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KJ Lyons KJ Lyons Design
Seattle, WA
Posts: 1,413
Website

There is so much debate lately on how to "fix" shows. Apparently, we're not alone. The Fine Craft show sites that I belong to are also debating this point. Here is a quote from a buyer about what would bring him to a show- "As for attracting buyers, I don't think the admission cost for buyers is bad at all, so I don't think that's a deterrent. But the marketing pitch to buyers should be that the artisans exhibiting are phenomenal, their work is absolutely to die for, and we all have to come and clamor over one another to be the first to acquire these pieces." Of course, this is only one opinion. Some people feel that shows must have more less expensive pieces and be less expensive shows to attract buyers? I favor the high road but that's me, what do I know....what have you heard? Is there a middle ground? What do we need to do to bring more buyers to shows?
Karen
KJ Lyons Design

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Flower Mound, Texas
Posts: 20,417

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

Man, Karen, if I knew the answer to that, every show would be a success and all the artists would sell out!!!  :crackup:  :crackup:  :crackup:  I got an e-mail from Valerie Rogers of Bright Star Promotions - probably a lot of you did, also - trying to come up with some of those answers.  This is too philosophical, but what if our whole culture is changing?  With the advent of computers, the internet, ebay, all the electronic gadgets/toys/games . . . our society is moving in a totally different direction from what used to attract our attention.  I wonder if we are losing an overall number of collectors in general . . . just because "collecting" doesn't do it for us anymore.  In which case, the future looks pretty grim for us.  I think perhaps our society is more cynical, hardened, and impolite than in the past and the soft, cuddly comfort of our creations doesn't touch as many people.  <sigh>  I hope I'm wrong.

chrissibrinkley Posts: 1,836

Oh, no I see just the opposite.  Maybe because I'm new at this whole thing, but I see the cynicism is lifting around us.  People are desperate for more hand crafted, back to basics "organic" and quality goods.  I think my generation is sick to death of the homogenized, quick and chaotic, mocha grande world around us. Small quaint shops are booming, small cafe's are packed, small town appeal is skyrocketing.

Nearly all industries today have the internet to compete with.  One family memeber of mine is in newspapers, one in mortgages...the internet could easliy kill these local industries if not for forward thinking on how to target thier market and buyers.

I might be totally missing something, but what I'm seeing via internet and magazines is that the shows have always targeted the same markets, the same towns, the same people.  I really think that there are untapped buyers/collectors that the promoters aren't hitting, and just the same untapped artists. Any industry will burn out if there is no new growth, that's a basic. I would suggest the promoters look ahead and either plan for new and exciting growth or just continue tugging the tapped out market of a familiar town.

~Chrissi

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

Karen,

Yes, if we had the answers bear shows would be booming!

I got the same email from Valerie Rogers.
Connie & Amber of ABC Productions were recently on here seeking similar answers.
I have posted questions on here while organizing my first bear show (only 16 days away...GULP!!) as to what I can do to make my show profitable and a great experience for artists and collectors.

There is no simple answer.

I am an artisan with/member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen... the oldest and most prestegious organized league of juried artisans in the country. I'm not saying that to toot my own horn (I find a majority of the artisans to be snooty- though amazingly talented- and all the politics to be over the top!) but to tell you that the League puts on a nationally known art fair once a year for 9 days. It used to attract thousands and thousands of people from all over the US and Canada, requiring that it be drawn out over the 9 days. It's still 9 days long but could be done in 3 as the attendance has dropped considerably and sales were way down 4 years ago and have been flat each year since. A slight increase is EXPECTED this year but time will tell (show is next month). I could give you a hunderd reasons why I think the show is suffering but here are a few: same artists EVERY year..... in the same booth location every year (BORING to buyers)..... the fees to exhibitors keeps them from doing the show as the sales aren't there and lots of these artisans now have websites to conduct business from.

Anyway......

Here's a link to ABC's recent post and to one of mine:
http://www.teddy-talk.com/viewtopic.php?id=8405
http://www.teddy-talk.com/viewtopic.php?id=2523

And if anyone has the magic answer I can't wait to hear it!!!

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

I have tried to aim at the high end of the market...from my point of view I don't see the point of aiming anywhere else. I am still aiming!!!!

I don't buy the argument that you have to bring in cheaper work to fairs to attract buyers...I actually think quite the opposite...that it's the low end ..mediocre ,same old ,same old stuff that stops people going  .

