Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seattle's U District Show

I know that the show was almost two weeks ago, but I just haven't had time to write about it until now. I've got a big batch of unplanned downtime that I'm trying to make up for, and my leg still isn't healed well enough to weave. Grrr...

About the show, though. It was OK. I'm starting to notice a theme and hoping that it's as easy to fix as I think it is. My booth keeps getting placed in pretty much the worst spot in the show. I think it's because this is my first time doing all of these shows and I don't know what to ask for. As a returning vendor, I know how the show is laid out and can ask for what I want.

In this case, the show was a big one, maybe five or six blocks long. Down at one end was a block that felt kind of "tacked on". One side of the street had the very loud and ostentatious Verizon booth, but the rest of that side didn't have many booths. (Maybe there were one or two waaaay at the other end of the block, but nothing near my end.) On the other side of the street were some textile importers, a couple other artists, and me. Where were the big, beautiful and impressive artists' booths? Back in the main part of the show.

That said, I did fine. This was a challenging show, partly because of its size, and partly because of the many college kids there. College kids aren't generally investing in gorgeous, handmade clothing, even if they have the money for it. They don't usually think of their clothing purchases as an investment and are often horrified at the idea that they might be wearing the same garment, beautiful as it is, in twenty years.

I have somewhat anticipated this and created a lower-priced, wider-appeal item just in time for the show: pillows!

[Photo by Spencer Hall. When I get a link to his website, I'll post it in the comments.]

The new display looked great and sold OK. They really are turning into a loss leader, though. I don't seem able to move the quantity of them that would be required to make them a featured item. But they weren't really designed for that, anyhow. They're designed to give me an item that can be sold in multiple other outlets.

I learned a "truism" from another vendor at this show, and I have to say that it rings true for me... People spend more money when the weather is gloomy. For me, I've always attributed it to needing cooler weather for people to enjoy trying on my garments. What he said, though, is that people are happier and more likely to "just look" on sunny days. When the weather turns grey, they spend more money to cheer themselves up, and this seems true even for people who are not selling outerwear.

Well, it sure was true for me at this show. Saturday was warm and sunny. I sold a few things, but not enough to make it worth registering with Washington's tax entities, replacing my tires, driving 8 hours, and dealing with the complications of an unfamiliar city. (Thanks, Dave the GPS! I couldn't have done it without you.)

But everything changed on Sunday. We opened in a drizzle, which is usually a very bad thing. People don't come out in the rain. But these aren't just any people, these are Seattle-ites. One of them said to me, "If we didn't go out in the rain, we'd be shut-ins." There were almost as many people in the rain as there were in the sun, and there were enough breaks in the rain to get people trying on my garments and buying them.

You can't really tell, but in the photo above, everything is soaking wet. The rugs can each hold a gallon of water or more. The drapes are drenched and sat with their feet in filthy, oily street water for a day. Gotta love polyester, though. Hang them up, spritz with suds and spray it off with a hose and they're good as new.

I did make more money at this show than at many others, but not enough to really justify the long trek. Next year I'll try for a spot in the heart of the show and see how that does. I think it'll be worth it.

There was one big hassle of the U District show, and one that I was keyed into by someone who used to vend there. It's a college town and the show is set up on a public street. That means lots of "amped up" college kids roaming the streets basically until morning. There is far more traffic than the security guards can really keep an eye on. I know this because I set up a cot and slept in my booth on Saturday night. I was awakened three separate times by the sound of my booth zipper being opened. Now, to be fair, the reports are that these kids don't really steal anything. They are just curious and move things around. A vendor of garden art came in on Sunday morning to find their garden stakes stuck in the ground up and down the block. Nothing that bad, really. College kids can't be expected to understand just how much this stuff means to those of us who do it for a living, pouring everything we have into the items in our booths.

And this weekend I'm in Wilsonville, between Salem and Portland. After this I've got six weeks in the studio to produce just as much as I can before the "Big 3" shows in Washington. More on that later...

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