Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ms. smith's neighborhood

I closed the Philly show a few days ago. I try to be a good neighbor at the trade shows. To my mind, that means pretty much minding my own business and staying out of other people’s booths. A polite yet distant friendliness is what I strive for. A long weekend or week can be made even longer by an overly-talkative or worse yet, a bitter and mopey neighbor.

At the Philly show, I did pretty well on neighbors. Tabbatha Henry was a bit down the aisle from me and established herself as the ideal neighbor. She came over to chat for brief periods, offered food, made wry comments on the buyers, and didn't complain.

I have had terrible neighbors before. Once, when I was still doing the New York Gift Show, I had a neighbor on the left is that was the worst kind of neighbor, and completely unaware that he was a bad neighbor and everyone on the aisle wanted him dead. He was a manic type who seemed gregarious and outgoing at first, but it was a thinly disguised act to mask a frantic show-off. He continually popped into my booth—and I do mean “pop” in the literal sense, his energy level verged on the frenzied—and attacked me with non-sequitors:

“I’m dying for a frozen yogurt! Aren’t you?” (I detest frozen yogurt and the whole idea of it).
“Oh my god you are so cute! Do you hate it when people tell you that?” (Um. No.)
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” (this actually sung to me in a show-tune fashion).
“I am so obsessed with Rome!” (a cable TV series I’ve never seen).
“I wish I were selling my pants! Everyone keeps asking me about them!” This on the first day, when he was wearing a pair of vintage houndstooth pants, very Yves Saint Laurent circa 1972. With a pink top and a pink tie.

Add to this picture a high voice that carried, a selling pitch that didn’t vary, a southern accent (fake?), frequent cell phone calls that included frenetic pacing back and forth in front of my booth, and you have someone who is amusing to write about, but torture to experience in real life. He also walked the aisle like he was participating in a fashion show and he was on the catwalk, complete with tiny little hips. I don't like to use the word "hate" because it's such a strong word and he was really not worthy of my hate. But I hated the little bitch. And I know he hated me too, though he addressed me as "my friend", as in "Well, my friend, you're having a good day!" Of course I was having a less than good day, but my friend didn't really care about that.

The trade shows are just tough places to be. You're stuck in a 10' x 10' space for about 8 hours a day, and you have to always ready to be friendly and chat up the customers. This last show was especially tough, as there were very few buyers who attended, and I found myself gazing off into space for long periods of time. It helps to be able to chat with the people around you, but you can find yourself chatting with people who are just taking your energy and attention. Which is why I tend to keep to myself.

Anyway dear readers, I just wanted to check in and let you know I survived the show, and I can't wait to get back into the studio and back to work!


  1. exactly.
    bet you could write a book...
    I could and you've done way more shows....
    solitude awaits.

  2. Although I don't do trade shows, I have a similar experience doing local art/craft fairs. Actually, I really hope that I'm not that guy you hate to other people. I'm very talkative and get very excited about my work, and my stuff is usually the only fiber art in the group, so I'm unusual - thus people will stop and chat. I have often had folks on either side of me not do nearly as much interacting & selling as I do. I hope that I am not that annoying guy!

  3. Oh boy, I'm exhausted just hearing about him! I can't imagine 8 hours of that with nowhere to run! I'm glad you had good neighbours this time!

  4. Anonymous5:51 AM

    I remember that guy! He befriended our immediate neighbor who patiently put up with him until the very end when she could no longer stand the petulant whining and scorched him...I'm glad this last one went ok ;)

  5. hey whitney,

    thanks for the compliments! you were a pretty good neighbor yourself.

    hope you and your things made it home safe,


  6. Candied Fabrics, no one can hate you for getting excited and talking to the customers, and if they do hate you-- well fuck them. But they can hate you for coming into their booths and bothering them-- BIG difference. I doubt you are that person.

  7. i seem to get stuck by a bad neighbor the majority of the time. the worst is when they are so intrusive that they distract from your sales. i would like to think there is an unspoken etiquette about how to behave as a vendor at a show (i.e. don't read a magazine and ignore your customers). unfortunately you have to just cross your fingers and hope the neighbor is not "that guy".

  8. Anonymous1:12 PM

    Thanks - I almost spit my soda all over my keyboard!! This was my first year doing local art fairs. The first one was so slow I think I would have welcomed Mr. Houndstooth-Pants just to keep me entertained. Plus, maybe he would have scared off the vendor behind me who kept popping in and trying to sell me her stuff. Like I have the time money to go shopping and just leave my booth unattended.