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Overheard at the Craft Fair....

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Forum topic by poopiekat posted 11-02-2010 04:59 PM 2860 views 3 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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poopiekat

3746 posts in 2488 days


11-02-2010 04:59 PM

Though I vowed never to get involved in woodworking as a business again, I entertain thoughts of perhaps doing the crafty thing as a soon-to-be-retired grandpa. There is an annual show here, and I believe it is across North America, called ‘Scattered Seeds”. It is a collection of approx 300 exhibiting artisans from several disciplines, textiles, leather, clay, handpainting, etc. and of course woodworking. Though I didn’t intend to specifically get a feel for the state of affairs of wood crafting in today’s market, I was able to draw quite a few conclusions.
First of all, it was pretty obvious what medium does well at these shows. The kiosks that were so crowded that people were elbowing each other were the photography and scrapbooking exhibitioners. Then, the handmade purse/pocketbook people, using fabrics, leather or yarn. Artisan jewelry next. Then, kids’ custom clothing and fitted diaper things. Then, the kitchenwares, mostly ceramic and stuff. At the bottom of this list, regrettably, were the woodworkers! One man had pens, virtually every comment I heard was ‘yuck, they’re all too fat to hold comfortably’...Surprising! At a carver’s booth, I heard one woman say ‘If my husband made a mess like that on the floor, he’d be outside”... Then there was the boxmaker, with all sorts of nice finger-jointed boxes, exotic woods, people looked, but turned up their nose at the high (to them) price tags. The woodworkers booths were relatively empty of customers/browsers, compared to some of the other booths. So… maybe there was a woodworking event somewhere else in my area, or maybe I drew the wrong conclusions, but I’d likely be some discouraged by the general lackluster interest shown towards the woodworkers at this show.
I wouldn’t expect anyone to divulge their secret hit product, but I wonder what’s wrong with buyers’ attitudes toward handmade woodenware. Is it over? I mean, has interest in artisan trinkets made of wood just faded into history? What do you think about this?

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!


26 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15818 posts in 2972 days


#1 posted 11-02-2010 05:36 PM

In my experience and observations, most people just do not have any appreciation of how much time goes into a piece of fine woodworking, so they are just not willing to pay a fair price.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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poopiekat

3746 posts in 2488 days


#2 posted 11-02-2010 05:48 PM

True enough, Charlie! I kind of get this. One man had a nice assortment of lathe turnings, one woman commented about why he didn’t sand them smooth, looking at a nice vase with natural edges. But should I single-out woodworking? Any exhibitor that sold specialty food products had a table of samples. One woman had a line of various salsas, and one woman asked for a bag of the Ritz crackers that were provided for sampling her fare with!!! I woulda flew over the table and throttled her. I used to get people like that when I sold antiques….like when Avon bottles were collectible, I had a few, there was always someone stealing a dab behind the ears…set the bottle down, and leave. At a weekend flea market here, I visit this old man who sells used tools and machine-shop equipment. Some nub grabbed the nice old Arkansas stone off the table and started sharpening his own jackknife on it.. DRY! Wrecked it. But I digress…Maybe trying to peddle your wares to the disaffected crowds who are there to stuff their face or find cheap amusement is just not a good fit for me. I find it distressing, the whole scene.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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Abbott

2570 posts in 2057 days


#3 posted 11-02-2010 05:49 PM

I always mange to find the beer and firearms stands at those shows…if they happen to have one or both. If not then I walk around with the wife and smile a lot…until we leave. Unless someone shows up with some home made toolboxes…then I don’t purchase one, I look it over closely enough to see if it is something I want to make. These days my wife snaps a photo or two with the phone and prints the photos out for me when we get home and they go into a projects file.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

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poopiekat

3746 posts in 2488 days


#4 posted 11-02-2010 05:57 PM

Kool, Abbott!! Actually, the guy who made those nice little keepsake boxes, instead of hinges or latches, he used rare-earth magnets to hold the tops on!! I’m going to do this now, yet feel guilty for glomming his idea, which probably wasn’t his in the first place. Ditto on the wooden toolboxes, too!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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Abbott

