Ten Reasons Why Selling at Craft Shows is EXHAUSTING!

You might have noticed that I didn’t write a blog post last week. One reason for this was that I was still recuperating from my big craft fair the weekend before. Here’s one thing many people don’t realize about craft fairs: selling at them is EXHAUSTING!

The fair two weekends ago was my second ever big show. Last year, when I did the first one, I came home after the first day, fell on the sofa and could barely move for the reminder of the evening. My back hurt, my legs hurt, and I was utterly drained of energy. I attributed that to inexperience, to my being an introvert, and to my too-low chair. When the show was over, it took a while to get back into a routine.

This time, however, I expected things to be different. I had more experience. I felt more comfortable being around people all day. And, I even had my brand-new IKEA bar stool! I was happy with my booth and its updated setting. Indeed, when I came home after the first day, I wasn’t completely wiped out. In fact, I really enjoyed the overall experience this time around.

Imagine my surprise on Monday, then, when I realized I wasn’t in the mood for sewing. Or designing, or even for doing much of anything…

Since then I realized that this is a common phenomenon among craft-show vendors. Even seasoned vendors, extroverts and/or people with a lot of people-experience seem to be utterly worn out after a show. Some people even have a name for it: they call it “Event Hangover,” or “Show Hangover.”

So what is so tiring about craft shows?

1) There are a LOT of preparations!

Whether it’s your first or one-hundredth show, craft fairs require a ton of prep work. You need to have the right equipment, which might be different from show to show. Every single time, you need to make sure you have enough inventory. You need to organize and price everything, make lists, label, make sure you have the right licenses, and so on.

2) Many vendors probably don’t sleep well the night before

A few of the vendors I met at the show drove up to twenty-four hours to just get there! Some slept in hotels. Others in their vehicle. Many of those that came from home had to get there very early, as the first set-up shift started at 5:00 am. Me? I was just too nervous to sleep well. My brain kept going around in circles all night long, wondering whether I didn’t forget anything, worrying about this thing or that…

3) There’s not much time for breakfast, if at all

Since even the last shift sets up at 7:20 am, you need to be out of the house early. Many people don’t have time/energy to eat breakfast.

4) Setting up is a lot of work in as of itself

Artists need to load heavy equipment and boxes into their car, then unload them out of the car and haul them over to their spot. They have to put up a tent. Attach the tent sides. Build and arrange their display furniture. Put up their inventory in the most attractive manner possible. Make sure all the price signs are where they should be.

And all of that before the show even opens to the public!

5) Being immobile the entire day is tiring, too!

Being in a booth all day long is hard. It’s hard not to be able to walk much, or move a lot. On a normal day, most of us move all the time. We walk from place to place, move from task to task. But while selling at a booth, you can either stand or sit in a 10’x10′ space (or less!). You might be able to go stand outside every now and then, but can’t go very far. If you’re lucky enough to have someone help you, you might be able to take a bathroom break every few hours, or go grab some food. Otherwise, you’re put in one place.

6) Artists have to be “on” all day long

While in a booth, a vendor needs to be alert to everything that goes on all around. S/he needs to be aware of the many people passing by. Greet and smile at the people coming in. A vendor needs to offer help, but not too much help. Answer questions, but not scare potential customers. It’s a delicate, energy-sapping balance! And there’s a lot of talking involved, more than most people are used to, especially artists who are mostly used to working alone in their studio for hours at a time! A vendor needs to be on the alert for shop lifters. Constantly tidy up the mess that visitors make. Every now and then a vendor might have to deal with some strange or even scary encounters. Last year, for example, early one morning, I felt trapped in my booth when a babbling man walked in and wouldn’t leave… There’s a lot of sensory overload!

7) Trying to disconnect yourself from your handmade product isn’t easy

For an artist, selling at crafts shows is very personal. Your art, after all, is an extension of you. You worked hard on the design. Made each item with your hands. Spent months or years crafting enough items to fill a booth. The act of art-making is intimate. It’s you and your materials, shaping things with your hands. You like your products. Each of them is almost like your child. It takes courage to show them to strangers. More courage to offer them up for sale. And so it can hurt if people pass them over, or even worse–belittle or insult them. It’s hard to separate yourself from your products, and not get insulted if someone doesn’t like them.

