Ann Arbor Art Fair Lessons


by Betsy Lehndorff

It’s 10 p.m. Saturday and I see my garage door open in front of me as I pull up to my house. After a 3 ½-hour drive I am finally back and that’s a relief. As much fun as Ann Arbor was, I want to retreat back to the quiet place where I am most creative, and over the next days and months take a serious look at what I have learned.

I have a long “to do” list. I sold another magazine article while I was at the fair, because I had my computer handy and was able to correspond with the magazine’s editor by email. So that’s helpful. (I write about gems and jewelry for hobbyists.) There’s also the possibility of being in a show at a nearby hospital. So I will pursue that. But right now I want to take a moment to look at some of the benefits and drawbacks. Here goes:

  • Income — $425  I sold four pieces of jewelry and was expecting to sell more. So the lesson is that I should focus more on creating a body of work where each piece is related to the next one, and bring less, not more jewelry next time.
  • Expenses — Kristine offered me the use of her son’s bedroom, which was exceptionally generous, so I saved a lot of money. We also commuted to the show together from her house. Still, I paid $129 for a first night in a motel, $140 for gas; $85 for food, $200 for the booth fee; and probably $150 for the materials I used to make the jewels. That’s the reality of this enterprise.
  • I could sell a few more pieces to people who said they would “be back,” because I gave them my business card. But generally, if you can’t close a sale then, you lose the sale.
  • I learned about other educational opportunities. Ann Arbor is rich in creative resources.
  • To think about what worked, I can put some of my photos up on the walls of the studio, and scrawl out ideas on my white board. I can think about what I need to change – such as staging my work in a better way; developing a theme and sticking to it; recycling some pieces that didn’t sell. I have a year to do this.
  • I can apply the ideas I develop above to two other displays I have at area galleries.
  • I may hold a one-day home show over the Labor Day weekend to get rid of some of my inventory. I can advertise it through social media. I can also do demos at the two galleries I am with.
  • I need to think about the wisdom of creating lots of cheap earrings. Two silversmiths did this and each woman walked away with at least $500 each in sales. They had clever ideas that were easy to execute, and one woman used up all of her scrap silver. She was able to make 30 pairs of $10 earrings in 30 minutes, then dump them in a tumbler for finishing. That’s $300 and her earrings sold like hotcakes. She also had substantial pieces on display and many of these sold as well.
  • Keeping my word – I took images of each member’s display and I need to get these photos back to them. It is possible they can use them to get into other shows or galleries. They did so much for me and it’s something I can do for them.

Bottom line – I had a ball. I got to meet cool people and together we supported each other and got through some pretty tough challenges. As a team we learned a lot and I am looking forward to getting back together with everyone next summer.

A final note: learning how to do a simple demonstration can really draw people to your booth if you are doing the show circuit. In the next few weeks, I will be posting a tutorial on a couple very simple ideas to demonstrate that will entertain show and gallery visitors, and help you to interact with them.

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.


Posted in Handmade Business, Selling Jewelry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: