As an online gallery, we don’t get the foot traffic or face-to-face interactions that brick-and-mortar galleries enjoy. So this year, after two years of observation and investigation, we decided to take a big step – we signed up to exhibit in Brian Lebel’s Old West Show in Fort Worth. Only 30 miles from our home, the proximity made it appealing. Both Michael and I have done lots of trade shows in the past – he in his corporate Marketing career, and I with both corporate shows and lately with my own pottery exhibitions. But the Old West Show is, for Native American art dealers, one of the big time shows. As we found out, that led us to many difficult decisions.
Decisions, decisions! What to take to the Brian Lebel Old West Show? Lovely turquoise, coral, and silver jewelry, of course, but which pieces? Of the hundreds of pots, baskets, and rugs, which ones should go? So many magnificent Zuni stone carvings – which ones? What pieces of fine art can we take? Michael talked me off the ledge a few times in the weeks prior to the show, as we tried to pare down the list of what we think people will like, and what is representative of the wide variety in The Dancing Rabbit Gallery. So many decisions.
We finally put together the items we are taking to the Old West Show, and then began the arduous task of carefully packing them in lots of bubble wrap and storage containers for the 30 mile trip. Each bump along the highway was nerve-wracking for me, as my precious items nestled in the back.
After posting a notice of our participation at the Old West Show, we began to receive lots of supportive and encouraging messages on social media. Thanks for your wonderful words of support. Michael and I became really excited in anticipating this show.
My wonderful sister Maggie volunteered to help us over the weekend. She has a lot of retail experience, and is a great person to handle all the hundreds of pieces of jewelry we had in the front case. Her efforts in helping us set up on Friday and staff the booth over the weekend can never be repaid, but as she said – “That is what family does for each other.” I am so blessed to have such a great sister.
Each show has a setup and tear-down time, and those can be hot and sweaty. We started setting up on Friday morning for the Old West Show promptly at 8 when they opened the doors (yes, I know that was really early for me, but I trusted in my coffee to pull me through), and we hoped to be done by the time they closed on Friday at 5. We got a big surprise the day before setup – I learned that VIP tickets would allow visitors to come in and shop all day Friday while we were setting up. We somehow managed to take care of setup and VIP visitors at the same time. We were ready when the doors opened on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. for everyone else!
The show sponsors held a nice cocktail reception for guests and vendors on Friday evening at the Fort Worth Cowgirl Museum, and it was a lot of fun to mix and mingle with everyone. We had a chance to chat with old friends, including other gallery owners, and also make a lot of new friends that evening. Everyone was decked out in their western wear and Native American jewelry, which made me think we were back in Santa Fe at the Indian Market Preview night.
The booth tear-down was almost anti-climactic, in that we had few decisions to make, other than securely putting the fragile items back safely in their travel containers and heading back up the highway. We began right when the show ended at 3 p.m. on Sunday, and finished early that evening. For a first experience exhibiting at a Native American show, this was really wonderful, and we are eager to investigate the Whitehawk show in Santa Fe this August (the weekend before Indian Market) to determine whether or not we want to make the 630 mile trek pulling a trailer of our Native American art. There will be more decisions to make.