Now that I’ve completed my two craft festivals for the season (that’s the max I can handle right now), I wanted to put together a short list of the big takeaways I have from doing craft festivals. Take these with a grain of salt, because everyone has a different experience and I’ve really only done a few. Things may be totally different in different cities or with different organizers, I’m not sure.
The very few I’ve done are Indie Craft Experience (Holiday 2015 and 2016), Root City Market (Holiday 2015), and American Field (Atlanta 2016). I mainly sell art prints of my own artwork so that may also affect my experience as a vendor. But I feel somewhat confident that if you are at all interested in doing shows like this, these things will be useful for you to know before going in.
Know your limits
This one is especially pertinent to anyone who still has a full-time job while also pursuing a craft on the side (i.e. me). Markets are exhausting. They just are. No matter how fast or slow, they will always completely wreck your body so I highly suggest that you take it easy on yourself and take a few days off before and after. Know your limits and how much stamina you have for travel, packing/unpacking, and standing/talking to customers. If you have a buddy or partner that’s all the better but don’t forget that they will have limits too.
Get ready to sell yourself
I’m sure my boyfriend will be a big fan of this one. He thinks that you cannot sit down at any point during the craft festival so that you can be ready to sell yourself and talk to people. For the most part I do agree with him, but I will say that you have to read the room and know when that would be appropriate. Do I think it’s worth it to stand when no one is around? No, it’ll just take the wind out of your sails quicker. Do I think it’s worth it to stand when a crowd is about to inch up to your booth? Without question yes. If you’re not ready and able to be smiling, energetic, and actively engaging then what’s the point of you even being there? Most people who are interested in purchasing will want to meet you and know your story, adding more value to their purchase. You never know when you’re going to meet your next biggest fan.
Compare, but not too much
I’ll say that I’m probably worst at this bit. I can’t help but glance at other art prints and think “shit, people are gonna want that and not mine”. And to a certain extent, I’m right. People can only hang so much artwork on their walls and so they’re going to make a choice. But, that’s for art prints. I met a children’s toy vendor yesterday who made the point to me that having similar vendors at the same festival starts to build the market and get people more into the habit of thinking that they need that product. She’s just as right as I am; I think it’ll vary on what product you’re selling, and who/where you’re selling it. So I think it’s okay to compare yourself to others to have a healthy perspective on what else is going on in the market, but I don’t think you should let it get you down. After all, once you’re already at the market you can’t really change what you have anyways. And why should you?
Don’t count the money
This is also something I learned from my boyfriend. While many vendors like to have monetary goals for an event, whether it’s to make the booth money back or a certain dollar amount where they start to count profit, I find that it doesn’t help me. I want to be able to operate my booth under the perspective that each interaction is a new start. I won’t work any less hard after I make my goal. I won’t resign if I’m nowhere near my goal. Just keep swimming and see what happens after everything is said and done. That is when you can decide whether it was worth it or not.
Remember the ones who really loved your work
Of ALL these things, this is the one I cannot reiterate enough. Though I didn’t make schloads of money in these markets, there were a special few interactions that I’ll never forget – some not even resulting in purchases. I’ve started to have more and more people come up to me and say they recognize my work from instagram. I’ve started to have repeat customers. I had one couple buy 6 pieces from me (and they gifted me a nice pencil haha) for all the different rooms in their home. I had one instagram follower come up to me and tell me how talented he thinks I am and that I should never give it up. I’ll never forget those interactions and I hope I’m about to see more tagged pictures of my prints in people’s homes. Because although it was a mere $30… they chose me. They chose something done by my hand to put up in their home. They’ll look at it every. single. day. And remember me. That’s insanely awesome to me and so invaluable. That’s why I do these festivals.
Well, I hope that gave you a little insight from the vendor perspective. Though boutiques are selling more and more handmade and local craft, there’s nothing quite like a craft festival where the maker is right there to talk to you. That person to person connection is really special.
If you have any more insight as a vendor or as a craft-goer yourself, please do share in the comments!