Wednesday, October 03, 2007

WARNING: this post is my version of war and peace.

This is a long one, so get ready! It's been a while since I posted this in-depth on a subject. I find it can be rather cathartic, so here goes…

The last week of preparations for CB was particularly chaotic. I was working extremely hard to finish everything: the jewelry itself, building and preparing my display, pricing and tagging, etc (meanwhile almost completely ignoring my boyfriend, my friends, my email, my filthy dirty house and my cats). I then came down with a sinus infection as well as a double ear infection. Luckily I made it to the Dr. for some antibiotics and threw myself right back into my work. There was no stopping me! I was literally working up to the moment my friend Casey (aka the Candy Thief) came to pick me up in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon.

Packed and enthusiastically ready for our 4.5 hour road trip to DC, we hopped in the Jetta and started on our way. The trip down went smoothly and we were able to find a decent hotel to sleep at so we could get an early start for 8am set-up at CB.

The next morning’s load-in was fine, I did forget to bring a chair to sit on unfortunately, but we made do. My nerves the whole morning were pretty out of control. I had no idea what to expect but the excitement in the air as all the other vendors set up their tents and unpacked their goods was palpable.

I made my first sale within the first hour the event opened. I was pumped. I thought, “OK great, this could be really awesome” however after that initial sale, the tone of the event for me started to change. Tons of browsers and many comments, the most popular being “oooh, creepy!” sometimes followed by, “…but in a good way!” and sometimes followed by a sour face and a prompt exit from my table.

The prize for worst comment of the day goes to a woman who tried to pick up the cut-off Barbie legs I had on my table that were displaying my rings, [note to self: never use that display again! It seemed to really confuse people that the legs were JUST display]

“Where da body? That dumb.”

“Thank you” I replied.

And a close second:

“Awww, the poor Barbies!!”

“Don’t worry, they’re not alive, they can’t feel it.” I reply with a smile.

“Yeah, but they were PLAYED with!” she retorts violently as she storms away. (as if this somehow makes them any more alive?) I should have asked if she was a vegetarian. just curious.

It was warm, but comfortable for most of the day, until the sun came beating down on us from behind our booth. By 2pm, and with only two sales in my pocket, I was feeling really deflated. Not to mention dehydrated, hungry, head-achy and overall unsure and insecure of myself, my work, and my place in the “indie-craft fair scene.” My cheeks hurt from smiling, and fielding all the same comments, over and over and OVER again.

Some people lingered a while, admiring and complimenting the work, but when they turned the pieces over and read the price, they usually moved on fairly quickly. The interesting thing about it is that my price points were not out of the ballpark for the event. I know of another jeweler there who sold in the same price range as me and a woman who makes handbags priced from $100 - $150. Both of those vendors said they had an awesome day of sales.

So what was it exactly? Why was there interest and not purchases? My shoe pins were $25. The most expensive piece on my table was $175, a necklace. The majority of my work was priced at $70 - $150. Perhaps because of the dark patina people didn’t realize my jewelry was made of sterling silver (I did try to mention it often).

I think people are uneducated about what goes into a piece of hand-made jewelry. In a world where you can walk into any mall and buy a pair of “silver” hoops for under $10, maybe people don’t understand the difference between that and my earrings in terms of materials, process, and overall expense to make.

I don’t buy anything pre-fab, (except for my chains). I do not cast my pieces. (though maybe I should in the future because it would bring the price down). I hand make every… single… earwire. I individually fit and “bezel” each face part. I do two rounds of pigmented epoxy resin setting to ensure no air bubbles, in which all the color mixing is done by yours truly, chosen precisely as on a painter’s palette. Every piece is sanded to perfection, twice. One simple smile necklace, with one color resin surround can easily take up to 6 hours. This doesn’t even include the time spent hunting for dolls, and choosing the perfect parts to use in each and every piece. My craftsmanship is top notch. It’s the one area I have full confidence.

Was it the location of our booth at the event? Perhaps it just wasn’t my "crowd?" Maybe I need to suck it up and just apply to more high-end craft shows where an understanding of craftsmanship is a given and concept jewelry isn’t unheard of such as the Buyers Market in Philly or ACC in Baltimore. Maybe DC just wasn’t my city. I don’t know.

Another thought I entertained was that perhaps those who enjoyed it, and did not see it as “dead bodies strung on chains", were just not bold enough to wear something a little confrontational. The funny thing is, I’ve never thought of my work as being that “difficult” to wear. And I almost never think of it as creepy. Even the blood droplet piece, never struck me as offensive. Thought provoking maybe, but mainly humorous. Why not wear a piece of jewelry with a little more meaning or layers to it? But I guess that’s just me. That’s what I’m drawn to. Maybe I do have a sick sense of humor.

If there’s anyone out there reading this who was at my booth at Crafty Bastards that can give me some HONEST feedback, you have no idea how grateful I would be. Be harsh, be honest… I just want to know. I wish I had an exit poller outside my booth that could have recorded people’s impressions and thoughts, because for as many brazenly expressive (sometimes tactless) visitors that filtered through, there were just as many silent ones. So if anyone would like to come forward with some REAL, HONEST feedback about my booth, my display, my work, my sales demeanor, or whatever, I would love to hear your thoughts. Really. I'm all ears.

Maybe this is what retail shows are all about. Since it's my first one, I felt naive about every aspect, including the need for a tougher skin. I’m not used to being on the front lines. It’s easy to hide behind my galleries, let them do the “selling.” I get to kick back in my studio, design and create freely, without insecurity or outside criticism, and communicate about my work almost exclusively via email and blogging. It’s been a while since my last art school critique! So to be perfectly honest, I don’t have to hear the negative very often. The magazines and galleries and compliments find me typically without much effort on my part. Rejection like this is ultimately good for the ego I guess. It’s good to realize not everyone will like what you do and so you just have to get over it and continue to do it anyway.

