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Your Money Talks But Are You Listening?

Calculator-ASK Harriete-I-covered-EXPENSES
Passion does not equal profit.
 If expecting to make money, we need to separate our love for creative making from the down to earth reality of selling. 

The caution is to not let our creative passions cloud the realities of marketing, selling, generating profits, and avoiding loss.  

I will always encourage makers to make the best work possible. No holds barred. BE PASSIONATE. Work hard. Spend countless hours doing what you love.  But when it comes to making money and selling for a profit, that is when business principles apply.

Read the post I wrote for Artsy Shark: "I Covered My Expenses” and Other Forms of Delusion & Denial and see if "I covered my expenses" really means I lost more money faster than ever before and four days of my time.
Calculator-ASK Harriete-opportunity-cost
Have you asked yourself what is the "opportunity cost" when spending weeks making low cost sell-able, bread & butter items to prepare for a show?  What if you had spent that time making your most inspiring, most creative work without thinking about who might be shopping at a show and what their budget might be?  

Calculator-ASK Harriete-booth-showWhat about scheduling fewer art/craft festivals? This interview with Carrol Swayze is makes a lot of sense when you read "How a Hard Look at Business Changed an Artist’s Life."

Calculator-EXPENSES-ASK-Harriete-5buttonsAfter adding up all the true costs on your calculator for profit and loss, you might be saving yourself money doing fewer shows.




Over Supply, Reduced Demand = Downward Price Pressure

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Reduced Demand

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Over Supply

This post was updated on December 11th, 2021.


Retail Display Should NOT Include Packaging.

One broad observation about the American Craft Council Show applies universally to any retail display aesthetic, even all the way to my local Farmer's Market and on to fabulous trunk shows or ACC .

Do not include packaging in your display.

By packaging, I mean cards that hold a pair of earrings or the boxes that you will provide to the customers with their purchase. No matter who you are, or how great your work, or fabulous the box, it just plain looks bad -- more like discount retailing at Big Lots than artist made jewelry.

Tiffany-blue-box%255B2%255DLearn from the masters of selling jewelry - Tiffanys. Despite the heavy branding investment that Tiffany's has in the Tiffany Blue Box and the  trademark color, you never see a Tiffany box or bag as part of the display in the case.They know that the packaging is the treasure box, not the display. The packaging is the "take home" part of the purchase experience.

What brought this to my attention was this display at a booth at the ACC show.

Yong Joo Kim ACCShow2013 042AH
The exquisite earrings by Yong Joo Kim at the American Craft Council were rather lost in her boxes on the table. The boxes, the shredded paper filler, along with the large tags all look like clutter competing for the shopper's attention.  Even in this photo (above) you can hardly find her elegant earrings.

Yong-Joo-Kim-ACCShow2013 041
In contrast, these necklaces by Kim really grab your attention with the silver foam core background. This simple method was effectively eye-catching despite the rented pipe and drape (which is usually unsatisfactory).

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The flat surface of the foam core accentuated the texture of the necklace and with a little lighting created a beautiful shadow. It would have been much better to let her earrings rest on foam core on the table as well.

no more earrings on cards, please.
no more gigantic tags, please.

Let the jewelry speak for itself.

Previous posts in this ACC series:

Observations at ACC San Francisco 2013

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 1

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 2

Signage in the ACC Show Booth Display

ACC Booth Partnerships Reconfigure Display

ACC Booth Partnerships Reconfigure Display

AmericanCraftShowLogoAt the ACC show there were several sellers that joined together in combined booths to create more open and inviting booth configurations.



This year Petra Class and Biba Schutz booth display was remarkable as the first two booths greeting the customers as they entered the American Craft Council Show.

Petra Class
(left side of photo) and Biba Schutz (right side of photo) have combined their booths every year. Side by side they synchronize the appearance while keeping a completely separate identity. Without the curtain "wall" between the booths, it creates a big expanse of eye catching space.

In another example along the length of an aisle, Sarah Jane Hassler and Karen McCreary combined two standard booths to create an inviting open space.

