Ok. Markets are exhausting. There's no way around it. Even a one day takes a day or two of preparation. There's the packing, the gathering of bags, pens, and displays. There is a build up of anticipation and excitement, and then it's over. Some go well and some not so well. There is no formula to figuring out what will be worth the time and effort, you just have to do it.
Putting yourself out there is a lot of work, but if you want to grow your business and make connections, it has to be done. In a lot of ways, doing markets feels like networking events back when I was in corporate. You meet a lot of people, have your elevator pitch about your work, and hope you make some connections, and maybe even a sale. The big difference is I enjoy setting up and talking about my work....I never enjoyed "corporate networking."
This year I signed for 17 markets, some with hundreds of vendors over several days and others with a handful for a few hours on a Saturday. I've done 8 so far. It's been an interesting experiment since I normally only commit to 4 events a year. The ones I thought would be a huge success were flops. Some of no fee and minimal commitment ones were amazing. Again, you never can tell...but I'm putting myself out there and trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. David will often text me at the end of a show to ask how things are going. I think he's asking to know if I met my goal, but also to gauge what sort of mood I will be in when I get home. I've gotten better with handling the less successful shows. After all, if I didn't do the show, I wouldn't be any better off than not having given it a try.
Some artists only want to work with shops and galleries and not deal with driving their work around. While I do work with a few stores, I prefer to sell my work directly. And it's not because of the money, though it is nice to not have to split the sale and keep it all myself, except for what the government takes in taxes. The reason I prefer to sell direct is because I get to represent myself and connect with people who are drawn to what I do. I get asked several times "did you make this?" and it's with pride I can say yes and share my story.
If you don't feel the need to connect with people in this way, that is perfectly fine. I know what works for me, but I would encourage other artists and artisans to put themselves out there a little bit...talk to people, observe how they look at and interact with your work. It's easy to get lost in our studio bubbles and only see what we do through our own lens. But when you get out and talk to or just watch people...you can learn a lot. It may not change what you do, but it may help you grow your business in ways you would never expect.