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Hard times (Read 4,850 times)
 
Bob Wright
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Hard times
Apr 30th, 2009 at 7:54pm
 
I don't know how many of the members that post on this board rely on a significant portion of their income from what they turn, but times are getting tough. Here in Belize  about 75-80% of what I turn is sold to tourists. The arrival numbers are way down and those who do show up are, for the most part, keeping their hands in their pockets. Just barely coping with that, and now the swine flu thing to further cut the numbers of travelers.
If this thing continues to grow I can foresee craft shows canceled and all sorts of negative fall out for all of us who depend upon sawdust for a living.
I don't mean to be too pessimistic but it's tough to find an up side in the near to mid future.
What are your thoughts in the great north country?
Bob
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Vaughn McMillan
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Re: Hard times
Reply #1 - Apr 30th, 2009 at 8:48pm
 
I saw a lot of slowdown in my market (Los Angeles) starting last fall. It looks like it might be picking up a little, but it still seems most folks are holding onto their money. I know I sure couldn't afford to buy my stuff right now. I've heard some cases, though, of folks having good results at shows this spring. (The only one I've done so far this year was not bad.) Hopefully things will continue to pick up here in the US, which I suspect will eventually be reflected in your market, too.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #2 - Apr 30th, 2009 at 8:56pm
 
Well Bob,I think I can safely say that its gettin pretty bad up here for a lot of folks.All I can say or do is wish you the best an just try to hang in there.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #3 - Apr 30th, 2009 at 9:07pm
 
Feeling it in the south also.  Shows were a bit discouraging last year.  But as I understand shows, they cycle and soon enough it will be booming again.  At least that's wishful thinking. Undecided
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Re: Hard times
Reply #4 - Apr 30th, 2009 at 11:30pm
 
Over all mine has dropped off some, but I am noticing a lot more over seas sales and less US sales. And it seems more spurty now then in the past.
Brad
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Re: Hard times
Reply #5 - Apr 30th, 2009 at 11:34pm
 
What's a "market?" Do turners really have such a thing in this world? Even my overseas sales are one tenth of average. Oh well, as long as Social Security is afloat so shall we be afloat.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #6 - May 4th, 2009 at 12:12pm
 
I had a show in Richmond VA over the weekend and it started out very slow but the last two hours brought four people back that had spent time in the booth Sat or Sun morning. Ended up selling 7 pieces total for the weekend. Made the booth fee six times over. I firmly believe quality "ART" will sell even in these hard times. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #7 - May 4th, 2009 at 4:17pm
 
Congrads George, your work speaks for its self, your a talented turner and artiest. WTG!
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Re: Hard times
Reply #8 - May 10th, 2009 at 9:41am
 
I work in the construction industry installing kitchen cabinets.  The begining of this year was dead in the water, however the last couple of months I've seen signs which have made me cautiously optimistic. 

I realize this is not a reflection of selling turnings at shows, just a reflection of the economy in general.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #9 - May 10th, 2009 at 4:39pm
 
I was rained out at one of Tennessee's  largest craft shows last week, But there were about two hours when we had traffic, and we did very well considering the weather. I'm starting to see some jobs opening up in my area for Machinists, Manufacturing and even drudge work, my wife manages a fast food restaurant and they are trying to find help, I guess things are good enough on unemployment and food stamps that people don't want to work 40 to 50 hrs a week for minimum wage.
I agree with George, Quality art will always sell. smiley=thumbsup.gif
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Re: Hard times
Reply #10 - May 11th, 2009 at 7:32pm
 
George, you should send some of those art customers out west. LOML and I did a show this weekend in Studio City and the vast majority of us vendors had slow sales. This show has been going on twice yearly for about 40 years, and it has a good reputation among the other vendors as a real "art" show with good sales. The crowds this weekend were pretty thin, and those who did show up kept their wallets in their pockets for the most part. We had a great time, had beautiful weather, but barely broke even. I did get to add this to my booth, though...