It just stings a bit after So. Much. Hard. Work.

I did have a fantastic time with my booth-mate and friend Casey of course. Our travel experiences had moments of indescribable hilarity! The time spent reconnecting with her made it all worth while. I also managed to meet fantastic fellow artists whose work I've admired for a long time: including Megan Auman (LOVING my new bracelets which I traded her for)…

Also Caitlin Phillips of Re-bound Designs (amazing book purses I've blogged about prior) and Annie of Imogene who is as friendly and cute as her jewelry designs. I also got to catch up with some blasts from my past: Stephney Wallace, fellow silversmith from the MICA jewelry center in Baltimore and even my old high school guidance counselor/principal from Lake George stopped by to say hello!

Thanks to all those who ventured out, it was quite an experience.


Miss Dot said...

oh $#%^! firstly, love the bracelets you traded for! I saw them the other day and fell in love.
Ok, now down to the market, of course, I am in Australia so have NO IDEA of the craft market scene. I just hope that this first experience doesn't put you off.. maybe it was the wrong crowd, it certainly isn't your work. I think the fact that it sells well in galleries tells you something. It is appreciated by a sophisticated crowd. We see the work, the humour, the quality and the sheer effort that it takes to produce and we love it and you for doing it. I had some odd comments at my recent first market but I was lucky and had my sister out on the front line, maybe taking a friend is a good way to go? Just don't give up, your work is amazing. I hope you get some good feedback from attendees :-) **hug**

Christy said...

Hi, So I was there and to be honest you were the whole reason I came to the show. The problem might have been the location of your booth because I was exhausted after walking through the first level. If I wasn't there to specifically find your booth I might have just left because it was so crowded and the sun was beating down like the middle of summer. I didn't see anything that compared to your pieces, and they truly are pieces of art. I did purchase an arm piece and am loving it. I hope to be in touch soon for another piece. Thanks so much for being there and I think you were doing a great job working the crowd and it was very nice meeting you.

Jennifer said...

I'm so sorry your first show was a downer! In fact, most of my shows are like that too (I'm not nearly in your range of "art" jewelry though!) I actually *love* the idea of using the Barbie legs as ring stands. Perhaps to keep people from picking them up you could have a row of them attached to a would also give the display more height. Kind of like this: but with the Barbie legs bent back. It would be awesome.

I thought your display was very nice, and I'm quite surprised you didn't do better. Perhaps since you didn't bring any of your high end pieces, it hurt you? You do fantastic work, many pieces I adore. But I tend to gravitate to pieces with more "story." Your high end price tags are mostly out of my reach (probably for most of the crowd too, at least on impulse) but it would give them a chance to understand your work more. I would have brought some of the higher end pieces knowing they wouldn't sell...but it draws interest, allows people to fall in love and puts your smaller work into context with the rest of your vision and lets people think "Oooh, this is cheaper, I could take *this* home!"

And yes, it's hard being on the front lines...with galleries selling your work, you don't have to see all the people who admire, make comments (good and bad!) but don't buy.

jessica said...

I am so sorry you had this experience! I could go on for as long as your post about this topic. My colleagues and I have run through every theory known to man, economy is uncertain, weather was too good or too bad, other events took our clients and people like to see artists more than once are just some of the top ones.

I keep having to remind myself that there is no science to any of this and my audience is out there, I just have to keep at it.

Please don't take this show too much to heart. You are very talented and your work is terrific. Provocative and whimsical, well crafted and well, fabulous!

I also loved your retort to the woman who called your work "dumb"! I would never have been so calm to just say thank you!

Oh and if you want some new ideas on some selling and display techniques, Bruce Baker has some interesting books/cds. He writes for Crafts Report sometimes and gives workshops around the country Just a suggestion for some supplemental information!

Glad you had a friend with you!
Take care!

Uschi said...

Oh Margaux, this is so difficult..
I've had some markets and there are, like Jessica mentions it, too many factors, you have to sort out.
This year I had one, which was pretty good for me and a friend, also working with paper, went home with more than empty pockets
(counting the costs of getting there and staying for two days), last year she had been more than happy...
If you have "whimsical" stuff ( like mine seems to be, too) you get any sort of reaction you can imagine. Meanwhile I try to remain flexible in any situation, to polish my humour and to give those "dumb" people something to think...on a serious base.

The best thing I ever heared of, was, that the organizers of the market had diner with the exhibitors
at the end...sounds so great to leave everybody with a solidary hug!
Same do I!!!

erica said...

wow. first i just want to say that i'm ashamed of the DC craft market. i'm sorry the event was such a drag, because i thought your table was one of the most interesting and i would like to see you come back.
i came by your stand when that guy on the sidewalk with the megaphone was making all the noise just behind your table. i'm sorry you weren't there at the time, i would have offered a "right on" for your unique art, while cringing from the audio assault.
i didn't buy anything (at the entire craft fair) that day. but if i had it would have been one of your barbie smile pins. -in close competition with a candy thief necktie. i think you are right about the DC market. i don't sell crafts (maybe i would venture into it in a more experimental setting) but i am a would-be buyer. i guess its my duty to promote loudly if i want anything to change here. as it is, i am about to start a new job and was in the market for something less confrontational, as you said. barbie represents a lot of things to me and wearing it would be making a statement i'd have to be ready to explain over and over to people i don't know.
i held the barbie smile for a long time before the megaphone drove me away without a purchase.
don't be disheartened by the lack of sales and the stupid comments. i'm kind of even surprised i like the cut up barbies, but i think you make it quite beautiful. i think the dumb comments are peoples' first reactions to seeing body parts. there is meaning associated with barbie and your buyers are going to be people comfortable with having that conversation.
i'll say it again, yours was one of the best collections at the fair. keep up the brilliant work.

D Balogh said...

