Thursday, December 13, 2012

a One of a Kind learning experience

Last weekend Wendy and I had a booth at One of A Kind (OOAK) in Chicago for the first time.  It is quite an event.  It takes up the entire 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart which is roughly an entire city block.  It runs 4 days, with  over 600 artists and by many estimates more than 70,000 potential customers.  It is also more than 5x what I usually spend on a booth.

Here is a quick summary of the weekend:


10 hour setup, everyone at the show is super helpful and things look so promising!  For details see my last post.


Arrived at 9 to add some finishing touches, show opened at 11.  Slow sales, slow enough to create a very real panic. If this is our pace we won't even cover parking for the 5 days we need it!!!  As we observe we realize we are in "newbie land".  This is the area that people are put in when they don't know enough to ask for a better spot.  While the rows that run from one of the building to the other are full, our row of 4 booths on either side gets a cursory glance from the end and only the people most devoted to seeing EVERY SINGLE BOOTH get to us.  Lesson 1:  Understand location and flow before agreeing to booth location.  We stepped back  to figure out what will make our booth more appealing to the cursory glance.  Given all of the white background that leads up to the ceiling we decided to create a line at the top to stop the eye and to decorate the large post that sits in the middle of our booth to make it more festive.  We closed down at 8 with a plan to do yet more finishing touches in the morning.  Biggest lesson of the day for me... Lesson 2: Standing shoes are not the same as walking shoes - my feet hurt!


Wendy went for supplies and we had 30 minutes to redecorate before the show opened at 11.  Black duct tape and silver wrapping paper did the trick.  Booth looked much better and the sales really began to rock.  We will never know if there was a correlation to our redecorating, but by the end of Friday we knew we would be at least ok by the end of the weekend.  Panic gone, we relaxed and enjoyed the crowd.  During a run to the supply room all the way on the other side of the building I made friends with another glass artist and got to visit several other other glass friends.  Sold both of my "winter scenes" 
 so I decided to see if I could somehow have more available by Sunday.  When I got home at 10 I put 5 pieces in the kiln for a single firing process.  These pieces normally take two firings - I was hoping to get one or two successes.


Crowds and sales made for a near exact replica of Friday. Still on track to have acceptable results but it was becoming apparent that some of the pieces I had hoped would fly out were not selling at all.  Time to rethink my tie dyes...


Checked the kiln for my new winter scenes - cutting corners doesn't work.  Look for a new scrap melt that has a lot of white and green soon.

While we hoped to have a 3rd good day in a row Sunday was odd.  Most of the shoppers seemed to be more interested in the event than in the purchase.  Fewer people leaving with shopping bags but we had acceptable sales, signed a contract for next year (indicating that we need to be in a different space)  and prepared to tear down.  The rules say that you need to get proof that you are paid up, then tear down, then get a work order to have your boxes loaded out.  The line of people for work orders at 5:05 was long, hard to believe all those booths came down in 5 minutes but I decided to play by the rules.  Lesson 3:  Turn in your work order form immediately!  We turned the work order in at 7:00 and they came for our boxes at 10:30.  We were not the last ones out but it was pretty lonely by the time we were done.

This was a great learning experience and it should set us up for an incredible show next year.  And the best part is... I don't have to create stock for the first summer shows, which means I can spend the next 5 months doing the creative stuff that I love without concern for "will it sell"!


  1. Amy
    Thank you so much for a truly heart felt review about the emotional side to doing a huge risk show like this.
    I too, considered it but the HUGE booth fees scared me away and we also have a much smaller price point, average $35 so planning 4 times the inventory literally gave me the shakes.
    If you had to guess, what price range would you say seemed to be successful from you and your neighbors. I would like an exhibitors view point, not management lies about what really transacted at a show like this.
    Thank you again, your posts were fun and educational to read,

  2. Susan, thanks for the comment. I did a quick analysis of what sold and my notes and I came up with a lot of sales under $50. Highest priced item that sold was $125. I had things up to $400 but they were barely getting a glance. Roughly 60 transactions across 4 days, 90% were gifts.

    Based on info from other artists - when they got a better booth location sales went up by 30 - 50%. Check back next year and see if I see the same thing!

  3. i am just starting to do shows and find your posts really informative and a little scary! ;-)

  4. This is a scary business, but if you love what you create it somehow makes sense.

    There are a lot of online resources for those who are new to shows. has tons of info if you search, nearly every new artist question has been asked and answered more than once.