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It was for the wood art category. I was pleasantly surprised to win first place, since there were several other wood artists (including two full-time turners) who all had what I considered to be fine-looking work. This award, and $3.00, will get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  Wink

Congrats to both George and Ken for your recent good shows.  smiley=thumbsup.gif  I agree with you about quality art, and despite this weekend's show, I think things are slowly picking back up in the market.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #11 - May 11th, 2009 at 7:38pm
 
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Very well done Vaughn.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #12 - May 11th, 2009 at 8:17pm
 
All of ya'll... Keep up the great Work!!!  smiley=thumbsup.gif smiley=thumbsup.gif smiley=thumbsup.gif
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Re: Hard times
Reply #13 - May 11th, 2009 at 9:14pm
 
Keep the faith, Brother.  It gets better!
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Re: Hard times
Reply #14 - May 12th, 2009 at 4:57am
 
Well Done Vaughn smiley=thumbsup.gif
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« Last Edit: May 12th, 2009 at 4:58am by Brendan McAreavy »  

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Re: Hard times
Reply #15 - May 12th, 2009 at 10:33am
 
I've got another one day show this weekend so we'll see how it goes. I've found there are lots of "artists" at these shows that are already defeated before they even set up. They don't talk to customers unless the customer calls them over and they constantly have a sour puss on their face. Enjoy the day off talking about wood and explaining our craft that we love so much, and always remember that the guy in the dirty t-shirt could be a doctor looking for something for his wife, mother, brother, etc. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #16 - May 12th, 2009 at 1:17pm
 
love to hear your success stories.  may all your sales continue to increase and all your buyers be ecstatic with their purchases.  smiley=beer.gif smiley=beer.gif
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Re: Hard times
Reply #17 - May 12th, 2009 at 1:56pm
 
George Carrigan wrote on May 12th, 2009 at 10:33am:
I've got another one day show this weekend so we'll see how it goes. I've found there are lots of "artists" at these shows that are already defeated before they even set up. They don't talk to customers unless the customer calls them over and they constantly have a sour puss on their face. Enjoy the day off talking about wood and explaining our craft that we love so much, and always remember that the guy in the dirty t-shirt could be a doctor looking for something for his wife, mother, brother, etc. George


Very true words. Even if I'm not selling a thing, I have a lot of fun chatting up the people who drop by my booth. I can talk the ears off a stalk of corn. Usually by the second day of the show, my booth neighbors have heard the "how I made the root ball bowl" speech so many times they have it memorized.  Grin  Other artists, like you said, retreat to the back of the booth (or across the street) and only talk to customers when forced to.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #18 - May 12th, 2009 at 3:51pm
 
I helped a mate with an antiques stall at a huge outdoor market here, Nutts Corner, reportedly the biggest in the world.  Anyway, he is beside a guy selling coats.  Every time a lady tried on a coat my mate would say 'Lady, I've been watching girls trying those coats on all day and there hasn't been one it looked as well on as you'.  Sale to the coat guy, $10 to my mate.  Loads of coats shifted each day. Grin
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Re: Hard times
Reply #19 - May 13th, 2009 at 6:36pm
 
You have to chat up the people.
Was visiting a friend in Norman OK a few years ago, he was a leather dealer, he was complaining about having to bring a whole case of rabbit pelts to the show and he only sold 2 or3 hides a show.
I started taking the pelts out of anyone who touched ones hands and chatted with them about how the hand was too course to really feel the fur and I would gently brush it along their face and down their neck.
He had to go back to the shop and bring 2 more cases of pelts out. Ended up selling every pelt he had.
Gotta talk to the people
Brad
even had 2 girls bring their mothers back to meet me  Roll Eyes
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hard times and then some !
Reply #20 - May 17th, 2009 at 12:20pm
 
Fortunately for me I don't rely on bowl income for anything but helping pay for all the wood I buy, but starting mid-year last year, the bottom has dropped out.  I used to sell maybe 30 to 40 bowls a year on the internet.  In the last half of last year  I sold one and so far this year I've sold one.  Bummer.