It's a beautiful thing seeing all these great comments. It really shows that passion and craftsmanship is more than selling and dollar signs, and just shows how many people out there admire what you do.

I think Jessica said it right, there's no exact science, there's only theories, persistence, and refinement. And wow there's a lot of people reading your blog! That alone stands for something, n'est pas?

xox D

erica said...

also, i think jessica had very good advice. bring the high end stuff to show the extent of your talent.

Midge said...

Wow! Thank you all SO much. I am overwhelmed with all the wonderful and encouraging words and well wishes. It has reminded me that "my people" ARE out there! It's just a matter of trusting my intuitions and believing that if I continue to love what I make, someone else out there will as well. Being an artist does require a tough skin at times for sure!

You are all so sweet, and this gal is now officially cheered up :-)

miss dot: I'm glad to know others see the humor and I think you're right that selling well thru my galleries does say something about the work. I need to remember that.

christy: I'm so glad you love your necklace and am flattered you came out to the show specifically to see my work! It was great to meet you, that's one thing that's nice about these shows, face to face encounters with buyers - I don't get that thru my galleries.

jennifer: bringing the higher end pieces as "teasers" is an idea. I actually considered wearing one of my more complicated one-off necklaces but didn't at the last second. I thought maybe the $25 shoe pins would serve as the "oh but I CAN afford this piece!" works. Alas, they got attention but no one bought them.

jessica: love Bruce Baker! I took a "teleseminar" with him once thru Alyson Stanfield (the amazing woman behind I'll have to check out his books/cds, thanks!

uschi: you're right, remaining flexible with people's reactions is important. I did keep my cool and tried to treat each person's comments as if they were the first time I'd gotten them. Tt is new to them, even if it isn't to me. I'd like to think I did "educate" or influence a few people that day, but who knows!


Midge said...

(blush blush)

erica: yes, that guy was obnoxious enough when he was across the street but I was out of my booth when it got really bad right behind us. I heard someone ended up making him leave.

"there is meaning associated with barbie and your buyers are going to be people comfortable with having that conversation." …I love this. That's so true!

d: xxxooo

happyduck1979 said...

Hi there,

I am so sorry that your first show experience did not go well. Truth be told, I no longer do shows at all as I found them to be exceedingly bad for my self esteem as an artist!

I think that you might have a double whammy working against you. Your product is beautiful (really, I wish I could afford a piece and would galdly wear it proudly if I could), but I am not sure that some people can get past the idea that they are paying 3 times what the whole toy would cost and are only getting an eye (or whatever).

I get a similar phenomenon on my copper work. People do not realize that although the metal is less expensive than silver or gold, the labour involved is the same (or sometimes more).

Combine this with the fact that, as you say, you can not get silver hoops for $10 (and people no longer recognize the difference between one of a kind fine craftmanship and mass produced clones.

Wendy said...

I've just discovered your jewelry on Etsy and ventured to your blog (and I do love a good blog!) and I had to comment on this post.

Even though we work in totally different mediums (I make clocks out of wood) I can empathize with your indie craft show feelings. Sometimes it feels like my things fit in limbo between indie craft and fine art. I think finding my niche has been the most difficult realization of late...and I haven't quite got there yet. But I think I will progress and find my way. It was comforting for me to read your post and realize that someone out there is having a similar struggle!

I think your jewelry is art...awesome, fabulous and fun. Keep creating because I am waiting to find my perfect piece to purchase!

Thank you for sharing some of the fears that most of us deal with when we put ourselves out there to be judged at these craft/art venues.

Best wishes,

Midge said...

Thank you for your comments happyduck1979 and wendy!

"I am not sure that some people can get past the idea that they are paying 3 times what the whole toy would cost and are only getting an eye (or whatever)."

- This has crossed my mind as well happyduck, and I think you're right, it might have been what stopped a few people from buying at CB. But of course you understand it's not the doll they're paying for in the end. It is not intended to be simply 'A piece of Barbie' once I'm done with it! :-) And even though it's made out of a doll that originally cost $20 new in the store, there is a huge expense going into each and every piece of jewelry I make regardless of how many or which of her body parts I use ie: the labor, the sterling, the overhead, etc. Buyers are paying for something unique. They will not find it anywhere else. And concept does carry a certain cost as well.

Wendy - "limbo" is definitely the appropriate word to use! I think it's interesting how many others have said they feel very similar about craft fairs. It certainly makes me feel a little less alone.

happyduck1979 said...

hey, I did not say I did not get why they are expensive! I did some bottle cap rings last year that I sold for $75! Sometimes it amuses the heck out of me what you can charge for "garbage" if you have enough creativity. Since I started following your blog I have found myself looking at my daughters toys a whole new way!

Midge said...

Oh I know happyduck, I was rambling all that off more so just for my own clarity, and as explanation to those out there who don't understand why my work costs what it does :-)

Corey said...

thanks for this post, Margaux. I've been feeling down-right disheartened about my stuff lately 'cause I haven't sold a damn thing (I don't count earrings to my mother) but I think if you can have a bad show, you who are so tremendously talented and fresh, then maybe thing aren't as bad as they seem for me. I know this will only be a minor bump in the road for your very successful career!

Liana said...

Hi Margaux, I made a comment about this on my blog!

Kara said...

Wow Margaux,

I will post a link from my blog. I feel that is extremely unfair and some people aren't very nice when it comes to art. I saw your blog via Liana Kabel (here in Oz) and just love your work... its fantastic!

I have decided I am not set up as a person to be the sole marketeer. I cannot be the one that smiles and chats about someones stupid t-shirt or hat as they walk by. You feel a bit desperate! I think we should be able to employ someone bright n chirpy to be us!

Your work was right, the market was not. I recently was in a market, which by all means was great, but was positioned near some very cheap items. So by the time people walked around to my stall, they'd smile, say 'oh this is great' then look at the price tag and put my bag back! So I think the feeling that markets are for bargains reigns supreme...


annemariebeard said...

