The Great Box Sale Adventure #1: The Great Box Sale Adventure... a Novellette Part One

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Blog entry by maplerock posted 05-25-2014 12:01 AM 1884 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Great Box Sale Adventure series Part 2: Day 2 »

I had some interest from fellow Lumberjocks to let them know how the sales were at the show this weekend. Here’s a lengthy recap. You may want to get some snacks now or visit the restroom before proceeding.

Day one of art show box sales is in the books. Day two is tomorrow. Let’s start at the beginning.

Boxguy came up with a bright idea months ago, that he and I team up and present our boxes to the world at a local art show. I agreed and the wheels were set in motion. The committee took applications(for a juried show) complete with photographs and we went to meet the show’s director. Astute as he was, he loved our boxes. He was in fact thrilled that we wanted to participate. He and his staff gushed at the photographs we showed them, and Boxguy even provided some actual boxes for them to assess. Their amazement and kudos swelled our heads a little and we left that meeting feeling pretty darn good about our chances.

As the show approached, Boxguy worked on his boxes as did I, and we both came up with different ways to display our creations. I opted for shelves and built a set of four that I liked very much. They are portable and finished with stone paint. They came out even nicer than I’d hoped even though it took 5 cans of paint and three cans of primer. Boxguy opted for a table with a raised shelf in the back. It came out very nicely and we were set. Boxes were ready, displays were ready.

We borrowed a tent from a student boxbuilder of Boxguy and met one evening to practice the setup. Things went smoothly and we were set. We invited friends and colleagues to the event through e-mail and facebook, and both of us obtained square credit card readers. We didn’t want there to be any excuse that people couldn’t go home with one of our boxes.

I loaded up 36 boxes and Boxguy readied about 30. We wrapped each box in a towel or fabric and transported them in bags with handles, careful not to damage the goods. I had lid boxes, boxes with trays, big boxes, little boxes, common woods, exotic woods, and just about every kind of box I’ve ever posted here on LJ. BG had boxes with all the various choice woods, boxes with fabric, some with stained glass, tea boxes, card boxes, and boxes of all shapes and sizes. His selection was quite impressive.

The venue was superb. A five foot high brick wall surrounded the courtyard of a 19th century mansion. An impressive fountain sprayed all day straight ahead of us. Massive beautiful trees provided shade and luscious grass was underfoot for all vendors. Our own particular site was under a big old tree, ensuring us a shady experience. A breeze kept us cool all day. It was a perfect atmosphere. Allowed to set up the day before, we loved our spot, and our table and shelves went up without a hitch. Boxguy set up his boxes and covered them with a tarp, and I decided to wait until Saturday to break out my wares.

Game day arrived and we were ready. I got there an hour early and filled my shelves with boxes. Wow. What a selection. It was a two day show and I only brought 36 boxes. What if they sold out by noon? What would I do tomorrow? Boxguy had about two dozen out. We could be in trouble if we sold out quickly. We both had more at home, about a half hour’s drive away. We’d have to go home in the worst case scenario. Or is that the best case scenario? I hung a large wooden sign made just the night before of pine and poplar so no one would miss BOXLAND; The place where all dreams of boxes come true.

The countdown began… ten minutes to go… five…..Showtime! Boxguy opted for a craftsman swivel stool and I parked in a big lawn chair, ready to spring up to answer questions and accept payment. And here came the shoppers. Not in a surge, but a steady trickle. They entered the tent and had nothing but compliments for our boxes. We both answered questions when needed, and Boxguy taught dozens of shoppers everything they ever wanted to know about box building. We weren’t selling yet, just priming the pump.

Observation number one: Shoppers went to the table upon entering the tent. After perusing the Boxguy collection and getting a box building tutorial, they turned and looked at my boxes on the shelves. A few compliments would be uttered and they would leave to repeat the scene in the gourd booth next door. It would appear that the table was a better way to feature the boxes. They could be opened easily without worrying about the upper shelves. The lighting seemed better, and Boxguy’s boxes with stained glass attracted browsers like lamps attract stinkbugs. Still though, no sales. A few hours passed and finally a serious buyer emerged holding a box from Boxguy’s table. Finally! Not one of his though, it was from the Boxguy student that loaned us the tent. What? Yep, he had sent a few pencil boxes for BG to try to sell. They were the least expensive items in the tent, and like the first fish on a fishing trip, the first blood in Boxworld.

