Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Going Wholesale - Designing a Booth

It's official! I'm doing  my first ever wholesale trade shows in 2014. I'm ready to try to expose my jewelry to a much larger audience via the assistance of a wider network of retail galleries and shops.

booth design, version 1

After my father's passing in August, I didn't really feel like I had enough time to prepare for the wholesale show season starting in January. However, the idea of postponing for an entire year seeming depressing, an excuse for me to wallow in grief and not work toward goals that I'd put on the back burner for the last several years. My father was so proud of my jewelry, and he knew that helping him took priority over that work (and he felt bad about it). I view committing to going wholesale as a way to honor his support and love.

booth design, version 2

So I applied to both the Buyers Market of American Craft (BMAC) and the American Craft Council (ACC) show in Baltimore. BMAC moved earlier in the season for 2014, so it will be here in less than one month! It no longer is back to back with the ACC show, where I was accepted into a newly expanded wholesale only show (the retail section is one of the best craft shows in the country and super competitive for jewelry, so no surprise that I didn't jury into that section…yet!).

booth design, version 3

One of the first things I started to work on for both shows was booth design. At BMAC, I took an emerging artist booth, which is half-size at ten feet wide by five feet deep. Available only to first time exhibitors, the booth costs half the usual price, a blessing with the myriad investments necessary to start down this path. In years past, the emerging artist booths were placed in a poor back location, but this year they are located along a central wide aisle to attract more attention. I did invest in a corner placement nearest to the Premier Jewelry section, hoping that would give me higher visibility. Several people recommended going ahead with this new exhibitor booth, as it's a one time opportunity and most buyers will at least make a pass through that aisle to see what is new, whereas taking a regular booth would mean less visibility as a new artist.

I've spent many hours reading about booth design and searching the internet for images to determine which direction I want to go with my own presentation. After the fact, that small booth has proven to be somewhat of a liability just because it is SO small. I've debated the merits of renting tables or purchasing displays, of renting carpet or purchasing foam tile flooring, of track lights vs. clip ons, of hard walls and foam core walls and curtains, of commercial or custom or homemade jewelry displays. I've never done the retail show circuit, so all of this is new to me. So many decisions! But I can say that it costs almost as much to rent as to buy, so multiple uses make it seem more reasonable to just do the upfront investment and get the look I want rather than taking the easy route.

First I used masking tape to lay out the booth on my garage floor, then I cut the gray "wood" foam tiles to size. Now I'm awaiting the delivery of the Abstracta components to actually set up the tables and get a feel for whether it's possible to walk through my space to look at work on the walls, or whether I should just line the edges of the booth with table top displays.

I've submitted photos for printing into large scale format for the walls, and I've bought large canvases to experiment with displaying work on the wall. I've learned to vectorize my artwork so that I could print it large enough to do that big banner I envisioned. I've ordered (and paid for) electricity for the still open lighting. I've booked hotel and air reservations. I've ordered postcards and stamps and printed mailing labels and booth number labels. I'm still making long, long lists of things that must get done before the last few weeks slip away. And, yes, I'm still making jewelry to include in a production line.

Meanwhile, the holidays intervene and I'm at a loss as to how to get it all done!