Interesting post thread... I had never seen your work before - and I must admit my first reaction was "ewww gross!" Body parts really creep me out. Then I looked at your website and saw more of your work, and came to appreciate it more and more.

I think your work is very unique and would do best at wholesale trade shows where the buyers are very aware of their audience. Doing craft shows can really be hit or miss - I have been designing and selling handbags for 5 years, so I have had a lot of similar experience.

I get really irked when I see someone selling a bag they made from a McCalls or other pattern - I design mine from scratch - and that takes a lot more work. Educating the customer is very important. best of luck to you! I love the breast necklaces!!!

Anonymous said...

I can see why people may be upset about Barbie (I have a friend who collects them), but think a ton of mom's would love to see you do the same thing with Bratz! In fact, I've thought about having a little fun with one myself, since I have 3 daughters! There's no other doll I love to hate more. I guess I just couldn't wear it to their little friends' birthday your art!

Cassinator said...

I found your post through Craftzine and read Liana Kabel's response. While having to justify yourself sucks and in a perfect world you totally wouldn't, I like Liana's idea of making a poster about your process. Is there a way to photograph and describe your process without giving it away completely? Your pieces are beautiful and you're the only person who knows how hard you truly work on each one, so maybe letting potential buyers in might help. At first glance, I honestly couldn't tell you made each ear wire, but when I read that you did I was blown away. You're an artist who does beautiful work and does not skip corners and you deserve to price your pieces what you did. I wish you the best of luck at future shows.

spacemonkey said...

one thing to remember: craft fairs are usually attended by other crafters. while many of them appreciate the work that you do, they're still the DIY crowd and not to mention not exactly in the higher tax bracket... while many of the crowd go "Ooo! Neat," they're still a bunch of cheap-o's. you get those rare shop-o-holic at faires, but it spreads thin. yes, marketing goes a long way. it's cliche, but true: you can't please all of the people, all of the time.

also, there will always be the people who um... er... just "don't get it." *cough* and never will *cough*

Emily said...

Sorry you had a disappointing show. Almost everything I would say has been said: keep your chin up, expect people to say stupid things, keep a positive attitude,etc.

One thing I'd add is, maybe an artist statement would help people understand your work. Barbie dolls are something that almost everyone recognizes immediately, even it if is just an arm or leg or eye. And because of this, they evoke emotions (sometimes very strong emotions - aka that lady that was upset that people had played with the dolls) because maybe they grew up playing with them. An artist statement would help people understand why you are doing what you are doing. Help them come to where you are thinking instead of them just being like, "where's the body?" Maybe it is something like, "I use Barbie parts because I'm exploring the objectifiation of women." You know? Letting people into your brain a bit might help them understand your artwork more. Or it might not. I know if I were at your booth, which looked lovely in the pictures, I'd be really interested to understand why or how you came to use the doll medium.

good luck

Riverlark said...

I love craft fairs and I've often thought that it takes a lot of courage for a crafter to have to listen to people comment on their work all day. So many make comments like you're not even there! If I've stopped to look, I always make eye contact and say "thanks" or "nice work."
That said, I will say that when I spend more than $25, I'm usually looking for a piece that I'll want to have for a number of years. Your work is beautiful, particularly your craftsmanship, but using the dolls may present a conflict for some...doll art vs. gorgeous sterling silver. Would you ever consider trying a bunch using a less valuable metal and a price point of $25-$40?

rachael said...

i wasn't there, and i wish i knew why you didn't do better / feel better there...i'm guessing, it is just a competetive market...
i think your jewelry is pure genius...i love it, and if i were there i would have bought something, gladly (your excellent craftsmanship is evident even in photos)...without any creepy feelings too :)

The 13th Rabbit said...

While I didn't attend this event I might be able to offer some personal insight based on how I shop similar events.

I almost never buy at actual events. Mostly because transactions are typically cash and I just don't carry cash, especially not at street events (I had a bad experience once and, well, I learned my lesson). Also, I'm usually so stressed from simply dealing with a crowd of people that I don't trust myself to make wise purchasing decisions with my limited funds.

What I do is attend this sort of event to gather information from artists whose work I've not encountered before and to see, in person, the work by artists I only know of from online. Once I've gathered the information I can retreat back to my nice quiet home, browse the websites, and choose and purchase the items that I like.

From a sellers POV I've only sold art at conventions. I pretty much gave up renting a table at conventions since my art auctions sales typically did very well and generated enough interest in my work to keep me in commissions.

The best thing, IMO, is just use venues and events like that to network. And, yes, break your face smiling (I remember that all too well). Make sure you have tons of cards and even flyers available about your work, what galleries you show at and how to contact you/shop your work online. Like someone else suggested, you might mention in a flyer handout, the materials you use and that you make everything from scratch.

Ms Molly said...

I think some of the other comments have highlighted this: your work is not something people can just wear and enjoy for the beauty of it. The pieces clearly "mean something". So each and every buyer has to decide:
1. what they think the piece means
2. is it a statement they agree with?
3. is it a statement they're comfortable making to strangers?

That's a lot of thinking to have to go through to decide whether you want to buy a pair of earrings. And the truth is that most of the people who would say, "Right on! This will spark great discussions with strangers on the bus about the objectification of women and the values we teach our children through their toys." won't have the money to buy a $70 piece of jewelry. And those that do have the money are more likely to be in positions where they don't want their choice of jewelry to lead to constant comment or attention.

So I'd think about a couple of things... maybe devote more time and effort to your unique high end pieces that people might buy because it's a unique work of art, and spend less time and money on the smaller pieces, making them available for the college student who wants to sport the statement, but doesn't have the budget for a more expensive piece of jewelry.