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Re: hard times and then some !
Reply #21 - May 17th, 2009 at 5:05pm
 
Paul Hinds wrote on May 17th, 2009 at 12:20pm:
Fortunately for me I don't rely on bowl income for anything but helping pay for all the wood I buy, but starting mid-year last year, the bottom has dropped out.  I used to sell maybe 30 to 40 bowls a year on the internet.  In the last half of last year  I sold one and so far this year I've sold one.  Bummer.



Until I got laid off in February, I also wasn't too concerned with making money from sales. Any extra income went back into the shop fund.

Like you, the market around here seems to have gone south last fall, but hopefully it's going to start picking up a bit.

BTW, I have a nephew named Paul Hinde. Not quite the same name as yours, but close.  Smiley
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Re: Hard times
Reply #22 - May 18th, 2009 at 9:21am
 
Well I did a show last Sat and I only sold one pc. It was a high end pc so I doubled the booth fee "but". In the two shows I've done this year I've noticed a trend that I don't like. This show had about 1/3 artists, 1/3 peddlers (buy and sell) and 1/3 local businesses like Ins companies, health care providers, roofers, new windows and doors etc. After talking with the show staff I found that they only use the jury process if they have enough artists apply. If not then they just sell to anyone they can in order to sell the 200 spaces available. After 5 years I won't do this show again. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #23 - May 18th, 2009 at 12:55pm
 
I've been at our Farmer's Market the past 6 weeks and it's really been up & down.  Pretty much happy to sell enough to pay the booth fee.  I've actually made several contacts from friends who didn't know I turned and have had three who own their own businesses say now they know where they're going for "corporate gifts".   Sales from word of mouth from around my office and my wife's have been the best.

One thing I did do was make 3 "dibbers".  People always ask what they are.  Their guesses range from "upscale tent stakes" to "kid knockers" (rap the kid upside the head to get their attention.)  My response is "Well depends on who you ask - my daughter says they're vampire stakes but they are dibbers for planting seeds & bulb."  I've yet to sell one, but it keeps them at the booth and then they look longer at the other items.  Saturday, I actually had 2 guys who walked up, picked one up and said "Oh a dibber."  They were the first to know what they are.

Bill
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Re: Hard times
Reply #24 - May 18th, 2009 at 1:13pm
 
The first thing I made on my lathe was a dibber.  I used wet Ash branch and it came out well for a first piece.  I was really, really proud of it.  Three days later it looked like a banana Grin
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Re: Hard times
Reply #25 - May 19th, 2009 at 4:36pm
 
Brendan McAreavy wrote on May 18th, 2009 at 1:13pm:
The first thing I made on my lathe was a dibber.  I used wet Ash branch and it came out well for a first piece.  I was really, really proud of it.  Three days later it looked like a banana Grin

so now you can plant bananas
Tongue
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Re: Hard times
Reply #26 - May 23rd, 2009 at 3:01pm
 
Brad_Mortensen wrote on May 13th, 2009 at 6:36pm:
even had 2 girls bring their mothers back to meet me  Roll Eyes


...and you were selling what again???  Roll Eyes

It sounds like the pelts are just a diversionary tactic, like taking a puppy to the park.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #27 - May 29th, 2009 at 2:56pm
 
I've always called it a dibbler, but that was my first real turning project.  I have two that I use every spring  Cool
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Re: Hard times
Reply #28 - Jun 8th, 2009 at 8:54am
 
I had a show this weekend in Frederick MD and I was very happy with the results. Sold 7 pcs total, of which 3 were high end (300+). Overall the vendors were really mixed on their results but I'd guess that about half of the 200 were happy with their weekend. I'll be doing Allentown Art Festival (Buffalo NY) next weekend. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #29 - Jun 8th, 2009 at 3:22pm
 
Congrats, George. Sounds like a good weekend indeed.  smiley=thumbsup.gif
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Re: Hard times
Reply #30 - Jun 8th, 2009 at 6:38pm
 
WTG George... You Da Man!!!
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Re: Hard times
Reply #31 - Jun 9th, 2009 at 4:40am
 
George,
Fantastic news!!!
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Re: Hard times
Reply #32 - Jun 9th, 2009 at 1:52pm
 
Congrat's George! 

