Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Continued from (3) About Laura: Background and start-up cost
Crafthaus: In your preparation for the Baltimore show, how many jewelry pieces do you bring with you?
Laura Jaklitsch: So this is something I still struggle with. I've heard numbers from various people saying you should have at least $40,000 worth of work and about five pieces of everything. Well, that’s just not possible for me. I just try to bring as much as I can. I usually have around $20,000 worth of items at a show. My goal is to offer five big neck pieces, ten rings, ten brooches, and so on. Ultimately, I just need to fill my three cases and then have some extra if people want to see additional work.
Crafthaus: Let’s talk about your booth design. How do you plan your booth, what about traffic flow, and how do you bring people to come into your booth? What are your thoughts on what works best?
Laura Jaklitsch: I have multiply banners all the way around on the inside, which I think is important because you can’t just design a booth from the vantage point of people looking squarely at it. People are walking past your booth and up and down an aisle, so you have to think of that space that they are going to see as they are walking. You have to have something placed within the first two feet at the front of your booth, or your space looks empty from the aisle. Sometimes people are looking down an aisle from far away. You want them to be able to see your booth even from a distance, and especially when you are dealing with smaller items, like jewelry.
In terms of the flow, I portioned off half of my booth so I make the accessible part of the booth smaller, more intimate. I have my storage in the back so the booth looks clean. I use white drape and white minimalist backgrounds overall, which works best with my work. My rug adds visual warmth so my booth feels almost like a living room. It’s its own little environment. The floors at the craft shows are concrete, they are not pretty and I think having a rug to cover them helps, they make a space look more polished. It’s also way more comfortable to walk on for the customers than the concrete.
The next consideration is how you draw people into your booth. I put a big photo of my work within two feet of the border of my booth. When people see my booth, they also see what type of work I make right away. As I said before, my cases are fairly close up front too, generally in a V-shape which draws people in from the edges. There is a little space in the middle where the displays meet, I kind of just wedge myself in there and I have my sample blocks on hand there as well. This works for me because I have all the things I need right at my finger tips. It gives me quick access to the display cases so that I can pull work out and hand it to people, which is really important when you sell out of closed cases. People like to touch work and you should be able to allow for that. In the end, everyone has to figure out what works best for them, this happens to work for me.
Laura Jaklitsch in her booth at Baltimore ACC show 2016. Photo: B. Martin, crafthaus. (Find Laura's jewelry in the crafthaus shop!)
Crafthaus: Do you have someone to help you?
Laura Jaklitsch: I generally don't. Some of the artists at these bigger shows pool their money and share a booth assistant between them. I think that’s a very good idea. If you have a family member or a friend who can help, that is really great. Last year, on the Friday of the ACC show, I was totally overwhelmed with many people coming to my booth at the same time, I could barely keep up. So if you can get help that would be good, but if you don't have help, or if you can't afford help, you will probably be okay on your own too. There often are booth sitters available at shows and you can flag them down if you need to step away for a bathroom break. These sitters will be in your booth but they won’t sell anything for you, just keep that in mind.
Crafthaus: How do you process your sales?
Laura Jaklitsch: I use a square and my phone. It seems like most artists use the square system these days. Some people also have a Paypal reader which does the same thing. When I first started many artists had credit card machines and things like that, but everyone has since switched to a smartphone reader. It’s cheaper and portable. The customers are comfortable with this form of payment by now, it’s just much easier for all involved.
Crafthaus: What other equipment do you bring along for your own comforts? How about a chair to sit on?
Laura Jaklitsch: I typically end up renting a chair. Which is outrageously expensive.
Crafthaus: How much is it?
Laura Jaklitsch: I think I paid $130-180.
Crafthaus: For a chair?
Laura Jaklitsch: Yeah. [chuckles]. That just the thing, if you want to rent tables, chairs, anything, you're going to pay quite a bit of money.
Crafthaus: So, why don't you bring one with you?
Laura Jaklitsch: I do bring it with me when I bring my car, but this year I am flying. So I would have to ship a chair and then carry it ... it’s easier to just pay for the rental. It’s really a trade-off. If I am driving, I can bring a chair, but then I have to pay for gas and parking. If I fly, I have to pay the rental fee. In the end, the cost is the same so it ends up being a convenience issue.
Some people use shipping companies, such as Art in Motion. Art in Motion also rents chairs and tables and things like that. Sometimes their rate is better than the Convention Center rate, so it's always worth shopping around. I know some people who fly and they just rent tables which they cover with tablecloth and put their cases on top of. That works. For my booth, for the look I want to achieve, I prefer to have my own tables.
