Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ups And Downs

I've just returned home from a trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico, where I exhibited at the Ruidoso Arts Festival. I elected (perhaps somewhat crazily, in hindsight) to drive to and from the festival (that's a 22-hour drive, folks. Each way). You *may* be thinking I'm a little worn out today. You *may* be right.  :)

Unfortunately I did not come home with bags of money...far from. The show was a not all that I'd hoped for, but I certainly learned a lot...and of course, I'm going to share those learnings.  :)

First, the positives:

- The show is BEAUTIFUL. One of the prettiest art shows I've seen, with some really lovely art, ceramics, and sculpture. Caveat - you have to love the West / Southwest, or at least like a little touch of it, to want to shop at this festival. It's VERY South/Western. It's also indoors, in an excellent setting (the Ruidoso Convention Center). Very Southwestern / Lodge feel. There were several bronze artists there with amazing work (I love bronze sculpture).

- I had a GREAT booth. I didn't ask for (or pay for) a corner, but as it turned out, I ended up with one anyway. Which is always nice.  :)   Here's a booth shot:

The shot's taken from the direct corner angle, so that's my tent pole you see right in the center. I changed some things for this festival - mainly the new photos (hanging from the back walls) and the black fronts for the abstracta displays. The black panels look so clean and crisp and it just felt more polished overall. Plus my "inside" curtains (from when I used to do wholesale shows) almost exactly match my "outside" curtains (for retail festivals), which I used to wrap the top of my tent (unseen in this shot) and the side poles for a more polished look. I got lucky on the carpeting - it was provided by the convention center.

Here's a shot without the black panels for my display cases:

MUCH cleaner looking with the inserts.  :)

- I won first place in the jewelry category!! What a nice surprise. I'd submitted three pieces for judging, and this one won:

So a little "yay me". The blue ribbon was a nice attention-getter / conversation starter all weekend.

Now, the negatives:

- Foot traffic was exceptionally light, all three days. Most festivals are a numbers game; to make your necessary expenses and some profit, you have to have a LOT of potential customers coming to the event. Because what's the old phrase? "One yes for every seven no's"? I'd say it's more like every fifteen no' light foot traffic means it's that much harder to get to "yes" because you have a lot less customers to interact with in the first place.

- Apparently Ruidoso is where half of Texas goes to "summer" each year. Okay, I exaggerate a wee bit; Ruidoso, a town of (normally) 10,000, can't possibly accommodate half of TEXAS. But there were a LOT of Texans. And y'know what I found out about Texans? They have decided preferences. It *is* Texas, after all. This should surprise no one:

1. Bigger IS Better.

2. I Want My Bling

3. Bigger is Better, I Want My Bling, AND I don't want to "stand out" too much. I just want to "show off."

What that meant for me was:

1. The designs were too small. The newest pieces with the brightly colored stones got a lot of attention. But they were not bold enough for the Texas ladies.

2. The designs were not bling-y enough. I don't use faceted stones, I don't use crystals...see where I'm going with this? There was a jewelry booth at the end of my row, with very high end work - white gold, yellow gold, big fat blue topaz, tourmaline, etc. They had tons of customers all day long. It wasn't the most *creative* work...usually when working in gold the designs tend to be more conservative - but it WAS bling-y.

3. The designs were too weird. The mosaic metal pieces got a lot of attention, especially with the blue ribbon placed prominently next to my winning necklace, but I think they were a little too edgy for the crowd. Also, I'd run an ad in a local paper, and several people mentioned the ad. But what they said was, "Oh, I thought it would be BIGGER!".


Apparently - several exhibitors told  me - this show can totally tank in sales or it can be phenomenal. Unfortunately I can't afford to take the time / spend the money each year on that much of a gamble. I had a lot of expenses, coming all the way from Georgia, and the driving was hard on my body. So I won't be going back...but I now know that if I get into any Texas shows, I need a different product line.  :)

Additional positives (silver linings, kids!) were parts of the drive - I've said a million times how much I love the West, and driving through New Mexico was awesome. On my drive out, there were huge, huge stretches of land (for hours on end) that were just uninhabited. I love that wilderness; it makes me feel small (in a good way) and makes me so aware of the rest of the world. I drove through a lot of that space in silence, no phone, iPod off, working out things in my head. It was good for me.  :)

A lot of my NM driving looked like this. Except all flat; no mountains. This was closer to Ruidoso than, say...Clovis. :)

I also made a new friend. You know how you meet someone, and everything just clicks? That's exactly what happened with this girl. We had plenty of time to talk (unfortunately!) during the festival, and we went to dinner each night as well. It's amazing when you encounter someone who immediately "gets" you and you "get" them. Such an unexpected and wonderful bonus.

Also...being in New Mexico last weekend caused me to miss out on one of my staple gem shows, so I made a little side trip to Albuquerque, where one of my suppliers has a big warehouse. And I spend two hours picking out some new play toys.  :)  Here's just a little of what I purchased:

Turquoise pairs for earrings. I have quite a few turquoise pendants in my stock, but am low on earrings. The stones in the center are Peruvian opal, but the rest are turquoise.

I have the opposite situation with Larimar: lots of earring stones but few pendants. So these are a few of the pendant-sized stones I bought (The top two are for earrings; they had such a pretty pattern I couldn't resist).

More to come...I got some more fancy turquoise cuts and I'll show them to you soon, I promise. For now...more unpacking and a day of (mostly) resting after the long trip. Back into the studio tomorrow!  :)

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