8) The financial part can be stressful

Craft-fair visitors are entirely oblivious to the finances involved with selling at a show. Many fair goers grumble about the prices of handmade goods. What they don’t know is that selling at a fair is expensive. Where I live, booths at craft shows cost somewhere between $300-$900 or more. A vendor has to sell a lot to just cover the booth fee. Then there are additional costs: buying the tent and furniture, paying a percentage of the profit to the fair organizers, paying for gas, having a brand-new fire extinguisher every year. It all adds up. Not to mention taxes: sales tax, state tax and federal tax come off the price of every single item sold. There’s also the cost of making the item: materials are expensive; electricity, overhead costs such as maintaining a sewing machine or other equipment. And all of that before counting the time an artist put into making the item, and schlepping it, and sitting at the booth to sell it… No wonder many vendors stress over whether they will make up some of that cost, and worry about whether they can pay their upcoming bills! Once everything is deducted, in fact, many artists are left with very little profit, if at all! Some even lose money.

9) Adrenalin!

Yes, the body’s natural reaction to the sensory overload is releasing Adrenalin. It helps keep you going while at the fair, but leaves you wiped out when you come home…

10) Take-down is as effort-consuming as setting up!

After a long day of being in a booth, artists need to pack everything up, fold and take furniture apart, and take down their tent. Then they need to drive back home. No wonder they’re exhausted!!

As for me, it took more than a week before I was able to even look at my sewing machine. What did I do in that time, you wonder? Well, many other tasks get neglected when you prepare for a show: the house, the cooking, the laundry, the kids. Not to mention the garden. So I slowly started catching up on some of those. I spent a lot of time in the garden, where the spring weeds rejoiced in my absence! Some of them grew taller than me!

I spent hours weeding:

I over-filled two large garden bins!

But after being confined to a booth an entire weekend, moving about outdoors was refreshing 🙂

Craft Show Season is Back, and There’s Always More to Prepare!

It’s been a year since I did my first (and so far, only) big craft show. Preparing for it was a ton of work. I had to design and then purchase an entire booth display: tent, furniture, bag racks, and so on. I had to paint and sew, cut and glue, and think of all the little details. During that fair, I was mostly happy with the way my booth looked.

Well, this year I signed up for not one, not two, but for THREE big shows! Naively, I thought that since I already had most of the necessary items, I was mostly ready. However, an entire year passed since the last show. An entire year of not thinking about shows…

As the date for the first one snuck by (it actually starts TOMORROW!), I suddenly realized that I still needed a couple of items. Predictably, acquiring them wasn’t straight-forward…

In Pursuit of a Folding Chair

Last year, the only noticeable problem with my booth was the chair: I used a camping chair, which turned out to be far too low. While sitting on it (it’s hard not to sit every now and then during a ten-hour show), I almost disappeared behind my table. A new chair, therefore, was at the top of my to-buy list.

I needed something tall, black and foldable. Foldable since I don’t have room in my house for more furniture. I needed a chair I could easily store away most of the year. At last year’s show, the jeweler in the booth next to mine recommended a folding IKEA bar stool she was very happy with. But when I finally got around to buying it, IKEA was out of them! It was out for WEEKS, and I was getting rather worried. I spent hours online looking for alternatives, but couldn’t find anything else that seemed as good. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I was desperately checking IKEA’s website once again, and was surprised to see they finally restocked. I was there that very afternoon!

Mirror Mirror

I was packing my inventory when I suddenly recalled a not-so-pleasant encounter with a customer at last year’s show. That lady was looking at my bags, and wanted to try one on. Then she wanted to see herself in a mirror, but I didn’t have one. Since I personally never need mirrors for buying bags, it never occurred to me that other people might want one! The lady was very upset. She literally yelled at me for not having a mirror, and then stormed out of my booth empty-handed.

Well, since this year I’ll be selling textile jewelry in addition to bags, I figured that a mirror was a must. Hence many more hours of research and contemplation. I was thinking of getting a full-length mirror, but realized there was no room for one in my booth. Also, a large mirror like that would be a nightmare to transport to shows safely. So I bought a table-top mirror that I hope will do the job.

