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Tuesday Tip - Bead Show Planning

In a former life, long ago, in a far away place, I did a lot of project management. It seemed quite natural to me to approach my first bead show like a project. This is the less glamorous side of making ceramic beads. But shows cost money and time and a whole lot of energy. So it seemed wise to have a plan.

Somewhere along the line I read that a good show brings in 10 times your booth fee. What I actually take from that is that it’s good to have a financial goal for the show. That goal could be covering your booth fee and expenses, making xx amount of dollars, it’s up to you. Turning that around, you need to have the inventory to make your show worthwhile. So way back in January when I started planning, I made an excel worksheet and made a list of all the things I make, the price I sell them for, and just how much I would need to have to make my goal if I sold every piece I brought with me. Then I doubled this amount. It was a sobering amount of inventory.
Dress rehearsal. The lids of the containers became bead trays and
everything got to the show organized and sorted.
The next thing I did was look at my list and figure out how long it would take to make these pieces and how many kiln loads it would take to finish it all up. From there I drew up a week by week production schedule. Tedious? Yes. But by the time the show rolled around I had plenty of inventory and I was pretty much stress free. And, best of all I ended up with variety. If I didn’t make a list everything would be blue or green and I’d only have my favourite designs. No, I did not get everything on my list done.

Packed and ready to go!

One of the things I really wanted to do for this show was have the week before completely devoted to finishing up display, labeling, and packaging. I think it’s a very good idea not to be firing any kilns in that last week. Why do I think this? Well in the past, for my regular art market, I’ve been making up things right up to the last minute. I get to the market and I’m exhausted and grumpy. Grumpy generally does not make for great customer service. Leave that last week for fine tuning, resting and eating properly. You’ll go into that show happy and smiling!

This is just a little behind the scenes of how I approached getting ready for this show. If you search around the internet you’ll find a few lists of things you may need at the show, display ideas, and so forth. Heather over at Humble Beads has a lovely post on preparing for an Arts and Craft show. You can read about it here. Want some ideas for display? Check out the Jewelry and Bead Show Display Flickr group here.

Got any tips of your own? We’d love to hear them.


  1. I don't have any tips since I have only really sold online, but that is a GREAT post! Thanks for all the good advice....and WOW...you sure are organized!

  2. I like your thoughts about being finished with the firings ahead of time. It makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is really basic, but I have to make myself do this. Talk to every person who walks in front of your booth. Some people will just walk by until you speak to them, just say good morning, and then they stop and look.

  4. So inspirational and so organized...would love to do a fair or show...maybe this summer. Will blog about it if I get to do it...BTW love love those butterflies....I dont work in ceramic but it is inspiring me to do something in polymer clay..Mmmm checking it out....thanks for sharing...

  5. Great advice!!
    What i have found in doing show is.....you will never sell EVERYTHING, but i have sold up to half, so if i want to make $1000, then i take $2000 worth of inventory....has worked for me :)

  6. Thanks for stopping by everyone!

    Cindy, what you say is so true. You do need to make a genuine effort to smile, say hello, be open and bring people in. That's my experience too.

    BahamaDawn, I always come home with inventory too. You just have to plan for that really. But if you haven't got it, you can't sell it :-)

  7. Wow! What a great plan! I think I should hire you to plan a few projects for me! I'm usually throwing tags up to the night before, but I will say that for my first full show I did prepare really far in advance.

    BTW, your shelf looks great!

  8. Great post LeAnn. I think you are amazing to be so well organized that you can take it easy the week before the show. Being rested is indeed important. I have gone to shows tired and it made a difference. And not a good one. One thing I do is keep an email list so that I can promote myself to folks that know me before the show. That way they are quite apt to show up and make a purchase. Of course this is mostly for local show.

  9. In only wish I was that organized! I want to be....but things get in the way. Thanks for the great tips!


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