One of the best parts of belonging to creative forums such as Lumberjocks.com 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 (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"