Fire-Resistant Equipment

Different shows, it turns out, have different requirements for their vendors. One of the shows I signed up for this year notified me they require a fire-resistant table cloth. I didn’t have one. I do now. It was a good excuse to get a purple tablecloth, which I think might look better in my booth.

I was all smug about having a large, fair-approved fire extinguisher, since I bought a brand new one for last yea’rs show. I knew those were good for several years, and assumed mine was still perfect. When I got a letter from the show organizers a week and a half ago, however, detailing all the final logistical details, I learned that I actually needed a NEW fire extinguisher. Fire marshals, it seems, require one that has this year’s date stamped onto it! I didn’t even know fire extinguishers had a date stamped onto them. Live and learn.

I had a busy week, so I left that one to the last minute. I figured any hardware store will have them, right? WRONG! When I finally did go to the nearest hardware store a couple of days ago, it was–how not?–out of this specific kind of fire extinguishers. They told me they will have them next week, but that is too late for me. So yesterday I went on a small expedition in search of a fire extinguisher. I did find one, in the end, but it took a good portion of my morning. I checked: it really does have this year stamped on it 🙂

So, am I ready for tomorrow? Possibly. Hopefully. I guess I will find out for sure in the morning…

If you’re in the Bay Area, come by to say hello. It’s always nice to see friendly faces, and I have a booth-full of great Mothers’ Day gifts 🙂

 

Santurantikuy Christmas Market in Cusco, Peru: The Most Amazing Market I’ve Ever Seen!

I love handmade and love markets. So when we decided to visit Peru over Christmas break, I knew we absolutely had to visit the Santurantikuy Christmas Market in Cusco (Santurantikuy is a Quechua word, meaning “the selling of the saints”). We planned our trip accordingly.

Before we left for Lake Titicaca, we noticed booth markings all around Plaza de Armas. We checked them out, and I was super excited to realize there will be close to ONE THOUSAND booths!

We made sure to come back from the Lake just in time for the market on Christmas Eve (this market has been a Cusco tradition for over 500 years, ever since the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century). I expected something like Otavalo Market in Ecuador. The reality, however, surpassed all expectations!

Traditionally, the market drew vendors from the villages around the capital and from the Sacred Valley. Now, however, it draws artisans from all over Peru. One of the merchants we talked to said he traveled by bus for over 30 hours to get there!

When we approached the Plaza, the first thing we noticed were all the villagers on the side streets, many with large packs:

When we reached the square, it was crowded with locals, Peruvians from the countryside, and some tourists. There was a large police presence to keep the order.

Plaza de Armas was packed full of booths and people.

There were booths for every conceivable craft. Lots of unique, interesting things. Lots of handmade work. Textiles! A few booths had truly remarkable works of art. I was so excited I didn’t know what to look at first!

There was also a lot of food, of course.

They say that pictures speak more than a thousand words. For a change, I will talk less and let you see what I mean for yourselves. This will be a mostly picture-lead post 🙂

Christian-Themed Offerings:

I’ve seen many Christmas markets around the world, but this one had more Christian-themed works than any of them. Traditionally, this market offered ONLY Christmas-related items (hence its name), but this has changed in recent years.

There was an entire area for grasses and moss, meant to decorate nativity scenes, which every house in Peru has:

There were lots of options for the actual Nativity figures:

(I thought the combination here was funny!):

There were also lots of angels:

Lots of candles:

And some crucifixions:

As Expected, There were Some Tourist Souvenir Booths:

Lots of Different Kinds of Toys:

Some Clothing:

Amazing Textiles!!

Home Decor:

And a Handful of Truly Amazing Work!

I loved everything I saw: the diversity, the ingenuity, the liveliness of it all. But a handful of things really stood out. I found the following truly exceptional:

A life-size jaguar, carved from one piece of wood.

Wooden flying horses that could move with gears.

And two booths with trolls. The first had small trolls, and an interesting-looking doll.

The second booth had truly-wonderful, large trolls. Each was nicer than the other. They were quite expensive, even for tourists, yet sold like hot cakes.

Many Peruvians bought them, and took them on a stroll in the market. We even saw one guy buying slippers for his troll!

