Craft Shows and Me

Well, I see it's been a while since I checked in around here. Truthfully, I feel I've been so busy with my shops and my jewelry, I haven't thought about my blog that much. But I have also been dipping my toes into a new and challenging arena, which a year ago I couldn't have really imagined for myself . . . craft fairs.

At this point in time, I am pleased to say that I have two craft fairs under my belt, a home party, and a church sponsored event. I am learning, though not always in the ways I'd like. But now, feeling a wee bit wiser, I feel like unloading my meager knowledge on you.  Let's see, there must be a few things to share . . .

1) Home Shows 

Though this was my first effort at selling to "the public" this was a huge ego boost and a great way to get some support from my local community. Cat, my hostess, was fabulous and if she had not encouraged me and been so inviting, it might have been a long time before I tried this.

Anybody else out there want to do a home show? Really, e-mail me - I make it easy for you, and you get free jewelry too! My e-mail address is: naturallynickelfree@gmail.com

2) If you sell at a craft show, don't get stuck next to the fire trucks. 

In my recent fair in June, I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but for the entire afternoon, several huge fire trucks came and parked on the street directly in front of me and a few other vendors. I suppose some customers were buying some things somewhere after that, but they were certainly not buying jewelry. Kids generally pulled moms along to take photos of them on the great red beasts, but not too many moms had hands free for patient jewelry shopping.

In real life, I don't think I can really expect to know in advance whether there are fire trucks, airplanes, or hot air balloons beside my booth, but I can see that this really didn't help my cause.

3) Don't Sell Jewelry in the Dark.

This was also at my June fair: On Sunday, when the fair was supposed to "move indoors", venders sat in a dimly lit hallway of a sparsely used outlet mall. This may be good enough if you're selling, say, scented candles, but not so good if you're trying to discern the difference between cherry red and maroon jewelry. I had a few people say "good job" and walk on. Really, I would have brought lamp or two if I had known, and even paid the extra fee for an electrical outlet.

4) Stick with shows that have been around a few years. 

Although in April, I was happy to support a nice local new fair, I began to wonder if overall traffic at the event would be improved if it had been going on a couple of years. Since I'm new to this whole scene anyway, I felt excited just to be there. However, it may be exactly for that reason that for now I should rely on fairs that can show me the way it should be done.

5) Don't overbuy. 

I haven't done "too" badly about this, but it sure is easy to add things to the table display, thinking that all those sales will somehow magically cover it. Packaging was a major focus for me before my April show. My online sales reduces my "gift" packaging needs, but this time I had to think like a craft fair customer. For these, you want to spiff it up a bit.

I also had to look at getting a couple of racks and busts to get my jewelry to be vertical and more visible, to draw the crowd that I know is out there looking for my stuff :) These are more or less permanent investments, that I won't have to keep buying, but they do add up.

#1 wasted expense? The frog balloon that I attached to the corner of my tent. I thought it would look cheery and help people find me. Even though it did get some kids to look up and say "froggie," it didn't help sales one bit.

6) Just keep beading, Just keep beading. . .

As much as I want to say that these shows aren't taking that much time, really they are. My jewelry making, taking photos, blogging, and all the rest are really hard to keep on a schedule when I'm planning  what to bring to the show, running to get cash, preparing the jewelry for travel, or learning how to put up that silly tent.
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I have to say that after only a couple little dips into the great wide world of craft fairs, I am not at all scared off. Of course I will try it again, and as I learn what to expect, I imagine things will begin to go better. Then again, I could be wrong.

So why all the trouble? I think it seems kind of like camping to me. Once I get out there, and I'm packing oddball things like scotch tape, sunscreen, bottled water and rocks just to hold my displays down in the wind, it hits me: I'm camping. With the outdoor shows, there's even a tent and the constant monitoring of clouds. I'm really not looking forward to my first tear-down in the rain - but somehow it's all part of the cycle of trying again. Anyway, it's not like I'm not trying to make all my income this way like some people do -- I would not really have gotten into this if I did not have ArtFire and Zibbet there with all the tools they offer!

I feel like doing a couple of little shows for my first summer is pretty good, and even somewhat ambitious considering how, at just a year into this, I'm really still just a newbie. I think it's healthy to meet the people. It's gratifying to show them the work I'm so proud of. I love to see their spontaneous reactions to it, and to see the people who will continue to love my jewelry for years to come.  And if some of you are people who found me at a fair, I'd love to know!

Oh, and my next show? 

Come look for me at the Indianola Arts & Crafts Festival on July 30. This is in Indianola, Iowa "on the square." Venders will be around the courthouse on the lawn.  This is my first juried show, which I think will be an improvement, and is good for customers as well as sellers. Come expecting high quality handmade goodies, and you won't be disappointed!

Driving Directions: West on Salem Ave. from Highway 65/69
or North on Howard Street from Highway 92

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."  ~Judy Garland

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