Seriously? Now this young man is not a novice boxbuilder. He is actually quite accomplished, and any of us would be proud to own one of his boxes. But… he wasn’t there. He was somewhere else. And that was that. The day went on pretty much the same. The high point for me was a great bratwurst and a nice cheeseburger. About two hours before closing time some friends of Boxguy came in. Church friends. Repeat customers. Boxguy boxes are like Lay’s potato chips. You can’t have just one. They left with a nice BG box.

So the score for day one was in the books. Boxguy 1, Kid not in attendance 1, and me 0. I saw lots of old friends, ate some good food, and accepted lots of what appeared to be sincere compliments. Not a bad day at all, unless you’re talking about sales. OK. What to do for day 2? Build a table tonight? Burn the shelves? Join the Army?

No. No. and No. What I will do is take about half of my boxes home. I’ll display fewer boxes and feature my cheaper ones. I will take some good snacks and be sure to have some cash for a nice lunch. I don’t think I am cut out for sitting at art shows all day. I am not giving up yet, but will reevaluate after tomorrow. Who knows, maybe I will sell out by noon? I’ll let you know.

Oh yeah, both of our wives helped. They loaded and unloaded. Schmoozed the patrons, and generally boosted the morale of the troops in what was a slow day at Boxland.

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

13 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30609 posts in 3388 days

#1 posted 05-25-2014 12:35 AM

Shows are difficult at best. They can bash your ego badly. Regardless of the outcome, make it a learning experience. Make sure you make a pass through the entire show. Realistically evaluate if your products belong there. One of the things I finally learned was that there are many shows that I simply don’t belong at. My items are too big and too expensive for most shows.

Talk to the other vendors. I have been to new shows that were slow. If the other vendors that have been there before are saying it’s slow, then I may give the show a second chance. If they’re doing well and I am not, then it’s probably the wrong show for me.

Don’t just put out your cheapest items. However, it’s good to try to have “something for everyone”. I want everyone to leave money behind when they leave. Watch closely what people look at. Nice to know what the people like. Possibly as important, pay attention to items that NOBODY looks at. They are wasting space and need to be replaced.

No lounge chairs for you to sit in. Makes people think that you’re not interested in them. Either standing or high stools that are easy and quick to get off of. Look interested in everyone that comes in. Treat them like they are special, they like to be special.

Last thing, dress to the crowd you are selling to. I never wear blue jeans. Generally business casual dress. But if it’s a high end show, then you should dress like you belong.

Just my suggestions. Hope you have a great day tomorrow.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3886 days

#2 posted 05-25-2014 01:12 AM

All good observations. I’m doing my first show in June and hope to bring 30 cutting boards. I’ll remember the stool and making sure there is a real price range. Good luck tomorrow.

-- A posse ad esse

View DaleHunt's profile


38 posts in 2632 days

#3 posted 05-25-2014 01:36 AM

Curious as to the price ranges of the boxes you are attempting to sell?

-- Dale

View DocSavage45's profile


9043 posts in 3892 days

#4 posted 05-25-2014 01:56 AM

Nice monolog of your day. Wondered how you guys would do. Hey you had great company and a definite learning experience.

For me it’s similar to the clients that scheduled and did not show today. When I complained about the “no call and no show” to my brother he said. “That’s why they call it mental health.” It’s funny but true.

I like what “Monte” shared. “Huff” has shared a few well learned pointers as well.

I use to go to a town in Wisconsin where artist show their wares. Stopped at a gallery where there were some boxes displayed and a nice presentation about the artist. At that time, this naive guy was amazed at what prices were being asked. Even though they were well crafted. The following spring I went back to little Stockholm Wisc. And the little gallery was still going. Other places had changed hands. I looked for the boxes, and found there were boxes , from China, at a seriously lower price.

I’m planning to see what is available here in MN for artists in wood this year.

I’m also liking the Etsy store concept proposed by “Blackie”.