Laura Jaklitsch earrings displayed at the ACC Baltimore show in 2016. Photo: B.Martin, crafthaus. (Find Laura's jewelry in the crafthaus shop!)
Crafthaus: Very good advice. One more question about the drape that’s being provided. You said you use white drape. I assume there's a choice of black or white?
Laura Jaklitsch: At a lot of places there’s a choice between black and white drape. At Craft Boston drape is included but it's black. So I bought my own drape because I prefer white. A lot of artists have their own pipe and drape, some of them even prefer it in a different color altogether, so they bring what they prefer and that’s usually ok too. In some places you only get black drape with the booth cost, if you want to rent white drape you have to pay extra for that and vice versa. And then there's also fire regulations. A lot of places have rules about what kind of materials you can use in the drapery. Fire marshals will inspect the drapery to make sure it is flame retardant. The plugs and the lights, they get really quite hot over the course a day.
Crafthaus: Looking at it from your experience and having gone through the process of purchasing some things and renting others, what do you recommend new artists should buy and what should they rent?
Laura Jaklitsch: Definitely buy lights. I've got lights that break down into two-foot portions that fit into my suitcase. It's basically a track-lighting system. I buy halogen lights, some people use LED's. They are more expensive than halogen, but use less electricity. My lights click into my track and I can adjust them to best light my work. I zip-tie everything to the drape bars. Rental fees on lights are very expensive, and then you got the labor for the Union to set up your lights on top of that fee, so that starts adding up really fast. Check Home Depot or Lowe’s too. That’s where I got my lights.
Ask around, some artists may want to get rid of some of their stuff that they don’t use anymore, or they will be willing to rent or lend you things.
I would probably rent the pipe and drape because that's a $700 investment. Rent the tables and bring your own covering. For me, it's important that my booth stands out and that’s why I bring my own tables. There are about 700 artists at the Baltimore show, people have a couple seconds to decide if they want to come into your booth. If you think your work does not need your own table design, rent the tables.
Most artists use tables also to hide stuff they do not want to have out in plain sight. Wrapping materials for instance and all the other items you may need at hand. You will need pedestals if you're displaying sculptural pieces. Those I would buy because renting them is very expensive. You can’t really rent banners, those you should have custom made. Banners is a must. [laughing]. You want your name in big letters, maybe an image of your work too.
Some people don't use cases, that's a personal choice. For me, I just feel more comfortable when my work is in cases.
Two things that someone recommend to me when I started out was that everyone needs gaffer's tape and zip-ties. Gaffer’s tape is tape that you can peel off and not leave any residue. And zip ties. Everything seems to be held together with zip ties. [laughter] Bring your own tools, you don't want to have to rent a laborer, it's very expensive. Be aware though that there are Union regulations to consider. In Baltimore, they don’t let you use your own power tools. They want you to rent their labor.
I would recommend that you just reach out to your artist network and see what you can borrow. A lot of people go through different booth displays when they've been doing craft shows for a while. So they might actually have some stuff that they're not using anymore that you could borrow or rent from them. (Note to READERS: Remember the info in a previous post about Deb Karash being interested in selling her display?)
Standing behind Laura Jaklitsch's display cases at ACC Baltimore 2016. Photo: B. Martin, crafthaus. (Find Laura's jewelry in the crafthaus shop!)
Crafthaus: Do you have a book out for people to write down their address and contact information?
Laura Jaklitsch: I have a sheet printed out for that and a folder that contains all of my paperwork.
Crafthaus: Does the Baltimore show give you any kind of marketing materials?
Laura Jaklitsch: They provide us with postcards and they have stickers that you can add to those postcards too. If you are reaching out to your own people, have your own postcards printed with the show info on it. And you want to print up a ton of business cards. I would say print up a thousand. Write your booth number on your postcards.
Crafthaus: How about the location of your booth. Do you have any say in where you are being placed?
Laura Jaklitsch: Well, you can't really choose, but you can request a booth number range you would like to be in. There's all kinds of theories about what location you should pick or where you should pick. I don't think it really matters in the end. It is just a gigantic show. It's kind of overwhelming. Visitors have their booklet in hand and they pick out the booths they really want to see. They'll come around the first time and make notes in their books so they can remember what they liked, and come back during the second walk-through. People that come to these shows often have a system that they use every time. Make sure you have your booth number ready and printed on your cards so that they can come back and find you.
Crafthaus: From the contact information you collect, do you conduct surveys of customers who have been to your booth?
Laura Jaklitsch: I don’t survey. I usually just like to be able to remind people that I exist. They're not going to remember your name or anything like that. There's just so many artists that they've seen, so alerting them ahead of a show that you will be there is a very good way to stay in touch.