Keeping Art Festivals and Craft Shows Handmade

November 2010

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending months and months working to get ready to an art show or craft fair only to find that other booths are full of pre-made items. You work hard on your handmade crafts and art, and you spend a lot of time working on these things. It’s annoying when other people can undersell you with cheap items they’ve imported or bought from wholesalers. If you want to keep art festivals and craft shows handmade, there are some things you can do.

One thing you can do is to just boycott the festivals that allow non-handmade items. Check out all the requirements, and if the festival allows pre-made items or resale items, just don’t go. If enough vendors do this and explain why they’re doing it when they’re asked, those who organize craft fairs and art shows will eventually get the point because they’ll start losing all their vendors.

Another thing you can do is look for juried art shows and craft festivals. These are only going to let in the best of the best. If you can get into one of these shows, you have a good chance of meeting some new higher scale clientele who really want to have totally handmade items. The application process for juried shows can be more complex, but it can definitely help you to avoid shows where other vendors have booths stuffed with imported nonsense.

If you’re frustrated that a small local show is allowing non-handmade items into the show, you can definitely band together with other local sellers. Contact the organization or agency who hosts the show, and let them know that they’ll lose several sellers if they don’t decide to ban wholesale and resale items. This can be very effective if you’ve got the organization and manpower to help this work for you.

Finally, you can always make sure that your booth is full only of handmade items. Set a good example for others, and make sure your customers know that your items are completely handmade. You can even describe your creation process or allow your customers to see you making the items that you’re selling. This can let people know how much of a difference there is between handmade and non-handmade items. As more people start to opt for the handmade options, you’ll find that craft fairs start to cater more toward handmade crafts and art items.


I’m glad to know that there are others who feel the way I feel about their handmade items.  I want to be a part of this selective group of crafters who can appreciate just how important it is to be able to display handmade crafts at events that totally support that venue.

By Pat Mahan on October 27, 2010

What is most frustrating is signing up for a show that is touted as “Hand Made Only,” being questioned repeatedly about your product, then finding out that many “crafter” sneak in items “made in China (or elsewhere).  No one ever says anything to these people.  They should be told to remove these items from their booths!

By Colleen on October 27, 2010

I agree, I agree! Organizers often say that pre-made items will be removed from their booth if found there during the show - but then don’t follow up on that promise. We need to keep on their case to do so. Stay vocal about why we don’t go back to shows that break their own rules, and tell them why stayiing handcrafted is better for business and for the customers. It’s the only thing that differentiates us from Wal Mart and Michaels.

By Jane McDaniel on October 27, 2010

As chairman of the Eden Prairie Lioness Art & Craft Show, I find it difficult sometimes to weed out the buy/sell items.  Our show is juried and have reviewed most of our vendors while walking through other local craft shows.  Sometimes you ask a vendor if it is handmade and they will tell you “yes”, only to find out when they are part of your show, that they are buy/sell. Especially in clothing.  I check for the label, but they have caught onto that too and replace it with their own label.  This is going to be our 3rd year and I would sure like some hints as to how to weed these people out.  We also jury with photos sent on line.

Kate Friederichs

By Kate Friederichs on October 27, 2010

I too have found I can’t compete at shows with my handmade jewelry when you got premade jewelry priced so low everywhere. I nearly made my space rent and hotel stay at a 3 day show I attended. I refuse to sell pre-made, and I tell you, it makes me want to quit doing shows all together.  And it seems to me that most, not all people don’t care if it’s handmade. It’s a very sad thing!!!!

By Beth on October 27, 2010

I organize an annual crafts fair and work very hard to have all handmade items in the fair.  Our jury process has been successful in making sure vendors have handmade items.  But some vendors still sneak in imports, retail and buy/sell items.  I am always amazed that it is vendors who try to do this.  I do my best to enforce and check their booths but I still have not had a 100% handmade crafts fair.

By Terri Lynn Howard on October 27, 2010

I am a lover of hand made craft I made a living of it before I moved to Georgia.Since living here,I tried to get into two seprate juried craft shows and my pictures were rejected.

I went to each fair to see just what they are looking for I was shocked to see what they call hand made. I could have gone down town Atlanta and bought the same things and bring them to the fair yes I t is annoying.

