Photo: Make It Vancouver, December 2016, 6*6 booth set-up
One of the really cool things to happen at Make It Vancouver in December was all the great feedback I received from other vendors about how much they liked my booth setup - the colour scheme, the lighting, the display pieces. It really meant a lot to me. I have tremendous respect for our maker community in this city, and especially at a large show like Make It, one sees many unique and beautiful booth setups. To be singled out and complemented by more than a few of my peers was something special. It's not easy coming up with an eye-catching display, and even with the praise, I'm no expert.
I had been selling my newbie attempts at jewelry making for just under a year when I did my first market at the beautiful Heritage Hall on Main Street in Vancouver, BC. It was Fab Fair, organized by the talented silversmith Nancy (whose last name escapes me). Her work, and manner, were both elegant and sophisticated. Her table layed cleanly with simple wooden displays that perfectly matched the vibe of her minimalistic and classic jewelry. She said something to me that weekend that I never forgot, and took to heart.
Basically, she told me my table display was a complete mess. It was busy. It was disjointed. It did nothing for my jewelry. She said I needed to think about what I wanted my jewelry to say to people, who I was, and design a display around that.
I was a bit crushed. I had the cute little hot pink mini chaise lounge from Eddie's Hang-Ups. I had proper necklace stands. I had a very busy black and white floral tablecloth....I had my jewelry layed out all over the place. And I finally had an objective look at what I was offering people visually. It wasn't much.
I didn't know anything about branding. Remember, I really did launch into all of this on a complete whim and got swept up in the fun of making, starting out on the market circuit, meeting people, buying more supplies.
At any rate, I did take a step back. I went out and bought black tablecloths right away. And I tried to make a bit more of a cohesive statement. And each year, as my work changed and my confidence grew, my displays kept changing. I used large squares of mirrored glass (not great for transporting). I've used painting canvases (gets dirty very quickly). I really liked my vintage display of white-washed wooden crates, and cool printer's tray. It allowed for height variations and wasn't too bad to move around from show to show.
When I made the change to Slate Jewelry, the look had to change again too. I knew I wanted something pretty stripped down, portable and even leaning to an industrial look. Pinterest is great for researching display ideas, and I spent quite a bit of time mulling over the set-ups I liked online.
But there were key points that had to be addressed:
1. I had to be able to easily transport it, by myself, in an efficient, packable way.
2. It had to embody "Slate" - blank slate, clean slate.
3. It had to have a hard table-top display surface.
This is how I addressed those must-haves:
1. Folding necklace stands and the wooden blocks that stack easily in bins. For a 6" table, I can get what I need into one average sized tote bin, and it's not horribly heavy. As well, the wooden blocks provide me with height variations and a myriad of layout options.
2. The grey colourscheme = slate. The slate place mats (Urban Barn). The uniformly hard surfaces. The tablescape is a subdued landscape meant to showcase the jewelry. When I had the pretty vintage set-up, so many people were interested in the display pieces and didn't even look at the jewelry. It was very frustrating.
3. The topper: I love my boards. No ironing, wipe up spills, no blowing tablecloth. 2*2 pre-cut boards from Home Depot topped with self-sticking vinyl planking. I can fit pretty much any average market table. Works like a charm!
So with market season about to launch into full swing, have a look at how you're showing your wares. We all work so hard to make our best products, but we really need to look at how we're are visually selling them too. Ask yourself - if you were shopping, would your booth make people stop to look? I've got more to say on this if you're interested in hearing it, so I will endeavour to get another blog out on the subject. And if you ever want an objective opinion on your set-up, I'd be happy to offer my two cents.
As for me, Make It Vancouver starts on Friday (April 21), and I'm looking forward to setting up on Thursday. Will my booth look like the picture at the start of this blog? Mostly, but there's a few changes. I have to do what's best suited to the work, and so it goes.
So here I am, waiting for my flight home in the San Francisco airport. I don't like travelling days at the best of times. They are the only days that it seems like time stands still anymore. But it's been a great weekend in this beautiful city, and I'm glad I put on my big girl panties and came down here to learn something new.
I signed up for Chasing & Repousse (I know it has an accent on the "e," but I honestly I don't know how to do that with the keyboard) at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts after my class with another master, Valentin Yotkov, was cancelled at home. It is the time honoured art of creating three-dimensional relief in a piece of metal. For me, I wanted to learn the technique to add even more visual interest and dimension to the cuffs that I do.
With the class set to start bright and early Saturday morning, I flew in Friday afternoon to allow myself a few hours to get in a bit of shopping, then pizza and wine in bed at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. A corner room with two windows and a view of the bay, a bed without snoring pugs.
Saturday morning found me with 15 other students in the well-equipped studio being introduced to Davide Bigazzi, an Italian master of chasing who began his apprenticeship at age 14. The samples of his work that he brought in were completely stunning. We were all given the same image to work on, and in no time the room was filled with tapping hammers. Except for our lunch breaks, the hammering was almost continuous for the two days. It felt like we were elves in Santa's workshop, bent over our benches with intense concentration to make the master happy.
In the end, my finished piece is a fair replica of the original. I can certainly see all the mistakes. But despite the aching in my hand from hammering, I am addicted. Learning C&R has reinforced my committed love of metalworking. It is fascinating to watch the metal flow as one manipulates it with the tools and just the right hammer blow. It may be sometime before you see any chased pieces from Slate Jewelry for sale, I've still got a lot to learn.
So thank you Davide and Sam for all your patient help. And thank you San Francisco for continuing to be such a welcoming city. And thank you for asking me for ID when buying some wine (Twice! In different stores!!)
Sunday night at Vancouver Fashion Week was the culmination of two months of solid creating. With the launch of the Slate Jewelry website in January, this past weekend was the debut of Slate on the Vancouver market scene. Ties to the past had to be cut, both in the my work and my presentation of it. The ideas were overflowing, and there weren't enough hours in the day. As I looked at my table Sunday night, I let myself feel pride in what I had done. It looked good, damn good. The feedback I had been getting all weekend agreed.
Breaking up with Pink Gargoyle, and allowing myself to just go, was right. No more designing for specific markets, demographics or trends. No more trying to please everyone. What was on that table was me, stripped down and bare.
Monday morning - simply exhausted, spent the day reading which seemed an absolute luxury. (Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn)
Tuesday to now - Lull. I cleaned my worktable and stared at it. I cut rings to make chain. I know I'm supposed to be photographing and uploading everything. I have to get ready for the next show. I have to design earrings to enter The Earring Show. I have to make gifting products for The Artisan Group. Frankly, I want to lay on the couch, cuddle Hugo, and watch movies all day. Decided to actually write a blog entry. I know I'm not out of ideas. They're still there, whirling in the background of my brain. I'll be back at it soon enough, and the roller coaster will start again. But right now, I'm enjoying this quiet.
I have a dear friend, who I have been neglecting, coming over for dinner. I'm going to relax and not fret about everything I should be doing. It will get done. I was told yesterday that I look happy. And yes, for the first time, in a very long time, I know I am.