Preparation for my First Commercial Show as a Full time Artisan (Part 1)

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Greg posted 01-26-2012 10:51 AM 8144 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello fellow wood butchers! I went full-time in the beginning of December 2011 and am very excited to begin the next chapter in my life! For those that don’t know, I build one-of-a-kind commissioned custom fishing nets. My custom fly fishing nets can be used for many types of fishing though they are typically sought by and for fly fishers.
Some of my nets can be seen here. and here’s one in action. It’s Figured Walnut & Bird’s Eye Maple with a rubber net.

This is a multi-part story on preparing for my first show.

I first talked to my wife about exhibiting at one of my favorite shows, The Fly Fishing Show, which is held in various cities spread around the nation each spring. After consulting with some of my fishing colleagues, I decided that the Fly Fishing Show Pleasanton, Ca. show was going to give me the biggest bang for my buck as they get the most foot traffic on the West Coast.

I happen to live in So. California, so I will be in for a bit of a road trip up to the san Francisco Bay Area. Luckily, I have cousins with a spare apartment who live just 30 miles away.

I was next a bit floored by the cost, $975.00, for a 10×10 booth. Both my wife and I agreed that we’d need to make the investment. So I contacted the show and ordered up a spot. What?! I have to order electricity now?! and tables, and chairs and TRASH CANS?! Oh boy…...

I contacted a few friends who gave me some really good advice on shows. Some of their gems were: Isolate, Illuminate, and Elevate! Make the booth rich, warm and welcoming. Build value in your product,( i.g.Designed to be handed down for generations. Each one is one of a kind. Each owner gets exactly what they want.etc.) If you build value they will help you sell value later when they are bragging to their fishing buddies. Assume that people will remember three things 1) what they saw that they liked 2) your story that makes it interesting to them 3) where they saw it.

So, now I am in the midst of building the booth display that I designed. I’ll Post up pics when that’s done. I can tell you that I designed it out of rough sawn cedar for the old west type look. I thought it fitting as I am Sierra Nets, the finest Nets in the West!

Until next time,

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

3 comments so far

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4553 days

#1 posted 01-26-2012 03:19 PM

Here in Kansas, I’m so excited for you.
I know you will do well, and are as prepared as you can be.

Back in 2006 I was selected for the Western Design Conference show in Cody, WY.
The booth cost was something like $3200, which ought to be a crime, but this is Capitalism.

Friends and Family paid all of my expenses for the show and travel and lodging, otherwise I couldn’t have done it.
About 3 weeks before the show, I got so nervous, throwing up sort of nervous, that if I had not been given the money for the show, I most assuredly would have canceled and not gone. I was pretty sick and nervous.

I prayed, “Why God am I so nervous, help me get over this.” One day it hit me, what I was nervous about was the real fear that I would get to the show and be embarrassed by my work in comparison with the other makers who have long records of success and awards and nationally known, and it would be obvious to everyone that I was not a “contender” in that crowd.

I was given the image in my head of being like one of those kids that goes to American Idol to audition, and is just used for laugh track work on television. Everyone that loves them has told them they could do it, sing, live the dream, chase your dream, you can do it…...but when they sing, what comes out is not Idol-worthy, and they are just laughed at. I can’t imagined how crushing that moment is for them, but it is the Truth, they were made for something other than singing. Randy on American Idol will often tell those kids, “you should go and try something else, singing is not your thing Dawg!”

And that was It, that was what I was afraid of, I was afraid of not being competent in that WDC crowd, and it would be obvious.

Knowing your fears is the first step, facing them is the 2nd step. I learned that my fear was based on my internal conflicts of whether I had the skills to pull off showing my work at the WDC. Not wanting to disappoint my donors, I pushed down the fears, loaded up the rental truck, and headed out with my Dad, who took vacation time to come along and help me. We had a great time together, and at the show, despite the huge amount of work it is to move a big booth and aisle display of heavy solid wood furniture from Kansas to Wyoming and back to the customer’s various homes (I didn’t have much to sell, so I borrowed back things I’d been commissioned for).

In the end, I learned a lot about myself, and about big shows. I’ve not been back to a major show since that trip in 2006, but the learning experience, and the decision to push down the fears has served me well in the 5.5 years since that trip. Want some more “Fear”, try sitting there on the couch listening to Pres. George Bush go on TV in Sept. 2008 and look into the camera and say, “We are in deep doo doo folks…” (my paraphrase). I got scared that night. I don’t make anything anyone “needs”, how could I possibly survive a recession/depression and stay in business? I prayed that night, and many others since.

I sincerely hope good things and pray for your trip, and continued success. It’s been a lot of fun watching you take this product and your skills and build upon it, and I have good feelings about how this Fly Fishing show will go for you.
Take Care, keep us updated,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3456 days

#2 posted 01-26-2012 06:25 PM

You will do really great at the show Greg. Your work speaks for itself and all you need to do is add a nice bit of enthusiasm to the mix. $975 for a booth is alot but a really good show is not cheap and a really cheap show is not good... I am paying a little more than that for a booth at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in May but I feel that it is a good investment and will be worth it and more…Plus it is always a fun fest to be at even without a booth.

I look forward to seeing your display you are building also. I am currently building my third display. After each show I discover things I would like to improve on my display…so it always seems to be an evolving work in progress as my work seems to also be.
Good Luck & Have Fun…

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3870 days

#3 posted 01-28-2012 03:24 PM

I’m so excited for you! I’m sure you will do well in your business venture, as you have a quality product and the ability to provide custom work just can’t be beat.

Get all of the tips from your show buddies and take notes at all the shows you go to. The realestate is pricey, but as mentioned, the big shows get the traffic and also have a better heeled clientele. If you go to the less expensive shows, you’ll get the smaller budget traffic. Your work is noteworthy and hopefully the big guys such as Orvis will take notice and place orders. (A wholesale headache may be on your way.)

If you can get an ad or write up a week or two before the show to flag that you will be there, this may help traffic to YOUR booth. Check out local publications that offer free mention of activities, etc.. Also add a blurb about “Great Father’s Day gift” and sell gift certificates to “reel” in the sale, as if you can get $50.-$100.+ on a gift certificate, this will entice the future order. Print something up that looks decent, doesn’t have to be expensive, but looks unique. (Example: Add a business card that’s tied w/ natural jute string as a 3-D effect. Look at how they package gourmet/designer gifts using natural and inexpensive items.)

Have poster size photos made mounted on foam board of favorite pieces to hang. This can be seen from down the isle and gives you something to show if the inventory sells. A digital picture frame can show off photos of your work and is more eye catching than a hardcopy portfolio, also visible from 10ft. away. (Plug in to recharger!).

Wishing you the BEST in your creative and financial pathways!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics