It’s official, kids. I’m not leaving the city limits again. You can’t say I haven’t given the suburbs a shot. Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, Shaumburg, and now Northbrook. It’s been a thorough investigation. And while I didn’t totally tank at most of these places, neither did I do well enough to return when the costs versus profits were tallied.
Northbrook was the first one I actually lost money at. Being both monied and close to the city, I thought some of the mojo would spill over, like it does with Evanston (which I haven’t given up on, actually, my last show there having gone quite a bit better than I’d expected given the size and newness of the event). I had been prepared to not do really well, but that I did this poorly did come as a surprise.
I know we got hammered by a major storm on Saturday, but till then we had a crowd, and Sunday we had a crowd. They just weren’t into it. Many vendors I talked to were unhappy, actually. I think the reason was the composition of the crowd. It was mostly retirees and families with young children. Which may be all of Northbrook, come to think of it. But I’ve noticed that an art buying crowd doesn’t have their kids with them and isn’t trying to move to an apartment after 40 years in a 3 bedroom. Also, I had lots of nice compliments, but didn’t have many business cards taken, which is indicative of the general reception my stuff is getting with that crowd. In Spring Green, I almost ran out of cards. If you took out the one big sale, I didn’t move much product there, but interest was really good, so I feel I can build an audience.
So highlights: EM Events is one of the promoters hereabouts, and the experience with them that I had was a good one. They’re organized and helpful, and I didn’t have any hassles. There were email updates all weekend long regarding weather, the condition of our tents post storm, prize winners, et cetera. So, SUPER communicative, which is awesome. The judges were pleasant, introduced themselves and had a brief chat. My kind of stuff doesn’t win prizes, so I’m not concerned about their presence or the impression I’m making on them, but I do find a rude or standoffish judge unnecessary (*cough* Shaumburg *coughcough*) and it tarnishes my overall experience of the show. Cuz who likes some judgy judge getting all pretentious in your face when you’re trying to be charming and have fun? Nobody, that’s who.
Load in, check in, load out and parking were all easy peazy. I couldn’t drive up to my spot, it being in a park, but the tents were all along a path for easy carting to and from, and there was plenty of blocked off parking on all sides for us to stage from, so we weren’t fighting with each other or residents for the spaces. The artist amenities were contained in a big, air conditioned space and they had very nice ladies staffing the noshies table, which had fresh fruit in addition to the usual sugary carb fest that is the free breakfast typically offered at these events.
The organizers did their job well. They brought the people. The people were simply not into my glittery shenanigans.
Lowdowns: Lost money, first off. That’s pretty low. My immediate neighbors were also not pleased with their day, so it wasn’t just me. Which, again, points to the composition of the crowd rather than a lack of bodies. If a crowd isn’t into glitter and skeletons, that’s one thing, but my neighbors and I couldn’t have been more different in flavor. The only similarities between us were that we were all pretty colorful. Maybe Northbrook likes more of a day spa color scheme? Beige, mas beige, super beige, super ultra beige….
Also, bring your own food. There is nothing worth eating in Northbrook and the event has exactly one food vendor and a DQ cart. All the restaurants easily accessed on foot are overpriced and underwhelming. Sushi? Only if you’ve never actually had Japanese food or have really low expectations. Italian? Sort of. The one ok-ish place was a burger joint whose typical burger joint fare was decent, but whose menu offered Greek-ish and Mexican-ish dishes that were not great. Good fries though. And 3 ice cream parlors on the same corner, so if that’s what you’re into you’re all set.
The crowd was not fun. By not fun I mean generally not playful or engaged. They mostly walked by without entering and didn’t seem to be interested in talking to you. They’d come in if invited, but my guess is because they didn’t want to seem rude. It was a polite crowd, but a seriously disinterested one from my perspective, which, after 22 years at ren faire I feel is pretty well trained in the crowd vibe sussing department.
WTFs: Higher than average number of handsy little kids. I get kids engage with the world by touching it, I do. But ya gotta reign that in if you’re taking them to an art show, particularly one within spitting distance of 3 ice cream parlors. I personally didn’t have it happen to me, but more than one vendor I chatted with complained loudly about ice cream covered fingers on their wares. One guy selling clothing of some kind was particularly cranky about that, for obvious reasons.
Lots of people getting in my way during pack down. Like, people wandering the show who apparently didn’t come early enough to look around during actual hours of operation, but instead waited till everyone was busy, hot, tired, in a hurry and desperate for a shower and a beer before deciding to plant their asses in front of the one thing they hadn’t packed yet and stare at it, chat about it with their companions, and generally make themselves a tripping hazard at a time when one was not feeling hospitable any longer. (And one guy who felt the need to stand there staring and commenting on how “strong” I looked. Wtf is that supposed to mean? Was he flirting?) We’d get that at ren faire all the time, too. You’re two seconds from dropping the tarps for the night after a 13 hour, 90 degree day in a corset, when someone decides they want to look around. Not shop, mind you. No. Paying me would go a long way towards securing my patience. But these people never seem to buy anything. They’re “just looking” while you’re just trying to go the hell home. There are always going to be one or two, but there seemed to be a boat load of this going on here for some reason.
I have no objection to someone coming in to ask for a card real quick, or if they had intended to come back for an item and didn’t realize the show was closing or what have you. I have no objection to someone standing outside and out of my immediate way to look at what is left on the walls and asking questions or talking to me while I work. But do not cross my threshold during pack down for ogling purposes! I will not love you for it.
So yeah, not going back to Northbrook. I don’t know who had a good day, because I didn’t wander far, but the only things I saw walking by in bags were prints and small yard art. So there you go.