Submitted by Vivian Orr – SCC Communications & Publications Coordinator
INSIDER’S REPORT FROM
The Craft Market Newbie – more politely known as “emerging artist”
Once upon a time there was an SCC Communications staff person who decided to walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk. She thought it would be good idea to dip her toes into the “market” pool and experience firsthand what so many SCC members do on a regular basis. Thus began “ORRnamentation” – Vivian’s ceramic Christmas ornaments.
Sometime in spring of 2012, I convinced Amanda Bosiak, SCC Member Services and Stephanie Canning, SCC Exhibitions & Education, to share a booth at the June 24th, Caswell Hill Art in the Park event. This forced me to design and produce my first set of ornaments. Nothing like a deadline, eh?
Much thanks to Ken Wilkinson who stepped up to the plate (or filled the void) when I said I needed a mentor, because:
- I don’t consider myself a ceramic artist – more like a grimly determined graphic designer with ceramic aspirations and
- I don’t own a kiln, which is a bit of a problem when you are making ceramic ornaments (it’s that pesky need to glaze and fire stuff.)
Let’s just say that Art in the Park was an absolutely beautiful day to be outside with two friends watching people stroll by. We did admire each other’s work. Amanda created some fabulous Psysanky and Steph, as “The Maker of It All” had a wonderful selection of her handmade fabric creations. Love the bow-ties, Steph!
The summer passed by in a blur of SCC work: Wood Turning Symposium and EMMAInternational Collaboration. I had applied for the emerging artist boot at WinterGreen, then I got an email from Flock & Gather Craft Collective saying I was accepted at their Winter Wonders Market. I realized I had to get serious. I now had two Christmas markets to get ready for. Yikes!
With gentle guidance from Ken, my line of ceramic ornaments developed and evolved. Each firing resulted in new lessons on technique and production (another way of saying “steep learning curve”). “Making” was fun and exciting. Then all those other aspects of marketing started to intrude: logo design, display, labelling, packaging, inventory control, promotions, product photography,website, Facebook, etc. The sleepless nights began as my mind ran around in a squirrel cage.
Inevitably mid-November rolled around and it was time to pack everything up and head to Regina for WinterGreen. My best friend Brigitte “volunteered” to be my booth buddy so off we went. For 3 days the steep learning curve continued:
- Cool red (not warm red, not celadon green, not sunshine yellow) is THE most popular colour for my Christmas ornaments
- A booth that requires visitors to “enter” (“U” shaped) is not optimal, by Sunday we had rearranged the display tables in a straight line. Much more enticing for people strolling by.
- Discovered more work needed on organizing and labeling stock so that it is easier to find
- Having stacking totes for quick and efficient packing before and after the show makes sense
Another major discovery – my sales went up when Brigitte was in the booth by herself. Apparently I am not as good a salesperson as she is. Go figure?
We returned to Saskatoon and started to rethink the booth, the display and the labeling. Three weeks later when we were at Winter Wonders it looked completely different and (ta dah!) sales improved.
I now have a dramatically better appreciation for the planning, time, effort, sleepless nights, last minute frenzy and post-holiday-market-season vegetative state that many of our SCC members go through during the last quarter of the year. I also want to say what a supportive, positive and reassuring group of people the experienced marketers were. Not one discouraging word was heard at WinterGreen or Winter Wonders.
Marketers are wonderful people!
P.S. As I continued on my craftperson journey, I was successfully juried for Clay in the spring of 2013. Jurying was an interesting experience. I agreed with every suggestion that the jurors made. Their comments were encouraging dosed with ideas on how to improve not only my work but my craft practice.
This post appears as part of a series on WinterGreen as we gear up for the 2014 market. Join us for WinterGreen November 14-16 at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina! More details here