Do you make a living from craft work...

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Forum topic by paulcoyne posted 12-08-2009 09:56 AM 2381 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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133 posts in 3148 days

12-08-2009 09:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey guys i am interested to know how many people actually make a living/income/wage from their craft work,
myself i usually do two craft shows at xmas and its a nice xmas bonus for me i always had my construction job in the family business but due to the recesion (which ireland is severly strangled by) i lost my job, so i am considering doing this full time the question is will i make enough to pay a morgage ect i know every market is diffrent but generally how many here mke a living from craft work…


-- thats not a mistake... i ment that

14 replies so far

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4155 days

#1 posted 12-08-2009 01:18 PM

This is my tenth year in the craft business.
Each year gets better.

Éirinn go Brách

-- 温故知新

View mynoblebear's profile


722 posts in 3135 days

#2 posted 12-08-2009 07:06 PM

All of the shows that I have attended I have been offering high end furniture and as of yet I have only sold one eight hundred dollar table at a show that was fifteen hundred dollars to attend. I have relatives that sell at flee markets on a regular basis and they make in the range of thirty thousand dollars a year. What they say is that the average person that comes to the market has forty dollars in their wallet. They want something for lunch leaving no more than twenty five dollars to purchase something. So if you want to do well keep the majority of your items for sale under thirty dollars and you should do well.

-- Best Regards With Personalized Rocking Chairs And Furniture On My Mind,

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3274 days

#3 posted 12-08-2009 09:52 PM

I don’t earn a living from woodworking anymore, but used too. I worked a while for a guy that did craft shows. He earned enough to pay me, taxes, health insurance and had wife and kids. Learned a couple of his lessons.

Pick your show very carefully. Every one has a different customer base. Many are a complete waste of time and money. Ask the promoter for NUMBERS. They can usually give them about number of customers,booth averages and types of vendors. If it’s a church run type thing that doesn’t track as well, try and find out sales tax generated at the show. Don’t know if that applies as much in Ireland.

Some shows are just for advertising, not direct sales. This is really true of high end and trade shows. You’re there for contacts, not immediate sales.

Don’t be afraid to offer some customization to get a sale. We made a bunch bud vases that were laser engraved with the customers logo once. Often did different woods to match someone’s decor or favorites.

Hope that helps and good luck.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View paulcoyne's profile


133 posts in 3148 days

#4 posted 12-10-2009 11:30 AM

thanks for all the replies so far, mynoblebear i agree with you about that about the small cheaper items they sell so well this year, most of what i make these days are under €20 but still managed to make €500 in 7 hours at a show…

so i guess i shouldnt read too much into this that only 3 members out of 14000 odd make a living from craft work ;)

-- thats not a mistake... i ment that

View JasonIndy's profile


187 posts in 3463 days

#5 posted 12-10-2009 12:15 PM

Well, just so there’s no confusion, I definitely do NOT make a living at woodworking. In fact, I’ve been losing money hand over fist since I picked it up as a hobby.

View Puupaja's profile


310 posts in 3128 days

#6 posted 12-10-2009 04:19 PM

I have had own company 10 years and tried to do everything… I have work enough but it´s true that you will not get paid every hours you spend in workshop otherwise I would be an millionaire. Also I have dream to have own collection of furnitures but it takes so much effort that I have´t have money and time for it.
Mynoblebear is so right, get money from cheap items a lot easier to sell than real handcrafts..


View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3218 days

#7 posted 12-10-2009 04:40 PM

If you have something the customer wants… he will buy.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4127 days

#8 posted 12-10-2009 04:47 PM

My business is actually based in remodeling. I get the custom work because of the opportunities available when I sell a job.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View ShopCat's profile


51 posts in 3607 days

#9 posted 12-10-2009 05:02 PM

Depends on what you mean by making a living. Artisans throughout history have ‘made a living’, few, if any, ever, make a lot of money at it. I’m old/retired from a completely different career (IT systems), so can pick and choose what I make and sell. That’s sort of fortunate, otherwise I would be much leaner than I am (which might not be a bad thing). It’s also given me the time to reflect and research on exactly this problem, since this is now my choice for second career.