You do beautiful work, but it's not easy or cute, which are two of the things that I think make people impulse buy. Hand out a lot of your cards at shows, though, to direct people to your web store if they keep thinking about your art on the way home.

Anonymous said...

I visited your booth at Crafty Bastard and enjoyed browsing your work. I was looking for a couple of gifts for specific people so I was rather picky about finding things that fit their particular taste. I loved your booth but didn't see anything that would work for the people I was buying for.

You really shouldn't sweat your CB experience. In the words of a classic breakup, "It's not you, it's me." It's DC. It's absolutely positively the least hip place I've ever lived. Positively uptight. Neither fun nor interesting. If it can't be paired with Brooks Brothers or Ann Taylor, most of the gals here can't be bothered with it. It's just not a town where hipsters or artists live, so avant garde fashion doesn't stand a chance.

In the future, you may want to be choosier about your DC venues. Crafy Bastards tends to attract bargain hunters and idea vultures. You may do better at high-end boutiques.

Keep up the good work. And keep it fun!

Crafty Chica said...

don 't let it get you down. i've been maqking day of the dead art for 17 years and have had all kinds of people freak out. my hubby and i never let it stop us because we believe in our work. now everyone loves day of the dead art. your work stands out and is different, makes a strong statement - some people aren't ready to dive in just yet,but they will soon, just watch!!! be proud, don't let it get you down. i've done shows where i sold 2.00 and i've done others where it've sold 2,000. the good with the bad, but overall it is worth it!! beautiful work!!

Melissa H said...

Hey, thanks for this. I am *nowhere* near as skilled as you and definitely more of a crafter than an artist but I had the SAME experience this weekend. Worked my a** off all week getting ready (ignoring my daughter's upcoming b-day!) and then sold....nothing! Lots of looky loos, several nice comments, several folks asking if my doll quilts were placemats (well, you could use them that way if you wanted...) and no sales. I was completely deflated about ever selling again but a few nice blog comments cheered me up. Hope you have been cheered by your readers and loyal devotees :) I never wear or buy jewelry so no useful feedback on your work but it is creative and clearly well crafted. Keep your chin up!

jeanne said...

I'll chime in with everyone else and say that I'm sorry you had such a disappointing experience. Hopefully our comments provide some encouragement. Frankly, I think your work is pretty brilliant. It's thought-provoking and possibly, or at least could be construed as, a bit confrontational. That as well as witty and lovely to look at. Even on my grad student's pittance, I might have to splurge for an ear ring.(I'm a sucker for visual puns.) Also, I really enjoy your use of color.

One comment/suggestion might be to vary the shape of the settings. They're all round or ovoid, but i'd be interested to see what similar barbie parts set in other shapes might look like. also, I'd love it if the shoe pins were also available as big ol' button earrings. I was almost considering buying two and trying to convert them myself.
Speaking of conversion, I guess I'll have to start saving for my holiday gift to myself now. I really liked that blood drops necklace and would definitely be interesting in seeing more involved pieces like that one for sale.

Christine said...

I got into CB in their second year and it was my first show as well. I did "okay" in comparison to the shows that I do now. In retrospect, I think there were more bargain hunter types than people willing to plunk down a fair price for good workmanship. They rejected me for year three and I think it was probably a blessing in disguise...I'm not edgy enough for them and the crowd isn't my crowd.

You, however, seem to be a perfect fit for what they are trying to portray. I'm perplexed as to why you didn't do better as well. I think you are right in that maybe the Barbie legs may have been confusing so maybe just eliminating that simple element may be all you need to do to your display. Don't give up though...I have a hunch that if you toned the display down a bit you might surprise people with the fun elements of your work. (That arm necklace rocks! I know several people who would love one!)

I know there is nothing more depressing than a bad show (especially when everyone around you is seemingly raking in the cash)but at the end of the day, it probably just isn't your crowd. There will be other, better shows and you'll be reinvigorated. Take care!!! I think your work rocks!

Marie said...

My friend and I were two of the silent people going through your booth. Your stuff has something good and interesting to say, but like Ms Molly said, it's not something I want as jewelry. If most people think of jewelry as something purely ornamental and meant to be traditionally beautiful, it'll take a lot for them to move away from that. Unfortunately, your stuff really is too expensive for the average person to try as an experiment into statement jewelry.

If your work was more art and less craft I think people would view it differently. Most things at the craft fair were cute (various stuffed food products) and your stuff was a bit of a shock. Barbies sit right at the edge of the uncanny valley for many, and the work inherently hit me as dismembered body parts. I'd really like it on a mixed media canvas or a shadowbox for two reasons: 1) I'm comfortable with those kind of statements as obvious art and 2) I'm more willing to spend real money on something for my house that I have a smaller chance of losing or breaking.

Lastly, I think a number of people are right that a fair isn't the right place for your stuff. Like I said, under a tent and next to felt toast and cheap buttons your stuff is jarring (and expensive). In a boutique people are expecting craftsmanship and meaning. Art is more about context than we'd like to admit. There's an article in the Washington Post called "Pearls before Breakfast" you should do a search for and read.

So there's my two cents. I hope you can use CB as a learning experience. Your stuff is interesting and unique, it may just need some tweaking to find its audience.

Kate said...

Hi. I wasn't at CB but I just wanted to say that I've admired your work ever since I saw it on the web. I hardly ever wear jewelry so I haven't bought any yet but I will one of these days! Your originality and craftsmanship are both stellar and I hope you keep doing what you do.

I do like the idea of some of your pieces being sold as "art" in shadowboxes or whatever--or perhaps at least displayed that way--hmmm. Anyway, good luck and your work is beautiful.

Caitlin/Rebound Designs said...

