Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Crafthaus: For how long have you being making jewelry?
Laura Jaklitsch: I started making jewelry in 2005 at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I took some time off in between and gradated in 2011 with a BFA and jewelry and metal.
Crafthaus: Is this your first time participating in a bigger craft show?
Laura Jaklitsch: The first show I ever participated in was Craft Boston because they offer a mentorship program for which you share a booth with someone else. This is something that benefits new artists a lot, especially those who have not been out of school for that long. The ACC in Baltimore 2015 was my first solo show which was an intense experience. I also already did Philadelphia and Craft Boston in my own booths this year, and then this year will be my second solo Baltimore show.
Crafthaus: Do you participate in any of the other ACC shows?
Laura Jaklitsch: Not in all of them yet. Last year, I only applied for Baltimore and San Francisco and this year I applied for everything. I'm still on the wait list for San Francisco, it's a smaller show and pretty competitive. All the booth fees are due to be paid fairly closely together and I am a one-woman show, so I'm not sure I could have enough money and inventory to really make it worth my while to do a show every single month.
Crafthaus: When you say, that's a lot of booth cost to shoulder, let’s talk about that. What is the price for your booth space in Baltimore?
Laura Jaklitsch: If you're just there for the retail end it's about $1,400 and that doesn't include electricity, pipe and drape, or anything else. The wholesale-retail combination is somewhere around $2,000 and the other ACC shows are usually around $1,000. So in total, I've got to consider an accumulation of booth deposits that are typically at around $500-600 per show, and dues usually around this time of year. It adds up pretty quickly. Doing craft shows is a huge financial commitment and something to think about for someone who is just starting out. How are you going to fund these expenses? For many people I know, they zero out their credit cards and then pay them off after they did a show and made some money. You have to think hard if it is worth it for you to pull money out of your savings, or maybe even loan some money to tie you over.
Crafthaus: Do you participate in the Baltimore wholesale segment as well?
Laura Jaklitsch: I did last year, but this year I decided that I would just do the retail end.
Laura Jaklitsch: One factor is cost. Other than the booth fee, you have to include the additional hotel days, additional food you’ll need, and other items for a longer trip.
My impression is, and I heard this many times, that the wholesale buyers really want to see a new artist for several years before they place an initial order. They want to see where your work is going, they want to make sure you're not just going to disappear one year. It's a relationship that you are forming with them, so things take their time. My work is mostly one-of-a-kind type work, so my problem was to make buyers comfortable with buying it. I am currently considering to offer a huge stock of pieces that wholesale buyers could go through, like in a "pick-bag" situation, I package it and send it to them. Maybe at some point I will have a large enough inventory for that. If I had someone helping me with more production-type work, I would definitely think more about wholesaling, but at this point I just want to keep my cost really low.
Crafthaus: Give me an average cost for you to attend the retail show.
Laura Jaklitsch: My cost at this time are about $3,000 plus. The booth fee is $1400. I'm doubling up in hotel rooms with people to save money, so that’s about $300 for the hotel room. Pipe and drape runs at about $200, electricity is usually between $100 and $150 just for the basic rate.
Keep in mind, I just have a 10 x 10 booth, if you have a larger booth this is going to cost you more. My plane ticket is about $200. I ship a lot of things to Baltimore because I am not taking my car, so that's probably about $250 in shipping. Then there's cabs from the airport, that's another $100 both ways, and then food, another couple hundred bucks. Last year, I didn't have any equipment yet, so just the start-up cost and booth fees and cost me about $4000 to be able to do the show. I think this is probably a good estimate to give out, if you don't have any equipment and you're by yourself in a 10 x 10 booth, and you're doing wholesale/retail. It’s not that outrageous for a show of this caliber, but it is a factor for sure.
Crafthaus: How about insurance? Don't you have to have your own insurance at the event?
Laura Jaklitsch: Yes, you should have your own insurance. Insurance is not covered by the show organizer.
Crafthaus: You mention start-up cost, you mean the cost for getting displays, cases, display furniture, lighting, business cards, that kind of stuff.
Laura Jaklitsch: That’s right. My display is pretty bare-bones but it displays my work well so I am happy with it. Other people’s displays are much more elaborate than mine and will cost much more.
I bought a rug which was around $100, I bought lights which ended up being around $150, and then there's all these little things like tape, zip ties, clipboards, pens, just basic things to conduct business. My cases disassemble and flip together so that they fit in a suitcase for easy shipping and transportation. I spent about $150 getting the plexiglass cut. My table tops are really inexpensive, they're just home depot table tops, the table legs I had made, I already had one set and they're around $200 per set so that was a comparatively big cost. What else? Banners! I found a place online and spent $130 on banners. All that adds up. Just to get my booth set up I probably spend around $1000, and that does not includes things like the suitcases I needed to get my items transported in. I designed my booth so that everything fits into two suitcases and what doesn't fit in there I have to ship. I ship table legs, table tops, the rug and the banners, everything else fits into those suitcases. They're pretty big, it takes a whole lot of muscle to move them around, but I put them in checked baggage and then I have a small suitcase for myself that just contains my clothes, which I carry on the plane.
Crafthaus: Let's say your cost to do this show runs you about $3,000 and that’s after the initial investment in armatures you already made. You will need to sell a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces just to cut even and then, obviously, you need to sell some more work to make a profit.