Thanks for sharing your experience with we naive folk.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 2850 days

#5 posted 05-25-2014 01:57 AM

Here are some examples:

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 2850 days

#6 posted 05-25-2014 02:09 AM

Here’s another example:

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3317 days

#7 posted 05-25-2014 02:44 AM

Jerry, I was there, and yet wasn’t. What a fun telling. I laughed and laughed. Hope sales go better tomorrow. One $185 sale is better than the people who are selling earrings made selling 30 of them. I am optimistic, but if you are selling the most expensive things in the whole show, you can’t expect this to go well. It is like having the nicest most expensive house on the block. It will be the last sold.

People at this show came to buy five dollar earrings not two-hundred dollar boxes. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. The weather today and sitting in the shade is a hard thing to be critical of.

I had fun talking to people about boxes. Selling through galleries I never get to have direct contact with customers. My hope is that if they start to see how much work goes into making these boxes they will understand the price.

For me the money wasn’t the main goal. I just wanted to learn the ropes. I talked to the people who do shows for a living. They said that the problem with this show was that there were just not enough people walking by.

See you tomorrow.

-- Big Al in IN

View DocSavage45's profile


9043 posts in 3892 days

#8 posted 05-25-2014 03:17 AM

My wife is someone who will buy melamine furniture to “get it done.” She knows what goes into the boxes and why they are worth the money but doesn’t understand why people buy boxes. LOL!

Havea good time tommorrow. Sun is shining I hope and you can talk to people and do what you do here?

Lookin to hear how good it goes!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4358 days

#9 posted 05-25-2014 03:32 AM

Hello Jerry…Sorry to hear that things didn’t go as anticipated… tomorrow will be a better day. Shows are very unpredictable…some are slow and others are fantastic. It takes a lot of research to discover the shows that will work for each of us and the work that we create.

Doing one show is by no means an accurate way to determine how your work will sell. You have to be determined to continually refine and polish the your display, your tent, your presentation, your work and communicate to everyone how passionate you are about what you do and how unique your work is. I always roam around and talk to other artists at every show Carol and I do and it is surprising how easy it is to pick up the negative vibe that someone puts out when they are having a slow or bad show. People will most likely not buy from a depressed artist…
You never know what to expect … but persistence will pay off in the long run if you do not quit. I do know that there are many people out there that can easily afford whatever they like and money is not an issue. You just have to have something that pushes their buy button.

View Dan P's profile

Dan P

755 posts in 2942 days

#10 posted 05-25-2014 07:01 AM

Very informative and excellent blog. Thanks

-- Daniel P

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3854 days

#11 posted 05-25-2014 12:16 PM

Very good info Jerry. Craft shows are one of those maybe they will, maybe they won’t type things. Good luck. Hope you have large sales. I think the prices on your boxes are very reasonable. We can’t give our wares away, that’s for sure.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View leafherder's profile


1978 posts in 3002 days

#12 posted 05-25-2014 03:18 PM

I understand and sympathize completely – I had the exact same experience last November, worked on creating the stock for 4 months, priced the items to sell, came up with a unique presentation idea, scoped out the competition and saw nothing comparable but still sold nothing. (Ended up giving most of the items to family and friends as Christmas gifts.) Obviously my crowd – and your crowd were looking for something else. Still it surprises me that you did not have more luck at this time of year – seems like boxes would make great graduation and father’s day gifts.
Some questions for you: Were the browsers primarily men or women? (Women generally shop for gifts and plan ahead for future occasions, so be sure to mention that the boxes make great gifts.)
Were other artists selling well? If so what was selling? (Since it was a juried show it might have the reputation of selling paintings or sculptures instead of functional items. Or the crowd might have been interested in things like garden sculptures because of the season.)
Good luck and don’t give up your dream just yet – you just need to find the right outlet for your wares (I have decided to try some local shops that sell outdoor themed items and the works of local artists/craftsmen).

-- Leafherder

View Steve Kreins's profile

Steve Kreins

358 posts in 2681 days

#13 posted 05-25-2014 08:42 PM

I’m already sick from the chemo and then I just had to read your story. My stomach was churning and now I really feel bad. Glad you had fun anyway. If you strike out Sunday send me a message not to read your post, my stomach can’t take the tension.

-- I thank God for everything, especially all of you!

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