one. But if you plan on only do one show, you for sure need to add that cost in. They can be as inexpensive or expensive as you like. Greg made my light bar. The materials cost $150. Plus bead trays, inserts, table cloths, a banner, risers, etc, etc. More on table displays later. But those costs can add up too.

Next I need to factor in how many days I will not be working at the torch. Bead and Button is a four day show. Plus I have four travel days. Two days up and two days back. Eight days. Plus I lose the day before I leave for packing and last minutes show prep. That’s nine days total. My goal when working at home and bringing in online sales is $100 a day. So I must make at least $900 at the show just to make up for my days of being away.

$1545
+900

=$2445

At Bead and Button I must make at least $2445 just to break even.

Let’s look at another show for comparison.

Houston Bead Society Show:

Table Fee: $275
Hotel Fee: $200
Gas fees: $100

Total fees: $575

Total days away from the studio is four with one prep day=5. My formula $100×5=$500.

Total needed to break even $1075.

It’s important to run the numbers and know what your expectations are for each show you are contemplating. Everyone will have different expenses so be sure to take into account your specific situation.

I’ll be honest, with the amount of work it takes to build inventory for a show and the cost factor I’m pretty sure I’d do better just selling everything at wholesale online. I don’t do that of course. The thing is I sell wholesale to bead stores and I have to maintain price integrity. Plus, with retail online prices I make more per piece so I don’t have to work as hard with lower prices. But when it’s crunch time (like right now) I dream about it. Bead Fest Philly is next weekend and I’m not ready.

No one is ever ready for a show.

You just do what you can and try not to spend too much time doing other things, like blogging. 🙂

Online vs Shows–Ch 3 part 2 The Business of Lampworking

The big question online sales verses shows. You look around and everyone who’s anyone has an Etsy store, a website, and eBay account. They talk about the Best Bead show or Bead and Button or the selling at the ISGB Bead Bazaar, and you think to yourself, man I need to be doing that.

Some people spout how well they are doing, others say sales are dead. Now what? Where to start? My best advice is to pick one direction and give it your all. But which direction?

Pros of online venues:

Work from home.
Low cost.
Instant feedback.
Can sell work for less than you can doing shows.
Don’t have to take time off work (if you have another job) to hock your wares.
Your customer base is worldwide.

Cons of online sales:

Have to learn photography skills.
Need to learn to navigate online sales venues (though this is much easier now than it ever has been before).
Don’t get to interact with the community in person (It is certainly possible to make connections online, but there is nothing comparable to the in person connection).
Customers do not get to see work in person before buying. Each monitor is different , making it impossible to accurately portray the color of your work 100% of the time.
Have to deal with shipping. Packaging, lost mail, possible broken product, returns, and customs.
Have to build a following in a worldwide sea of other venders.

Shows Pros:

Built in customer base.
Get to see customers reaction to your work.
Can make connections you wouldn’t online for publications, teaching, demos, etc.
Get to see and interact with other artists.
Get to travel.

Show cons:

Shows are expensive. Every show you do there is a risk you won’t even cover expenses.
You need to work out a table display.
You need to travel.
May need to take time off work.
Can be discouraging watching everyone else make sales if your table isn’t getting much attention.
Need to build a large inventory.
Don’t know what customers respond to until you’re at the show.
Have to sell work for retail to cover show costs.
You lose studio time while traveling and working the show.

Our main focus for our business is online sales. It keeps us consistent with cash flow, and  the overhead is low cost. We’ve recently in the last few years started adding in shows, but that is an addition, not the focus. Also, for each show I sign up for I am prepared to accept the money put out many not be returned.

As I said earlier, my best advice is to pick one direction and give it your best effort, then worry about whether you want to expand in another area. Be prepared that either direction you go, it will take months to build a following. That means your first shows may not make you any money. It takes time to get noticed. There isn’t a magic wand.

My next few posts will focus on how to be successful with both online sales and shows. Stay tuned.

Choosing Your Venue–Chapter 3 part 1 The Business of Lampworking

Have you defined success and gotten legal? Are you ready to start selling your lampwork creations? If so, you have some decisions to make. Where do you sell your work?

Online venues:

eBay
Etsy
Artfire
Personal Website
Wholesalecrafts.com

FYI: These are the ones I am most familiar with and the ones I have personally used. And the ones I know other sellers have used successfully. If you know of other successful online markets, please let me know.

Major Bead Shows:

Whole Bead
Best Bead
Bead Fest
Bead and Button
Bay Area Bead Extravaganza

Regional Bead Society Shows

Often areas have a regional bead society and once a year those groups will hold a show. I know there is one in Houston, Denver, Oakland and many more. These local shows usually cost less to do (lower table fees and no travel if you’re lucky) and are very friendly. Check your own area for more opportunities.

Local Craft shows:

Almost everyone has local craft show opportunities to them to sell their work. I personally do not do any of these shows even though there are many, many opportunities available to us. New Orleans has an Arts in the Park program that runs three weekends a month at three different parks in the city. On top of that, there is a festival almost every weekend somewhere around here and a happening Farmers Market in Baton Rouge.