First of all, I have to reply to Anonymous who said some dreadfully misinformed things about DC. As an artist who has lived in DC for the last 6 years, I resent the statement that DC is not a town where artists live. While DC may seem more conservative than NYC or other towns on the surface, there is a large, hip art scene here, and avant garde arts and crafts do flourish. Having made my living selling high-end indie craft for 3 years here, I can attest to that.

So, that being said, I don't think it's DC. There's a learning curve for doing craft shows, and starting with Crafty Bastards is like diving straight into the deep end. Sure, you might swim great straight off, but chances are you'll flounder a bit.

I think sharing a booth may have hurt you a little, particularly because there was such a disparity in your price points. 10x10 is not a lot of space, and the booth got overwhelmed with people trying on felt headbands and neck pieces, myself included, so it was hard to focus on your jewelry. With high end work like that, customers need time to look at it on themselves, think about it, build desire, etc. It's hard to do that when distracted by a competing craft in your same space.

You could also do a lot more with your display to make it stand out. I think a big blow up picture of some of your high end work would be awesome. If you're going to do more outdoor craft shows, think about how you can fill your space and make it your own. A well done display can make all the difference. Your tent is your store for the day, it can look just as good as a boutique, which raises the price expectation for customers. I barely had anyone bat an eye at my prices, and I feel part of that is my display.

I can go on and on about this, so I'll save the rest for our emails. I'm glad to see such a good discussion going here!

jeri said...

I think your work is really great! you're correct many people do not understand or truly appreciate the time that goes into truly hand made jewelry. many people are so used to getting a bargain at big box stores that they don't really understand pricing that is true to the time investment. my impression of D.C. is that fashion wise it is quite conservative- I am sure you would do better in places in CA!

Styletrooper said...

I think your pieces are lovely! Off beat and humorous. Sometimes it's tough for people to look at things in a different light.

Pirate Alice said...

Although I don't live in DC and I did not attend the craft fair there I wanted to point out the mentality of some of the people who attend craft fairs. Not everyone who attends craft fairs sees the crafted objects for the art that they truly are. I think there may have been a lot of attendees at that fair who were expecting the old school crafts they remember from their Church Christams Bazaar. For many not tuned into the modern craft scene, that's the idea they get when they hear the words, "Craft Fair". Some people go to the fairs just to get ideas, some go expecting to find items like Grandma's afghan or a toilet paper cozy, these people expect the prices to be more in the $5-$10 range. They aren't expecting to find pieces that cost $150.
Still others look at the items at craft fairs thinking "I could make that" and they base the cost on their ability to recreate what they see.
I think that is part of why you got the range of reactions you did. That includes the people who came in and were silent.
I love your work, I think it's awesome. And I can appreciate the hard work put into your pieces. But at craft fairs, unless you know for sure it's a high end "art" kind of fair, you should expect to get people who don't "get" it.

Caitlin/Rebound Designs said...

Pirate Alice, I've been to lots of shows that were like the ones you're suggesting, but I can assure you Crafty Bastards is nothing like that. Every other person I saw was covered in tattoos, I think I only saw 20 or so people over 40 (or who looked it at least.) Granted, a lot of people were expecting low priced indie craft items, and some people were there to get ideas (hate them) but a lot of the crowd was ready to shop for super cool stuff.

I really think location was part of your problem Margaux, it was hard to see your unless you were looking for it, and I only saw you because I knew you were set up with the Candy Thief.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I was one of your visitor's at your booth. I had seen some of your higher-end pieces online before and remembered they were quite pricey but striking. When I saw your booth I wasn't sure you were the same artist, I wish you would have brought some of your more expensive pieces.
I do want to second the disconnect between your booth and your merchandise - the booth decor said cheap and fun - something you buy on impulse - and I think people were surprised at the prices. Your pieces are actually art, you need set the mood of yourself as a real artist and your pieces as something truly special and unique, then the price point is more in line with what your are "selling."
I got your leg display but it didn't really "read" as a high concept display - you need to make it more finished. The same goes for the little couches - they look a tad too precious - think of a way of taking them to the next level.
For example, I saw Megan Auman's display from afar and instinctly knew her pieces had to be special and not exactly cheap - her display was slick, had a definite mood and feel, they both wore coordinated outfits that showcased her pieces, and her marketing materials were high end. I bought a pair of her hoop earrings ($75) almost instantly. Yours, I really, really, really wanted to find something but at the end I just wasn't feeling it. Sorry. I hope you come back next year, please bring some of your other pieces - this may not make any sense but I would have bought a more unusual piece for much more, than one of your everyday pieces.

Wendi said...

I've been admiring/coveting your work for a while and I meant to reply on the day I saw this post, but the day got away from me. The link today on CRAFT reminded me to come back.
You do fabulous work and I've never been to Crafty Bastards, but my gut would tell me that your work is too high-end art to work at an outdoor festival. I would definitely try one of the ACC shows or something else at that level. People go to those shows to BUY and they are looking for unique and very high-quality items. Plus some of their shows are retail AND wholesale (on separate days) so you get extra band for your travel bucks.
Good luck!

Cyndi L said...

Margaux, it's all been said already. But I'll add to it anyway :-) I would never have asked you to do an artist profile for Bead Arts if I thought you were anything but an extremely gifted artist with a unique vision! We've all gotten those ridiculous statements from BLTs before (browsers lookers & touchers). They are not our customers. Your customers think you're amazing. I'm sorry that they weren't at that show :-(

Kat said...

People love Barbie (why, I don't know). Maybe they're upset at Barbie mutilation. Kill Spongebob and Barney, maybe some Bratz instead? ;)

Kidding. I've had the same experience, not selling anything while others around me were literally making thousands. I say the phenomenon needs to be studied to save crafters' hearts the world over :)

Tamara said...

Re: your stuff not being "difficult" to wear. I don't know that your pieces are difficult to wear, but I do think they're probably harder than you think for people outside the art school/art gallery crowd. There are just so many places and situations where they could be considered inappropriate that for someone who isn't immersed in indie culture it can difficult to find a place to wear something like that.