I want to see the best made, best designed, most beautiful, most original work around...not row upon row of the same, year in year out...I do think that the internet and ebay is one reason that shows aren't as busy.

Also shows are hard for artists..normally I make a bear... sell it..make a bear..sell it and so on. For fairs I have to stock build for weeks and weeks ...no money coming in from bears...and amass maybe 15 bears...and pay the show fees  and costs and then run the risk of not selling the bears at the fair ( fortunately that has never happened..!!) The last bears I made sold in less than 10 minutes on-line...so what's the incentive to do fairs when I might have to drive 3 hrs or so at 4 am...set up my stand..cart boxes..be nice all day ( LOL) then pack up and drive home and maybe come home with all the bears. I have seen it happen to people...it must be soul destroying.

There are so many artists trying to establish themselves and I do think that organisers should vet the work beforehand not only to see the quality of the work but to ensure a variety of styles at fairs so that there is something for everyone. There are also many shows , poorly advertised and organised...poorly sign-posted in drab venues. That's why collectors won't go ....I wouldn't want to pay £4.00 to get in having driven miles to a grotty room full of manufactured bears.  It is essential if we are going to attract new collectors to our industry that shows are places where the very best work is on display...so they don't just become some kind of market place for poor quality work.

That won't attract anyone.

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

Nice analogy Renae...love the cookie cutter concept...

.....I can't find my cookie cutter .....LOL!!!!!

bearlysane Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,188
jenny wrote:

I don't buy the argument that you have to bring in cheaper work to fairs to attract buyers...I actually think quite the opposite...that it's the low end ..mediocre, same old, same old stuff that stops people going.

I want to see the best made, best designed, most beautiful, most original work around...not row upon row of the same, year in year out...I do think that the internet and ebay is one reason that shows aren't as busy.

There are also many shows, poorly advertised and organised...poorly sign-posted in drab venues. That's why collectors won't go ....I wouldn't want to pay £4.00 to get in having driven miles to a grotty room full of manufactured bears.  It is essential if we are going to attract new collectors to our industry that shows are places where the very best work is on display...so they don't just become some kind of market place for poor quality work. That won't attract anyone.

As a Collector I must agree with Jenny ... I get really p****d off when I get to a show and it's full of poorly made or mass manufactured bears.

I would pay good money to see just ONE Bear Artist Only show a year and I mean just that! Not just bear makers or people who have slightly altered a pattern and called it their own (collectors aren't stupid, they can tell the difference and they do recognise when it's someone elses pattern, even when it's been altered), but real Quality Artists who put their heart and soul into producing a bear which truely is a work of art.

I'm not trying to have a go at the beginners, there's a place for them too. But I think they have to serve their "apprentiships" first.

As an Artist I think we miss picking up new collectors because promoters to often use the same advertising avenues over and over again. I have often wondered how many have thought of advertising in some of the magazines we see in doctors and dentists waiting rooms?

Well I admit I certainly don't know all the answers, but I do think there are still a lot of like minded people out there who would love to adopt another bear!

Megelles Megelles
Brisbane
Posts: 273
Website

Please let me know when you have the answers!  Thanks for the links Daphne.

I have been going thru the same here in Australia.   It is so hard trying to please all the people all the time. 

Established artist want this - new artist that and manufactures another  etc. 

Trying to find the right balance is a nightmare!!!!  and I have been have a few lately.

Good luck for you show Daphne. (Mine has a few more weeks to go!)

hugs Lisa

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

It is a tough one..But I have to stick up for new artists at fairs...I think often they are the ones that get sales because their work is different. I agree that sometimes people do fairs before they are ready..but  I have seen some new artists work and it shines out like a beacon because they are good at whatever they do creatively...and customers easily recognise raw talent too.

It doesn't necessarily follow that because someone has been doing something for ages that they are better than someone who just started and for whom bear making and design clicked straightaway.....

I agree ...along with Sandi, that customers are a good judge and if bears aren't good then they won't sell. Maybe there is a place for a 'newcomers' show...or an area of a show that is especially for newcomers..they do this at Hugglets and it's a success.