2570 posts in 2057 days


#5 posted 11-02-2010 06:03 PM

Yeah, I have seen some really well made wooden tool boxes…the amount of time the guy who built them puts in must be huge. I think it takes somebody with some experience to realize the value and then the builder has to compete with the customer’s own ability and time verse price points.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View shipwright's profile (online now)

shipwright

5318 posts in 1551 days


#6 posted 11-02-2010 06:19 PM

My guess would be that the people who buy high end woodworking projects don’t shop for them at craft shows. They buy at studios and galleries…..............but they do buy them.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

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Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2628 days


#7 posted 11-02-2010 06:26 PM

Hmmm … photos and scrapbooking – I’ve seen several plans recently for wooden photo albums books and scrapbooks. Maybe you could team up with a scrapbook person and let them do the selling, saving you the time and booth rental?

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

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poopiekat

3746 posts in 2488 days


#8 posted 11-02-2010 06:27 PM

Shipwright, You’re undoubtedly correct about target clientele…and perhaps it’s wrong of me to entertain the thought of low-cost items to the unwashed masses at the typical craft show! Thanks for the insight, sir!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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alanealane

365 posts in 2644 days


#9 posted 11-02-2010 06:33 PM

I think the buyers’ view toward woodworking and furniture has been ruined by big chains like W@llmart and its associate company S@ms. Maybe even C0stco has something to do with it too…
When I’ve had the opportunity to build a piece for someone, the most common attitude I see is: ‘Why should I pay you 3 or more times what I could get it for at the store?”. Most folks don’t realize that in addition to the almost universally superior materials used by woodworkers, our time spent on a project is not usually donated. Big companies can pay factory workers much less and get a marketable product that can be sold to people for what seems like a great deal. And it is, until the woodworker who depends on his/her shop for income tries to compete with those who sell to customers familiar with paying much less. It also seems that the people who do seek out the highest quality in crafted items (because they have the money for it) many times already have a working relationship with established woodworkers, thus making it hard for a ‘new kid on the block’ to begin a career at selling their pieces. Even people who have many years of experience at their craft tend to run into some trouble at shows like the one you were at.

I’ve been to several Charlotte Wood Expo events in the past years and the vendors there seem to do a little better, because they’re not having to compete with vendors of unrelated crafts. It’s ALL woodworking of some sort. And even then, it can be hard for potential customers to justify paying $400 to $500 for a gorgeous floor-standing Arts & Crafts lamp for example, when they can go to any big-box store and get a less fancy, fully functional lamp for a fraction of the cost. The reason I got into woodworking was to build for myself what I couldn’t afford. It turns out that the investment in tools and time almost forces a person to try to generate some sort of income from their woodshop.

I hate to admit that there are Ikea bookshelves in my house because it was far cheaper to buy them and pay freight than it was to buy and process lumber or sheetgoods into similar items in my shop. The need for the shelves was immediate, and I didn’t even have the time to build my own, so to Ikea we went…But as a woodworker, I was impressed at Ikea’s relative quality and sturdiness.
I’ve actually got some aromatic cedar milled and glued into panels for a bookshelf that’s been in the works for a couple of years, but that’s more for a fun project than a necessity. I’ll either dawdle my way to completion, or I’ll get in the right mood and blitz it.

That’s my perception of the matter. Whether or not it’s worth 2 cents is up to you!!

-- Lane Custom Guitars and Basses

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poopiekat

3746 posts in 2488 days


#10 posted 11-02-2010 06:34 PM

Peter Oxley,Yes, I understand the value of a ‘front man’....so that I can stay in the background and be a shop-rat and let a more tolerant, patient person handle the retail end. those good intentions start out nicely, but tend to go downhill when a verbal agreement is the only tie that binds. It’s a good idea, though, the wooden albums! I’ve made quite a few keepsake boxes for fam and friends. t is a popular item for scrapbooking and photos, instead of the old shoebox, but the brass details which I favor make the boxes an extravagance!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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poopiekat