Personally, I couldn't wear any of your pieces to work without upsetting many of our customers and getting a reprimand from my boss. I'm far from alone. I couldn't wear your work around most of my relatives, because it would upset and disturb them. Again, I'm far from alone. So when could I wear it? Casual times with my friends when I'm not coming straight from or going straight to work or a visit with a relative. That's a really small segment of my time.

Would I still buy something like your work for that small segment of time? Sure. I think a lot of it is fun. Would I pay $70-$150 for it? No, honestly, I wouldn't. I don't have the level of disposable income to spend that much of it on something I'd hardly ever have the opportunity to wear.

Please don't take this the wrong way. It's not meant as an insult to your work at all. It's just that between the nature of your work and your price points, your target customer is probably a smaller part of the population than you might think. Honestly, I think galleries and full-on art shows are probably your most effective way to reach your target customer.

Anonymous said...

I've done a few craft fairs in Brooklyn and they have all been disappointing. Not worth the time and effort. I think I'm done with them. I don't want to name names, because I know the organizers mean well, but I think a lot of them just don't bring in that much foot traffic.

jennifer said...

hi there! this is my first time happening across your blog and your work, and i have some thoughts...

i'm not a crafter, but i am a consumer of crafts--and a serious consumer of pricier jewelry-- so i thought you might find my feedback helpful.

i have absolutely no qualms about spending as much or more on a single piece of jewelry as most of my friends would spend on an entire outfit (accessories included), even if it means i have to eat spaghetti for a week... that said, i never expect to drop that kind of cash when i go to a craft fair. boutique? yes. ebay? yes. etsy? yes. craft fair? no. my mentality when i go to a craft fair goes something like this: "i'm going to a fair where there will be loads and loads of vendors, and i can have a good time and walk away with a bunch of goodies without breaking the bank."

now, i've definitely happened across some vendors with higher price points whose work i fell in love with. usually, i take their cards and track them down later. even if i don't purchase something at a higher price point at the actual fair, i might discover a designer whose work enthralls me-- and you can be sure i'll make a purchase at some point. so even when sales are bad, the exposure is good.

now, in terms of your work. i loooove the whole concept! but to echo what another commenter suggested, you might want to vary the settings and compositions. i love the "blood droplets" necklace you pictured in this post-- i'd love to see more of that type of presentation. for me personally, i'd never wear the colorful, rounded settings-- just not to my taste. if i'm going to wear a more avant-garde piece, i want it to push all the way! those more traditional "cutesy" settings just don't do it for me. but i'm only one person, and that's just a matter of personal taste. i guess i'm just saying i'd love to see some other shapes/textures/presentations used in conjuction with the doll pieces.

and don't be down on yourself! my crafty friends (who have price points far below yours) have had serious roller coaster up and down experiences with craft fairs. that's just how it goes...

keep up the good work! i'm off to check out your etsy shop!


Leah said...

Hi there, I'm so sorry you had a bad craft show experience. I've had good and bad experiences at craft shows, and I have to say that overall, I prefer selling my work through stores and galleries, but I still do a few shows throughout the year.

The price points that sell best for me are earrings around $20 and pendants on chains between $40-55. I only occasionally sell a piece for more than $60 at craft fairs.

I love your work, it is obviously well crafted, and a little daring. I can see it doing well at galleries.

D Balogh said...

It seems to me that in creating the line for the craft fair, the thought was to create the small, accessible pieces on a mass scale for sake of time and price point.

That said, for those of you looking for something different, I suggest venturing to Margaux's Portfolio site to see the sheer amount of creative work she has done including custom work. I think it's important to realize that this work is beyond 'crafty' and has been represented by galleries across the country (that may sound pretentious, but the reality here is that owning a piece of hers, no matter how small, carries a lot of value). A worthy investment, which I would say about many of the readers here with similar unique art.

I think the take-away here really is that M's pieces work best as gallery pieces, at whatever price points they end up being (which would be too high for craft fairs), and if she is to keep going forward with craft fairs perhaps more marketing towards her 'grander' pieces would add to the appeal, sophistication, and intrigue of all her pieces (as Caitlin suggests).

Either way, it was a win-win where networking was concerned, and if not for that, then just writing this post about your experience truly started a wonderful conversation and some great insight! :)

PS I find it funny that some feel they are 'challenging' to wear. Perhaps because we live in Brooklyn it wouldn't seem so out-of-place. That's not to say that some would spark more looks than others (the Ear ring for example is quite humorous!).

Midge said...

(Thanks D! :-*)

There are so many wonderful comments and suggestions here, and I really do appreciate all of them! You guys rule.

I do just want to add for those who are not familiar with my work: what you see on etsy and here in this blog post (paired down, simple production pieces) are actually part of a new series of work for me… let me explain:

I sort of went at it all backwards… I graduated from college, decided to make sculptural Art-with-a-capital-A jewelry and pursued galleries with my work… which I encourage you to browse my portfolio collection of here:
Everything you see on my website is one-of-a-kind.

After five years of dealing exclusively with galleries via consignment I decided to try out wholesale and hence, my "production line" of jewelry was born, ie: the esty work, the items I brought to CB, etc. As Dave mentioned, and at the risk of sounding boastful, I'm fortunate that I am already quite established in the field of art jewelry.

I made the decision to try "production" (meaning repeated designs, not one-of-a-kind work) for many reasons. One of which was to make my work more affordable and accessible to a broader audience, not just gallery go-ers and art jewelry collectors.

That said, I now know however, that I am not aiming high enough as far as craft fairs go. I will most likely be focusing only on higher end shows from here on out. I was testing the waters by exhibiting at Crafty Bastards, to see if I even had it in me at all to present my work in a retail setting. I still don't know if it's for me. I have gotten used to others doing the selling, for sure! But I know if I do decide to apply to more shows, they will be ones such as the ACC in Baltimore, or the Buyers Market in Philly, etc. It's all about finding your niche I suppose.

