To keep growing as an artist, I need more supplies.  More supplies cost money, so I need to sell something. Still, participating in a craft show felt like a huge leap. More than simply being uncomfortable in large groups, I was scared of hearing…  This sucks!  You suck!  My dead grandma can make something nicer than you. I wish I was strong enough to just brush off the negativity, but being already bombarded by this attitude in my work life… I just didn’t want to infect my art with the same level of criticism. Lust for tools and more glass won out in the end, as I couldn’t afford anything new unless I sold something.

Being the scientist, I set to work learning all I could about preparing for a craft show.  While steps like getting a Square were simple, the intricacies of presenting one’s art for sale in a booth was a black hole of information… sucking me deeper and deeper…. I was learning seemingly good things but how awesome did things really need to be?  I also knew that if I just let go of my fear, the best teacher of all would be the experience.

What I experienced:

  • An ‘attractor’ gets looks, which gets visits, which drives sales
    • learned: all that time I spent building a mirror display base and backing to make those stacked glass Christmas trees was worth it — every head walking by looked at them, and a lot of people came over and looked
    • Trees caught a lot of attention, and the work making the mirrored display was therefore worth it.
  • People see with their hands
    • learned: even with how scared people are of glass, they didn’t seem to hesitate to walk over and start picking things up. Did anyone drop an expensive piece or get cut — no, but I want to fix this next time. 
  • 99.5% of all people are nice! Was it almost 2 days of endless compliments and super general questions – yes!  Did one glass blower come by and say some less than flattering things – yes!  Did they explicitly tell me how to do it better, or did they have a booth there – no.  My initial fear was far worse than reality.
    • learned: very little reason to be scared
  • Presentation does matter There is tons about this online, and it is a huge stress before your booth is the one on display, but it is a big deal. My Dad spent many hours building wire mesh walls and live edge table drapings, but it did help.  Setup and teardown took us forever though
    • learned: Quality in the booth does establish a more comfortable higher price in the buyer’s mind. With a least part of the prep for this setup now done, I’ll continue to refine it and make it nicer.
  • Consumers don’t bring a lot of imagination, but (my) bad display ideas and titles don’t help. I had about 100 fused glass snowflakes in boxes, as I thought they were super cool and would sell like water at the beach.  For display, I painted a tree branch, wrapped it with LED string lights (powered with batteries) and hung the snowflakes throughout. 
    • learned: People were confused. Were they Christmas ornaments? Why would I hang this from my tree? As they were hanging down from the structure of the craft booth, they were also at eye level — hardly anyone noticed them.  Next time I will display a lot fewer (few options to decide between for the buyer) and mock them out on a little conifer tree or hang them within an old 6-pane window hanging from the ceiling. 
    • Was ok, until our neighbors installed their wood mesh backing… never considered anyone else’s display affecting ours.
    • Why ‘Snowflakes’ and not just ‘Ornaments’?

      Made these glass rings from recycled bottles, but why did I call them ‘Bottle Necks’ rather than… ‘bottle ring necklaces’?
  • People like to talk. This premise is generally true, but I didn’t think it would apply to a craft show, particularly in our booth.    
    • learned: not sure, but cool to be reminded that everyone has a story, and everyone knows something you don’t
    • Full booth picture — this was our setup the first day.
  • Longer stay = more likely to buy something
    • learned: engage with people, but in a friendly communicative way
  • People will come back (lots of experts say they won’t)
    • learned: I want people to feel good about buying from me, and if they need to see what else is out there, I need to encourage it. I won’t push for a sale.

Things that worked:

  • Glass Christmas trees drew a lot of attention — dropped the price the 2nd day and sold about 4-times as many as the first day
  • Easy price cards (and easy to change) — black card stock with silver marker, stuck within a piece of spiraled copper wire and stuck within a finished piece of curly maple
  • Mesh grating (sold for sheep/goats as 16’x4′ for $60, requires painting) was sturdy enough for to hang high-end pieces, but also smaller magnets and such
  • Kid stuff — the boys made Christmas trees, sort of on their own. We quickly sold out both days, and with an actual picture of them making the trees, we may have sold hundreds more.

Things that didn’t work:

  • High-priced items didn’t sell, at all. Maybe it was the wrong venue?  Maybe it was the wrong season? Nothing over about $70 sold. I still think there is value in showing what you are capable of at a larger scale, but maybe move them towards the front to attract attention? Not sure.
  • Precision cutting of mirror here, but no one really noticed.
  • Stall setup. With a life-size traffic light protruding from the wall, we couldn’t put the back of the tent on, or the back mesh.  This limited our ‘wall’ space.  It also just looks weird and un-professional, even if it was beyond our control a bit. 
  • My Dad in action. Note the traffic light and the phone on the back wall.
  • I didn’t eat or drink enough on Day 1, leaving me sluggish and with a headache. I don’t think it is appropriate to be eating ribs and slopping bbq sauce around, but I need to at least snack and sip more.

Next Time:

  • Change prices earlier (up or down) if I want to
  • Dedicate a small table to the back for packing — it is necessary
  • Expect spotty cell phone (and thereby payment) options if we are inside a building, even if the morning tester (when no one is there) goes fine

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