Monday, August 18, 2008

tough market or bad choice of show(s)?

So when i tried for a particular big time handmade craft show a few months ago, I got the feedback that the circles I used in the pendants are not handmade so they cannot accept the applicaiton even though I explained that I am in the process of replacing all of them with handmade ones even as we speak. I felt bad but also gave me determination to replace all the pieces except the chains themselves with handmade things - pendants, links, rings you name it. I felt all good about it and with the new line of "Silpi", handmade sculpture pendants with beads threaded and coiled I thought I am finally ready for any handmade shows. So I go for San Francisco gift fair with all the pride in the world and got shocked to learn that 'handmade' doesn't exactly need to mean 'handmade everytime'. You can make one pendant or shape and cast it and its still considered 'handmade'. I got advise from fellow designers to do just that to get the price even lower. So, its a compromise between mass produced by machines and literally handmake every piece. i am not sure I am ready to do that yet but felt cheated somehow. The SF show didn't go well as I wanted but learnt a thing or two about the market.

I signed up to go to Las Vegas ASD/AMD show fully expecting it to be a 'wholesale' only show and with the assurances from the organizers that there are other 'similar' vendors coming. Two days before the show the organizers call and say the fine jewelry section of the show which is what I signed up for is 100% filled with diamonds and platinum and what the hell am I doing in that part of the show!!!!! I refused to be moved to the other section of the show they have which I felt is filled with mass produced and really low price jewelry with almost no handmade ones. They reluctantly agree to leave me in the fine jewelry section warning me that next year if I want to come to the show I have to go to the fashion/costume jewelry section and will not be allowed in fine jewelry (even though 25% of my collection has 18k or 14k gold with precious stones and black diamonds).

But by then warning bells are ringing in my mind that this might yet be another wrong show I picked trusting the organizers to tell me the truth. Ofcourse there isn't a single vendor in the fine jewelry section who has anything but "manufactured" stuff and mostly with diamonds. And i also observed that the only booths that were busy at the show were actually doing "retail" in the wholesale show. On talkign to a few people I was enlightened that atleast in that particular show, as long as 10% of the products they have are for wholesale (or a single 4 or 6ft glass showcase full), they can sell any other items for retail!!!!

Is there a secret manual that I am missing here? How can I compete in handmade section for prices with people who can cast them and provide at lower price or in a wholesale show where people can sell 90% of the inventory in retail!. Since its expected, most of the buyers were there for retail, not the right type of buyers I was looking for. There was a company from china which was selling rings or earrings with 14k gold and a single small stone for $15 - $25!!!. It probably will cost me that much in raw materials if I want to make them handmade. Considering everything I didn't do that a couple of good accounts, and a couple of good leads who are starting new boutiques in LA and SF but the point is that's not enough to keep me in the business for long. I really learnt about some of the nuances of the business the very hard way - a few thousand dollars worth indeed...

I really enjoy working with metal, shaping, fusing, soldering, texturing you name it. But I am at a loss and don't have the courage to try any more shows at this time:)