We couldn’t resist them, either. My kids ended up adopting those two:

They later gave us a lot of trouble with airport security, but eventually made it home safe and sound.

My First Craft Show: What My Booth Ended Up Looking Like

Over the last few weeks I wrote a couple of posts about the long-term preparations for my first craft show. The show happened this past weekend. I thought you might be curious to know how my booth turned out.

A day or so before the fair, after I had a map of where my booth was to be located, I went to check my spot out. Once there, I discovered that someone had already marked– with a chalk on the actual road–the exact location of each of the booths. That gave me a clear idea of where I should be driving the day of, and where to set my tent up.

When I visited craft shows as a customer, I never realized that some of the vendors were there as early as 5:00 am (meaning they had to get up at 4:00 am or earlier). But that is exactly what happens! Since my show had a couple of hundred craftspeople attending, the organizers stacked the unloading into three shifts, to prevent two hundred cars from arriving all at the same time. The first shift started at 5:00 am. Luckily, I got the last shift, and had to be there at 7:20 am. Getting up at 6:00 am on a weekend was early enough for me!

I recruited my entire family to help with the setup. Although the kids grumbled endlessly, I was really glad I did. Having multiple sets of hands on-site was really helpful!

I loaded my car the day before, following detailed lists I made in advance. I put the inventory in first, then the booth furniture, and last the canopy itself, so that I can take them all out in reverse order.

When we arrived in the morning, we quickly unloaded everything and piled it up at the side of the road.

Unloading all my stuff on the street

We started by putting the canopy up. My canopy has a steel frame and is relatively heavy, but with four people pulling on four poles, putting it up was a piece of cake!

Putting up my canopy

Once we put the tent up, my kids helped me arrange the furniture. Then they helped put all my bags and other items in place. That took quite a while!

Setting up my display

After all the inventory was up, all I had to do was place the price signs:

Last touches beforethe fair opens

And then it was all ready!

Me in my setup booth

Overall, I was quite happy with how it turned out. The canopy was everything I hoped it would be: it was easy to put up and quite sturdy. The sand bags worked very well as weights. The finished shop banner turned out to be just the right size. My new shelves looked nice painted black, and merged well with everything else. And the mesh wall I bought at the last minute to hang bags from really seemed to have pulled the entire display together!

The only problem was the chair. I brought a folding camping chair, and put it behind the table. When I sat on it (as standing for hours on end was a bit much!), I almost disappeared!

Camping chairs are too low for a craft booth!

I will need to find a better solution next time.

Finally, this is what a fair looks like from the point of view of a vendor:

People watching from a crafts booth

Getting to chat with passersby was a fun bonus!

With One Week to Go, Craft Show Preparations Continue in Earnest!

To all the friends and family members who have been wondering whether I disappeared from the face of the earth: I want to reassure you that I am still very much around, just buried, once again, under piles of fabric, thread and tools. Under the guise of craft-show preparations, I have actually been having a blast indulging my love for all things fabric!

I genuinely intended to dedicate this past week solely to the overhead preparations for the upcoming fair. And I did make a lot of progress on that front. I finished purchasing all the props (though some are yet to arrive). I made new, sturdy price signs. My family came up with an easy solution to my canopy-weight problem: we will fill the sacks that came with the canopy with sand. And my husband surprised me by painting my new shelves for me, thus saving me a day’s worth of work. If that’s not true love, what is?

The problem started when I got to finishing my shop banner. Due to various life happenings, I haven’t been able to touch my sewing machine ever since our Japanese exchange student arrived. For about five weeks I wasn’t able to sew at all. So maybe it was only normal that once I turned the machine back on to finish the banner, I simply couldn’t turn it off again…

All of a sudden I noticed all the spring-themed fabrics that lay around waiting. I couldn’t just leave them there, now, could I? What about that cute piece of doggy fabric I recently found? Someone will surly want a tote made out of that… And wait! Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Shouldn’t I have something for moms? Thus, so I sank, yet again, into a full-time sewing frenzy.