I see signs of the economy picking up.  Things are changing in the US, and slow to adapt companies are stuck like GM and the like.  I work in social services for the county goverment here and know most of all the employment statistics.  Anyone who says they cannot get a job either means that they won't work for a lesser wage than what they feel they are worth, or are just too lazy to look.  Every fast food joint in town is looking for managers. 

Sure $10 bucks an hour isn't going to cut it when your used to making $28 an hour for putting on a door seal ever 3 seconds, but it's a job and it's work experience.   Smiley
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Re: Hard times
Reply #33 - Jun 11th, 2009 at 12:15pm
 
Sounds Great George!!

I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately and this past week end took a minor move, not to boost sale but because I felt it was the right thing.
My average drop spindles I have been selling for $18-24 each. Start to finish not counting glueing time is about 20 min. I dropped the price to $11.
Nosty's were $15, I cut them to $8, it take about 7-10 mins to make one.
I did pretty much the same thing across the board with my stuff. My $50 spindles are now $24.

I have been thinking a lot, the reason economy is a mess and most things in this world don't give any one a good feeling is because of greed. Why should I contribute to that even in a small way. Most of my wood is free, and I make a decent hourly at the reduced prices. 
Face it... how much is it going to matter if I go to the grave in an off the rack suit insted of a $1000 suit?

Brad
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Re: Hard times
Reply #34 - Jun 11th, 2009 at 12:39pm
 
Brad,  You are likely to get 2 unintended responses to that steep a price cut. 

1. People may think it is a "cheaper" product and maybe not worth even the lower price.

2. People who have previously bought from you will be unhappy that they paid so much more.

Generally people feel a higher price means a better quality product. 

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Re: Hard times
Reply #35 - Jun 11th, 2009 at 6:55pm
 
Actually we were afraid of both those things when we decided to do it. But, we felt the integrity  out weighed both of them.
It has not hurt our sales at all, and our regular customers don't seem to mind. I have one woman who orders 4-5 spindles from me a month and looks like that isn't going to change.

The ones it does bother.. well... not much I can do about them. 
Right now, there are people out there that are selling a toy wheel on a dowle, mainly to beginners. I have made no quams about letting everyone know that I feel beginners should be able to buy quality spindles at a decent price.
I know it might make zero difference in the over all of things, but to take greed out of my life feels good.
LOL not going for the whole proverty thing, I am still making a fair living.

Brad
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Re: Hard times
Reply #36 - Jun 12th, 2009 at 11:07pm
 
I've really had to think long and hard about what I want to say here.  I find it interesting how artisans and would-be-artisans value the work of others, say the work of the tailor that produces the $1000 suit made to fit one perfectly instead of a factory of workers in God-knows-where who produce a less expensive suit made to fit none perfectly. 

For almost all of us that sell our work to pay for our hobby or for a living, we require that there be people that want something unique or of a better quality.  Someone that values hand-made goods.  I look around and have seen amazing carvings and turning/carving from truly poor people in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, where they make quality work, but will sell it for truly close to nothing.  I find this very humbling, because I a) don't like to sell my work and b)it's a amazing how little is asked for quality work from afar.

