by Betsy Lehndorff
Guess what? Our booth survived. It didn’t get blown away by last night’s winds and was still standing this morning when we all arrived to finish our set up at 7:30 a.m. Last night when we left, we were also missing sheets of glass needed to complete our cases. So we were pretty disheartened. But they turned up miraculously in the trunk of a car. So we finished building the cases and then set up our jewelry displays.
Again, no one was complaining and everybody was helping out. But around 8:30 a.m., the jitters set in. I didn’t think my work was any good (!) Almost everybody else was thinking the same thing, and we were all heavily invested. So I felt right at home.
By 9 a.m. the first of hundreds of shoppers arrived and we were ready to go, although the show doesn’t open until 10. And when that hour rolled around, we were starting to see sales.
I love selling jewelry and will joke with anyone to bring them into our booth. But, curiously, I didn’t make a single sale of anyone’s jewelry for hours. Maybe I was trying too hard. I did create a lot of connections for my fellow jewelers. If I could get a customer interested in one of our other guild member’s pieces, I would then tap them on the shoulder, make an introduction and let her finish the sale.
Me: “Oh wait – the artist is right over there, let me get her for you…..”
Although I can talk about almost any piece of jewelry and how it is made, this is an art fair and most people want to meet the actual artist, unless I’ve embarrassed them so much that they take off running.
Acceptance is an important thing. My work wasn’t selling and it has been a long time since I have sold work, to be honest. After about three hours, I had no bites. People wouldn’t even look at my work. So I volunteered my time “booth sitting.” I stand behind the counter of other booths, so the artists can take a brief break. And by the time they return, I usually have a sale or two lined up for them.
Then something funny happened. A very shy woman approached me and liked my favorite piece – which consisted of a mother of pearl pendant, moonstone supported on the heads of two cats, with a peridot bail and triple chain. It’s one of those pieces that just came together and I should develop the look into a style. She fell in love with it and got her younger sister to translate for her. When they asked me for a discount, I was faced with losing a sale or waiting a few days to get the full amount. It was my best piece. But I decided to drop the price for a boost to my ego. She got the $350 pendant for $300, so my booth fee is covered.
I was so grateful, I took a photograph of her wearing the pendant and know she will love it. This kind of sale is a very personal thing and I am delighted that she bought it.
There are other rewards at an art show besides sales — connections to other opportunities, such as an exhibit at the University of Michigan Hospital. The show’s representative came by and mentioned that she worked at the hospital. This started a conversation and I told her how my parents and grandparents had been involved with the hospital since the 1920s. So she asked me to submit for the show. Looks like the deadline was yesterday, but when I get home I will send her my submission. (If not sooner. I have my laptop with me.) It would be really cool to have my jewelry in an exhibition there.
So all in all, today was a satisfying little miracle. I wasn’t expecting anything to turn out, and the first day of the show has exceeded my expectations.
Tomorrow – the weather is supposed to be even better. So stay tuned.
Wubbers University instructor Betsy Lendorff is a journalist by day and silversmith during her spare time. Mostly self-taught, she like to make beautiful narrative pieces that are very detailed and a challenge to solder. She also occasionally writes for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine and other special interest publications. You can view pictures of her work and enroll her in Wubbers U classes here.