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ACC Baltimore show sales hold steady

Both public participation and exhibitor turnout met expectations at the recent American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, held Feb. 27-March 1 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Bernadette Boyle, senior marketing manager for the council, says show management was pleased that attendance was on par with previous years.

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“Going into the show, people didn’t have a lot of high expectations with how the economy has been going. But from the opening announcement on Friday, there was a great energy and crowd on the floor walking the aisles. Everyone looked very happy,” says Boyle.

The show drew about 20,000 visitors, primarily from the greater Baltimore area, Washington D.C., and the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia. The show floor featured 715 exhibitors, including about 45 furniture makers, according to Boyle.

Boyle says the ACC is still waiting for surveys to be returned from exhibitors to see how well they did at the show, but in general these results also looked promising. “As far as the buzz on the floor, artists were pleasantly surprised. I don’t think people were selling gangbusters like they have in past Baltimore shows, but it is looking up for the future.”

Robert Erickson of Robert Erickson Woodworking in Nevada City, Calif., who is a regular exhibitor at ACC shows, says he was as successful as ever at the Baltimore show.

“Much to my surprise and good luck, I found this year as good as the ‘good old days.’ I expected to sell nothing — this may be the case in future shows — but Baltimore was excellent,” says Erickson. “It was partially due to old clients coming back, but I met new people who ordered or bought pieces off of the floor. I had offered one favorite design on sale and sold several of it. Frankly, I was afraid that a ‘sale’ sign would devalue my work, but I didn’t feel that way in the end.”

Derek Hennigar of Ordinary Furniture in Columbus, N.C., also gave a good report on the show. He says that as a wood furniture designer and builder, his goals are to focus on the structural and aesthetic development and production of his various furniture designs and earn a modest income. Shows such as this one help him better establish his business.

“Exhibiting at high-quality indoor craft shows has been my primary marketing for nearly 20 years, and ACC Baltimore is unique in that it is the largest collection of the best work, and that it has both wholesale and retail days,” says Hennigar. “It attracts galleries and individuals nationally for several days of invigorating discussion, sales and exposure of my furniture. The work exhibited is in all craft media, not just furniture, so those in attendance see my work as it relates to other fine craft, which is an important aspect to what I do.”

As for artisan trends apparent at the show, Boyle says many of the woodworking exhibitors fell into the Green Craft category. This mainly included the woodturning artists who are using reusable wood, as well as furniture makers using sustainable materials.

Boyle acknowledges that the show, because it is juried, might be difficult to depend on for artisans who don’t know whether they’ll be selected from year to year. She emphasizes that it’s a positive trait.

“There’s always the concern about being selected, but I think that’s why our shows are such a draw — because they are highly competitive and the public knows that this is a juried show and it’s going to bring in the higher-caliber, qualified art collector.”

This year’s ACC schedule also included shows in Atlanta (March 13-15) and St. Paul, Minn. (April 17-19). The next one is in San Francisco (Aug. 14-16). The ACC cancelled its two fall shows in Charlotte, N.C., and Sarasota, N.Y.

“After careful evaluation, those were probably the two shows that have seen [the] most falloff [in] attendance, revenue and artist participation. So with having to be very conscious of the non-profit aspect of our organization, and in order to best serve our mission, we decided to close those shows and refocus our efforts on our four other existing shows,” Boyle says.

Contact: American Craft Council, 72 Spring St., New York, NY 10012. Tel: 212-274-0630.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue.

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