Who here seeks out and gets custom work?  I guess the question is are we hypocrites about the value of custom work?
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Re: Hard times
Reply #37 - Jun 14th, 2009 at 10:25pm
 
In answer to Dave keeling, I'm a US expat in Belize since '91 and I agree that the prices sought by `carvers and turners here in the third world {Belize} are way lower than are average for the US. The main reason is competition, there are so many wood carvers here competing for the tourist dollar.  The fact that you have made a personal choice that you don't want to sell what you turn is fine.  Many of us need to sell what we produce. I don't a problem, the  market will decide what the value is for the works we produce.
Right now the market is not too darn friendly, too few visitors and those who do arrive are keeping their hands in their pockets.
It will change, the only constant is change.
Bob
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Re: Hard times
Reply #38 - Jun 14th, 2009 at 10:35pm
 
Well, I'm still thinking about this ,Dave. Having followed this board for some time now, one common thread is how hard folks work to produce the best they can. As a  result of their effort they are entitled to the best price possible for their work. I agree that there are things coming out of Asia and other areas at very low prices, but selling the cheapest stuff on the block is not usually the best business plan.
Bob
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Re: Hard times
Reply #39 - Jun 15th, 2009 at 7:21am
 
The marker does determine price, but how many are willing to roll with the market?
I sell a very quality product and do have a rep for that. In my decision to cut all my prices I have lost a good share of the collectors market, but it is more then being made up for by the common market. To be totally honest, I don't give a rip if someone is able to show off or not because they have one of my items.
I think in many ways the prices we charge are a direct self value process. I am important enough to get "X" for my time.
I tend to view self value not in a monetary way. There was a time in my life when I had more money then brains and you know what I am happier now then I ever was then.
I do need my sales to provide for my family, and I was getting them at the higher prices. But, I am still getting them and perhaps someone elses family can eat a decent meal because I didn't charge them what I "could" get for an item.

Brad
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Re: Hard times
Reply #40 - Jun 18th, 2009 at 12:31pm
 
Well my show in Buffalo turned out to be a disappointment. Sold 4 small pcs. Made the booth fee and paid for lunch (smoked turkey leg). Had a good time talking with the people and gave out 500 business cards. Heard a lot of "we love your stuff" but no sales. I'd like to mention that one reason I like to do the same shows every year is that sometimes if they can't afford a pc this year they may next year. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #41 - Jun 18th, 2009 at 5:50pm
 
George Carrigan wrote on Jun 18th, 2009 at 12:31pm:
and gave out 500 business cards


That's got to be worth something.  Getting your cards out there can only be a good thing.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #42 - Jun 22nd, 2009 at 11:24am
 
Just finished a show in my hometown, a small show, about 4.5 hours from my current home. Sold six pieces before the show started (unpacking) another 28 during the 2 days. Haven't run the totals yet but roughly $2,200 on the 28 pieces sold during. The other six went to a gift shop so they don't count. Anyway most expensive, $395 a couple at 150 ea the balance were under $100. Opened the display with 86 pieces mostly natural edge bowls, platters. The expensive pieces that sold were all vases. First time that's ever happened. Was a good weekend. smiley=beer.gif

Frank D.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #43 - Jun 22nd, 2009 at 11:55am
 
Well done Frank, that is wonderful news and testimony to your skill.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #44 - Jun 22nd, 2009 at 4:15pm
 
Fantastic Frank!!!!
You are obviously doing it right.

Brad
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Re: Hard times
Reply #45 - Jun 22nd, 2009 at 4:59pm
 
WTG Frank... you are the man!!! Now, get busy making more stuff!!!  smiley=thumbsup.gif smiley=thumbsup.gif smiley=thumbsup.gif
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Re: Hard times
Reply #46 - Jun 23rd, 2009 at 1:41am
 
Man, those are excellent results, Frank. Congrats.  smiley=thumbsup.gif  I really think the under-$100 pieces will be the best movers for a while, and your results reinforce that idea.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #47 - Jun 23rd, 2009 at 9:42am
 
Nice going Frank, it's good to hear positive results. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #48 - Jun 23rd, 2009 at 1:02pm
 
Thanks everyone! and really have to get busy, was begged to do a show in August at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Museum grand openning (South Dakota Cowboy). Supposed to be a big event. I will be one of the few vendors allowed inside. So that puts me Aug, Sept, Oct and December, all big events. Whats even greater is I'm still making what I want to make, no offense, but no artsey stuff other than inlay in the cracks. Very little thin stuff, can't sell it, even cheap.

