My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #554: Researching Where To Sell Your Items

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 12-16-2011 01:52 PM 1726 reads 3 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 553: Calm Part 554 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 555: Thank You to Ellen35! »

One of the best parts of belonging to creative forums such as and Steve Good’s forum is seeing how creative others can be. And one of the best times to see all this creativity is around the holiday season. After the long hot summer, it seems that fall is the ideal time for people to get back to the shop and make projects not only for their own gifts, but also for selling at local businesses and at holiday craft shows.

As a designer, it is very helpful to hear the stories of others who attend and participate in these local craft shows. While no one show or area can give a definitive answer as to what would be successful, it does help guide my way of thinking when I am designing for the next year, along with my customers’ requests. We always have to think ahead.

I enjoy hearing about shows and seeing pictures from those who participate. For someone like me who doesn’t have many options for doing local shows, it is the chance to join in the excitement and cheer on my friends. Even though every story may not be that of a raging success, it seems that the online community does step up and give suggestions and words of support to those who may not have fared well. And that I think means a lot. So often we judge ourselves only by the dollar amount of what we sold and we forget to add in the other factors such as the economy, timing and even how much the show is advertised. It is good to have our friends here to remind us of these other things.

I heard a lot of good stories this year, and a few of others who struggled. It was good to see the great support that was given to those who were down about not doing very well, and it also gave a lot of hope when I heard of those who did. It just goes to show that there are many factors that contribute to the success of selling at a show and made others aware of what they may want to look for when choosing a show. I believe that networking definitely benefits all who are involved.

One conclusion that I have come to is that even though the economy is bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean that things are bad for those who create items to sell. Many, it seems are going back to simpler things in these difficult economic times and I think that it can be a great opportunity for those who craft to shine. The trick I think is to do projects that will bring you a reasonable amount of money for your time and materials. This doesn’t always mean the most intricate and complicated project you can come up with. I find in reading that many times the simpler items are the ones that sell the best.

Ornaments seem to have always done well and this year seems no exception. Customers are more willing to reach into their pockets for small ticket items than large ones, and those small sales can add up quickly. People in general are downsizing and setting lower limits on what they are giving. The economy is playing a large part in this and it only makes sense that most are offering small token gifts rather than something larger. Since this seems as if it will be the trend for quite a while, it may be something to consider when you are planning out what you are doing for next year. While we all like to push the envelop of our creativity and challenge ourselves, maybe those larger and more time-consuming projects would be better saved for our own personal gifts or satisfaction and not made with the intent of resellign them. It is just a thought.

Many people work all year for the holiday shows. Some start as early as January while the ideas they have had from the previous season are still fresh in their minds. I think that it is a great way to go about things. It gives time to research and find out about what is available in your area and also give you an early start planning.

Two weeks ago, my partner Keith heard about a show here in the area. Since he is quite new to selling his work, he thought that perhaps he would jump in and see how his pens would go. The cost of the table was only $10 so the risk was small. All he would be risking really was the two days he would be there.

But not being an impulsive person, he was undecided as to if he really wanted to participate. He talked it over with me for a while and his dad had even offered to go there with him for the days and help. He was almost leaning to joining in and he started looking for the contact information to sign up, as he forgot to book mark it on his computer. After two days of searching, he finally gave up. He looked in all the local papers and asked around and no one heard of the show. Did he imagine it? We even drove place the hall where it was to be held and there were no signs or posters or any information whatsoever as to the event. He finally gave it up.

The Monday after the sale was to be, we were driving down the main street near the hall and we saw a piece of poster board mounted on the light pole which announced the sale. It had an arrow pointing to the hall just up the street where the sale was held. We looked to each other and said ‘that was it?’. It certainly couldn’t have been much.

When we thought about it afterword, we were very happy that we didn’t participate. The thought of all the time and effort it would have taken to set up a decent display and have everything ready (like cards and descriptions and pricing, etc.) not to mention the two days of having to sit there would have really been a waste. It was hard to believe that he would have been able to sell even one pen there. It would have been demoralizing too, as shows such as that often are. It was one of those times when you need to pull on the ‘things happen for a reason’ mentality.

For us this was a cheap lesson. I suppose that is the reason that I want to share it with you. A little research can go a long way in helping you find a good venue for your work. So much of it is trial and error, but there are factors that you can consider to help you make good decisions as to where you choose to sell. Perhaps the pickings are slim, such as our case, but isn’t it better to know the facts going in and even not participate at all rather than waste your time setting up and trying to sell your wonderful items in a place that just doesn’t fit? I think most of us have been there before and no matter how we justify it, it is quite a blow to our creativity.