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Many booths adopted an L-shaped layout (diagram shown below). While it looks fine in this layout diagram, there is a problem with this booth configuration. The L-shaped layout creates a narrow aisle which can be an imposing gauntlet to the customer that may not want to be trapped in a narrow aisle uncommitted to a purchase or conversation.

L-shaped layout plan:
Booth layout

Below is what a l-shaped layout of a booth looks like at the show (below.) The narrow aisle is even more intimidating if the booth has a display case rising higher and creating vertical space like a wall.

Combining two L-shaped booths side-by-side Sarah Jane Hassler and Karen McCreary had a great innovation. The narrow aisle they both would have had with an L-shaped layout going solo is combined. (The green line is where most booths have pipe and drape divider between booths. Just imagine how narrow  this aisle would feel at the show.

ACCShow2013 011Hassler-McCreary-booth divided

Combining the center into open space in between their displays was inviting and allowed a non-threatening reception square (shown below). Customers could walk into the space and look around without feeling trapped.

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Notice their signs diagonally across the back corner of the booth.

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While not identical, the signs used the same font and styling to look cohesive. Both sellers also used the same earring display and fabric below their tables.

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Remember the previous posts about signage in your booth.  Both of these signs include the makers name, a brief description, and images of the jewelry.

The ultimate in booth collaboration were three people creating one seamless booth going down the aisle. After viewing the show with the somewhat overwhelming density of one booth after the next, it was refreshing to see this long extended open booth layout by David Whippen, John Liston, and Niki Ulehla (booths 320, 321, and 322). It also was an award winning booth.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ryan
Interactive Editor, American Craft Council

Removing the pipe and drape walls between the three booths kept their space open. They showed a few large pieces of furniture and sculpture of Whippen and Liston.

ACCShow2013 026AHJewelry-Niki-Ulehla
The jeweler Niki Ulehla was in the center with a minimalist display on a table. No jewelry cases contributed to the open booth layout.

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How did all these booth collaboration occur? They simply asked the ACC show organizers to place them next to one another. That simple -- and it happened. What a great idea for your next show.


Previous posts in this ACC series:

Observations at ACC San Francisco 2013

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 1

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 2

Signage in the ACC Show Booth Display

Signage in the ACC Show Booth Display

One thing I noticed at the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco was how well designed and effective signage improves the overall impression of a booth.

ACCShow2013 043ACC supplied a small tag for the booth. Sure it had your name and location, but it was too small and generic to be memorable. Unremarkable in every respect, it did not establish an artist's identity and was too high. Lesson learned: Do not depend on generic name banners as your signage. They do not differentiate your booth any more than map coordinates.

The sign below for Lauren Markley exemplifies a step up with minimum effort.  It has her name, an image of her work, and a short description, in this case "Contemporary Jewelry". ACCShow2013-Lauren-Markley

But this sign could also be better. It was lacking size. It needs to be bigger to make an impact. It also suffered from being wrinkled and had a slight texture to the plasticized finish (shown below.) The plasticized finish reflected the light and the wrinkles distracted from the overall impression. 

You can see the "linen-like texture" to the sign in this close-up, and the grommets in the corners were distracting to the overall aesthetic. Avoid putting grommets in your sign if at all possible. Grommets may be a necessity for an outdoor sign that needs to be tied down against the wind, -- but inside they are not working.

Instead, add a pocket or fold over seam for a ruler or pole at the top and the bottom.  This usually looks far more attractive and straightens out the wrinkles creating a more polished appearance.

Moving on to an improved example:

The sign for Beverly Tadeu was more successful. It seems to be printed on fabric so it has a matte finish. There are no reflections even though the light is shining right on her sign. The highlight on the sign was very eye catching. The sign also matches her fabric booth drape.

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Hanging the full height of her booth, the sign goes seamlessly from the top of her booth to below eye level with a big image of her earrings. This is a great way to inform the customer walking past your booth exactly what type of work is available for purchase.

Notice that the sign has no grommets at the top of the sign and seems to be hung from a pole at the top of her booth. Perfect. No wrinkles. It projects a polished impression.

Her clean and white jewelry display of simple matte acyclic matches the sign aesthetic perfectly.