Laura Jaklitsch: Right. But before I decided to do this show, I called up everyone who would talk to me and ask them if they thought it would be worth it. A lot of people told me that participating in shows like these offer benefits you cannot put a price tag on. Getting your work out in front of a lot of people is important as are the connections you make with other artists and galleries. Having your work up on the ACC website is great, I still get a lot of website hits from that, and just being able to say that I got into that show is big for me too. I do feel it raised my profile a lot. If you do the wholesale end, your image goes in a little booklet that gets sent out to many galleries and I got contacts through there as well. I mostly consign my work to galleries so that was one of the reasons why wholesale wasn't the best business fit for me, people don't outright purchase my work yet, they consign it, at this point in my career anyway.
Crafthaus: What's your price range for a one-of-a kind brooch?
Laura Jaklitsch: Between $280 to $425 retail. My pieces are labor-intensive and my profit margin is really not large on smaller-sized brooches. This is something that I'm starting to figure out as I go along, and it’s one of the reasons why I am starting to make larger-scale work. I believe that the type of people who typically buy my smaller work will probably also like this in larger. I want to bump up the size with my current body of work which is also another reason why I chose to do the retail end this year.
(Find Laura's jewelry in the crafthaus shop!)
Crafthaus: It sounds like you need an assistant.
Laura Jaklitsch: Yes, I would love an assistant. This is another thing I've being looking at. I've also been thinking about getting some technology involved, some laser cutting to help me move things along faster. Having an assistant is great but it also has its drawbacks.
During a slow month like January for instance, there are no shows and you are basically burning through money, then you add to that the cost of doing a show plus the money you have to pay an assistant for making work that you will need later on in the year. It gets really difficult if you're just starting out. No one really has a huge profit margin to begin with.
I don't think buyers always understand the reality of being a self-supporting artist, they just think this stuff is ‘so expensive’, but the reality is I'm not standing there making a killing, it's a labor of love, basically.
Wonderful to hear the honest reality of the craft show booth business. I did 27 craft shows a year for years in Canada, and rarely did more then break even. Then, the one year things were flying out of my booth, someone complained at a big and well-known Toronto show I was in, said I was a mass marketer, which I most certainly was NOT! I did everything myself except having someone cut my fabrics to my original patterns and every, single piece was a one-of-a-kind. So, I was kicked out of that show, which was a really good one. It is a really tough venture. Your work is gorgeous, and I truly hope that you find great success! I don't know how some of these artists do the craft show circuit....grueling!
Thank you Leisa, and thank you so much for the kind words about my work! I wanted to be honest so new artists can crunch the numbers, and know exactly what they are getting into so they can plan accordingly. It really is a marathon not a sprint :)
And major to props to artists like you who do or have done that many shows a year, I don't know how you do it!
You are SO welcome Hang in there. I did it almost every weekend, and I had a small child! Often, she came with, along with my husband and sometimes my parents, so they took her out and had fun while I worked. I missed out on a lot of time with her!
Thank you for sharing the real truths...there is a lot of money out and that is why it's so frustrating to hear from a potential customer, "can you do better on the price." We can't afford to we are doing the best we can!
Thank you Alison! I do wonder if the thinking behind asking for discounts is that the huge markup on brand name luxury goods carries over to craft, but as we all know it definitely does not!
Perhaps, there is a disconnect...people have no idea how hand made is made. When I go to shows I bring a demo board. I try to keep it simple, but in my opinion, showing steps gives customer some insight. I think we all need to be educating the public since what we do seems to be rare. That and artists need to stop acquiescing to giving them.
Thank you Heba, I'm so glad you found this helpful! I believe most of that (inventory, packaging) will be covered in future posts and if they are not I can come back to this and answer the rest of the questions. Off the top of my head:
For money exchange you have several options, I use square on my smartphone, but there are other readers like Paypal and I think Amazon might have one? The readers are best for artists because you pay as you make sales rather than rent a credit card machine and pay monthly.
For advertising, you can do any combination of emails to your mailing list, social media, postcards, magazine adds (such as in American Craft or Metalsmith), and I think you can also do ads in the map booklet.
What to wear - dress professionally in a way that complements your work. When I buy clothes I make sure they will go well with my jewelry. Make sure you wear shoes you can stand in all day.
Dear Laura, What a wonderfully honest perspective! The first show I did out of grad school was ACC San Francisco as an emerging artist, and it was a really great experience. But I felt I could not afford the fees for a regular booth. For awhile now, I have headed the other direction entirely-small shows and the local farmers market. For me, it’s been a great way to get a footing in my community, which is small but wonderfully supportive. I’ve even enjoyed the occasional, albeit rare, day at the farmers market where my daily sales topped $800 or even $1000. Not too shabby for $15/month rent, but mostly I love really knowing who my customers are. I run into them at the grocery store, meet them at coffee shops, etc. This year I’m venturing out to regional juried shows, but still plan to attend the local town events. There are many ways different ways to go at it at as an artist. I get what you are saying though about your profile being raised by doing the prestigious shows. I do feel that given my choice to opt for the small scene, I lost that. By the way, I really love your minimalist booth design and your work is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Thank you so much for sharing some alternatives to larger shows, and the kind words about my work! It's so interesting to learn the different paths people have taken as working artists - there really is no right way to do it.
PS: I remember your beautiful work from Minimal to Bling at the SAC in 2011!
Thanks for adding your story in depth, Charity!! Best of luck, your pieces and display look amazing!!
Thank you Laura, Brigitte and others, this has helped me tremendously in unveiling the 'mystery' regarding these big shows!! Good luck to your future endeavors, your work is beautiful and inspirational.