As usual when these things happen, our house is in disarray. The laundry is piling. The dishes are waiting. Our meals have been mediocre at best. We are ever running out of toilet paper and paper towels. And the worst part is that my son is asking whether it’s ANY Texture’s fault that I am not playing with him… Yet I, dear friends, am having a ball, and I have the perfect excuse so as not to feel guilty about it!

What It Takes To Prepare For a Craft Show: Getting Ready For My First Big Fair

Up until a little over a year ago, I attended craft shows only as a customer. I loved browsing local fairs, and enjoyed looking at the beautiful things they offered. Since I started sewing in earnest, however, I began to realize that there was a lot I needed to learn about such shows. I slowly became acquainted with the other side of this world–with art shows as seen from the vendor’s point of view.

Over the last few months I participated in a handful of small crafts fairs. These gave me a taste of what it feels like to sell art in person. Recently I decided to take the leap and, for the first time, applied to a big, two-day show. I chose to apply to our local craft fair, which happened to be a juried show. Unlike non-juried shows that take first-come-first-serve applicants, juried shows require a much more detailed application, and pick their vendors more selectively. Understandably, I was quite nervous after I submitted my application. When I discovered, a few weeks later, that I got accepted, I was truly elated!

Since then I learned that preparing for a large craft show is very different than preparing for a smaller fair. My previous venues all provided a table and a shared space. The infrastructure was already there, and I just had to show up with a table cloth and inventory. This time, however, the show organizers only allotted a space. I have to take care of everything else myself.

And so, in addition to sewing my art (a daunting task in itself), I also have to design a booth display and acquire all the necessary props. Over the last few weeks, therefore, I became the proud owner of the following:

  1. A  10’x10′ fair canopy
  2. Folding wooden display shelves.
  3. A 6′ folding table.
  4. A greeting-card rack.
  5. A brand new fire extinguisher.

The first two items required several days of online research each. I read through many reviews and browsed numerous forums discussing canopies. I hesitantly settled on one: ABC EZ Pop-up Canopy, which I hope will be both easy to set up and strong. Choosing between different shelving options was also difficult, if a little less critical than a tent. I ended up buying shelves that look good but are light and easy to carry. I have yet to see whether I made the right choices!

My show is two weeks away, yet the preparation for it did not end with buying the equipment. In the coming two weeks I still need to get weights for my tent, so that it doesn’t tip over in the wind. I need to paint my new shelves, and finish sewing my shop banner (adding loops so that I can hang it on the canopy wall). I need to frame my price signs to make them more professional-looking and stable. And, of course, also to finish sewing my inventory. Since I have never participated in a big craft show before, I have no idea how many items I actually need. I hope I have enough, but will know better next time if not!

How I Made A New Shop Banner

My little sewing room has seen a lot of activity since I tidied it up a few weeks ago. And while I can’t say it remained perfectly tidy, I must note that the new organizing system seems to be working. Despite all the different things I’ve been creating simultaneously, it surprisingly stayed in a completely manageable state!

If you’ve been following my previous posts and my Facebook Page you might have gotten a hint as to some of the projects I’ve been working on lately. Today I’m excited to share the work I’ve done this week on a shop banner:

Finished new shop banner

I became obsessed with sewing a little over a year ago, and since then participated in three or four small crafts fairs. For the very first fair my daughter laboriously prepared a nice paper shop banner, which we laminated for durability. When I arrived at the fair, however, I was saddened to realize I forgot it at home… By the time the second fair came around many months later, the banner simply disappeared. I kept thinking I should make a new one, from actual fabric, but simply couldn’t find the time. And so, for the remainder of the fairs in 2016 my booth remained bannerless.

One of my goals for this year is to participate in more vending venues than last year. My first small event for 2017 will be happening tomorrow. And so it occurred to me that perhaps the time has finally come to make a real shop banner.