Notice that on the front of her display table Beverly Tadeu hung a piece of sheer unwrinkled fabric to conceal the legs of her table. This scrim is like a veil creating a more polished appearance to her booth presentation. It also matches her booth drape.

Notice that she did not use cases to display her jewelry, a growing trend. So often the cases are a barrier between the customer and a purchase. Getting the item for sale into the customer's hand is one of those #1 sales techniques. While I can see that this is a security risk, if you can afford to go in this direction, it is a great idea.

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When everything works together it creates a seamless aesthetic with a more cohesive and polished impression.

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Beverly Tadeu in her booth at ACC show

ChannelRead ASK Harriete for ideas on how to get your name integrated into a more enticing display. 

Previous posts in this ACC series:

Observations at ACC San Francisco 2013

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 1

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 2

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 2

This is Part 2. Read part 1 of "American Craft Council Show Comparison To  Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco" on ASK Harriete.

Miss Charlotte Kruk (left) and Harriete Estel Berman visiting the booth of ACC exhibitor emiko oye.

Part 1 raised the questions:
What is the impact or purpose of an entry fee?
What is the role of music in the shopping environment?
Impact of lighting in the sales environment.
A price comparison between Renegade and ACC.

Part 2 CONTINUES the comparison ...

RenegadeRenegade Fair: Miss Charlotte Kruk reported "that the clothing seemed to lean toward the edgy...aligning with the spirit of the faire which I think is tremendously charming, relevant, and frankly fun, thrift store remade, recycled, reassembled, reinvented eclectic style. This is an aesthetic that I have always related to, make and wear myself; I was raised in the thrift store on the paternal side of the family and under the sewing machine on my maternal side. (My family often went to the second hand store and every time my grandmother would say "whatever you can't live without." - pretty funny when you think about this kind of "spoiling")


AmericanCraftShowLogoACC had every style and fabric you could imagine all leaning toward the artist made creative aesthetic with a price tag that reflected the makers development, growth in process, personal style and materials. Some of the fabric was loom woven, but more were painted silk, fabric applique, or specialized technique. I did notice that this year at the ACC show the clothing was more fitted and fashionable than in previous years. One of my favorite jackets was by Susan Bradley Designs using neoprene (such as would be used for scuba suits).

Renegade had a lot of the t-shirts and cards with graphic images that have become the predominate merchandise. Charlotte added that a lot of the merchandise used the laser cutter. "Seems like when one person is doing something it catches like a rash. The predominant rash in the Renegrade craft community right now is going to the Tech Shop and using the laser cutter. "

We both love the Tech Shop, but Miss Charlotte has a point: "To what end of unique and hand-made is this tool when the artist isn't taking time to develop the object beyond the industrial mass produced?"

Miss Charlotte said there was a contrast between Renegade and ACC in the diversity of the objects, skill and aesthetic voice. "I enjoy the raw, gritty renegade aesthetic for its spirit of "I MADE THIS" pride." By comparison, ACC was a very serious gathering of makers, who have spent a multitude of years developing their voice, understanding the consideration that lighting, sound, negative space, color, height, etc play on the viewing of the object. ACC sellers say "I made this" and stand firm in the numbers they're asking for their craft, their vision, their labor, knowing what it takes to establish the aesthetic voice that it takes to reach the platform of the ACC.

A few years ago, the Renegade shows were all the rage garnering a reputation based on a new and trendy appeal, along with questions about the direction of this craft movement.  Charlotte says, "It thrills me that at the Renegade you watch a guy on a sewing machine with a device he's invented to power it by riding his bicycle...And there he sits freehand stitching truly elaborate and inspiring patches, each unique because his hands will never do exactly the same thing twice, nor would he want them to. I LOVE RENEGADE for its gritty energy, it's youthful vibe of makers who desperately want to earn a living from their ability to "make" but are maybe just getting started with refining their vision and fine-tuning their personal aesthetic and creating a market that is truly individualistic."

I asked Miss Charlotte Kruk after the show:
How is the “I made this “ from Renegade different than the “I made this” at ACC?