You see, other than the marbles, we do not sell finished work. I can, but do not enjoy making jewelry. I prefer to make the beads and leave that task to my talented jewelry designer customers. As for the marbles, well, that is  a specialized market and not quite right for craft/art shows.

However, if you do sell a finished product, these types of shows can be advantageous. Just be sure to check out the venue first and get a feel for what sells well there.  If you make one-hundred dollar bracelets and the gal next to you is selling two dollar import, base metal earrings, it may not be the best fit.  Use your judgement or you could end up in ninety degree heat for two days with nothing to show for it but a sunburn.

Galleries:

Again for galleries, you are going to need a finished product. You are also going to need to sell wholesale or on consignment or both.

Bead Stores:

Bead stores are great if you can find ones that want to carry artisan lampwork beads. A lot of them do carry imports, but don’t let that scare you off. There is a market for both (more on this later). Again, for bead stores be prepared for wholesale and/or consignment.

Home Parties:

We’ve all been to them. Creative Memories, The Pampered Chef, Tubberware, Naughty lady parties, Mary Kay, etc. Why not one for your beads and jewelry? Work it the same way you would one of those Creative Memory parties. Set everyone up to make a simple piece of jewelry, designate a reward program for the hostess, bring some wine, and lay out your wonderful creations for sale.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be going over the pros and cons for each selling model and give you some tips on how to be most successful for which ever direction you choose. In the mean time, be asking yourself these questions:

Do I like engaging with customers?

Do I want to travel  once or twice a month?

Can I take decent photos or am I willing to learn?

Do I have the confidence to approach bead stores/gallery owners?

Do I have the technical skills to run a website or other online venue? Am I willing to learn?

And finally the most import question: Do I have the  motivation to stick with whatever direction I plan to go?

Bead and Button Report

I’ve been home from Bead and Button for a week and I’m just now getting back into my regular routine. I actually got home last Tuesday night and by Wednesday I was off and running with everything that didn’t get done while I was gone. I’m semi-caught up and didn’t want to forget to give you the dish on how the Bead and Button show was this year.

A few years ago when I was researching shows and trying to decide which ones to do, after each one I would scour the internet looking for a results posting. It isn’t something that is easy to find. And shows like Bead and Button are expensive to do. How’s a girl to know if it’s worth it?

If you have good friends in the industry who have done the show you might feel comfortable asking them. However, it’s awfully crass to ask how much someone made isn’t it? Usually the question is, was it a good show? Was it worth it? I’ve asked those questions myself. But everyone has a different barometer of success. And sometimes people don’t want to say they had a bad show, always putting on the happy it-was-good-face.

Once when trying to decide if I should do Best Bead in Tucson, I emailed a respected friend and colleague who had done that show for quite  a while and gave her a breakdown of what numbers I thought I would have to do in order to have a successful show and just asked if she thought that was reasonable.  That worked pretty well, but again, she’s a friend of mine, so I felt comfortable doing that.

As always, I don’t like to talk about exact figures on the internet, but I’ll give you some specifics.

Last year was the first time I attended Bead and Button. A friend and I decided to share an eight foot table to keep costs down. That gives each of us four feet of isle real estate. In hindsight, we both agree that wasn’t the best move. You see, that only leaves space for one customer at a time to browse your wears.  Now, it is my understanding the sales were down across the board last year at Bead and Button with the economy in the toilet. I don’t know anyone’s actual numbers but my own. I barely made expenses and that was only because I luckily ended up with a free hotel room. Expenses included booth fee, travel, and food. Plus the show takes up a full seven days that I’m out of the studio. Needless to say last year wasn’t a success.

Still, one bad show in a bad economy wasn’t enough for me to give up on Bead and Button, the show that everyone in the industry says is the place to be. Instead I signed up for an eight foot table, did a lot of brain storming on revamping the table display with Greg, and worked like a dog to fill that table up.

I somehow managed to fill the table, but barely. Seriously, by mid-day Saturday the table was looking woefully understocked. I should have brought at least twice as much as I did. That’s all good though, right? It means I was selling stuff, right?

Exactly.

Everything came together. My table looked gorgeous (in my opinion–Greg did a great job–and others commented on it as well), I had good real estate (a full eight foot table in a good row), and the economy didn’t seem to be as much of a factor. Of course, I’m sure the beads themselves had a least something to do with it. 🙂

I came away making four times as much as I did last year, picked up a new wholesale account, and made a contact for Greg to teach this fall. Overall it was very successful and more importantly profitable for us. We’re already signed up for next year.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t hear anyone grumbling too much about sales this year. During a bad show, when another vendor asks how things are going–and we all have a lot of free time during those shows–you usually get a crunched up face and a shrug or a slight shake of the head. This year, I got the impression most everyone was pleased with the financials, but again I only know my numbers.