Yesterday, I was a vendor at a juried Arts and Crafts show in our city. Essentially, I was peddling my wares as a jewelry artist and landscape-travel photographer. I’ve been making handcrafted jewelry for just over ten years and taking photographs for as long as I can remember. Participating in arts and craft shows are not a new event for me, but it has been a long, long time since I participated in one.
Certain things attracted me to this show. 1) It was juried. This means you have to apply to be a vendor in the show by submitting photographic examples of your work. 2) The show was only for one day. Two and three-day shows are extremely tiring, I think for anyone, no matter your medium as an artist or your age. I know this from my own experience at previous shows and from helping my husband in a larger show in our city that ran Friday night through Sunday afternoon. 3) The show’s venue was a local brewery! How unusual! I was curious as to how this would all work out. 4) February is a slow month for my jewelry sales. I have had an Etsy shop for nine years, so I can tell you that the middle of winter has not ever attracted many buyers. These days most of my sales stem from direct local customers who contact me about a particular piece they are in search of or from having my jewelry in an art gallery in Iowa for the summer and fall tourist seasons. So, a chance to sell a few pieces in February sounded like a good option. 5) The show is fairly new and thought it would give me some great exposure and opportunities for networking.
A show is always a great place to connect with other artists, friends, old neighbors, and also people watch! Today, I will share a few stories with you from my experience at the show yesterday as a vendor. It was a great day and I will definitely look to be in this show again!
A Quick Set Up
Set up is always a “wham-bam, thank you, mam” kind of experience. This show was no different. Upon arriving (at the designated time) the brewery doors were still locked. Unpacking supplies was done through a loading dock. It was a narrow space, only wide enough for two cars at a time. We were all warned about this. My husband and I were forth in line. It was a short wait. Some vendors were impatient, standing outside their vehicles figuratively tapping their toes. I am proud to say we were not. Inside, since you needed to bring your own tables, there was a whirlwind of activity. Everyone was busy in their own space, once it was defined. And I, in particular, knew I was going to have to set up quickly to get done in the allotted time before the door opened. It all worked. Whew!
Mid-way through the show a little boy, I would say about four years of age, came over and touched every piece of jewelry within his reach! Both of his parents were with them and he was very gentle but definitely interested in the sparkly pieces and in testing my almost all of the magnetic clasps. You know, I was actually okay with this. They were watching him. He was not whining, just interested. I got a kick out of it and started calling him my “little tester”.
We have to Buy This Bracelet!
Towards the end of the show, three young girls, probably of college age, stopped at my booth. One of them exclaimed, “OMG, we have to buy this bracelet. It pictures my parent’s store!” Well, you can imagine my shock! “What?” I asked. “My parents own Cheddarheads and you have it pictured here in this bracelet!” was her response! And, so it was true! My most unusual pieces of jewelry are bracelets with my own photographs shrunk down to fit in a bezel and sealed with jeweler’s resin. This particular bracelet was of local landmarks and tourist attractions! Sold – along with a funny story! I was so flustered by this that I actually placed her bracelet in a bag on which I had been recording my sales! Luckily, I found her two booths over before she left! So, funny! And, time to make another one of those bracelets!
Booth Placement – The good and the bad.
Booth placements were assigned by the organizers of this event, as is per the usual routine with these things. I was happy with mine for the most part. I had great neighboring vendors on either side – a lady that made winter hats, both felted and knitted. And, a woman who made hand-made socks from wool from her own sheep and honey from her own bees! How cool is that? I purchased from both of them. They both purchased from me, too! Across from me was another jeweler. It is someone from my own town that I do not know but know of through others. After all, one should always aware of competition in your medium. It is unfortunate to have jewelry booths so close together, but I do realize the venue was small and we vendors have to all be put somewhere. I was only put off because I was still setting up my booth when this vendor attempted to visit mine and check it out. I really did not have time to chit-chat, so I politely told her as much. Lighting was somewhat poor. It is an old factory building, so that should be expected. We did as we were told and brought our own lamps, but ended up plugging into one of the beer bottling machines to grab some power! Fortunately, no one seemed to care!
There were brewery tours, a live band, beer, and coffee for sale. The crowd was in a congenial mood, wandering through the factory floor, taking in all of the various vendors. Everyone who visited my booth, whether they bought or not, were pleasant, polite, complimentary, and happy to be out on a Sunday afternoon when it was lightly snowing and football season was over. People were buying, too! These things cannot be said for every show I have participated in with my jewelry.
Craft Show Insights
With every show you do as a craftsperson, insight is gained. I noted I was much more comfortable yesterday than I have been in the past. Maybe it was the venue. Maybe it was the crowd. Maybe it was me! For the first time I had a clearance area on my table. It did attract buyers, even though I didn’t have a big sign advertising the deal. I know that if I want to sell my photography, I have to display it differently. There wasn’t any space in which to spread out, so I need to think vertically for a display in the future. I noted which pieces of jewelry attracted attention. This is a good indication of what I should focus on making for the near future.
Set up is always going to be crazy! I was very organized – even doing a mock set up at home, the day before the show. I took photos and used them to help me set up efficiently before the opening yesterday. This I will do again!
Break down was quick and easy – 20 minutes. This show had a rule that no one could break down their booth before 6pm – the show’s end time. I am good with that – it is very distracting to have some booths breaking down while one is still trying to sell. I think it is most fair to everyone to have this rule in place and have it be enforced.
Today, will be unpacking. It was a tiring but satisfying day yesterday. But, I definitely will try to be in this show again! It made February seem like not a bad month at all to try to sell some jewelry!