Charlotte's answer: "The point I was trying to make was the voice of a sweet child (the renegade artist) that cannot be ignored "I made this" and you stop to acknowledge because it's important to build pride vs. the refined voice of an accomplished actress (in this case our ACC ARTIST); who has repeated the phrase over and over in so many different fonts and italics through intonation that it becomes a statement of control."


"What a pleasure to slow down and really "view" the show with Harriete. I'm sure at that pace, I would have seen a whole lot more than at the racing speeds my family zipped through the Renegade Craft Fair."

VelvetDeVinciFrontonPolkS.f."I think the highlight for me was getting to the reception at Velvet da Vinci and seeing all those makers who you took the time to congratulate and educate, together in one space. It was amazing to me to see all these dynamic artists in booths from the farthest corners of Fort Mason representing the farthest corners of the United States all sharing a bite of cheese and "bologna" together. Aahahaaaa ...but seriously, I enjoyed the second viewing of their work in the cases and seeing their faces again and together...and was pleased to see how each with their own unique style and vision had this great spirit of appreciation for one another. "

"Wonderful. (thanks again Harriete, for letting me be the Robin to your Batman...great stuff.), I'd repeat that experience anytime! cheers, Miss Charlotte."

Super wonderful to spend the day with Miss Charlotte. Hope we do it again soon.

Previous posts in this series:

Observations at ACC San Francisco 2013

American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 1


American Craft Council Show Comparison To Renegade Craft Faire in San Francisco- Part 1

Fort-Mason-San-Francisco-CA Fort Mason is the location for the annual American Craft Council show. Ironically, on the previous weekend, the same exact building at Fort Mason hosted the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair.

Fortunately, my friend and ACC show companion, Miss Charlotte Kruk, went to both shows so she had many observations and comparisons. 

Comments in quotes are from Miss Charlotte Kruk.

AmericanCraftCouncilS D Renegade





Renegade                  ACC                               
No entrance fee.        $14.00 entrance fee         
                               or FREE for ACC members

What is the impact or purpose of an entry fee?

   I'd love to discuss it at length & think about it.
Since it was free, "the Renegade show was PACKED making it very hard to see the work if you were unwilling to crowd in with the masses."

Is their any reason to fill the place with lookers? Yes & no, but obvious answer is that  the ACC entry fee becomes a self selected group of motivated shoppers.  


Renegade - 2 days      ACC - 3 days
Saturday/Sunday       Friday/Sat/Sunday
Who goes to a show on Friday?


Miss Charlotte said, "The audience for the ACC show was definitely more mature, immaculately groomed and packaged in a way that advertised their serious intentions; a refined air of sophistication, but with a sense of personal style that cannot be found on a display mannequin in Nordstrom."


While "the Renegade boasted DJ music pumping throughout the venue," Charlotte noticed only one or two booth exhibitors at ACC who had low playing music in their personal space. I didn't notice anyone at ACC playing music. 

Music is an interesting issue.  Music is generally considered an "audience-sorting device" and can have either a positive or negative impact on the shopping experience.

Kruk reports that "Booth layout and display were much better at the ACC show. Compared to the Renegade show, the lighting was much better and brighter overall as almost every booth had additional lighting for display."
ACCShow2013 012
ACC Booth of Sarah Jane Hassler & Karen McCreary
More discussion about their booth layout and signs in a future post on ASK Harriete

"The items for sale were also more crowded at the Renegade show. There was definitely a restrained minimal aesthetic in many of the booths at ACC. The ACC artist (for the most part) seemed to understand the layout and flow of the space, understanding that movement through the booth is critical for an enjoyable shopping experience." (More about booth layout in a later post.)


Renegade Fair: Miss Charlotte said that a dress (playful coverall smock-dress recycling men's suspender straps) for $85 was marked as "reduced price for the faire" and probably on the $100 end at her Oakland Boutique "Field Day and Friends."

ACC: Many jackets started at $500 and up. There were scarves at lower price points in every style and fabric you could imagine.

Part 2 tomorrow includes:

  • WHAT'S "NEW"

 AND Miss Charlotte Kruk
Miss Charlotte Kruk, emiko oye, and Harriete Estel Berman in front of emiko's booth 315 at the American Craft Council San Francisco, CA show at Fort Mason.