Saturday, December 15, 2012

Craft Fair Tips From a First-Timer

Hi Angel,

I am sorry to hear you're sick. I hope it's a quick bug! We're staying in this weekend, for the most part. The kids both have a cold and it's sleeting outside, so we're painting ornaments, making a gingerbread house and will probably bake Christmas cookies tomorrow. After the horror of yesterday, I just want to snuggle my babies this weekend.

Let's focus on something positive, shall we? As you know, I participated in my first craft fair here in Seattle last weekend, the Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House, and thought I would share photos and tips from my experience! It went so well, I was super happy.


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


Do some research and prepare

First off, if it's your first time doing a craft fair, do some research and prepare! I am so thankful you reminded me of that, Angel. I looked up the tips you had mentioned on Lupin Handmade and from there, read more via this list of links on Handmadeology. Extremely helpful! I made lists, I made plans, and felt empowered.


Check out the space and plan out your booth

I was very lucky to be able to visit the space where the craft fair would be held (a beautiful yoga studio in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle) and the organizer, Melissa, showed me where my booth would be. I had at least 6ft of space, against a wall, in the middle of the room -- couldn't have been luckier!

I knew I would be able to borrow a 6ft table from a friend, so from there, I brainstormed ways to display all my stuff for sale. I made lists of everything I would have in stock, and played around with display. This allowed me to be realistic about display needs, and proactively seek set-up materials like crates, table cloths, an extra small table, etc.


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House

Remember to build up

This is a tip I have read before, and read again when I brushed up on all those craft fair tips. Think creatively about how to build your display up. Ideally, you want as many items as possible at eye level. It makes your items more easily accessible to shoppers, it allows your booth to be seen from far away, and it is simply more aesthetic and dynamic.


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


I had thought about collecting wooden wine crates from local wine shops to build an interesting and textured display. I love natural wood, and those interesting stamps and designs on the crates. However, there simply wasn't enough time in the day.

I lucked out when I remembered all the white wooden crates that we had stored in the basement. These used to store toys and kitchen items when we lived in Nashville. I had bought them at Joann's, I think, for $10 a piece. I brought 5 with me, and they worked perfectly for building my display upward. I also, on a whim, bought several cheap easels from the craft store during my last visit, just in case. Those came in quite handy to display my artwork (which I had originally planned on leaning against the wall). Lesson here: bring display options!


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


Be flexible and a team player

When I arrived to the yoga space for set-up, Melissa asked me if I'd be willing to rethink my space a little to make sure the flow would work for everyone. Although inward I thought "crapola!", I rolled with it and, not only was she grateful, I think it actually made my display better!

I loved the camaraderie spirit of the craft fair. We all helped each other out, watched one another's booth when someone had to go get coffee or hit the bathroom, etc. It was so fun to get to know the other crafters and artists participating in the fair. I made new friends and can't wait for the next one!


Think of your goals

I am usually terrible about this kind of stuff. I wing it, and focus on the practical and the details (get things ready, pack them, make something pretty for decoration, etc) instead of looking at the bigger picture. I ended up chatting with my husband in the days leading up to the fair -- probably because my stress level was through the roof -- about what my goals were for this day. Leave it to the dudes to bring up the "big picture", ha!

I decided on a dollar amount that would satisfy me -- in other words, how much would I need to make that day to make it worth my while. And another dollar amount that would make me super happy. (I ended up exceeding both numbers, success!)

I also realized that, more than selling ready-made items, my purpose at this fair was to advertise my business and secure as many future custom orders as possible. Custom work is where I make the bulk of my handmade income.

With that in mind -- and not much time left! -- I created postcards that featured photos of my work, along with all the details of my custom work on the back, as well as custom info. I fit 4 on a 8.5 x 11 inch document and had these printed at the local FedEx Office store on cardstock. For $3 extra, they cut them to size for me! I handed as much of these out as I could and placed one in each bag with items I sold. We'll see what happens!


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


I also made and framed a little sign that said "ask me about custom work" along with other useful info like "cash/check only" (note to self: get a smart phone that works with those card swipers!!) and "WA state tax included in price". I also created a hand-out with several photos of my custom work. I thought people would look at it but it ended up being overkill -- most people looked at the actual handmade items in front of them and spoke with me, but didn't seem interested in looking at photos.

So: postcards with relevant info was the way to go, along with mentioning custom work directly to folks who seemed interested.


Brand it, explain it and price it!

I was up until 1:30AM the night before the fair, labeling and pricing all my items for sale. My business cards are mini-cards and I use them as tags by punching a small hole in the corner and putting baker's twine through it.

I also created labels for each category of item, explaining what it is and any care instructions (for example, "coasters, set of 4" or "machine wash cold, tumble dry low"). I put an info label along with my brand tag on each item.

On the info label, I wrote the price for the item by hand. That's another tip I had read: price your stuff!!! Not one person asked me "how much is this?".


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


However, a question I got a lot was "what is this?" for my table runners, iPad covers, pillow cases, etc. So, while I had good intentions with my little info labels, they weren't obvious enough when hiding behind my tags. People knew to look for the price there, but didn't read the info. Next time, I will make sure the description of each item or category is more obvious.

In terms of branding, having my tag on each item made me feel really professional. Totally worth staying up late, threading baker's twine through tiny holes (my eyes blur at the memory).

