Show Trials

March 14, 2013 , In: General
I have to beg your indulgence today readers…I have my very first bead show in three weeks time and since that’s what I eat, sleep (rarely) and breathe at the moment, it’s also the only thing I can blog about today. I know from my AJE colleagues and others that a lot of other people are going through the same process preparing for spring shows and they have been more than generous with hints and tips for a successful show but, it still doesn’t stop me lurching from moments of doubt to sheer panic to abject terror!


As I say, this is my first bead show and to be honest I haven’t done many jewellery shows either since they rarely seem to be worth the effort required. However, I was asked to do this one with two beady friends you may know…Claire Braunbarth of Smitten Beads and Teresa Hulley of Bo Hulley Beads and we will be sharing an 18 foot table at the event. This is not a ‘hand made’ event but a general commercial bead show and as far as I can make out, besides myself and Bo there will be two lampworkers there making for an art bead representation of just four! I can’t quite decide if this is a good thing since we’ll stand out amongst the huge sellers with their mountains of Chinese crystals and semi-precious gems, or whether people just won’t be looking for art beads in this environment. Just one of the factors contributing to my current state of mind and there are of course many more.

What to take, how many to take, how to present my inventory on the stand…the list goes on. A couple of weeks ago I was panicking that I wouldn’t be able to make anywhere near enough pieces in time but, after getting my head down I’ve now realised that I can do this and possibly with time to spare. But then however much I make, It doesn’t seem to amount to very much when you can pile it all into a couple of storage trays. I know that this is because I’m picturing my stand against those huge sellers when in fact there is no way hand made elements should be piled to the rafters in that way. So why are creative minds so irrational and why can’t I see that when it’s laid out in my newly purchased display trays it will look lovely…? I think a dummy display run would help but I can’t do this yet because my dining table has been given over to the patination and finishing process (roll on that new studio!).

The ‘what’ has also been fairly taxing as I have no show experience to go by and in the end I just adopted the ‘sit down and go with the flow’ approach I take when I work on shop stock as it seems to work but of course, I will never quite be free of that pernicious, insidious little doubt that burrows its way in every now and again…what if people just hate my work…? Arghhh!

But it’s not all frustration and I have managed to produce a lot of work and I’m really pleased with some of the new colour combinations I’ve been inspired to use. When I started making metal clay components I never expected colour to become such a major feature thinking it somehow defeated the object of the medium but I’m so glad I did as it can add a whole new dimension. Take these for example – I’m hoping these will be popular…

Only kidding – I think I would have to be attending a Mardi Gras show to sell these in this state but they do illustrate how, when you add colour to metal you need to be able to see past the process stages to the finished product, much as ceramicists do with glazes I guess. I know the first couple of times I did this I thought what on earth have I done but, with a bit of judicious sanding and polishing you can turn a very gaudy sow’s ear into a silk purse…

I’ve also been working on some graduated colour palettes and this is one of my favourites which I’ve given a working title of “Ocean Drive’.

But not everyone is turned on by colour so I am of course including a more neutral range in my stock.

I’m at the point now where I (think) I have everything I need finalised and I just need to beef up quantities on some items. With a bit of luck I will get that done with time to work on the display and all the associated administration tasks so that I can go off to my show confident and relaxed. Oh and of course there’s jewellery to be made to help people visualise my components in use…

My show banner is already ordered and I’m hoping that a couple of my little owls peeking out at the crowds will intrigue people enough to get them to come and take a closer look…

So if you have any last minute tips for shows please feel free to share – I’m sure there are many people out there who would appreciate them.

Happy show time folks!

The Gossiping Goddess

Lesley Watt

Lesley Watt started making jewellery in 2009 with a handful of hobby store beads but quickly discovered art beads and became completely smitten. Taking courses in metal clay, metal smithing, enamelling and etching she began making her own components in 2011 and has never looked back. Always looking to try new things she has branched out into ceramics, bead embroidery, mixed media and textiles.
  1. Reply

    It all looks fantastic Lesley and I love your banner! My tip is to enjoy yourself… say hello as people walk past and take any opportunity to tell them about your work. You will be sick of the sound of your own voice by the end of it, but people really appreciate a friendly stall holder! :)Good luck x

    • Reply

      Great point Caroline and all to easy to forget – thank you.