Jodi Falk Bears by Jodi
Gahanna , Ohio USA
Posts: 3,463

Ummmmmmmmmmm,

Boy this  is a topic I think we would all like the answers to. I am a returning artist that was popular from 1988 to 1996 and in 2005 I started designing again. I cant travel to do the shows any more because of my full time job that I need because of the benefits , sooo I have turned to the internet , e bay, Bear Pile, bear forums, what ever I can find. I am selling , but ......... nothing like before. It is sad, because I don't want to see the industry go down . I have been throwing around lowering prices to capture those who don't have the extra money ,like most of us , but then I don't want to cheapen the art . So this is confusing ! I just cant figure it out . The other day I said to a girl friend that some times I feel like those people who try out for American Idol who Think they can sing ......... but they are really bad. I hope thats not ME  bear_wacko

If you all figure it out let me know. But one thing for sure, If we all hang in there and keep up Quality it will never disappear !!

                                      Bear Hugs
                                                          Jodi Falk

psichick78 Flying Fur Studios
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,073

I think alot has to do with advertising.

I've always loved stuffed animals and have always collected them. If I had heard about artist bears years ago, I would have a million!

Now here's the funny part. Just before I became a bear maker, my city used to hold a big annual bear fair. NEVER HEARD OF IT. I wish I had. I would've loved to go to something like that. But more than just hearing about it, although I never did, it would be nice to see pictures. Most of the population can't think of anything when they hear the term 'artist bear', and I think if alot of people knew what they were, they would go to a bear show that was local to them. Then maybe even drive to the next one etc.


Chrissi, I totally agree with you. Lots of great points. The world is ever changing, those that stay with it last, those that stay behind don't. Plain and simple.

One last point, I also believe that it's harder to sell bears, because there are soooo many more bear artists now than before.

Great topic!

DebbieD Posts: 3,540

No way Jodi!  Your bears are gorgeous and certainly worthy of higher $$$  bear_wub   Its just the same fight all of us have. 

For me, I found that selling my bears in person is a better venue because I tend to do real fur bears.  The biggest selling feature with real fur is TOUCH!   I used to display and sell my bears in a shop we had on the Oregon Coast, and I've done one show where I used scraps from the same coats as "TOUCH ME" displays.  I wanted adults and kids alike to be able to see what the various furs felt like, since most have only ever seen mink or maybe muskrat, if that  AND I wanted to save my bears from being mauled.  If it was someone truly interested, I'd happily hand over the bear. 

Since I moved halfway across country, and we don't have a shop, I've found it much harder for me to sell online.  But to be fair, I'm only make bears and sell them as I please, I'm not really reliant on them for a living.

I will say, nothing ticks me off more than to read about a show that happened last month in my area  bear_angry !!!  I didn't even KNOW Overland Park, Kansas had a teddy bear show until I moved away...and the bloomin' thing was no more than 5 miles from where I lived! 

There was NO advertising locally, NOTHING on the radio.....absolutely ZIP until I read about it a month later in a Teddy Bear magazine about how successful it was   bear_shocked   Now, if I wasn't a teddy bear magazine subscriber (there are none for sale in the bookshops in Kansas City, Overland Park, and kiss off the middle of Missouri)  If I didn't get these magazines, I NEVER would have known this great show even existed ~ so what chance would you have of ever attracting and outside collector?  Someone who'd LOVE to go, but never heard about it, even after it happened???

Another stumble block I've seen is the use of the term 'craft' versus 'art'.  And I've seen this in other venues, not just the teds.  If you use the term 'craft' automatically people expect to pay less and for some reason, expect less quality.  I've seen some of the most drop dead stunningly beautiful displays of tole painting, watercolours, and other floral crafts......and the artists could not give them away because they were being sold at a craft show, or in a craft booth.  I've no idea why, but say its art, and automatically people bump up to more $$$ or at least, they are expecting to pay more, and yes, do value the work far more.   Something psychological, like saying its only $9.99 vs $10.00....

For me, if I do another show, I'd love for the venue to be nice and clean, with reasonable lighting (no one likes dingy lighting), but most of all, SIGNAGE to the place!!!  I wanna see signs all over pointing to the bear show, and easy to follow.  Again, the show I attended did have signs (and actually did a great job advertising ahead of time in the Portland papers), but only at the entrance to the fairgrounds where it was being held.  Perhaps putting up signs on bulletin boards at coffee shops, hanging them at the local college campus...anything to get the idea out there that a bear show WILL be coming up, and its easy to find, and signs out and about the day of the show to let people know its even there!  I think that would help more than anything.

Eileen Baird'sBears
Toronto
Posts: 3,873

bear_original I agree with Heather completely!!

Even in a big city like Toronto, bear shows are very very poorly advertised. Very. Instead of targetting the same old (diminishing and/or glutted) market, organizers should be putting posters and brochures in every available nook and cranny!! Grocery stores, libraries, telephone poles, mailboxes, whatever. Advertising in local newspapers.