I also created a sign with my business name on it. I had lofty goals of hand-stitching a sign, or creating a printed version with a natural linen background. Screw that -- there was no time. So I simply did a white on grey sign with the font I use for my business name. I sized it 11 x 17 inch and boom, sent it off to FedEx Office along with my postcards. They mounted it on foam core for an extra $5 and gave me a little easel back. Done.


Make new stuff

I don't have a big Etsy following and am not a well-known artist or anything at that level. However, a few shoppers at the fair knew my Etsy shop and/or blog. I was so glad to have made things for the fair that were not yet listed online: fabric buckets and coasters, among other things. These definitely got attention, and made those people who knew my shop feel special for seeing my stuff in person.

I think that, the bigger you are, the more appealing you make your presence at a craft fair by offering new designs and items for sale, i.e. not available to everyone online. So, I'll file that one away for when I've hit the big time, ha!


Think seasonal

This was a holiday fair, so I made Christmas table runners, Christmas coasters and a whole bunch of ornaments. I created a little holiday display on the side of my main table. That stuff sold quite well.


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


If this had been a summer fair, I guess I would have made items with summer colors, picnic napkins, back to school items... I guess I would put on my shopper hat and think about what I would like to see at a fair at that time.


Decorate and make it welcoming

I bought a little rosemary Christmas tree at Trader Joe's and wrapped the base in some of my leftover burlap. I also made red and linen bunting to adorn my main table. I felt like it wasn't enough, but I actually got a lot of compliments about those two things!

I tried to think creatively about my items for sale and how to involve them in my display to make it welcoming. I laid out two table runners instead of keeping them folded like the rest. This added color and texture to my table, along with demonstrating the purpose of the items. I also brought a pillow form for one of my quilted pillow covers, that got a lot of attention too (though it would have helped if the pillow form was the right size instead of looking deflated...).


Jenny Bartoy booth at Holiday Arts + Crafts Open House


Smile and have fun!

Although I was extremely nervous about putting myself out there with these handmade items in which I've poured my heart and soul, I do love to engage with people. It wasn't hard for me to plaster a smile on my face and have a great time -- though I realize this is really tough for some people, and I understand that.

I guess for those shy or introverted people, I would say it's worth the effort. You will have a blast! For the most part, shoppers were so nice, friendly and funny; I made new friends among the shoppers and the other fair participants; and I sold over a quarter of my inventory and exceeded my goals. Most important, I got some great feedback about my handmade items which totally boosted my confidence as an artist and crafter.


I hope these lessons and tips from a first-timer are helpful! I would love to hear from you with other tips, or what you've learned along the way from doing craft fairs, or any feedback or questions you may have. Hit me up in the comments!

If you feel so inclined, I would love some new friends on my Jenny Bartoy ~ Handmade Designs Facebook page and on my other blog, thank you!!


17 comments:

  1. Jenny, this post was fantastic! Thank you for sharing all of your insider information. You make me want to start crafting so I can do a craft fair too!

    Congratulations on such a successful first run.

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    1. Thanks Blair!! Come up to Seattle for the next one and hang out with me!

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  2. a really great post about selling at craft fairs. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you Lorrie! I'm glad you like it. I bet there is so much more one could say, but those were the lessons I learned and the things that worked well for me on this first try. :)

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  3. Jenny,

    Sounds like it was a big success! Congratulations! I like seeing all the thought that you put into it. What great tips. And I love all your items. I would have loved to visit your booth.

    Deia

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    1. Thank you Deia! I would have loved if you could have been there too!

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  4. Jenny, I'm so very impressed! Your work is so beautiful. You are so very thorough and your attention to detail is reflected in the quality of your gorgeous product. Great job!

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    1. Becky, thank you so much! That means a lot coming from you, such a talented artist!

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  5. Jenny, I am so impressed by you!! all of your stuff looks amazing!!! Thanks for all of the tips!! I have done two craft shows myself...but, sadly, did not do much research beforehand and therefore felt a little under prepared, mostly mentally I think. I love the idea of the postcards! Which by the way, I love the one I received ;) I will definitely have to make those the next time. It's such a good way to a lot of product shots (which, BTW, you do SO well!) out there for all to see! And, I second the mini cards as tags...that is what i do too, and they look awesome! You have done a great job at branding all of your stuff, very professional! Congrats on a great show!

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  6. Thanks for posting this information! I am going to sell my crafts for the first time on Friday at a Girl Scout craft fair and I am super nervous. This post helped me feel validated in being nervous and gave me things to focus on.

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    1. Thank you Bree! I'm glad these tips helped. I bet you'll do great. :)

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  7. Hi Jenny, just read your blog with tips for first time craft fairs. I am doing my first show at a local winery in mid March and a bit nervous. I make handmade cards & little gifts and your tips are great

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    1. Hi Sharon, thank you so much for your feedback and BEST OF LUCK with your first show! If you're already prepping and researching tips, you'll do great!

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  8. Thank you for the awesome post. I'm looking to start having a table at a craft fair.

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  9. Those are very helpful tips! Joining a crafts fair for the very first time can be so perplexing, especially since you don’t have an idea of what to expect from it. My suggestion is to just keep it cool, and enjoy the event. Although the main objective is to attract more customers and to increase sales, being at ease in such situations is also a good experience to have. You could even establish a rapport with potential clients, should you make a good impression on them. Anyway, Good luck on your future fairs!

    Clint Shaff @ Franchise Match

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  11. Yep, You can make some serious cash selling your hand made items at craft fairs. It could even be a gold mine

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