I hope all of you who participated in shows or had items in shops over the holidays had great experiences. For those of you who may have not, I hope that you at least had fun and learned a little bit about why you may not have done so well. Chances are with a little research and some tweaking, you will find the most successful way to market your crafts.

Have a great day!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

8 comments so far

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2908 days

#1 posted 12-16-2011 03:07 PM

Thank you for a very insiteful post and all the good information contained. YES I feel that those of us that are “in the craft business” should always be researching. At each craft show I take a 5×7 tablet and make notes. What sold well, what did not, what did the customers ask for, what did others have.

I, also, have just started a list of next years plans. Things I would like to do or do better. Things I would like to learn like stain/painting (Saman products).

I feel that it is important to stretch your thoughts. Lets say a goal is to have 5 scrollsaws, upgraded dust collection system, WEB-Site and an online order system. Now a bit of far reaching in some areas however it starts you thinking. OK so you will scale back in some areas but at least you will be ahead of where you are now.

I, also, look at lots of LJ projects, pattern WEB-Sites and areas where I can get ideas. Perhaps I will use it as is or change to meet my needs or abilities. Just part of putting things into my brain bucket and hope I can retreive it.

Thanks always for all the good information and patterns.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2912 days

#2 posted 12-16-2011 03:38 PM

Hi Sheila.

While I have little experience selling my wood work, I have had many decades of it selling my leather work, ans selling crafts is selling crafts, right?

Here are some things I’ve learned over the years…

First let’s look at buying in general. People will more readily part with $10 than they will $50. I remember the old joke about the little girl selling apples on a street corner. When asked how much her apples were, she would reply ”$100 each.” When someone said “You won’t sell very many apples at that price”, her reply was ” It only takes one!” We all know what her chances are of selling that one, don’t we? The lesson is, set your prices reasonable for what you are selling. If it’s worth a buck, charge a buck, not five.

When buying gifts, people have a small core they buy expensive gifts for, like spouses, children, parents, siblings and such. These people will get gifts decided upon with a good knowledge of the recipient’s tastes. “Impulse” buying for these people is unlikely. However, people usually have a larger list of gifts to buy for people not as close to them. These are your biggest market. They often have no idea what to get these people and are looking for ideas. If you show them something that sparks their imagination, you have a sale.

Personalization sells! I can’t stress this strongly enough. For example, Steve Good has a program that generates designs for oval key tags with names on them. These should be big sellers at this time of year. Put them together with the next point and you have an excellent item for selling at these shows.

People love to watch it being made! Taking the above mentioned key tags, if you have your saw set up and have a supply of the oval blanks all cut and sanded to the same outside profile, you won’t be able to keep up with the orders. People will be attracted to your table or stall by the sound of the saw, and stand there for a while to see how it’s done. Then they’ll look over your wares. Have your best and flashiest stuff up high and to the rear, where it is easy to see but out of the way. Chances are it will not sell, but it will get their attention. They will subconsciously think “I’d like that, but since I can’t afford that piece, here is a piece I can afford” looking at the stuff at the front of the table or stall, like sample key tags. “Gee, I need an inexpensive gift for George, and he would love something with his name on it” they’ll think, and you have a sale.

Practice! Before the season, practice making the key tags or whatever you have decided your mass seller(s) will be and get fast at doing them. Decide if you will do all the work or have someone with you doing the less skilled stuff, like gluing the parts of the key tags together. Look for shortcuts like pre-cutting the blanks for the key tags that will save time at the show. Time there is money, especially with busier shows. Time at home is more relaxed, so do as much there as you can beforehand. I remember one show in Windsor I attended as part of a team of leather craftsmen. There were three of us, plus three kids (of one of the team members) who worked the sales tables with us behind them at our benches. We made three things and those three only: braided wristbands, watchband with initials on them, and key tags with initials. We were there twelve hours a day all three days of a long weekend. By the end of the show, we were beat! We hadn’t even had time to grab a bite to eat!

After expenses, we cleared a net of more each than any of us made a month in our regular jobs! This was highly unusual, as it was an internationally attended show with tons of advertising and over 20 years in existence to draw on. Still it gives you an idea what can be done.

By the way, while we had show pieces worth up to $1,000 or more each, none of the items we sold were priced at more than $20. The booth next to us had some beautiful stuff too, and his prices were reasonable for the quality. However, he didn’t do his craft there and he didn’t do personalized stuff. He LOST money that weekend!

So there is a summary of my selling experience at craft show sales. (At least the high points) I hope some of it gives you an idea or two that helps you make some money from these great places to sell your wares.

Happy selling!