Just think what people spend on assorted expensive stuff--if they knew about Artist Bears, some of them at least would be spending our way.

I too would have been there long ago if I'd known these shows existed.

The one show I managed to attend was very nice, but it was poorly advertised, located in a crummy community center quite remote from the center of the city, where people with  $$$  shop. Most of the buyers I saw seemed to be from the immediate neighborhood, and were carrying off inexpensive manufactured bears.

As it was, I discovered the world of Artist Bears when looking for a sheepskin coat on eBay . . . don't ask how, I have no sense of direction.

About the cost of showing--would it be possible to charge a basic lowish fee for display space and then collect a percentage of what the artists sell?

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

OK, then you all need to come to my show!!!  :crackup:

Just joking... sort of!!

But seriously... I love hearing what you all are saying and I'm thinking that I've touched on just about every thought, issue, desire, concern you all seem to have:

Advertising: 3 local papers, TB&F, and I've hung up posters and left postcards at over 50 local businesses where the show is. Nine 2 foot by 4 foot colorful signs are being put up this weekend. ALL of my advertising has color photos of bears as I felt that folks needed to SEE what an artist bear was. And I have indeed mentioned "ARTIST BEARS" in all my advertising. Radio ot TV ads can be very costly and you'd have to know which radio station was the most listened to or targeted the right audience for a bear show. Some will do a free, one time mention of your show as a community service.

Venue: The location is beautiful, the grand ballroom is ALL windows and has huge chandeliers so marvelous lighting. Also central air and all the creature comforts of an upscale facility at a reasonable cost.

Artist Variety: I made this a juried show so as to have control over how many real fur bear artists, mini artists, etc. there were. And I've encouraged new artist participation. I think a show needs to be fresh every year with new artists and veterans together so collectors have something exciting to look forward to. These shows can get old and boring so fast.

Karen, I'm glad you brought this up again, someone always has something new to add. (Can you tell I'm getting a lot out of it????!!!) Thank you! I didn't mean to take over your thread... I'm just happy to hear that you all are mentioning things that are not beyond a promoters control and are indeed great ideas!!!

Daphne
www.backroadbears.com/shows.htm

bearlysane Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,188
jenny wrote:

It is a tough one..But I have to stick up for new artists at fairs...I think often they are the ones that get sales because their work is different. I agree that sometimes people do fairs before they are ready..but  I have seen some new artists work and it shines out like a beacon because they are good at whatever they do creatively...and customers easily recognise raw talent too.

It doesn't necessarily follow that because someone has been doing something for ages that they are better than someone who just started and for whom bear making and design clicked straightaway.....

I don't want any missinterpretations of what I said earlier. I too have seen new artists who do shine out like a beacon...Kerrie Mouat (Bessed Dressed Bears) was one that I recognised very early in the piece...her costumes were astounding...but she had been a bridal designer and seamstress long before she discovered bears. She had both the knowledge of design and good craftsmanship already under her belt. But she will tell you herself, it wasn't untill she entered a few comps and got some critique on the bears themselves, that she really began to soar. I think those that do well, aside from good needlework skills, are the ones with a good imagination, the ones that think outside of the square!

In my opinion there is a very big difference between a bear maker and an bear artist. It's the bear makers who I feel need to serve their "apprentiship" before expecting to make heaps of $$$$$$$$$$$$!

Now back to the original topic...I have a challenge for all you girls. You, like me, want to get more collectors...new collectors to the shows. Contact your local newspapers and give them a story about yourselves and your bears for their editorial pages. I'm sure if you try, at least some of the stories will get published and the general public will learn a little more about this wonderful world of teddy bears.

If you can time it before a local show, even better. I have done it in the past and it's lovely when people whom I had never met come up to my table, introduce themselves and tell me they came because of the article in the paper. Some of those ladies became collectors, who I still see and chat to at shows and others became my students.

Do you all hand out flyers before the show? Think about taking a walk around your neighbourhood and doing a leaflet drop...we've all got computers so I assume you have printers...if you can design an avatar you can design a small leaflet...print them 4 up on a sheet x 100 sheets is not too much to expect to promote the shows and your businesses. Can you imagine how many more people you'd get there if everyone having a table at the show did this. And lets face it there's a lot of us that could do with a good walk! Fresh air, plenty of time to think about new designs etc. etc.

Now you've got me running off at the mouth! bear_wacko I'm going to bed!

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