Articles

Getting through My First Year of Craft Shows

December 2010

Image Courtsey: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia CommonsImage Courtsey: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

When I started researching selling at craft shows, I was a little overwhelmed by all the information. There are just so many resources out there! I didn’t know if I could take my handmade pottery to shows and make a success of it, but I decided to try. I started out around December with a small arts and crafts show and charity benefit at a local school.

I had thrown several mugs, bowls, and plates before this as practice, and I decided to take them to that particular show. When I got there, I saw that I was just two booths down from another potter with similar items! What could I do? I just set out my booth as nicely as possible, and hoped people would choose my pottery instead of the other seller’s. The evening turned out okay, but I didn’t get nearly as many sales as I wanted.

When I got home that night, I was determined to make the next craft show I went to more successful. I got online to research what I could do, and I found one thing I wanted to try – branding my products. I needed to build a recognizable brand that people would remember from one craft show to the next. I set out to do just this.

I started throwing and firing new pieces, but this time, I focused on a totally different niche – tea accessories. Not everything looked the same, but I tried to give all my pieces the same whimsical, Alice-in-Wonderland feel. I wanted people to pick up a piece and know that it was one of mine before they even saw the hand carved initials on the bottom.

Since there weren’t many craft shows until spring, I spent all winter throwing as many teapots as I could. They’re the most important part of a tea set, after all, and they’re also the most difficult piece to make! In between crafting, I also started building a website that featured full color photos of my favorite works. I didn’t get much traffic, but I got business cards printed so that I could pass them out at the next show.

In the spring, I went to five shows in three months. It was tiring, especially when inventory ran low and I had to quickly craft some more tea sets. However, the most rewarding part was when someone came up to me at my third show and said, “Wow! I remember these tea sets from the last craft show I was at. I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and I’m so glad you’re here today so I can finally get one!”

Not every craft show was successful for me, and I even lost money on one of them. Over the spring, though, my business grew substantially. Even when I didn’t sell much at a show, my website and business cards drew me more business than ever before, and I started a healthy online side business, too!

Comments

thanks for this! inspiring & encouraging. Have you continued this endeavor?

By Carol on December 10, 2010

I’m just starting as you described in 2011.  Pratice in the wood media, turning segmented pieces.  My daughter has pushed me towards some jewelry made of wood and silver findings.  Thanks for the encourgement and advice.

By Mike on December 10, 2010

This is very encouraging and inspiring indeed. Sometimes just the starting is the hardest part, because I too have been incredibly overwhelmed by information. Thank you. Also, I would LOVE to see your work! It sounds wonderful!

By Audrey on December 14, 2010

Wow I felt like I was reading about my life there for a second! I’m glad to hear you had to make more inventory. I’m still trying to find my niche and hopefully it will grow like yours did.
thanks!

By Elexa on December 25, 2010

Thank you for your story, I am trying to get a coasters business going what you went through is what happening to me, Thank you for your kind words, I did build the web site and made the business cards. So thank you for that there
hope on getting a small business going.

Peggy Heard
Coasters By Design
http://www.coastersbydesign.com

By Peggy Heard on January 4, 2011

Hi:
‘Tho I’m an old-timer, I’ve been trying to advertise my colored pencil art
all over the place with no success.  I want to get into the Spring arts and
crafts show in North Conway, but I can’t get any answers for requests
for info and I’m not sure I can be juried.

My work is a little different-more on the technical/mechanical side, with
some portraits and building renderings thrown in.  Because I’m not
known, I get this feeling I will be on the receiving end of kind of
sanctimonious attitudes (am I sounding defensive, already?).

By Norm Ellis on January 12, 2011

Hi,
I’ve been doing some research on craft shows in my area to sell my custom wreaths.
I’ve never done this before so I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.
Where do I start?
Would love to hear your input!

Thank-you
Donna Keaton

By Donna Keaton on January 22, 2011

Hi, i have made a ton of wood turned products, Wood bowls, Wood Wine Glass with glass top, Beer Mugs, and Miniature turned Birdhouses. I tried e-bay, sold 1 item, and a few other similar sites with no luck.I just put together a website, well i don’t think it will work, because it’s not done professionally
and most people who do websites want a ton of money .do you have any suggestions to get a fair start in selling these items, i know there are a lot of wood workers and turners out there,
Thanks for your Help.
Bob Anthony

By HI on January 27, 2011

Bob Anthonys e-mail for response   (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By Bob Anthony on January 27, 2011

I AM A CRAFT-MAN FROM GHANA FROM WEST AFRICA.BUT I LIVE IN TROYES FRANCE.AND I WILL LIKE TO TAKE PART OF YOUR ART FESTIVAL WHICH IS COMING ON MARCH 2011 IN NORWAY.

Yours faithfully,
‘signature’
THEODORE TAYLOR.
( CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

By THEODORE TAYLOR on January 31, 2011

Hi, thank you for the article, it’s very inspiring. I’m an artist too who just started with this shows, exihibitions, settings, etc., and I know how difficult can get, but is nice to hear somebody else’s story. I’ll like to see yogur artwork and wich shows do you go to, how do you find them. Lula

By Lula on February 1, 2011

How can I talk to someone there because I cheked your website and I see no telephone numbers?

By ed on February 11, 2011

I printed your article and clipped it to my cork board for inspiration.  After years of making incredible items and giving them away as gifts, this year I will take that leap of faith and start selling.  Gathering inventory right now.  FIrst big 3-day show in July.  I can’t wait since it will be my son’s first show as well.  Thank you for your words of wisdom!  Keep going!  Follow your passion!  Aida

By Aida on February 17, 2011

I just read your article & had the same experience my first season as well!  My niche is making jewelry for the “average” income person, which is working quite well for me.  I just added my website a month ago & a HUGE part of the success is getting out to shows so people get that hands on approach to the product.  Even if they don’t buy anything that day, they tend to hang on to the business card & surf the website to make a purchase later.  For all the new entreprenuers out there, don’t give up easily, and never get discouraged at poor show sales.  The first year is alway rough!!

By Angie on March 8, 2011

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