Part I in the VI Post Series
As you may already know, I design and create handcrafted jewelry and I lug my wares to craft shows, markets and festivals all over my town. My love of the handmade started with my mother, who made crafts to supplement my family's income while we were going up. I have spent a lot of time behind a craft show table and can tell you what works, and what doesn’t. I also know what you need to bring to make your day smooth and I have delt with many customers in many different situations.
That being said, I do not guarantee any of this information will actually lead to sales. There are many factors involved including product, price point, location, economy, advertising for the show, etc. My tips my be very helpful to some, and maybe not so much to others. My hope is that this information will help you feel confident and prepared for your craft show so that you can do the best within the limitations of the show itself.
BEFORE THE SHOW
The obvious first thing that you will need to do is design and create a product. Before I started doing shows I sold online so I already had a product (jewelry). If you don’t know where your talents lie, I suggest that you take some time in finding that out before you put a product out there. If you are new to crafts, try some things and see what you really excel at. Don’t start making jewelry or any other certain product because everyone is doing it or because you think you could make money. Find something that you are really good at and love to do. If you are just trying to make money, it won’t last long. Plus, people can smell someone just out to get money a mile away. They will also ask you such questions as “what drives you to create such-and-such?” If money is the answer, they will likely move on.
The basics of picking a product is too large of scope for our purposes, so we will continue assuming you already have a great product that you are ready to sell.
There are a few things that you will need to do, all relatively at the same time before an actual craft show. You will need to find a craft show and you need to figure out your stand. (You also need to make your products, and make sure you have enough!)
FINDING A SHOW:
THE EASY WAY
1. There are two (2) major ways I have found each craft show I have done up to this point. The first one was that I got on the email list for the Creative House of Lancaster. You may have a similar “art club” in your town. I am not really a member of this group, but I am on their mailing list. Whenever they have an event they send out a mass email informing everyone. Other people having events email this group and they in turn send out other events as well. I extremely busy based upon these emails alone. I also have made other connections through this group.
I also happen to know my target audience pretty well at this point, and my target audience is attending the events that the Creative House of Lancaster is setting up and advertising. You can use this concept for your own products, too. If you sell children’s wares, perhaps you want to get involved with a children’s group and find out different children’s events. Really take some time to consider who you think will buy your products and find a way to put your items in their path.
Once you are on a mailing list, you will receive more notifications for events than you could do.
2. Each year I buy Art and Craft Show Directory. The one I buy is for Lancaster County (where I live) and the surrounding areas, but I suspect that there are other similar publications around the country. The one I buy is put out by the Market House Craft Center P.O. Box 204, East Petersburg, PA 17520. I buy it at A.C. Moore at the beginning of the year. Check out local craft supply stores for something similar in your area.
The book also lists the person in charge of the event along with their contact information and usually the date the application is due and the fee. Contact the people far enough in advance to meet the deadline. Usually I go through the book at the beginning of the year and make preliminary calls and emails to get more information.
The other cool thing about the book is that the expected attendence and fee that will be charged to attendees is listed.
OTHER WAYS TO FIND EVENTS
1. There are online services. You have to pay for some, but you can still figure out enough information without paying for the service. I don’t think I would pay, but it may be worth it for you, especially if you don’t know of any groups to get involved with or there isn’t a book for you to purchase. Some areas do not have as many shows as others, so you will want to make sure you don’t miss the big one! Just do a search and you will find many websites that offer this service.
2. It is really easy to find more shows when you begin vending at shows. Just ask your neighbors at the show and they will give you tips. Be careful to keep your own target audience in mind when deciding on shows, even when getting tips from others. For example, I was telling a craft show acquaintance about a great experience I had a monthly show and basically trying to convince her that it would be a great place for her to try. However she knew her audience and nicely explained to me why it might not be quite as great a place for herself.
3. Also, people who are looking to start handmade, crafty or artist ventures attend these events looking for people who would fit in with their vibe. For example, I got space at a gallery this way, a consignment gig, and I have found out about other art and craft shows. And the people actually came to me to ask me about working with them. I am sure that with a little conversation even more opportunities would arise.