Crafts Shows R Us #3: Getting it together

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Blog entry by closetguy posted 10-29-2008 06:14 AM 2170 reads 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: What do I know about table cloths? Part 3 of Crafts Shows R Us series Part 4: Don't forget the chewing gum »

Ok, so I got my canopy, my tables, my brown table cloths, merchant account, my product, and all the government paperwork done so I am finally ready to do shows. I just need to fill out my contact information, send them a check and show up. Wrong! It seems that most shows, particularly the good ones, have an application due date that, in some cases, are 6 to 9 months prior to the show. I can see the school of “hard knocks” is kicking in and graduation is a long way off. I called up a promoter one day and we talked about getting into his show. His first question was what other shows have I done. I said none and he said “you need to do some small shows before you jump into my shows”. “But I just spent $2000 getting ready to do these”. “It doesn’t make any difference, apply next year”.

How do you spell misfire? So I subscribed to Sunshine Artist magazine to educate myself further and to find shows. I bought photo lights and umbrellas and shot good pictures of my products. I called my friend who does craft shows and listened to him go on and on about the jury process. So now I’m ready again. I found some recommended shows, but they wanted references from other shows. What’s wrong with these people? I’m not applying for a credit card, just a damn show. Using, I found some small local shows. I had missed the due date, but I emailed them and asked if they were full. They were not and I sent them an application, pictures, a check, and surprise….. I got accepted!

One of the interesting things I have found with these shows is the jury process. The promoter makes a big deal about sending in slides or pictures. Some ask for digital pictures on CD. I wish all shows would use This is a web clearing house for juried shows. You upload your pictures one time, click on the shows you want to apply to, and it’s done. Unfortunately, only a handful of shows use their service, but I have applied to some using this site.

The promoter generally wants 3 to 4 pictures of your product, plus one of your booth. They make a big deal out of this and you get the feeling that there is this high council in white robes sitting around a table analyzing your artistic style. But in reality, when you get to the show, you see “crafters” with sorry junk, booths made out of four poles and a blue tarp thrown over it, and some guy selling clocks with “Made in China” stamped on the bottom. This is what I have run into consistently at the small shows, particularly the ones that are put on by city governments or the chamber of commerce. They make a weak attempt at the jury process or just say it’s juried for the prestige and don’t really look at the pictures.

Now, during all this posturing and fretting over getting into shows, I am still making product everyday, or at least trying to. I live about 30 minutes from the local lumber yard. It is easy to kill 2 to 3 hours from the time I leave the shop until the time I return. Some days I can get in and out quickly, but some days it gets crowded. A lumber yard worker knew I had waited a long time to get my rough lumber one day and joked that “Everyone in Atlanta showed up today to buy a half a sheet of plywood”. So I pick up 70 – 100 board feet of rough lumber, get back to the shop, and spend the rest of the day feeding it through the planer.

The next day I plan to rip boards all morning for the first glue up. I always try to do 10 boards at a time, regardless of size, to maximize my labor. As I start ripping, I notice the dust collector is full. Ok, stop and deal with that and waste 15 minutes emptying sawdust, get started again and UPS or FedEx shows up with a delivery, stop and deal with that. Then my daughter calls and wants to chit chat. After this is over, I sit down with a cup of coffee and a cigarette and try to remember what I was suppose to be doing and hour ago. Oh, yea, make money, stupid me.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

15 comments so far

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

499 posts in 3810 days

#1 posted 10-29-2008 11:56 AM

Keep theses coming, I can sooooo relate. You are hitting so many points that parallel my experiences. My take on the “Jury Process” has more to do with how full the show is than the quality of your work. Yes the promoter wants a certain level of profesionalisim at his/her show but the bottom line is a so-so booth is better than an empty one. I try to attend a show the year before I apply. Zapplication rocks.


View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3967 days

#2 posted 10-29-2008 12:00 PM

This is a very good series. Hearing your experiences is quite helpful.

