I’ve partnered with the American Craft Council this summer to help promote their engaging shows and events for modern makers. If you are not familiar with the ACC, they are an organization dedicated to “promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft”. They produce and sterling magazine and organize craft shows around the United States.
Regarding the magazine, it’s a joyous read that comes out 6 times a year and showcases some amazing artists and makers. Reading the magazine has really help to broaden my horizons when it comes to the maker community. It celebrates the history of craft in American and give a platform for new and emerging talents. As a non-profit, educational organization, the ACC’s magazine is one way for supporters of craft to help keep this vital organization moving forward.
As for their shows, there is one show left for the season in San Francisco and it promises to be an incredible opportunity to get to know some of your favorite makers face-to-face as well as to meet new ones. The ACC is also accepting applications for their 2016 show season. The shows are hosted in Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Paul and San Francisco. The requirements and fees can be found here. I should mention that the show is open to artists from both the United States and Canada, so to our friends up north, come on down!
I asked a few artists that have worked with the ACC to comment on their experiences. Both agree that it has been a real pleasure to be apart of the ACC shows.
Shelley Martin is the incredibly talented and busy creative force behind Vitrified Studios. She’ll be at the San Francisco show in July, from the 31st to August 2nd. Here’s what she had to say about working with the ACC:
[faktory_blockquote title=”About the ACC Shows” subtitle=”Shelley Martin of Vitrified Studio” size=”normal”]I like to do a national juried show with the name recognition of the ACC shows for a few reasons. It reaches a different audience then my Etsy online shop or Renegade / crafty wonderland type urban craft shows. It helps reach an audience that doesn’t shop as much online, is usually an older audience, and usually people that don’t follow blogs, or online trends.
Second, the rich history of the ACC show is pretty great to be a part of. Last year’s show felt very full of people that had been attending the show for decades, and I had many shoppers tell me about their own experience of being a show regular. I loved getting to meet the show attendees, and talk to them about the history of art and craft over the years as seen in the shows they attended and their purchases that have remained dear to them over the years.
Also, I like to do craft shows to spend time working on my studio pottery line, and spend time not making items for my production line. As I make everything myself, my own division between the two sides can be hard to see. I think making one of a kind pieces, where each piece is designed fresh on the wheel is pretty great compared to the small production runs. I feel like there is a big focus to bring the independent artist and craftsman into the commercial/ wholesale / big sales realm, but I actually enjoy the opportunity to move in the opposite direction for those shows.
I really like selling face to face, and getting to meet the people that will use my ceramics, and having them get to see me. The online world can be pretty faceless, and product driven, and I love getting to build relationships with the customers in person. Feeling more like the local potter, and less like a part of the Internet.
I love the feedback of the work, from an audience that has seen many ceramics over the years. I really enjoy conversations about the work, that come from people touching the pieces and seeing the entire collection together. I really need this feedback, after the quietness of my wholesale line and online shops. I also really love seeing people form collections and groupings of my work. Customers are constantly rearranging my work, and I love seeing how they move the pieces around, organizing, centering, pairing the pieces.
It’s hard for me to tell, but I imagine that for all the moo cards I give away at the shows, some of those turn into holiday sales and draw customers back to my website in other months. I like my cards to be nice enough that people might want to keep them in their lives, and visually specific to remind people exactly what my work looked like. I use photocards, with images I took, generally of my favorite pieces.
When I looked at my business numbers last year, my show sales were 10% of my business, online sale were 45% and wholesale was 45%. So for the amount of work, and sales, and high cost of being in and getting to the shows, it really never pencils out. But it’s the relationships formed with the show audience, and the chance to get out of my home studio environment and focus on creating a room full of my own one of a kind studio ceramics, that helps me grow as an artist and see my pieces through the eyes and hands of others.[/faktory_blockquote]
I don’t think the ACC could ask for a better endorsement and overview of why an artist would find working with them so appealing. Thanks Shelley! Be sure to check out her current collection at her web shop. And by all means, if you are privileged to go the the ACC show in San Francisco, please take the time to speak to this wonder woman. Tell her the LAB sent you.
Next up, my LAB Partner Nicole Deponte. Nicole is beyond amazing and her Lilian Asterfield collection is a blend of old and new with a touch of haute handmade pizzazz that is hard to find these days. Nicole is an ACC regular. We’ve been working on her new branding together this past few months and I have to work hard to keep up with this dynamo. Nicole’s view on the ACC shows is pretty succinct:
[faktory_blockquote title=”About The ACC Shows” subtitle=”Nicole Deponte of Lilian Asterfield” size=”normal”]ACC introduced me to the world of high end Capital “C” Craft shows. Without that opportunity, I am not sure I would have had the courage 6 years ago, to take such a leap. I apply every year with the hopes of being invited back, knowing that my show calendar centers around their beautiful and well attended shows. [/faktory_blockquote]
Nicole has mentioned to me on a number of occasions that the ACC shows play a huge part of her marketing strategy. Her handmade creations are the kind that need to be seen to believe and she has developed a regular clientele from the enthusiasts she connects with at the ACC shows. Check out the Lillian Asterfield collection for yourself.
If you’d like to be a part of this wonderful opportunity to share space with other makers and expand your audience, you need to do so before the August 1, 2015 deadline.
I’m looking forward to hearing from more makers who’ve benefited from working with the ACC. If you’ve personally benefited, please let us know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
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