3746 posts in 2488 days


#11 posted 11-02-2010 06:44 PM

alanealane: Yes, you’ve certainly highlighted the buying attitudes of today’s shopper! The W@l-mart mentality is pervasive, and has weaned everybody away from the appreciation of fine workmanship and materials. I fully acknowledge that those of us who have high regard for quality are fast becoming extinct. The world’s a-changing! I just heard on a radio talk show, that watchmakers are becoming obsolete! Nobody at the age of 40 or younger wears a watch, because they get the time from their cell phone! Nobody wants to wear a timepiece anymore unless it is for the bling factor alone! That’s probably going to tank my thoughts about making some casework for Grandfather clocks, or chunky desk clocks, again because nobody will want them. Now… if I could just think of a product made with cheezy vinyl woodgrain over cheep particle board… I get some market share then, I’ll bet!!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View SteveMI's profile

SteveMI

870 posts in 2048 days


#12 posted 11-02-2010 06:49 PM

I have three impressions of the weekend shows from this past year. People are only going to make a casual spur-of-moment purchase at a price under $40 in my area. To be over $40, it has to be something they really need. Lastly, to buy over $40, they need to have gone there with the specific item in mind.

People at a weekend event, unless a high end art show, are not impressed by fine woodworking. They are looking for functionality or are thinking gift. The high end shows around me are $700+ for 10’ by 10’ space and are more of a method to take special orders for fine woodworking.

And then you have to think about the logic of someone spending $150 to $250 or more where the vendor isn’t local or that they don’t have any knowledge of their reputation. You are also asking them to buy off the shelf with material that you selected. This can work at a market that is held weekly and the people see your work and think about it over a week or two. I have a friend that has had a $125 music box on display more as an example as it hasn’t sold in a year, but it has driven at least one special order of special size and wood type.

Lastly, in my area everyone seems to be downsizing and unless the “box” or other woodworking item has a purpose they cannot rationalize or figure out how to show it. Boxes for jewelry are an exception. If it can go in the garden, then that is another exception, but it isn’t fine woodworking. A number of woodworkers I know who used to do tables at weekend markets have stopped or moved on to less expensive chests for quilts and stuff.

Steve.

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paulcoyne

133 posts in 1874 days


#13 posted 11-02-2010 06:50 PM

See this was a problem I had a year ago people dont see value in something handmade… you have to be able to talk well about what you are selling believe in what you are selling but also sell what are prices that are achievveable for the customers at the event you are at, as times were hard last year as well as this year everythin on my stand was either €20 or less and that was a large reason why I had the most profitable fairs in years.
Another way I have delt with the problem is making modern pieces of mostly wooden jewellery which can be seen here link , as jewellery is such a big market I decided why not incorporate my woodworking skills to a new direction and the results are great and the response has been amazing having just being featured in a fashion show and preparations are going full steam ahead for xmas.
The main thing is not to see situations negatively adapt to situations and make a new market for you and your product and work hard at it….

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

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DrDirt

2597 posts in 2496 days


#14 posted 11-02-2010 06:55 PM

Alanealane – there was also a neat post running a few days back on why we are so quick to complain about China/Ikea when we are trying to sell the ‘added value’ or our craft, yet we don’t pony up the cash on our end and buy tools from harbor Freight.
Question was, how we can be mad at people for deciding what value we offer over a mass produced China product, while at the same time dont use the same arguments for our own purchases…a true Powermantic tablesaw will outlast a Ryobi, or ‘Chicago Electric’. the PM has better fit and finsh, will last for generations, you kids can inherit it ….on and on…..Sounds like the same reasons we ask for more money than Ikea for our crafts. Heirloom quality, better matials, drawers that slide right…..
Thread at
http://lumberjocks.com/topics/21529

-- "If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves." Edison

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SteveMI

870 posts in 2048 days


#15 posted 11-02-2010 06:59 PM

“The main thing is not to see situations negatively adapt to situations and make a new market for you and your product and work hard at it….”

Paul’s comment is right on. While it may be frustrating to wait, you need to listen to the market place continually and adjust to what is being sold or what is missing that you can make. In last years depths it seemed the jewelry booths did a lot better than anyone else. Last year or two have made many people in my area stop eating out, with cutting boards selling well. Trying to compete with six other making the same thing is a prescription for ruin. You need to have something unique or that makes yours more desireable than the others.

Steve.

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