All I Wanted to Know I Learned at the Craft Fair... or The Newbie's Newbie Guide to Doing your First Craft Sale!!!!!!

>> Sunday, November 9, 2008

the MACFair is FINALLY over!!! and for a first craft fair, i have to admit that i was pleasantly surprised and did much better than i thought i would have! three days of selling my wares and talking up my craft... and i'm still alive! someone asked me to write about what i learned, so here it is!!!

1. juried shows ROCK! - the MACFair was a juried show, which meant that they chose the vendors who were at the show. you know how at some shows there are tons of resellers and the handmade goodness gets overlooked? well, that DIDN'T happen here. and it was amazing to see all the talent - not to mention the full time artisans - on display. even though there was an entry fee, it was worth it! (more on that in a bit)

2. prepare, prepare, prepare! - i have to admit that i was at a little bit of a disadvantage here, with all my "prep time" being swallowed up by my first trimester all day morning sickness. i was a little freaked that i didn't have enough energy to make all the things that i wanted to make, but i tried to get some work done in the precious moments that i didn't feel sick. thank goodness that the week before the show, my energy levels lifted... but i still didn't feel like i had adequate stock.

3. displays don't have to be expensive... but it does help to have a plan! - see the rant above about my morning sickness. however, i had talked my display ideas out with the husband and my cousin, and had a general idea about what i wanted to do, and the feeling i wanted to create with my display. i basically used twigs, river stones, floral foam and little metal pails to create "trees" for my necklaces; a fabric shower curtain in a neutral tone to cover the table, wooden and velvet trays for rings, pine cones and seashells for bracelets, and a small moses basket for my sock monkeys. the picture here probably gives you a better idea of what i did:

it was very simple, very inexpensive, and i got countless compliments! however, i do admit that some of the more experienced vendors DID have fantastic displays - self-contained with lights and shelving... i have to admit that i felt like i was out of my league at the beginning and it was a little disheartening. however, this display was perfect for the space i had (a 3" x 6" table) and it was easy for me to assemble and dismantle. because the show was in the Museum of Art, the lighting was already almost perfect.

4. you will need things that you didn't think that you would! - ETSY has some threads in its forums outlining lists of essential items that you will need at a show. i took the advice in those threads, and am adding some of my items here too.

- scotch & duct tape (we taped the shower curtain to the table to reduce the risk of slippage - something i didn't think of until we were set up)

- paper towels (we didn't use any until the very last day, as we were pulling things apart but it sure helped with an accidental spill!!)

- lots and lots of business cards! i actually will look into printing bookmarks or MOO cards because it would have been worth it. i gave out about 75 - 100 cards over the three days and would have liked something a little more "professional" looking

- a little bowl of candy. a nice touch, draws people in and keeps their kids occupied as they browse!

- good signs and tags - i used dollar store plastic frames to hold up my signs, and perfect little tags (thank you, Paula!!!!!!!) to put the prices on my items. (people STILL asked though, so be prepared!) i also kept some extra tags on hand for items that i made while i was at the show

- little snacks and plenty of liquids! 'nuff said!

- several pens (for people who write cheques as well as for your receipts and doodling) and a permanent marker (for signs etc.)

- for you jewelry makers - little clear bags to put the items in, along with some sort of bag or envelope to put that little bag in

- a mirror - you'd be amazed how many people want to try on your stuff and see what it looks like! i put in a small mirror as an afterthought... and i am so glad that i did!

- change! - i took $100 in loonies and toonies and miscellaneous coinage... and while i barely dipped into it, i was happy knowing it was there!

- a craft apron! - i got mine from Yoopers ( and it was indispensible! she made mine with a little zippered pocket in the front for money, and other little pockets, in which i put my price tags, pens, receipt book and lip gloss. although i had ordered it earlier in the summer once i found out i was accepted into the show, it still fit perfectly around my pregnant belly!!!!!!! one of the other vendors laughed and asked if i was putting on my "money belt"... well, i was never without a pen or paper, i can tell ya! (and yes, there did end up being money in there - so THERE!)

- lip balm/gloss - it was dry in the venue i was in - plus i was getting a little chapped from all the talking! i was definitely thankful!

- plastic bag(s) - for garbage and in case someone buys a lot of stuff

- layers, as in a sweater - the locale we were in was kind of cool (for non-pregnant people!) and the sweater and scarf i brought was quite useful at times!

5. someone dependable to help you - i had brought the husband to help set up (and then he went to sit in the car - craft shows aren't too great for guys unless they themselves are the crafter). but he did come and sit with me so i could have a little bit of a break and some company during the slower times. we also had a wonderful organizer (thank you, Jude!) who would watch your booth while you dashed off to the bathroom or to grab something quick to eat/drink.

6. a strong backbone, your courage, and confidence in your craft! - 'Nuff said. People will have positive things to say about you and your work... and will also have snide comments to make as well. just be confident and have pride in what you do!!!


Grove Designs Co, aka Kriskropmemories November 18, 2008 at 11:27 AM  

Great tips for sure. Thanks so much.
I have been trying to get into fairs but thus far have not had any luck. Unfortunately I wish there was somewhere I could find a list prior to the weekend of the fair.
Hopefully next year!

Smile Moon Woodworks November 18, 2008 at 12:58 PM  

You give me hope that I might be able to do better than break even at a show myself. Don't be too down on your display, either! A spartan setup like that lets folks know that a) you are putting more time into your craft than into "the business of your craft", and b) you've got a life away from craft shows. :-)

Anonymous,  November 23, 2008 at 10:20 AM  

excellent advice miss muffin :) Glad to hear that you enjoyed yourself and did well! We are involved in a couple of shows a year (juried) and we really enjoy it!
It's a lot of work and energy, but tips like this are helpful for simplifying set up time and maximizing the fun.


BizzieLizzie December 3, 2008 at 12:15 PM  

Oh, there was no doubt in my mind that you would just Rock Da House my friend!! Your things are awesome and I do know because I have plenty of them!! =0)

Okay - now you must know - I have a "treat" for you on my blog - you must come and find out what it is!! =0)

Marja January 5, 2009 at 10:22 PM  

Great tips! I also experienced my first juried craft shows this past holiday season and really enjoyed myself. One of the key things was enjoying yourself -- because there will be people who will love your art/craft, but there are others that might not appreciate it or are just having bad days. My favorite thing was meeting other crafters in person -- so much fun!

Marja @ Glass Elements

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