If you’ve read “The Wonder of Knifemaking,” you know author Wayne Goddard offers six reasons why makers should attend knife shows. While some are timeless, some have changed with the more pervasive use of social media. With BLADE® Show coming up June 2-4, I’ve updated the reasons why makers should attend knife shows, while also adding one of my own. I’ve also included a few additional tips.
Be sure to let me know why you like going to knife shows, what works for you, what doesn’t. Do you have any funny stories about attending a knife show? We’d love to hear it. What are your suggestions for those new to the show circuit? What’s the best food you’ve had at a show? The biggest sale? The most challenging setup? I’d love to collect your experiences in a separate post. If you have any photos, be sure to include them in your email to email@example.com.
1. Making Contacts
Goddard considers it all part of paying your dues to go to knife shows, spend countless hours getting ready and perhaps not even selling enough to cover your expenses. But what you will come away with is contacts. You’ll meet people who can help you better your knifemaking skills, get you better materials to work with, photograph your work or help you get it publicized.
I say, come prepared. Professional business cards are cheap to make up, like less than $10 for 500 at Vista Print, for example. Make sure you triple-proof your phone number and email address because those are the primary ways people get in touch with you. Include how your professional Page is listed on Facebook, and if you’re still mixing business with pleasure, it’s time to start driving folks to a professional page. Include your Instagram handle. You can have one of your photographed knives as a background image one side of your card and a photo of yourself on the other side. A little space on the front or back allows either you or whomever you’re conversing with to jot down something to prompt them to remember how to follow-up with you.
2. Gain Perspective On Your Work
Goddard’s second reason to go to a knife show is somewhat dated. You can clearly see what knives are being made in the industry through magazines like BLADE®, online through visually focused Facebook and Instagram, and through websites. There are books to read and endless hours of You Tube videos to absorb. However, the only thing none of these outlets will provide is touch.
Shows offer you a chance to pick up knives, open them, close them, weigh and balance them in hand. You’ll be able to get ideas on what you can do to improve your work, or in which direction you want your style to head.
3. Establish A Broad Customer Base
You can indeed stay quite busy just through website or Facebook orders, but Goddard brings up a good point about making sure you bring some of everything you offer to a show so there will be something for everyone. A collector may never know about you unless he sees you at a show. He has to hear about you before he can look you up online. Sometimes we only expand our tastes if we are forced to. At a show, buyers will at least glance at knives that normally they’re not drawn to. Every once in a while, they stop and buy something out of character for them, and you’ve just sold a fixed hunter to a guy who thought he only liked tactical folders.
I would add that you might want to consider bringing a few knives to a show that would fit a youth or woman. Sometimes finger placement isn’t comfortable for smaller hands. There could be an extra sale or two for you in a sometimes overlooked segment of the knife-buying population.
4. Show Off Your Art
If you have a wild and crazy, beautiful and bejeweled, historic or psychedelic piece of artwork that people admire but are hesitant to spend money on, the knife show is your outlet. Chances are someone just might buy it, but you’ll also get the accolades such work so richly deserves.
5. See The Country, The World
Not only is a knife show an excuse to travel the country, but it’s a chance to meet people from all over the world. You just never know. You could meet someone from the Netherlands, strike up an online friendship and the next thing you know, you’re ordering a plane ticket to attend your new buddy’s local show.
6. Sell Knives
This is the last thing you should be thinking about if you’re just starting out. Goddard explains that it’ll take a while to figure out what sells for you and what doesn’t. Don’t get discouraged. Keep at it. If there’s a waiting list for the show you want to get into, then put your name on the list and wait.
I would add to practice going to local or regional shows first. Let’s be honest, shows can be exhausting. You’re on your feet all day, always “on” and having similar conversations with many people. It’s hard to take breaks to refresh yourself, but it’s probably one of the best things you can do. Go visit a few booths that have something you’d be interested in buying. Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t so that you stay refreshed and positive for your customers and yet get something for yourself out of the show too.
And although it’s tempting to start packing up early, resist. There’s nothing worse than thinking you can hit the last hour of a show only to find vendors packing up. That last customer may be your best one of the day.
7. Professional Photographers
This one’s mine. If there is a professional photographer at a show you’re attending, try to budget enough to have your knives photographed. It makes all the difference in showing your work in the best light, and it can be your ticket into knife publications, like BLADE. For instance, well-made knives, well-photographed stand a decent chance of getting into the Knifemaker’s Showcase section of BLADE or the What’s New section and often both. No matter how well the knife is made, if it isn’t well photographed, it can’t be included. Composition, contrast, focus, lighting, resolution, size, all matter. Chuck Ward will be at this year’s BLADE Show; you may want to contact him to set up something for the show.
If you’re going to be at the 2017 BLADE Show, I’ll see you there. I’ll have a handout for you on how you can get a couple of your knives into BLADE. In the meantime, if you already have great photos, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn From A Master
Wayne Goddard not only shares his suggestions for getting the most out of attending knife shows in “The Wonder of Knifemaking,” but he also shares his experience in setting up workshops, accumulating tools and, of course, making knives. Right now you can save $10.17 off this knifemaking library essential.