December arrived while I was in Toronto, and by the time I got home, things were already all about Christmas, and I still can’t believe it’s winter… it really is winter here this year, it’ll be intresting to see whether the bay freezes over, something that hasn’t happened in years.
In anycase, I thought I’d post my impressions of the Toronto One of A Kind Show for anyone who might be curious, before more time runs out, seeing as now it’s already January–2014!! Happy 2014, by the way!
Years ago (decades ago, really) I attended the One of A Kind Show, and I rememebr not being able to see much, there were so many people shopping and looking; I also remember being quite tired by the time I got out of there, after having done battle with all my fellow lookers… it is not like that anymore. The show opened on a Thursday, and there were people coming through, but not once did I get the impression that this was a big event in downtown Toronto, city of millions. The first Saturday of the show proved to be my best day, but by no means was I (nor anyone else in my section) swamped by customers. I was worried that as one person, I would have trouble getting a 10-minute break during the day if I needed one, but unfortunately, this was never a problem. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds do not seem to be an issue anymore at this show; this is evidence of a slower economy for sure, but perhaps there are a few other things at work as well.
People don’t always want to share their ‘numbers’, but I am going to post mine here to give the most complete picture of my experience that I can. (KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS IS MY EXPERIENCE, AND DOES NOT REFLECT HOW OTHER PEOPLE MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE DONE AT THIS EVENT). My costs for attending this show, including booth fee, electricity (yep, that’s extra), internet (yep, that’s a LOT extra), storage, guest house (I stayed at the Grayona Tourist Home on King St., had own kitchen, bath, etc., 20-30 min. walk from the Ex depending on which route I took), van rental, gas, parking, extra ‘stuff’ (business cards, bags, bubble wrap, tissue paper, brochures, banners, shelves, lights) and so on– note that this list does NOT include my materials or the fact that it took roughly 8 months to prepare for this show– totalled very close to $12 000.00 if I add in food, and if I haven’t forgotten anything. Seems like a big price tag to start off with… but as usual, I was hoping for the best, becuase if ya don’t play, ya can’t win… or can you?! At the end of the day, I ended up breaking even… I sold just over $12K-worth of product, and from the way my van was packed to the brim on the way home, that doesn’t seem to be a lot of product gone at all…
The Show itself was huge, of course, it is a business for the company that owns it… if you can’t borrow a ladder, bring your own, as they charge for ladder rental… as they do for rental of chairs/stools/etc… From the vendors that I was chatting to throughout the duration, I got the distinct impression that this show is being marketed slightly differently than it used to be; the company also owns The Artist Project, and according to my sources, the visual artists and high end crafts persons are being encouraged to attend TAP more so than the OOAK. The OOAK show accepts items that are designed in North America, but not neccessarily made here; I did not know this prior to attending. Had I known, I would have saved myself a lot of time and stress and money… massage pillows are probably very useful and comfortable things, but quite possibly not what I had in mind as being a one-of-a-kind item that I would like to be next to as a vendor. Once I realised there were items being made elsewhere by someone(s) other than the artisan representing the maker’s company, it was easy to pick out those booths from the actual one-of-a-kind-hand-made-right-here-by-the-person-standing-in-front-of-you booths. Depending on what your product is, how transportable it is, and what you are after, this show could work quite well for you; I’m sure the massage pillows sold quite well. I’m also sure that if I were to attend for several years, I would most likely have a small following, and be able to sell a bit more work. I’m also sure that for whatever reason, as with any event, some people did extremely well, possibly having the best year they’ve ever had. If one lived in Toronto, or close to it, it would certainly be a worthwhile event to attend, costs are much lower overall, and ‘profit’ would be much easier to measure. For me, though, it’s too costly to get there and stay there for the duration, the time of year was not genious for driving, the overall time required for the show is too much, and I don’t want to participate in a show that accepts work made by others elsewhere. Somehow that last thing just defeats the whole purpose of the event in my mind– but maybe my thinking has to change, although at this point I don’t think so.
I am, however, quite stubborn. Would I do it again? No. BUT…! I did sell my larger, more expensive pieces. Sadly, I only brought five; one, the organisers broke for me, and the second broke in transit… the others sold early on in the show. As I was across from the painters (Globe and Mail Visual Artists Row, or whatever the exact title was), I had the chance to see what a large open booth looked like and how it worked for paintings and large pieces… and I was thinking about a few things: my location possibly helped, as people looking for paintings and already pre-disposed to spending larger amounts of $$ might be walking down this aisle– should they glance over to my side of the aisle, they may see something that catches their eyes; my location was possibly detrimental– people in this big city are so used to being bombarded by so much at all times that even before they even really look at anything, their brains have sent them the signal that said ‘paintings, nope not for you right now’ and they shut right down and walk past as if the whole aisle were an empty hallway, a means to get to the next section; the way I would come back to a show like this would be with an investment in a 20′ booth, large wall pieces, and 5-6 plinths with sculptural work only. Again, risky, but I am very curious to see who really is in the audience, and what that sector might be interested in (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!). Food for thought. And speaking of food, if you’re into selling edibles and you package them nicely for Chirstmas, you will simply not have enough made to sell.
It was a long trip in my journey of trying to figure out how to make a living as a crafts-person/artisan/artist, whichever designation makes you happy. I did see a lot of people in Ontario whom I haven’t seen in a very long time, even if it was just for brief minutes at the show in between browsers; I was the recipient of wonderful acts of kindness by virtual strangers who now have become friends in my heart; I got to visit family, both blood and not, but family to me just the same. I had plans to do a lot more visiting, and I was going to be smart and business-like and go to some places to have face-to-face chats, but I was so tired by the end of the show, my van was so full (all that extra bubble wrap) that driving in TO was even more stressful because I couldn’t see very much, I just wanted to get home, and that final leg of the journey was tough enough already.
It took a lot of people to get me on my way, and for those who made time to help pack things, talk about ideas, share information, twist wires, tie lines, cut material for stone bases, and in general help me get off the Rock, I am very grateful. On the mainland side of things, I am also grateful for all the help with set-up and take-down, places to stay, visits, and food… and of course to all those who chose to support me by buying some of my work, thanks go out your way as well. It was an adventure!
Speaking of adventure, I hope the New Year brings many fun and exciting ones to us all. I look forward to this next segment of the journey, I hope to share it in more ways than one with many. Three cheers for 2014!!