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2908 days

#3 posted 12-16-2011 06:45 PM

AND when someone post this much information I print it off and keep it in a file. NOW I may know every thing he said however it has got to stay on the front page of the old mind.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Jimper's profile


2 posts in 2413 days

#4 posted 12-17-2011 12:52 AM

One lesson I caught on to fast when it comes to sellingback in my teens and later years in business and Zig Ziglar backs this up. For me it was at first selling fireworks and later a phoyography studio and a pet shop. DO NOT form any precieved notions that somebody cannot afford to buy or spend as much for something. Treat them like they have a fat generous bankroll. They just might. Don’t judge by their clothes or their grammer or command of language. They might buy a cheapie or maybe nothing at all , but if you impress them they will be back.
It is still very important that reguardless they leave with a card and brochure so they can at least get you later.
Keep the dream alive. Have you ever when you wanted to buy a new vehicle gone to the dealer and taken home a brochure that you dreamed over maybe for weeks. Maybe you never could buy it or maybe you did? But every time you looked at the brochure you wanted it all the more didn’t you.
Some people just don’t carry a lot of cash for what ever reason. Maybe they have to wait until payday or just maybe that special gift date is not until some future time.

Anyway whatever the reason never consider a customer cannot afford or buy something.

Always ask for the sale. After all if you give them a few moments it is only fair they give you a moment.
There are ways to do this without just asking them to buy.
Example, First off be sincere no matter what.
Q..who would this be for?
Now you have planted the idea of buying it.
Q..and what is her name.
You just invoked some emotion even if it is the name of a pet, or better yet a mentor maybe .
Get them to talk . This will not work for you if you cannot be genuine. People will see through the fake.
Q.. I made one of those for my Aunt and shee keeps it bu her phone all of the time and will not answer her phone without it handy..
That is a person you are talking to. A person who has the same emotions about things as you do. Love.disgust, fear,sadness,,a person who desires attention, a person who does not want to be pressured any more than you do but still desires help.

So your customer buys a fast to make cheaper item. Well and good.
Maybe they say they are just looking. Fine , give them some more to look at later.Most of all remember you are not selling…You are assisting someone in buying.

One last hint or tip…
Have a freebie. This can be as simple and easy as say a bowl of mint balls. Offering on of those ball can help you get the conversation going.Maybe where they have to stop closer to get one. Put the bowl where they will have to do just that.
Almost forgot…Have you ever been at one of these things or even at a place like Silver Dollar City. MO and did not want to buy some interesting things because you would have to carry it around the rest of the time maybe not returning to that area until later? Find that area agin? Oh well I didn’t need it that badly anyway?
Disney World, Orlando or where ever?
Be prepared with some flat Rate postage boxes that will hold what you are offering for sale.
They can buy one from you and adress it and you will be glad to mail it for them.. They might get you to pack it but have them seal it and it has the post office behind it from the seal point on..

Know what else just such an addition for a spouse to sell such a service on the side might not be such a bad idea.. Even UPS or Fed Ex or somethingOf course the percentage extra would have to be worked out.

Jim P

-- Jim P,Central TX

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2943 days

#5 posted 12-17-2011 01:00 AM

These are great ideas. I really appreciate the input. There are so many good ideas which will help people be successful in selling their works of art. Keep them coming! I am sure that many others will benefit from all of your experiences! Thanks so much!


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2912 days

#6 posted 12-17-2011 01:43 AM

Hi Jim.

Good points. I too am a big fan of Zig’s.

Another answer for the “I’m just looking” is “might there be something specific you’re looking for? We don’t have everything we make on display here due to space constraints, but if there is something yoiu’re looking for, let me know. Maybe we have one in stock or could make it for you.” This shows the customer you are seriously interested in helping him find what he wants and not just out to sell him whatever you have on hand.

As for the taking a brochure idea, my dream car for many years was the Chrysler New Yorker. A city block long, humunguous V-8 up front, thermostatically controlled air conditioning, cruise control, 6 way power seats, and so on. The epitome of luxury on 4 wheels. I couldn’t afford one, so I picked up a brochure at the local dealer’s and cut out the picture from the front page. This picture went up on my shaving mirror where it stared back at me every morning. Years later, my wife fell in love with the Chrysler P T Cruiser. She too went the picture on the mirror route.

Guess which two cars were the only brand new cars we ever bought, and which two cars were kept the longest, one of which we still own and enjoy?

As you say, we aren’t salespeople. We are “purchasing assistants”. Help people get what they want, even if they don’t yet know they want it, and you will never have to “sell” anything. You’ll just have to wrap up the purchases you helped people make. Just don’t forget to collect the cash.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10117 posts in 4076 days

#7 posted 12-17-2011 03:55 AM


Very good tips…!!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View leanne's profile


45 posts in 2435 days

#8 posted 12-17-2011 04:43 AM

some food for thought. Thanks

-- Leanne, Australia,

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