  2. Reply

    Your work is gorgeous and you certainly will stand out from those chinese glass beads. I am sure people will be mobbing your table. Good luck.

  3. Reply

    Lesley, your components look amazing! I have a friend who lampworks and does bead shows. It seemed there were very few people doing handmade beads, but believe me, there were people looking for them. Your work is eye catching and unusual, and that's what brings people to your table. It would bring me in any case!

    I've never done a bead show, but in my experience of jewellery shows, it IS daunting to have your handmade goods sitting right next to a table with cheaper, mass produced alternatives. People can tell the difference, though. And I think your work speaks for itself. Love the new banner, too!

    I wish you the very best for your show!

  4. Reply

    Outstanding range of products, Miss Lesley! I have never done a bead show either and frankly I am terrified of it. I would like to do more trunk shows because that works better for me than art shows, but of course either way you have to have the time to make things and market them. I LOVE THE COLORED PIECES! And if they don't sell, I want to be first in line {to break my bead diet and gorge myself on their yumminess} to buy. Wishing you heaps of luck and tons of fun with your good beady friends. In the end, that is what it is all about. And don't get discouraged by numbers and sales. You are there to make an impression and someone who buys other things and passes yours may come back that day or down the road because they can't get those hooters eyes out of their minds! I will wear my owl necklace this weekend and rub his tummy for good luck for you! Enjoy the day. Erin

    • Reply

      Aw thanks Erin. I guess the scariest part is putting ourselves in front of people when we're used to an online audience who, by and large only comment in the positive and we creative types are such sensitive souls aren't we? I'll just have to wear by big girl knickers and ignore up any negativity! I'm sure you're owl will bring me luck.

  5. Reply

    Oh Lesley, I'm so very excited for you! If at all possible, take some of the clay in raw form, or some 'in process' pics, because I'm sure you will be explaining the 'I make these one at a time' story to lots of people. I'm sure you're going to take some finished pieces, but how about some simple cording and a mirror, so someone could string a pendant on a cord, and see it around their neck? I've never done a show, so this is not from experience, just from a customer standpoint. I look forward to hearing all about it!

    • Reply

      Ooh thanks Shirley – I was going to take little process demo but hadn't thought about the cord…maybe with a clip bail – great idea!

  6. Reply

    Great blog Lesley & thanks for the mention. Don't worry Bo and I will be right beside you (not knowing what the heck we are doing either) for moral support. Loving the Ocean Drive pieces…Discount for your fellow stall holders perchance ;0) Claire xx

  7. Reply

    I was scared when I saw that first color pix! But its good to see the before and after on those patina pieces. I prefer metal myself… she says – prior to seeing the Ocean Drive color scheme!!! Yes!.

    As to show prep – you are more ready than you feel. Things will intuitively happen, decisions made on the fly. You have this under control.

    My top thoughts/advice:
    1. Prep your 10 second intro. If there aren't a majority of artist bead makers – you are set to educate everyone who stops that you made every piece! By hand! Maybe even take a fired but untouched piece for show.
    2. You don't have to put it all out at once.
    3. Def. samples!!! And have them priced, or course.

    I cant wait to hear! It will be a success!

    • Reply

      Thanks Jenny – patina of this kind is definitely more about what you take off than what you put on! Thanks for the tips too.

  8. Reply

    I have never been to, much less done, a show, so unfortunately I have no advice to give…

    However, I can say that I wish I was going, because I would love the chance to see your work in person!! Everything looks so lovely! I certainly wish you all the best, and hope that you have fun in the process! 😀

  9. Reply

    It sounds like you are well prepared and you have gorgeous pieces. Wish I could come too. Don't let one show deter you either way because they are all different. Do you have business cards to hand out so if they don't buy from you that day or need more they can have a contact for another day? Good luck although I'm sure you will sell lots and have orders too.

  10. Reply

    Perhaps a little display, showing the steps of your process? I've found that the end product is much better appreciated when folks understand how it's made.

    And, your stuff is lovely! There may be those that don't care for it, just issues of taste, but I think the majority of people will love it.

