It's been a full week since the first fair/exhibition of my jewellery. A week to think back, absorb, learn, and decide what I'd do the same/do differently next time.
I'm not ashamed to admit it -- I freaked. Totally and completely freaked out.
Let me provide a bit of context relative to the statement above.
The fair was due to open at 12 noon, with exhibitors welcome to set up from 9am onwards. Having never done this before (and not knowing for certain what size table I had been allocated), Julia and I arrived at 10am to find that we were only the second to arrive. The woman who was already there was exhibiting jewellery (what else ) and was fully set up. It was both lovely and professional, with her display items looking as if they'd just come out of a high-end jewellery store.
We were free to take any remaining table and I chose to position us as far from Pro Jewellery Lady as possible. We started unpacking and just a few minutes into it, I felt an overwhelming sense of panic, of being completely and totally out of my league. My display items were a potpourri of home-made/2nd hand items:
My risers were strong cardboard boxes with quilting squares thrown over;
Fuzzy paint rollers showed off the bracelets;
Picture frames were used for earring displays, as I'd removed the glass and replaced it with a kind of plastic netting purchased from the Pound Store;
Necklaces and bracelets hung from upside down lamp shades, toilet paper holders, or miscellaneous items picked up in 2nd hand stores or T.K. Maxx.
As I took everything out and struggled how to best assemble the display pieces on the table, other exhibitors arrived, many with their large plastic box organisers and were set up in no time. At this point, I was still struggling to properly hang the sign from the front of my table, which was becoming increasingly difficult as my hands began to shake.
What was I doing there anyway? After all, I worked in HR! Give me a difficult employee relations issue or a complex cross-border management issue, no problem. Ask me to do a presentation or lead a panel at a professional conference, sure, sign me up! But to suddenly label myself as an artisan or a jewellery designer, this was completely out of my comfort zone. It was at this point that my 9-year-old daughter stepped in to take charge. "Mummy," she instructed, "rather than putting the jewellery on the table before we have the displays set up, let's put the displays where we want them first." Strange to admit that this small person was now acting more logical than her mother, but that's what it was. She had seen my shaking hands, how I knocked over the first earring display I'd managed to set up (scattering them everywhere), and she decided there was a better way. Over the course of the next hour, we worked together to best position the display items, then adding the jewellery. We were set up and ready before the first person walked in to browse our wares.
In terms of "how we did," it was a wash. Despite there being hundreds of people at the fair itself, the position relegated to us and the other exhibitors did us no favours. The church - and thus the food, the entertainment, the raffles -- were all across the street. Yes, there were a few signs to tell visitors that there was an arts & crafts exhibit in the church hall, but we were away from the main event. I did get some great compliments from people and we sold enough to pay our expenses for the day plus materials. And the experience by our fellow exhibitors was the same; no one had a great take. . As the day went on, I got more comfortable talking to people as they came into the hall. My "hello" or "good afternoon" expanded a bit more into what kind of work I specialised in, and I took to quizzing people on how many jump rings they thought went into the chain maille pendant I was wearing.
And my Juju, aside from helping me hold it together, she took enterprising to a different level. Unimpressed by the small number of visitors we were getting in the exhibit hall, she grabbed her display of bracelets, a handful of my business cards and ventured into the food/raffle area in the church. Aside from trying to herd people over to the exhibit area, she also managed to sell some of her bracelets and pass out all the business cards she'd taken.
Lessons learned - arrange display items before taking out the jewellery. Have pride in the creativity and originality of my display rather than worrying about how it looks compared to everyone else's. Take the best available table for "traffic" - even if it's situated by someone who has an amazing looking display.
By the end of this fair, I felt a bit more comfortable in this new skin, with this new persona. After 20+ years working in the "corporate world," it will undoubtedly take time to feel as "at home" as when I'm wearing my HR hat. But I'll get there . . . . stay tuned.