Saturday, December 20, 2008

All I Wanted To Know I Learned at the Craft Fair... or The Newbie's Newbie Guide To Doing Your First Show!

(yes, that's me behind the scenes)

I took the plunge and thanks to a fellow Etsian, I entered my first juried craft fair - my first one ever! And for a first craft fair, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised and did much better than I thought I would have! Three days of selling my wares and talking up my craft... and I'm still alive! House of Mouse asked me to write about what I learned, so here it is!

1. Juried Shows ROCK!
Tthe MACFair was a juried show, which meant that they chose the vendors who were at the show. You know how at some shows there are tons of resellers and the handmade goodness gets overlooked? Well, that DIDN'T happen here and it was amazing to see all the talent - not to mention the full time artisans - on display. Even though there was an entry fee, it was worth it! (more on that in a bit)

2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
I have to admit that I was at a little bit of a disadvantage here with all my "prep time" being swallowed up by my first trimester - all day morning sickness. I was a little freaked that I didn't have enough energy to make all the things that I wanted to make, but I tried to get some work done in the precious moments that I didn't feel sick. Thank goodness that the week before the show my energy levels lifted... but I still didn't feel like I had adequate stock.

3. Displays Don't Have to be Expensive
... but it does help to have a plan! - see the rant above about my morning sickness- However, I had talked my display ideas out with the husband and my cousin and had a general idea about what I wanted to do and the feeling I wanted to create with my display. I basically used twigs, river stones, floral foam and little metal pails to create "trees" for my necklaces; a fabric shower curtain in a neutral tone to cover the table, wooden and velvet trays for rings, pine cones and seashells for bracelets, and a small moses basket for my sock monkeys. The picture here probably gives you a better idea of what I did:

It was very simple, very inexpensive, and I got countless compliments! However, some of the more experienced vendors DID have fantastic displays - self-contained with lights and shelving... I have to admit that I felt like I was out of my league at the beginning and it was a little disheartening. However, this display was perfect for the space I had (a 3" x 6" table) and it was easy for me to assemble and dismantle. Because the show was in a gallery-type setting, the lighting was already almost perfect.

4. You Will Need Things That You Didn't Think You Would!
Etsy has some threads in the forums outlining lists of essential items that you will need at a show. I took the advice in those threads and am adding some of my items here too:
  • Scotch & duct tape (we taped the shower curtain to the table to reduce the risk of slippage - something i didn't think of until we were set up)
  • Paper towels (we didn't use any until the very last day, as we were pulling things apart but it sure helped with an accidental spill!!)
  • Lots and lots of business cards! I actually will look into printing bookmarks or MOO cards because it would have been worth it. I gave out about 75 - 100 cards over the three days and would have liked something a little more "professional" looking .
  • A little bowl of candy. A nice touch, draws people in and keeps their kids occupied as they browse!
  • Good signs and tags - I used dollar store plastic frames to hold up my signs, and perfect little tags to put the prices on my items (people STILL asked though, so be prepared!). I also kept some extra tags on hand for items that i made while I was at the show
  • Little snacks and plenty of liquids.
  • Several pens (for people who write cheques as well as for your receipts and doodling) and a permanent marker (for signs etc.)
  • Little clear bags to put small items in, along with some sort of bag or envelope to put that little bag in.
  • A mirror - you'd be amazed how many people want to try on your stuff and see what it looks like! I put in a small mirror as an afterthought... and i am so glad that i did!
  • Change - i took $100 in loonies and toonies and miscellaneous coinage and while i barely dipped into it, I was happy knowing it was there!
  • A craft apron! - I got mine from Yoopers etsy store and it was indispensable! She made mine with a little zippered pocket in the front for money, and other little pockets, in which I put my price tags, pens, receipt book and lip gloss. Although i had ordered it earlier in the summer once I found out I was accepted into the show, it still fit perfectly around my pregnant belly! One of the other vendors laughed and asked if I was putting on my "money belt"... well, I was never without a pen or paper, I can tell ya! (and yes, there did end up being money in there - so THERE!)
  • Lip balm/gloss - it was dry in the venue - plus I was getting a little chapped from all the talking! I was definitely thankful!
  • Plastic bag(s) - for garbage and in case someone buys a lot of stuff
  • Layers, as in a sweater - the locale we were in was kind of cool (for non-pregnant people!) and the sweater and scarf I bought was quite useful at times!
5. Someone Dependable to Help You
I had brought the husband to help set up (and then he went to sit in the car - craft shows aren't too great for guys unless they themselves are the crafter). But he did come and sit with me so I could have a little bit of a break and some company during the slower times. We also had a wonderful organizer (thank you, Jude!) who could watch your booth while you dashed off to the bathroom or to grab something quick to eat/drink.

(My friend Teri - who was a fabulous assistant! thanks, T!)

6. A Strong Backbone, Courage and Confidence in Your Craft!
'Nuff said. People will have positive things to say about you and your work... and will also have snide comments to make as well. just be confident and have pride in what you do!
I have to admit that once I submitted my application to the show and even after they accepted me, I still waffled about going. However, it really paid off and I got to meet some wonderful people. I'm glad I didn't back out!

About the author: Cy Rainville is the gal behind and . She has been selling on etsy since August 2007 and is continually working on new designs (when her full time job, pregnancy and browsing on etsy allows!)


Tamara Garvey said...

Thanks for the great article! I am looking into trying out the craft show thing, so I will definitely look at the Forums for extra tips. :)

Beth said...

What a great blog! I had no idea it existed.

Alison Du Bois said...

I love your blog! Fun and very informative!

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