Another accomplishment that I forgot to include in my previous post is participating in my first craft shows, the Oglethorpe County Chamber of Commerce Holiday Market in Crawford in November, and the OCAF Artists Shoppe in December. When I first started thinking about selling my work I wasn’t too enthusiastic about participating in craft shows, but I enjoyed both events, and they were financially (and emotionally) rewarding.
I signed up for the Crawford market on a whim, and started worrying almost immediately, once I realized how much I had to do to get ready. I needed tables, drapes, lights, display stands, a banner (or some sort of sign), and chairs. I already had a Square account and card reader for taking credit cards, and I decided to buy a cash box for checks and cash. I bought a generic numbered invoice pad (the kind w/ carbon forms to make a duplicate of each invoice) just in case, and it turned out to be a good choice–I would have had a hard time figuring out who paid for what if I hadn’t. Luckily I started individually numbering finished pieces earlier this year, and being able to write the numbers on the invoice forms really helped keep my records straight.
I used the image on my business cards (the same as the blog banner) to order a 2′ by 6′ vinyl banner from Vistaprint, and bought Ladybug LED gooseneck lights from Caberlight. I really like the Ladybug specs: they’re bright, compact and unobtrusive, and since they run on 12V DC (with a transformer brick for wall power) they can run on a car battery if the venue doesn’t offer electrical service. And their personal customer service is excellent!
The show went very well. It was held in the former Johnson Ford building, right across the street from our house, and it was open from 5 to 830 Friday, 10 to 5 on Saturday, and noon to 5 on Sunday. We were allowed in two days before to set up, so I arranged and draped my tables, set up the lights and display stands, and hung my banner on the wall behind my space. I put out my work about 4pm, and sold all my single/orphaned beads to a fellow exhibitor before the show even started!
It was a long weekend, but it was worth it in terms of sales, I learned a lot, and I met a lot of shoppers and co-exhibitors that I really enjoyed talking with. My friend Terry Hale had told me that many would assume I bought the beads and just assembled the jewelry, so I brought along some raw materials in the form of glass rods. I’d greet browsers, tell them I made the beads, and that each color on the bead was melted from a different rod of glass. Many of them literally did a double take and leaned in to take a closer look, usually saying something like “you made these?”. It was great positive feedback: sales were nice, but it was also satisfying to have people marvel over my work. It would be exhausting to do art fairs every weekend (or even once a month), but it was a rewarding experience.
The OCAF Artists Shoppe was equally rewarding, but in different ways. It was operated as a consignment shop, so I didn’t get the interactions with customers, but I volunteered to help with set up, check-in and sales, so I got to meet some great members of OCAF. And I met a lot of other artists when I helped check in items during the drop-off weekend before the show opened. The Shoppe opened the same weekend as the OCAF Holiday Market (a 3 day booth event like the one at Crawford), but the Shoppe was also open during OCAF hours for the next 3 weeks. The big advantages of the OCAF show were large crowds (they’ve been doing the show for years, and have a good reputation for quality), and the long term exposure, since the consignment shop was open until Dec 21. I plan to participate in both next year, perhaps offering different lines in the Market and the Shoppe.
Preparing for these events required a different set of skills and materials than online sales, but I enjoyed the process, and now I have most of what I need to participate in other fairs and markets in the future. If you ever see me at a show come by and say “hi”!