Frank
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Re: Hard times
Reply #49 - Jun 24th, 2009 at 10:11am
 
Frank, I'd like to see some of your work, you say it's not artsey but it must be pretty good if it's selling the way it is, I couldn't find you in the gallery. I for one may be on the wrong track trying to make each piece "perfect" in form and finish for the local arts and craft shows. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #50 - Jun 24th, 2009 at 6:48pm
 
I would like to see what kind of items are popular also, it would help to see what I have to put on my ever escalating learning curve to be able to produce things to sell in the future...
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Re: Hard times
Reply #51 - Jul 1st, 2009 at 3:13pm
 
Not very good with pictures but will give it a try, here is a photo from one of my shows, last November. I'll try in the gallery too.

Frank
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Re: Hard times
Reply #52 - Jul 1st, 2009 at 3:38pm
 
I try and make a little of everything, big and small and have a variety. If a piece is similar in shape, same type of wood, etc. I give it  different finish. I've seen a few turners a shows (where I've not been selling) who offer a limited assortment of items. They might have 20 or 30 items on display where they have only 4 or 5 real choices, meaning veerything is the same, just different sizes. People walk through their booths barely pausing. I feel I'm cheating myself if I can't put out at least 80 pieces. That way when people come by they stop and spend time looking and touching at least 30 pieces. Very few buy just one, it's too hard to decide Smiley
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Re: Hard times
Reply #53 - Jul 1st, 2009 at 5:39pm
 
I totally see what you are saying about selection, no way they can just walk past that!!!!!! smiley=thumbsup.gif
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Re: Hard times
Reply #54 - Jul 2nd, 2009 at 9:28am
 
Frank,
Personally, I think your display looks too crowded but your product looks great. I usually have about 25-30pcs on dispaly in a 10x10 booth using two tables and a three shelf display stand. Now, with the success you're having you may have a good point. I need to re-think my idea of "crowded" and see if I can get more items in front of the customer. Thanks for the picture. George
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Re: Hard times
Reply #55 - Jul 2nd, 2009 at 4:14pm
 
Very nice Frank, seems you have something for everyone, should the right person drop in. Nice display, thanks for showing it.
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Re: Hard times
Reply #56 - Jul 2nd, 2009 at 6:02pm
 
I think your display looks great, the idea of solid partician type walls for display is always a good one, people are concentrated on looking at your items not through the racks, wire, crates ect. being distracted by what the next booth has. The two tone table cover is also another nice touch. It is nicely stocked with out being overly crowded.
I can see why you rake in the big bucks.
A deffinate thumbs up on your display and items.

Brad
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Re: Hard times
Reply #57 - Jul 3rd, 2009 at 12:56pm
 
Thank you!

Also I watch the people coming in or by and there always seems to be a few pieces that people gravitate towards. So after a few hours I might move them around and kind of re-arrange things as the day goes by. Some times I get lucky and when they happen by again they stop to look for the piece they saw earlier and spend more time and a little more money. It's fun.

Frank
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Re: Hard times
Reply #58 - Jul 5th, 2009 at 2:41am
 
Great-looking display, Frank. I'd really like to revise mine to be more like yours. My current display is three tables and one small 3-shelf unit on one of the tables, but I'd like to go for more vertical displays instead of my current horizontal approach. I just need to figure out something compact, lightweight, easy to move, stable in the wind, and as close to free of cost as possible.  Roll Eyes  Smiley

Great-looking products in that display, too.  smiley=thumbsup.gif
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