By nicholia greene on October 27, 2010

I can see both sides to this argument.  I sell both handmade items as well as some items I purchase wholesale (—because I cannot afford to handmake it any cheaper than it is to buying it).  While I don’t know most of you personally and don’t want to knock your product, I find that the price of some “handmade” items are way off the mark and priced way too high for the quaility of the product (i.e., why would some pay $50 for a photo that was taken by a digital camera? or $50 for a pair of gem earrings when you can buy gold ones for that price?)  Why should a buyer purchase your craft if they can find it cheaper in a store?  Think about it., guys - especially in this economy.  I do this as a hobby and enjoy my craft and meeting new people (vendors and buyers) at craft shows but some vendors I have encountered want to earn a “real” salary for their pastime hobby and therefore price their product way too high and then take offense when a buyer wants to bargain with them.  Some vendors think because they are creative or handy, they can just make up a price without justifying why a buyer should pay that kind of money.  This is just my opinion…...

By Laura on October 29, 2010

HI Laura

I agree with u whole hearted.  The jewelry I see at these shows you can put a few more dollars and buy the same thing especially if they say it is 14 K gold.  I buy glass pendants but make the cords for them. I say let the people sell what they want, times are hard.

By Laura on October 31, 2010

Well, we went to a juried show in Florida last weekend, and two of our benches were taken from our booth selected to be judged. One of them took first. Then some sorry vender (who had no pieces chosen) went around and stirred up trouble and they took away our prize. Why? Because we use teak root; not found on this contenent. So we have a family member who lives there and excavates and chainsaws the wood and ships it to us. We do the finish work. BUT we don’t do all the work here so we are disqualified. Nice. How is that fair? It would be impossible for 1 person to do thise alone. I can’t fly to Indonesia every month to spend a week salvaging roots, only to fly back and make it to furniture and then go and sell it.

By Christian on November 10, 2010

Well, Laura, hand made shows should have hand made goods!  If this is your hobby, than make little things to Give as gifts. As an artisan, I am offended by this. Your lack of integrity affects those of us who have spent years learning our craft, and building relationships with the buying public.  There are plenty of places to sell your bought “craft” items. Your attitude about passing bought goods as your work is fraudulent. It is not victimless, the person who thinks he/she is buying the work of someone who still makes goods in America is a victim. The artisan who really is making his/her goods, selling in a venue INTENTED for them, is being victimized by You by losing sales and suffer the indignity of having their integrity questioned.  I believe you know this already. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you are a DECENT human being who has had a lapse in judgement, got greedy and lazy and did not want to do hard work required to make a good product. To err is human.

I used to get upset when I saw fake handmade goods at shows. Lately, I have started turning people in. The last promoter did not want to kick this person with bought items out because said person had been doing the show for ten years. So I made it a point to tell everyone who would listen. I asked my customers to complain to the promoter and they did. I am a fiber artist and used to own a boutique where I sold my clothes, but bought jewelry. I told that so-called jewelry maker that I would sell her a box of the bracelets she claim to make because I still have them in storage. I told her exactly where she had bought them. She was speechless!

By ruth on November 14, 2010

As both an artist and a promoter I am very offended by those who think buy/sell belongs in handmade shows or that we are pricing our art work to high. 
I do this for a living.  I spend more time in my studio than I do in my home working on my mosaic art & fused glass jewelry for shows and teaching classes.  My prices are some of the lowest you can find but they are probably still higher than you think they should be.  I don’t just pick a number out of thin air.  Like most business people we have a formula we use to determine our costs and then to figure the correct selling price.  We have educated ourselves not only in our art but in the art of business, we know how to promote ourselves, keep books,  set prices, and listen when the accountant tells us what our losses are at tax time.  This sure isn’t a hobby for me, this is my chosen career and my way of life. 

For you to come in with your made in china or where ever stuff and try to pass it off as hand made is like the gas station down the road selling cheap gas with water in it.  Wrong on so many levels.  Do you honestly believe everyone but you is this stupid?  First you think we, the artists have no business sense, now you think the buying public can’t tell your cheaply made in china stuff from our quality hand made art.  In addition to the artists and the buying public you are also hurting your own reputation.  The vendors have no respect for you, the public has no respect for you and neither do the promoters.  I doubt you have any for yourself or you wouldn’t be able to stab so many people in the back.  Someday you will wish to be part of the handmade movement again and you won’t be welcome, that will be a sad day for you.

