I hauled my pots and pottery wheel over to Middlebury for the annual Fall Festival on September 19th and 20th. It is the second year that I’ve demonstrated and sold pots. This year was even better than the first. Below is a photo that made it into The Paper.
First, I have to give my wife a big thank you. She made it all possible by helping me price pots, pack up all the stuff and she acted as the salesperson most of the weekend while I got to make stuff on the pottery wheel while all my new fans watched intently.
My mom also gets a big thank you for coming down and selling some pots on Friday night and then watching the kid all day Saturday while my wife and I were at the festival.
I also have to thank many of my coworkers and friends for their support. I saw a lot of familiar faces watching my demonstrations or browsing my pots.
The weather was just about perfect Friday. Sunny and a slight breeze which my wife thought was too cold. Saturday was even better until about 3 or 4:00 when the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. Then the festival director came around and said that severe weather was coming and we could close it down and pack it up. We got soaked packing the cars in the rain but it was worth it. After needing two trips to get everything there I figured out how to cram everything into the Civic and Element in only one trip home.
I arrived at the festival Friday morning around 8:30 and unloaded my pots and set them up on the shelves and tables. We had set up the tables and shelves Thursday evening. It was the debut of my new collapsible shelves. I made the frames myself which I planned, put together and stained during the previous couple of weekends. There is one that is almost 6′ tall and one that is about 3′ tall which sits on a table. Unfolded they stretch out over 5′. When I fold them up they are less than 2′ wide. The boards that set in the frames to make the shelves I salvaged from the old outdoor shower at “the cabin.”
It was also the debut of my new tables. My wife found a great deal on 6′ folding plastic tables which worked out really well and are much easier to transport than the 8′ table we borrowed from school.
After I got all the pots set up I got everything ready to begin working on the pottery wheel. My wife arrived around 10:00 and I started demonstrating. I worked for most of the day making cups and mugs. I took a break for lunch and when my wife had to go home for a little while.
I tried to explain everything as I was doing it. I tried to include information that people kept asking about last year so I didn’t have to answer as many questions this year. There were still plenty of interested people and a lot of good questions.
It’s always nice to spend a day throwing pots. Unfortunately I didn’t get to keep very many pots from the demonstrations. Some were just not that great so I scrapped them. One board of pots got misplaced while unpacking and dried out too much before I could trim them. Plus we were scrambling to pack everything in the rain so a lot of them got squished or smashed as they were tossed, sometimes literally, into the cars.
As for sales, I couldn’t have asked for much better at this point. We had a few return customers from last year and plenty of people went through my booth. According to the official records we sold 82(!) pots total. 53 on Friday and 29 on Saturday. Plus a couple ornaments/tags. Before you tell me to quit my day job, I have to confess that exactly half of the pots sold came out of the $5 bargain bin. This included mostly test cups, experimental stuff, really small items, things that I made a long time ago or stuff that I just couldn’t stand taking up room on my shelves any more. I know there are arguments for and against selling things so cheaply but I felt like it was pretty successful. People love getting a bargain and I think a lot of people went home with something handmade that didn’t plan to do so when they arrived. And instead of having a bunch of “okay” pots collecting dust and taking up shelf space I have $200 in my pocket. But let’s get real: the best part of the “bargain bin” is that I didn’t have to put tags on over 50 pots!
Aside from making enough money to cover my entry fee, food and the large supply order I made before the festival I feel like I made some decent connections. I think I handed out close to 50 business cards and gave away about 20 maps for the Michiana Pottery Tour which happened the next weekend. My wife also did a great job encouraging people to think about contacting me later for custom orders or after I make more items that were sold out.
The worst part of the whole thing is hauling my wheel and everything else up from the basement, squeezing it in the cars with all the tables and shelves, hauling it all back and forth and then putting the clay studio back together when it’s all over. But the sales and connections seem to be worth it so far. Plus it’s nice to have all of Sunday to unpack and relax. If the festival happened on Saturday and Sunday I don’t think I could recover. But I guess I could take Monday off instead of Friday.
As for the festival itself, I don’t have much to say. I was at the wheel all weekend so I didn’t get to see much outside my own booth. The people in charge of the festival are really nice and great to work with. I reunited with some fellow vendors that I met last year and met a few new people too. I definitely plan to go back next year. Hopefully by then I will have some kind of sign, better business cards and maybe another shelf or two.