Getting to the big show

Getting to the big show

 Let me set the scene... it is my first year full time as a potter... I'm about 5 months in. I have been making pottery for more than 25 years but now I am earnestly marketing my product to pay the bills. In September I realized I had not signed up for any Christmas markets and I might be too late. Having watched other professional pottery friends over the years I had some idea where to start looking and I chose to not to start small. I looked up the show that I thought would be the big one... if I could get there... "The Butterdome". It is a long running Christmas hand made show in Edmonton, Alberta held at the University of Alberta's athletic building that is called "The Butterdome" because it is painted bright yellow and is central to the University. Anyway - that's an aside but I realize most people are confused when I say I'm going to the Butterdome all excited... wtf is a butterdome? Short answer: it's the big show in Alberta. 

So I find the website, I find the company that runs "The Butterdome" also does other shows... awesome! Thinking I'll be lucky to get into one of the smaller ones and wanting to see the process of application I apply to Red Deer, then braver Calgary!!  Then with my husband's prompting me... why not the Butterdome?... I apply to the Butterdome. This is September... the Red Deer Show is in 4 weeks... I haven't really any inventory... naively I plod along... no booth design, no inventory, other obligations that keep taking me away from the focus of making... I may not even get in, no biggie I tell myself. The emails start coming in... Red Deer - accepted - hooray!... Calgary accepted - oh my, I better get busy... Edmonton, The Butterdome.... accepted. Holy Shit Balls. I learn this just before I am leaving for a trip to drive my Mom to a University of Alberta (yes, home of the Butterdome) class reunion... she's 83 and still going to class reunions... if I think hard enough I might remember one or two people's first names I went to college with, who knows where they are... I wouldn't even recognize them... another aside but I am impressed when people can keep lifelong relationships going, especially real life meetings - not social media likes. 

So I have four days in which to angst about all the things I need to be doing in my studio while trying to enjoy a trip with my Mom. 

Decision time... I keep my production to two colour schemes, I make a lot of mugs, two shapes, I make a lot of cups, I make many buddha bowls (a plate/bowl combo thing), I make some big bowls and I work my butt off for 3 weeks to be ready for Red Deer. I find foldable shelving units, I buy rechargeable lights, I buy table clothes and order the stupidly expensive carpet I need to have in my booth to comply with show regulations. I need exhibitor insurance and business cards and, and, and... I'm feeling kind of anxious writing this a year and a bit later after many successful shows... the uncertainty and long, long list of getting ready without enough time. And how will we fit it all in the Kia Seltos?!

Background... I have had many businesses, including two that involved tradeshow attendance so this is not uncharted territory, if anything I know how many moving parts there are. My husband Bart has also been involved in those businesses as well as a few others before we hitched up. He's an immense help with all things and my biggest cheerleader. For real. He does quality control as he packs the product, he packs the car, and when he comes to a show he drives, he organizes load in, he sets up all the electrical and he sells the shit out of the pottery. 

Red Deer was a good shakedown for what was to come... 12 hour days, shitshow load in and load out, we need more lights as they dim the lights for ambiance, zombie hour when no one is looking at anything just wandering... there's a whole cycle to these shows and we name them to keep ourselves sane but that's another story. 

Calgary was another learning experience, bring it on, we're here for it. In the three weeks between Red Deer and Calgary I had worked night and day making pottery still pretty in the dark about what would or wouldn't sell but trusting the process as there was little else to be done and no time to worry about it. 

Edmonton... The Butterdome... the big show... I had as much inventory as I could make. The three weeks between Calgary and Edmonton I had again worked my fingers to nubs to get ready. I had contracted Covid at the Calgary market but it felt pretty mild and the self-isolation was standard for me - back to the studio to work. We had enough experience (2 shitshow load ins and outs) to know we needed our own dolly's to make things work better for us. Bart designed two dolly's and had them fabricated to perfectly fit the crates we use to pack the pottery. Genius. Now that we were self-sufficient for load out life was grand! We sold the shit out of that show... we came home nearly empty... learning - take more inventory.... learning - we need a bigger vehicle, the Kia couldn't take another thing.

 Grateful beyond measure that this is what I have chosen to be my new life... I slept for awhile after that... to be continued...



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