I’ve been thinking a lot about which colors I want to use. I have many small pieces in different shades of blue, so at first I thought I should make it blue. I also considered a palate of fall colors, since I really like those, too. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I really didn’t have a choice at all. An ANY Texture banner would just have to be in shades of purple and magenta, just like my Give a Hand art quilt. As my mom could attest, I’ve simply always been a purple girl…

And so, I assembled all the purple/dark pink fabrics I could put my hands on, and started playing with different combinations:

Choosing fabrics for shop banner

I settled on a composition I liked for the background, and sewed all the pieces together:

Sewing the background fabrics

I then zig-zagged over all the seams to keep the piece flat, and also to give it some additional color nuances:

Top sewing the background fabrics

Then I chose fabrics for the letters, and for the first time doubted whether it was wise to choose a shop name that was ten-letters long…

My kids don’t realize it, but sewing actually requires quite a lot of math. For this project, for example, I had to measure everything and figure out the maximum size of each letter. I proceeded to cut all the fabrics accordingly:

Choosing colors for the letters

Once again, I played around with the order of the colors, until I settled on an order I liked. Then I drew all the letters onto the fabrics and cut them out:

Cutting the letters out

I arranged the letters on the background, to see how they fit and how it looks:

Laying the letters on the background

Originally, I wanted to hand applique everything. Since I needed the banner sooner rather than later, however, and since hand appliqueing can take many days, I decided to machine applique it instead:

Appliqueing the letters

This is what my shop banner looked like after I finished attaching all the letters:

Banner ready for applique

At this point I noticed that the “t” in “Texture” was too close in tone to the background, and that it kind of disappeared from afar. So I decided to hand applique it with a bright changing-tone magenta embroidery floss, to give it a stronger outline:

Hand appliqueing

The very first picture in this post is what the final new shop banner looks like at the moment. It will be perfectly functional for tomorrow’s purposes, but for me it is not quite finished yet. I still want to hand applique all the letter, and maybe add a subtitle, or even a few decorations. I will have to think about it some more…

 

 

FabMo Textile Art Boutique

Last October I visited FabMo Textile Art Boutique for the first time. The creativity evident everywhere greatly impressed me. The participating artists were mostly women. They used fabric in very imaginative ways, creating numerous beautiful commodities. I remember walking around mesmerized. I wished I could have bought something at each and every booth. When I left, I carried an array of unique handmade gifts for my family. It did not occur to me then that only a year later I will join the ranks of displaying artists. Yet, this is exactly what happened!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of setting up my own stall at the Boutique. While the perspective from the other side of the booth table was slightly different, one thing hadn’t changed: I was STILL awed by the amazing talent and imagination surrounding me. Close to fifty artists exhibited this year. They made every conceivable fabric product: clothing, jewelry, accessories, decorations, toys and, of course, bags and purses, to name some. Yet, even when making the same type of item, different artists put their own twist on the results. Many booths sold handbag, for example, but each had its own, unique style.

Here is but a tiny taste of the diversity:

Carol Cruise filled her booth with adorable stuffed animals. Carol calls them Carol’s Zoo. When passing by her display I had to suppress the urge to snap them all:

Carol Cruise’s FabMo booth

At the stall of Rodi Ludlum of Featherweight Fabric Pottery, I saw something I have never seen before: vases and bowls made of fabric!

Products by Rodi Ludlum of Featherweight Fabric Pottery

Judith Content’s booth, across the aisle from mine,  was bursting with color and warmth. Judith makes pin cushions in ceramic bowls, and also colorful necklaces made of buttons she paints herself:

Judith Content’s booth at FabMo Boutique

The latter, especially, were so deliciously colorful that they stopped many visitors in their track.

Judith Content’s booth at FabMo Boutique

As a shopper last year I was oblivious to the efforts that go into preparing a show of this kind. As a vendor I now know of–and appreciated!–the many months of planning and preparations. I am aware of the marketing efforts and the numerous hours put in by Marty and Holly, the two organizers. Many other wonderful individuals, all volunteers, likewise donated hours of their time to make this work.

I also know first-hand what it takes to prepare inventory for such a fair, and as a result I appreciated many fold the months of intense work put in by all forty-something craftspeople. These combined efforts paid off. Everything was very well thought of, well organized, well stocked and beautifully displayed. As a result, vendors and shoppers alike had a very pleasant experience.

I enjoyed chatting with common-minded individuals on both sides of my stall. I was also impressed by the creativity displayed on the other side of the booth table. Many of the visitors who came to browse were fabric-lovers themselves. The warm sense of support and camaraderie both among participating artists and between artists and visitors was truly heartwarming!