-- Working at Woodworking

View toyguy's profile


1654 posts in 3865 days

#3 posted 10-29-2008 01:23 PM

I am also just loving this series. I have often thought about the craft circuit, ....not too sure now after your posts…..

well written posts also.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4079 days

#4 posted 10-29-2008 01:46 PM

I really enjoy this blog and hope that you keep them comming. It is so much like how things tend to go and so well written. thanks

-- Hope Never fails

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3795 days

#5 posted 10-29-2008 02:17 PM

Thanks for the post.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4342 days

#6 posted 10-29-2008 03:30 PM

I’m getting a kick out of it too. Last year I did one small show, just to get my feet wet. Didn’t have a tent…so it rained. Didn’t have time to build any “small stuff” I didn’t sell a thing. Had a blast! Not sure if i will ever try it again.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4188 days

#7 posted 10-29-2008 04:19 PM

you are a good writer!! Perhaps you could make some extra money buy finding a good magazine for this to go in.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3913 days

#8 posted 10-29-2008 04:51 PM

More, more, more? Please.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 3809 days

#9 posted 10-29-2008 06:19 PM

Yes I just started doing the show circuit myself and “learning the ropes” so to speak…I learned first that you can’t wait till the last minute or they will be booked up, so I thought maybe I will get lucky and there will be a cancellation, and fortunately there was on the last three shows I did. I did not have a tent yet nor standard tables so I used “for Sale” Log Dining tables and coffee tables and rustic shelves for my booth and displayed about 50 rustic jewelry boxes on them (small cash and carry items). The first two were twice as high on booth fees and charged the public admission, I did not like that, because even though we made sales I feel it limited the amount of people who would come to the show. But these shows were in driving distance of home and we did not have hotel/meal expenses. The last one was better, it was more in an area of the Texas Hill Country where big ranchers with log homes might like my work, this was another lucky cancellation and I booked a permanent inside booth year round in one of 6 big barns that I can build in or trim out to match my work. They have a regular trade days show the second week of every month year round with two shows in Novemeber.

But we spent alot in hotels/meals/gas, because it was three hours from home, but this was more of a first time exploratory mission and I watched and learned quickly and asked alot of questions of other vendors.
First thing I noticed was most of the vendors who were not local had new and old RV’s parked behind their booths and at night cooked or bbq-ed all their own meals, and alot hung out in one of two BierGartens :) they were also allowed to leave the RV there till the next show as the place was locked up and had security.

We made three times as much at this show and took custom table and mantle orders with deposits deliverable at the next show but we spent a heck of alot on hotels/meals/gas….because it is a tourist town area, the rates were good thing is were able to leave a trailer load of furniture there and cover it all up with sheets and did not have to load and haul it back :) phew..and it is safe and locked up. I did see what alot of people were looking for ie Fireplace Mantles, farm tables, coat racks…so I am working on those now….basically I guess you have to go on a few exploratory missions to “learn the ropes”

So now I am looking for a fixxer upper RV to leave down there, since I have the tools to fix it up, I figure with the Economy the way it is, many people may be selling their RV’s… and I am definitely taking my BBQ pit, food/drinks/bier :)...small TV for the games….fishing gear for the local rivers…etc…

Doing the show circuit is a learning experience, it might take a year or two to learn the best shows to do, but one thing I do is ask alot of questions of the old timers about what shows they do and which are best for them and why..etc…..

As far as dealing with junk vendors….made in china….you will always find that..unless…I referred to a magazine I have called Where it’s At, for and on page 15 they had some shows listed in Georgia, they also list whether that show has restrictions, for instance the one on
May 9/10 in Roswell has Original works only! (this might be a good show) can tell by the prices sometimes..
Toccoa, GA Nov 1/2 Items must be handmade!
Helen, GA (Fireside Art & Craft Show) Feb 21/22 Handcrafted Only by Exhibitor!
Conyers, GA (Cherry Blossom Festival) Mar 28/29 Original Works Only!
Macon, GA Mar 28/29 (Mulberry St Festival) Handcrafted Items only!

Anyway Good Luck

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3624 days

#10 posted 10-30-2008 02:54 AM

My wife and I do craft shows as well. Except this year we were not ready for it becuase of my school work. I can relate as well though. My suggestion would be to start out small and do local church’s and schools that aren’t juried. Build a routine for the shows. Take pictures of your displays in different size booth settings. Develope a photo album of your stuff. And some “action” shots of you actually making your stuff. You can choose not to show the whole process and claim “OFS” or old family secret. You don’t want to give away all your secrets. We typically have done 2-4 shows a year. I would like to ramp it up to a full time position. We will get there in time. The good shows don’t allow “buy/sell” stuff into them.

Hope this helps

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View EarlTheK's profile


1 post in 3397 days

#11 posted 03-06-2009 02:28 AM

That’s good advice to start small. But if you can get into a big time show go for it. You’ll probably make more money which will give you the means to keep doing shows.

