I just took part in Handmade in Britain – and learned a thing or two in the process. Here’s my top 20 tips for putting on a good show.

1* Everyone always says it’s a good idea to visit a show beforehand to check out whether it is a good outlet for you. This is true. Think about who’s in the area, the shops there and what appears to be selling well.

2* I worked hard ahead of time to get a good set up that I could be happy with and then re-use lots more time. I also looked at other people’s stands at other shows to pick up tips. Every time I confessed it was my first ever show people were surprised, which was nice as it gave me more confidence.

3* Some shows may have storage space, others may not. Lots of them will give you a really small area to work with so do a test run before hand to make sure all your stuff actually fits. You also need to be able to hide your coat and bag etc and have somewhere unobtrusive for a bottle of water.

4* The actual space is likely to be smaller than the ‘official’ dimensions. I think this is because the walls of your shell stand within the boundaries of your nominal floor area. Hence my 150x100cm area was actually more like 142×95. It’s therefore a good idea to design any shelves etc with a good amount of give in them.

5* Think about high level space. I had the good fortune to be at the end of the view line from the front entrance – how I wished I’d had a picture or a wall mounted piece to tempt people in from a distance…

6* Once you’ve set out all your beautiful stock and your props etc you may need to touch up the walls. A small amount of white emulsion and a brush are handy.

7* It’s a good idea to know what your normal best sellers are and make sure these are presented well in a strong position. If they don’t seem to be selling dont be afraid to adjust the display to make them more prominent.

8* There will be dust. Under the spotlights this doesn’t look great so some sort of duster is handy.

9* Put cards etc out in not-too-tidy piles. That way people won’t feel uncomfortable picking one up and potentially messing up your pile.

10* I had a pot with a lid for change. When someone gave me a note the lid was handy to weigh it down while I counted out change. This keeps their note in plain view and prevents any claims they gave you a larger denomination.

11* Its’ handy if your prices don’t result in the need for masses of change.

12* Think about packaging. It needs to protect, be easy to do and ideally look great as well. It’s hard to wrap a pot in bubble wrap and make the final package look presentable, so I have paper carrier bags with my name/logo on. This becomes the outer layer of my wrapping, looks smart – and gives me a huge buzz every time one sails off into the world! You can buy a range of bags from a market sundriesman and get a rubber stamp made up to print onto them.

13* I got feedback that the range of pieces I was offering went well together as a whole. Other people nearby commented that where they had more than one range of stock it was hard to make the separate ranges look coherent in a small space. I also got feedback that my stand was well curated – the furniture/materials/props etc supported the style of the work. I’ve had 15 years doing exhibitions to practise this, but with its not rocket science so some consideration of your style/brand values etc will guide you.

14* A seat really really helps! A tall stool is good so that you are closer to eye level to start with.

15* When I am at Broadway Market an immediate selling point is that I am local. Having moved to Chelsea I had to think of other things to say to people. It’s handy to have a handful of these to keep people at your stall so they can get to know you and admire the work.

16* My stand was near the entrance. Lots of people wanted to go all the way around first before making any purchases. Think about ways to get them to come back – or to purchase immediately. I gave out cards, used another potter’s tip of writing my stand number on (and am channeling my inner sales demon to develop some other strategies…)

17* It’s also handy to have a catalogue and wholesale price list printed just in case. It’s even more handy if you remember to give it out to eg people who are researching tableware for recipe books etc.

18* We had staggered arrival times but all left at the same time on the final day so getting out was a bit of a scramble. I was glad to have brought a snack to give me a boost for the final push. If the entrance/exit is level a good sack barrow (something like this one was getting a lot of trolley envy) is very handy for moving a whole stack of large boxes. If there’s stairs you might prefer a larger number of lighter

19* At the end you may be supposed to make good the walls. A tub of pre-mixed filler and a little squeegee do the job.

20* And finally, it’s exhausting and I at least was peopled out by the end. I was super glad to have scheduled a day or two off afterwards and not speak to anyone.

Seeing everyone else’s work and looking at my own from the buyer’s perspective has given me lots of new ideas so I’m straining at the bit to get back into the studio and start making prototypes!

13 thoughts on “Putting on a show

  1. Excellent Information! Thanks for sharing. I especially liked the last tip….to remember to take time after the show to recover. It is exhausting. Especially if you are a friendly introvert. You will need time to build your energy back up 😉

    • Thanks. One of my neighbours commented on the irony of all these creative types who are happiest when tinkering in their studios/workshops having to be out in public for such a long stretch!

  2. Pingback: A show of hands | Elaine Bolt Ceramics

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