My main mentor on this (Peter Korn of taught us to pick something easy to make repeatedly with jigs and set-ups to generate cash flow at the low-end events, and then pick very carefully what we wanted to offer at well researched high price shows. He is a major award winning designer, well known author, heads an internationally renown school, and told us he lived for years on a large jar of rice. When the amount of rice in the jar fell to a low enough level, he would phone home to his father for money to buy more rice. But he ‘made a living’ at furniture design.

That grim message delivered, I still think there is potential. I see a lot of low-end crap for sale at flea-markets. The right custom made product, priced well, at the right place, seems like it should give you some breathing room. No, I have not found my product, but I have seen, and own a few, pieces of custom art that command a moderate but fair price. Flax traditional graphics and carvings from Maori artists in NZ, soap stone engravings from native artists in Belize, water colors from painters in the Bahamas, Intarsia from wood workers in Spain, marquetry music boxes from Italy. It can be done. My suggestion (and plan) is figure out what is distinctive, and local and become the artist that produces that.

-- ShopCat

View paulcoyne's profile


133 posts in 3148 days

#10 posted 12-12-2009 12:44 PM

thanks guys for all your expierence and knowlage, only time will tell how i do..

-- thats not a mistake... i ment that

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3919 days

#11 posted 12-12-2009 04:42 PM

Like Shopcat says, “Making a Living” is all about your reference point. Kids, college, mortgage, and food drives the reference point. Some can live on a little, some need a lot more.

I have read about some who sell wholesale and do high volume business with small gift shops and online stores all over the country. But these guys are turning out low-end stuff like wine balancers and oven rack pulling sticks. I read a story a couple of years ago about a guy in Virginia that makes 9000 of these things each year and grosses $200,000. Personally, I would shoot myself if I had to make 9,000 of anything. I wonder how he is doing right now?

Most everyone I have met at craft shows have other forms of income, whether it’s a full time job, retirement check or a working spouse. I have not yet been able to “Make a Living” at craft shows. I did 12 shows last year and it brought in a good 2nd income, which is better than going out and working a second job, but if my wife didn’t work and have medical insurance, it would be a tough road in this economy.

The perfect scenario is to be young, single, and living with your parents. I would then say yes, then you can make a living in the craft show business. I personally look at it as a good retirement 2nd income.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View ShopCat's profile


51 posts in 3607 days

#12 posted 12-13-2009 02:49 AM

I read a story recently (might have been FWW but then again maybe not) about the guy who does the wooden bookmarks for LL Bean. He does thousands every year. His whole shop is optimized to do nothing but book marks. Does a different scrollsaw pattern on different batchs, but otherwise everything is geared to producing numbers. Even has multiple saws set up so he doesn’t have to change anything. It said he had to put a TV next to his bench to keep his mind occupied…

-- ShopCat

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 3745 days

#13 posted 12-13-2009 03:52 AM

Interesting topic.

In our local paper, we have a “Local Artist” feature, in which you can submit yourself for consideration. Well, I did, and boy, DID I EVER. I have been getting, on average, a $400 order every other day or so. Not saying it will last forever, but advertising rocks! It’s all about getting your product in front of other people’s eyes. They can’t buy what they aren’t aware of. This income is a supplemental; my wife brings home the bacon. Going to try my hand at a few craft shows this year; I have an item in mind that I make quick, cheap, is for the outdoors, chicks would dig it, and sell it for $20 – hopefully, a good recipe. We’ll see.

-- Have a blessed day!

View paulcoyne's profile


133 posts in 3148 days

#14 posted 12-13-2009 04:16 AM

shopcat that sounds very sad i would hope to enjoy my work as i am doing it i know house payments have to be made but you cant put a price on sanity and i know i would go a little crackers at that kind of repetition. pashley congrats on all the exposure, $400 every couple of days doesnt seem like such a suplemental income, you are so right tho you have to get your products seen and when talking to customers be passionate about what you do..

-- thats not a mistake... i ment that

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