Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art and Craft Shows

Doing a craft show is much like planning a wedding. For several months before the event, you imagine every little detail in your mind. You may even draw it out. You might even make up a "mock craft show display" with a table and display pieces, backgrounds, etc. in your garage. The plans fill your mind so that sometimes it's very hard to shut your mind off and get a good night's sleep.
My unskilled drawing of what the table would look like
I made a burlap banner with the name of my shop. For a wedding, I may make a wedding banner with the bride and grooms names on it or "congratulations" on it, or "Mr. and Mrs.________" on it.

The burlap banner is in the background

You design lots and lots of paper art for both events. "Save the dates", invitations, thank yous, table place cards for a wedding. For my show, I made coupons for each bag, I purchased a new supply of business cards, I tagged each item with it's price........

Coupon tag - business card - hand stamped shopping bag
I tagged 101 items
In the case of my show, I packed up all my items for transportation to the venue location. For a wedding, The planner is definitely going to transport "ambience" to the venue - flowers or table centerpieces, table covers, wedding favours, memory book, to mention a few.

And this is just the beginning. The BIG day arrives. You pack up your now, much too small car, and drive to the event venue. Imagine your surprise to discover that there are no tables provided! You must bring your own. We are now in the "countdown to blast off" phase. No time to disassemble a table that might be at home, loaded with sewing machines and other crafting paraphernalia. You must go to the store and purchase a brand new folding 6 foot table and take it to the venue just before showtime, set up your little shop upon it, unloading all the boxes you packed the day before (when you thought all you had to do was to cover your table and assemble your inventory upon it. Go back home and rest up for the BIG day tomorrow.

At this point, there's no guaranty that you'll even sell anything. I had no competition. I was the only vendor who sold hand knit items. I think there were about 40 vendors. The show took place at a local"Y" and was a fund raiser for them.

Sadly (for me), it was a dud, a lemon, a flop. I sold 3 items. I did, however, cover the fee for my space and just about covered my new table cost.

I learned some things the hard way. #1 pack your inventory in the largest plastic bins you can find. (these bins can then be covered and used as extra display space). I packed in reused cardboard boxes. You can't get much in them. They are unwieldy to carry, and you can only carry one at a time. If you use plastic bins, you'll need wheels, but you can put one bin on top of the other. Thus making one carrying trip instead of many. Possibly 1-2 large bins is all you'll need to use.

#2 - get one of those wheelies. I saw the professional vendors had a fold up "L" shaped dolly (wide bottom plus folding handle). This whole affair folds up flat. I do have the old fashioned type of dolly that you transport heavy furniture with. But it's not foldable, it's heavy and big and wouldn't even fit in my car after all the inventory and display pieces were in my car.  The 4th picture is the one I saw the professionals use.

You did notice that I said "professional vendors" in the previous paragraph. By that I mean, people who do many shows - perhaps even one a week during this pre holiday season. They even hand out lists to customers of all the shows they can be found at this season.

I don't normally do craft shows because I had long ago learned that it is a tremendous amount of work for very small return (why did I think this time would be different) while etsy offers an easy, comfortable, low key alternative. But when I saw this show announced and the very low entry fee, I thought "I'll go for it".

I have even reasoned that now that I've done all the prep work, why not do another one. The folding table is still in my car. But then on the other hand, I think I'm a glutton for punishment and should be put in a straight jacket for even mentioning it. But I have this "fatal attraction" for craft shows. I love being surrounded by creative people. I am a "planner". Much as I complain, I love planning parties, events, weddings and, yes, even craft shows. I'm an incurable optimist, to boot.


  1. I love your incurable optimism. I agree, why not another one after all the work you have put into this one, which can reuse. NellywithWings

  2. The more shows you do, the easier it gets. I agree, now that you've gone to all that trouble you may as well do another show!

  3. Oh, I can so relate to this post! I gave up craft shows a long time ago (I don't even craft anymore!) for all your reasons! I never had to run out and buy a table though!

  4. What an ambitious undertaking! I really admire that. I've participated in some years ago, gotta love etsy:-)

  5. I have yet to do my first show...I would like to though. Thanks for the tips!

  6. I know what you mean Rita. I started exhibiting at art festivals about 21 yrs. ago. They are not the same. Some people still do very well. I like the fact that you get feedback from other exhibitors and customers. However the time, money and effort with nothing to show for in sales is so frustrating. Have you ever thought of having one in your home? The good thing about that is you have no other competition. Another possibility is having someone else with a different product.

  7. Sorry to hear your show wasn't so good. It really is hit and miss, you can never tell how they will go. Maybe your next one will be great! x

  8. Rita I've done some really bad ones too. I don't know if I will ever do another -- especially since I hardly have time for my Etsy shop. They can be fun though -- regardless of whether you make money or not.