Sunday, November 7, 2010

So you want to do a craft show...

Craft show season is in full swing-So how do you get started?

I enjoy doing craft shows. Sure it's a lot of work, but usually it's well worth the time and energy that I put into the shows. One of the comments I hear is how do you get started? So I decided I would make a small series of blogs about craft shows. Some of the topics I'll cover over the next few weeks are how to pick  craft shows, setting up your booths and displays, merchandising, a checklist of what to bring, how to handle customers and other vendor and all sorts of other things! I hope you'll find my tips and advice helpful. 

What would you like to know? If you post your comments, it will help me with some of the future posts!

To get started, let's figure out what show to enter.

First of all, take a good look at what you're selling-what type and quality of craft or art  do you have?Yes, we all think our stuff is the best, we know we're really trying to make something we think others would want. but really, where in the spectrum of crafts do you belong?

Are you selling really high end original creations? Indie or mainstream? Do your crafts demand a high price? Does your work use only the best of materials and original design? How unique are your items? What's your pedigree-have you taken special classes to learn your craft or are you self taught. Have you earned a degree in fine arts? How professional are you? Or maybe you sell a simple craft-maybe even something made by kits, less one of a kind and maybe something  you've seen, and said to yourself-I can do that! Do you do knit,crochet, make childrens items? Maybe it's sculpture, photography or painting. Woodworking, glass or jewelry, soaps or candles, papercrafts to metalsmithing-there's a show for you somewhere.

You will need to assess  how much time and commitment you want to make. Want to really give up you "day"job and make this a career move? Or, like many of us, we do a few shows a year. Planning to outdoor shows-you'll need some sort of covering-Tents can range from under $100 to well into the $1000's-yes thousands of dollars. How much money to you have to invest into displays-are you working on a shoestring budget-you need to be creative.

How  do you find crafts shows?
Well, my first answer is always the answer to most questions people ask:
 Google it!
If for example I google "craft show" I come up with over 1,360,000 results-phew that's a bit large. Let's get more specific "craft shows in michigan 2010" still comes up with over 263, 000 results-still a big list but will help give me some direction. If I narrow it down by my town, it takes me down to 13,000 results!

Here are some spots that I use to find my shows:
These two sites are really one and the same-I find this a very comprehensive list of shows. You'll get to search by dates and areas. The shows often have reviews about the quality of the shows. The bonus is there are some forums to get lots of tips. 
I really don't see enough listing for shows in my area-but many people swear by craigslist-it's worth a shot.
This often has links to higher end, higher quality shows across the US. Provides reviews of shows and forums.

I've known for years of George Walker, who maintains this site and publishes his yearly Michigan craft show guide. He's a great guide, who was a craft "husband" for years, and now goes to many shows personally to gather reviews of the shows. I would rate this a "very good" resource for those in Michigan  who are interested in starting to do do craft shows. His annual craft show listing book sells for about $25.00. Once you get one, and actually start going to shows you probably won't need it again, but it's well worth it for newbies. you can find it for sale in some supply houses and on-line.
If you're an indie crafter-this is a good reference to find more of the edgier shows.
If you're a serious, higher end, quality artisan, you've probably heard about or seen Sunshine Artist. This magazine and site are really aimed at those artisans who make a living at their craft. It has an annual review of some of the very best shows across the nation. It's a bit out of my realm of crafting, but  can give you lots of great tips. I wouldn't recommend this for a beginning crafter, but if you want to step your work up to the next level this might be a very good investment as a resource.
Another subscription based venue. I really haven't used it because, how many craft show listings do you really need to see? But I do hear good things about it.

  • Word of mouth-ask your friends about what shows they gone to in your area, keep a look out for shows and go see a few of them. You'll be able to sort out some show you might be interested in. If you see one this fall, don't be shy and ask the promoter if they have a mailing list. Sign-up to get an application.
  • Local newspaper-many time shows will have a write up or a classified ad calling for crafters.
  • Post a question in the Etsy forums. You might get some good suggestions there for shows.
  • Go visit a few shows that are in your area. Ask the vendors, many of them will have lists of upcoming shows. They can be a great source of insight into "good" and "bad" shows.
If you're in Souteast/Mid-Michigan you might want to check out this promoter:
  OK. Start gathering up some possible shows. Next time well talk about the costs of shows. The jury process-what the heck is jurying anyway?!! When and how to fill out those applications. We'll talk about pictures of your items and booth set-ups. There's a lot to learn!

 Do you have any tips to share?