Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Long and Short of It All: I'm Terrified

Tea Set - Classic Collection. Photograph by Blackbird Photography

Tomorrow I leave for Philadelphia for the Buyer's Market of American Craft.
This is a wholesale trade show where retailers and gallery owners come and have a look at my work and (hopefully) place orders for their shops. I have been doing this type of trade show since 2006. This will be my first time in Philly.

Despite the fact that I've done this for years, despite the fact that I'm very comfortable talking to retailers about my work, despite the fact that I literally know my work inside and out, despite the fact that I know how these things go and should have nothing to worry about...

 I'm terrified.

Each show is the same, actually. Whether it's a wholesale trade show, or a retail craft show, the terror is the same. It sets in sometimes up to a week before the actual event. All rational thought seems to be jettisoned, and I become overwhelmed with anxiety; trouble breathing, panic, upset stomach, short nerves, trouble sleeping...

And it's all silly, when it comes right down to it. And ultimately I KNOW that. But that doesn't stop the deluge of evil thoughts: will people like my work? will I make any sales? will I be invisible at the show? will some catastrophic event blow the whole thing to smitherines? Will the global economy crumble the night before the show opens? What if none of my previous buyers come back to re-order? What if customers come and storm my booth to scream at me and tell me how much they hated my work and wished they never bought any?

See? Silly.

But I suspect I'm not alone in all this pre-show inner torment. And I wonder if all these negative thoughts are something that plague other artists as well.

Feltware Cups, photograph by Blackbird Photography

We embark on our 8 hour drive tomorrow morning, bright and early. When I get to the show, my crate with all my stuff will be sitting patiently in my booth, ready for me to unload. I'll set up my little space, retreat to the comfort of the hotel, endure a long, sleepless night, choke down some breakfast while trying not to gag, clean myself up, and trek down to stand in my allotted 100sq feet and wait. And the people will come. I'll chat up retailers and gallery owners, talk about my best sellers, share some laughs, meet some amazing people, and more likely than not write at least SOME orders. Repeat this for three whole days, pack up my stuff, and trek home again. And then I'll sit in the quiet solitude of my living room, surrounded by my cats, and cry. Even if I have a completely kick-ass, knock-my-socks-off, amazingly awesome show, I'll cry. It's a release of all the tension that I endure to get me to the show and through the show. It's the result of being an introvert, a deeply private person who has just displayed my heart and soul to be judged, mocked and loved by complete strangers. It's nothing bad at all. It's just the accumulation of emotion that needs to be cleansed.

And then I'll be back in my studio, making pots, sitting at my wheel where I'm happiest, and life will continue. Just like that.

So am I crazy? Probably.
Am I alone in all this? Probably not:)


  1. You're not alone at all. I've only done one little show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was a wreck before it and I know I'll be a wreck before the next one. But, if I weren't such an introvert, sitting alone in a studio for hours on end wouldn't be as enjoyable as it is. It all evens out.

    I hope the Buyer's Market goes well for you!

  2. Good luck, Melissa! I hope you have a wonderful time and lots of sales of your gorgeous work.

  3. Have a blast, Melissa!! I'm so happy for you and I love your work! I know the feeling you are speaking of, it's having others judge our insides when they look at our work. But, you will kick-it!! I just saw Hughes Pottery's post and they will be there too. Oh, how I wish I could go see you all! Best of luck--break a leg and bring home lots of orders!