As far as zapplication goes, I know it makes your life easier. You don’t have to fill out applications, print photos, stock envelopes and stamps and be concerned about deadlines being postmark or received by. But in the long run, you will get into fewer shows. If any at all. I know DOZENS of artists who have done shows for years (10-20) without zapp. When the show they’ve done for 10 years hooks up with zapplication, suddenly they don’t get in. Zapplication is the worst thing that has happened to the Arts and Crafts scene ever. Do not use it. I don’t do shows that use zapplication. It is humiliating, denegrating and cheapens the artist and the patrons. There’s plenty of shows that don’t use zapplication.

So if a little convenience is worth losing all those jury fees, keep using zapplication. But you’ll lose money and work fewer shows. The only people benefitting from zapplication are the promoters and zapplications. Case in point: I spoke with a promoter of a show in California who said they normally have about 600 vendors apply for a show with 225 available spaces. Since they hooked up with zapplication, they get over 2,000!

Not to mention that zapplication is perfect for an unscrupulous promoter. Imagine: you contact zapplication as a promoter with a show you’ll be presenting. You say you have 200 spaces available. If each artist pays a jury fee of $35, it’s reasonable to expect the promoter to receive $20 from each applicant. If 2,000 people apply, that’s $40,000! Then the promoter can simply cancel the show on the grounds that they didn’t like any of the work presented them. They’ve not broken any law and done what they said they would do: jury you for a show. It’s only a matter of time before this is done on zapplication. I wonder what safeguards zapplication has to prevent such things from happening. Think about it.

Check out this link of unhappy zapplication users:

I’ve been in this business a long time and I can see zapplication ruining it for those of us who hand make art and crafts. Do not use zapplication!

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3920 days

#12 posted 03-06-2009 05:55 AM

I don’t disagree with you EarlTheK. What I have found is that there are only a half a hand full of shows that list in Zapplication in Georgia. Some allow direct application and some only accept through Zapplication. Fortunately, the mandatory ones are 30+ year shows and once you get into one, they mail you an application the next year. I read about all the issues you mentioned before I tried Zapplication, and I almost didn’t apply because of it.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3951 days

#13 posted 03-08-2009 03:52 AM

Hi all, maybe I am lucky but I joined FNO and I get an email for shows that are in my area with the dead line application dates. Kind of a catch 22 though because if you have to apply you need to send pictures of your booth and what you sell so you have to get that investment out of the way before you apply any how. I guess you could start with bare bones like yard sales to get cash to get started. The application process for ”BIG” shows is actually a competition , I’m talking about the ones that have 2 -5 thousand dollars in prize money for best booth and what not. These shows require a lot of work and strategy off the top of my head I cant tell you all the company names but what they do give you the edge on getting into shows you would not get in otherwise are you aware of what I am talking about? I may be preaching to the choir but no one has said if they were ever turned down year after year. If your going to make money in this business you have to play the the ROXIES of the craft show circuit.

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3951 days

#14 posted 03-08-2009 05:25 PM

Here is some information on a show I did a search for. The numbers in this information still needs to ve verified. I find it hard to belive Prize Money: $70, is this much. and 270,000 attendance is a little high.
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Show Rating: 4.33/5
Rate this show.
03/07 to 03/08 2009 Promoter Updated: 07‑05‑2008
Downtown – Tampa, FL 33602 More in this City Promoter Rating: not
Rate this Promoter.
Show Promoter: Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts More by this Promoter
Show Dir.: Mac McCoy Show Dir. Ph.: (813) 876‑1747 Before You Attend
Main Email: Web: gasparilla‑
Entertainment: 2 stg ‑ R (music: SW RK RG BL BC FK TF ET JZ CZ BG RB WL ) ?? Pay: Undisclosed
Other Activities: children’s interactive arts area Attendance: 275,000 # Food Booths: 25 Food Fee: contact # of Exhibitors: 300 Juried: yes Prize Money: $70, $500+ Exhib. Fee: $275
Deadlines: Art & Craft: 09/30/2008 Music: 12/31/2008 Food: 12/31/2008

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3382 days

#15 posted 05-24-2010 10:36 AM

I have just been invited to a few shows in the almost nearby areas… a few hours travel but then that is what I want to do.. Have done 4 major shows now and hope to get a steady stream of shows under my belt by the end of the year…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

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