  11. Reply

    Can't wait to see your stuff at the show Lesley, it really is beautiful and I'm sure you have nothing to worry about, your work stands out for all the right reasons, it will be great to see more quality handmade items rather then the same old mass produced stuff!

  12. Reply

    You will do wonderfully, I just know! I love the Ocean Drive pieces, but those flowers are gorgeous!!! Want!

  13. Reply

    I forgot to mention this before, but I wondered when you said your flowers were to bright what they would be like with a little patina put on them although I did really like them after you sanded them too. Just another thought.

  14. Reply

    Am going through the same thing here with all the 2 and 3 day shows lately. My biggest tip: smile and greet, smile and greet. And have plenty of business cards to hand out as you're smiling and greeting. Your work is drop dead gorgeous – beautiful handmade items always stand out from the "normal" crowd. People will LOVE it!

  15. Reply

    I'm so miffed this show is on the day I am moving house 🙁

    It would have been lovely to meet you all and splurge most of my monthly bead budget on your pieces there and then!

  16. Reply

    I can't offer any advice except enjoy yourself!! I went to the big bead show last year and loved it unfortunately I can't make it this year or I would be straight to your table buying some goodies and saying hello!!!

  17. Reply

    OMG I love the colorful ones AND the single color ones….if there are any left over from your show, I may need to get some!!!!!!

  18. Reply

    I am in awe!!!!, of your designs, colors, shapes, just everything!!!! I really love your work anyhow, but these pieces are even more wonderful!!! the biggest thing is going to be..Be friendly, smile a lot, don't feel "sorry" about your prices. Be upbeat and positive about the price. "This owl is only…" smile smile smile!!! Be friendly, don't expect your art to sell it self!!! Definitely tell everybody about each HAND MADE WORK OF ART!!!! and believe it when you say it!!! Hope you have a Blessed and fabulous show!!!

  19. Reply

    Best wishes Lesley, I am sure you will do just fine. I for one love your components they are beautiful and work well in jewelry designs. I love the new colored components as well as the non colored ones.

  20. Reply

    You don't need good luck but I will wish you anyway. Bring a rake for all the money you are going to rake in!

  21. Reply

    It was funny, because when I saw the first picture, I thought "omg NO!". So it was a great relief when I scrolled down and saw that the first picture was not the final product! lol! I love all your work. I think the Ocean Drive items are gorgeous. I think you will do well because your work it so uniquely yours. I have a 2 day show this weekend, too, so I'll think of you! I wish I could come, but as Erin mentioned, it would blow my bead diet to h—! Wishing all 3 of you tons of sales!

  22. Reply

    Haha – you have me cracking up because the first pic made me think eek – ah then your Marti gras comment – good one 🙂 I love them in the second pic – very nice! Ocean drive……what can I say…..perfect! I like to think people recognize awesomeness and that is what you have so all should be great! Best wishes!

  23. Reply

    Don't know if anyone mentioned it above, but one piece of advice is to NOT sit in your booth ~ stand up. You want to welcome visitors to your space and be at their level.
    You will do fine. When you love what you make, people will know that. Make sure that they know that you handmade the item and maybe a little about the process ~ it will wow people. Works for me everytime with my fine silver. Yup they may look like 'silver rings' but when I briefly explain that I start with a roll wire, hand make the rings, fuse with a torch, hammer, etc., there is a 'oh my gosh' reaction and a sale.
    Your pieces are all lovely. Good luck!! ~ and you must give us a summary next week.

  24. Reply

    Love this post! I do a TON of shows and markets, and I get the pre-show jitters for every one. I enjoy them a lot, but they are all preceeded by my doubts about my work and feeling like I don't have enough inventory. My problem is I have a vision of what I want my table to look like, and then life takes over and I get done what I get done 🙂 I think people will be blown away by your fantastic pieces! Stand proud that your work is more exclusive, more original and totally artistic compared to the manufactured lots there! Can't wait to see your after-the-show post 🙂

  25. Reply

    Great work! I'm sure you know about showcasing your work (black velvet for light objects, white for dark, grey for indeterminate). I stuck a bunch of earrings in a boquet of roses once and that brought many comments. I also make the objects shiny by cleaning them with a touch of rubbing alcohol or in some cases, WD 40 (don't laugh – it's a great degreaser BUT test first).

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