Thanks again to EVERYONE for sharing your thoughts!

~Margaux (aka Midge)

jodi said...

I know I'm late to the party here, and perhaps everything I have to say has been said, but I'd like to comment anyway. I think your decision to seek out a higher-end market is a good one (although sometimes you need to test a market to know for sure). I once exhibited in a large juried outdoor art show and made decent money my first year, but thought that perhaps I'd do better if I was out on the main square rather than in the "student" section (which seems to be a place where buyers expect to find art that is grossly underpriced, which seems awfully exploitive to me). So the next year I ponied up for the price of a real booth in a good location, was accepted, and didn't make a single sale (in a three day show). I was totally crushed. Learned some valuable lessons, but very, very painful ones.

I had similar experiences during my ten years of selling hand bound (leather, mostly) journals, and didn't start to make real money with that until I had carved out a niche in a single market over several years. Ultimately that felt to me like too much work, and I gave it up. But I remember people treating my books in as cavalier a fashion as some did with your jewellery, sometimes even idly picking one up and then tossing it carelessly down, or setting a purse on top of one. Those people I think are not going to respect your work no matter how high-end your table display.

Your work is exquisite and well worth the reasonable prices you're asking, but people who go to craft fairs are not expecting such work, and usually not prepared to spend that much. At a weekend or week-long fair people will go home wanting your work badly enough to come back to you later and buy, you don't have the luxury at a one-day show of waiting for their longing to overcome their stinginess.

Miriam said...

I was really sorry to hear about your negative experience at the DC market. So crappy.

I just wanted to pop in and say that I continue to be impressed and amazed by you and by all the artisans and craftspeople that put themselves and their work out there every day. It's not an easy thing to do and obviously, not always fun to be there fielding praise and criticisms alike.

But I'm glad you and others do this work, and when it's hard, reread all the positives and know that you're definitely appreciated even if it doesn't always seem like it.

Anonymous said...

I used to wear much more offensive stuff than that when I worked at walmart. When they finally fired me, it wasn't for what I wore, but for "daring" to start having seizures. Go figure...

Again, I still wear much more offensive stuff even now. ^_^ What you have doesn't seem "difficult to wear". It's stunning. Wonderful works of art. If I weren't on a limited income due to disability, I'd definitely make a purchase. However, I'll definitely be linking to you from my MySpace so you'll hopefully make some sales!

Elaine Luther said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have a pair of your hand earrings that always get lots of comments and I always email the admirers your website, probably doesn't do you much good as I get the impression they think I'm terribly daring! Today though people, including strangers in the supermarket, have commented I'm wearing them a day late because Hallowe'en was yesterday *sigh* Personally I can't see them as creepy but I have to admit when I needed a face for something myself I couldn't bear to cut up a Barbie though she was idea - I sculpted mine in poly clay!

adjowah said...

Hi -

I just happened upon your blog and read about your experience at CB. I think your work is really great, and although I've never been to CB, it seems that indie craft fairs are the right spot for you. I am also a jewelry designer ( and I have a couple of suggestions for you -

- I would put my table right in the front of the booth, rather than making customers walk in to see your work. I see that your tables are in the shape of a 7 - I would suggest you try an L shape instead - put your signature pieces out front, on the horizontal part of the L, the stuff that makes people stop. Then put your other, lower end items on the vertical part of the L, and I swear, you'll find people buying. That's how I always set up my booth and I feel like it serves two purposes - it helps with traffic flow, it's not a jumble of people stuck in a corner but more of a cafeteria style look, pick, and move down kinda thing (and the folks standing at the front oohing and aahing and even saying *dumb stuff* will attract more people over just to see what's going on!) Also, I've found that once someone moves to the side part of my display, the vertical part of the L table set up, they linger, they consider, they buy.

Also, I like your banner, but frankly, it doesn't tell me anything. Unique handcrafted jewelry is a dime a dozen. What I would suggest is a banner with either a picture of your signature piece and your business name, or something like "margaux lange - unique jewelry handcrafted with doll parts" which sounds super boring now that I wrote it. Hmmm. How about "margaux lange - deconstructed doll jewelry" or something. Anyway, my point is to tell people who you are and what you're selling on your banner, clearly. You'll separate much of the wheat from the chafe right there. Many of the lookers/browsers will instead browse your sign than test your patience at the table. I made a few signs, simple ones that say "vintage typewriter key jewelry" and my sales shot up - I think because I automatically attract folks who are interested in what I have. A great place to get banners made that's super cheap and crazy fast is Oh, and one last thing - I'd clip the banner to the top of your canopy, on those white crossbar things, rather than the skirt of your table.

This is s super long post but I think your work is great and I understand your disappointment. Hope this helps. Take care!

Petaluma Craft Mafia said...

Hey Margaux,
I am so sorry you had this experience. It is brave to be in such a vulnerable place that we crafters, designers, or anyone in the arts place ourselves into constantly. It's also brave to be so vulnerable and pondering about it for the whole world to see. I really like your pieces, full of irony and humor. The fact that you put so much craftsmanship into each piece speaks to your ethics. And pricing each piece accordingly. Maybe D.c. wasn't your town as you said. But you are welcome to come to our craft shows anytime. You WILL have better luck next show.
xo, cheryl aronson

Bodywreath said...

This was a great post. Just went through my first two shows. The first one was a lot like this. The second was better. Only 5 wreaths left!

I did have a suggestion: I really like the legs as a display for the rings, but how about painting them black first? It would highlight the rings more and make it obvious that they are a display and not a product. All the best!

urban craft said...

I think the Dexter series on showtime has stolen your idea for the Barbie parts.