Kate Friederichs, be sure you have several artists of varying mediums on your jury panel.  Ask for photos of the artists actually making their hand made items, not just finished photos.  Also ask for a finished item for the jurying process that you can inspect and take apart if necessary.  The best way to see how something is made and if it is handmade is to take it apart.  Have a space on the ap for them to list all materials used to make that item then do a search online when you get it and compare.  If they made it they should know everything about it, if they bought it they won’t know the steps to make it or all the necessary materials.  It is a lot of work to jury a show successfully but in the end it is worth it but you have to be willing to pull people out of the show if they bring out things that are not handmade once they set up that tent.  If not then there is no reason to waste your time and get up the hopes of the true artists by saying you are a juried show.  After all, it is the artists who are doing you a favor by attending your show, not you who is doing them a favor by accepting them.  A good artist can have their pick of shows any weekend of the year. 

BTW Laura, you might want to do a little research on how those buy/sell items can be used to funnel money back to terrorists.  A lot of the made in foreign country flea market/craft show items are tied into terrorist dollars and it is people like you who are without your knowledge helping to line their pockets.  So, if the items you are buying happen to fall in that category there is another way you are hurting all of us.

Take the pledge to buy handmade at


By Deborah on November 17, 2010

I understand both sides of the argument but I wanted to make something clear, what exactly is handmade?

I’m a student and fairly new to the whole handmade movement, and I’m very interested in it. Lately I’ve been thinking about making my own jewelry, but only in the sense that I want to put it together, what charms and pendants would go together, but I’m getting the vibe that this isn’t considered handmade.

So, I would like someone to please give me a definition of handmade. Do I need to make my own chains and my own charms and pendants for my work to be called handmade? I’m seriously curious.

By Unique on November 22, 2010

This is a really interesting conversation. First, I understand that the economy is rough, but that does not excuse a vendor who brings in pre-made goods. That is fraudulent to the hardworking people who put these shows together and it is extremely dishonest to the public. If the public wants sweatshop prices, they can go to Target, Walmart, a swap meet etc., but these people have CHOSEN to come to an arts and crafts show, which promotes the HANDMADE goods that the can expect to find. Some people appreciate the fact that items are still made by hand, often using techniques developed centuries ago. Our country was built on these skilled trades and I take a lot of pride that I continue this tradition.

As a lampwork artisan, I have spent many years and thousands of dollars learning my craft and understanding how to sell. For the person who thinks vendors overprice: how can you possibly know what my costs are? Do you understand how much propane, pressurized oxygen, glass supplies (all purchased from U.S. manufacturers by the way) and my electricity costs are to make each piece? Those are just the basics and that’s not even before I factor in a salary for myself. Remember, people who make their artwork a career also have to pay for their own insurance and other living expenses. It’s so sad that some believe we need to match the prices of those cheap products coming in from other countries. Sorry, I just can’t live on less than a dollar an hour.

To the person who makes their own cords but purchases the glass pendants, why not just sell your handmade cords or else take a flameworking class and learn to make your own glasswork? Even better, how about partnering up with a glass artist who makes handmade pendants? Just so you know, many of these cheap glass pieces are not even properly annealed (slowly brought down to room temperature) and are known to crack or break because of this. That’s dangerous to your customer…. why would you take that chance?

Thank to all of the people in charge of the arts and crafts shows and the artisans who keep things honest. May you continue to prosper. =)

By Jenny on November 23, 2010

I enjoy crocheting hats and scarves and making dog clothes, but I cannot compete with WalMart or China.  What WM charges for a dog outfit, I cannot buy the fabric.  If I was in a major city, I could get rich, but here in Eugene, I cannot sell anything - at least not enough to pay for the space.  Too old (66) to continue working in the legal field (so I am told), so I would like to sew and crochet and make some money. Any ideas or suggestions, please?  Thanks.

By Phillis Winters on December 13, 2010

I am so happy to hear the opinions of the true artisans out there.  I have been frustrated also by paying a fee and bringing my handcrafted dolls and angels to shows and I have to paint the faces, sew and design all the dresses dye some fabrics for my Victorian designs and I am even told by my customers that I could be charging twice as much but because I seem tobe always surrounded by people with buy sell claiming to be handcrafted it intimidates me and sometimes it makes my prices seem like they are high. With the economy being what it is I sometimes fold and don’t charge what I should it has really hurt me.  I receive a monthly check from S.S. but its not enough to live on so the people who are selling in handcrafted shows as a hobby should opt for selling amongst their friends or online auctions or something.  Its not fair,  the work should be at least 75% handcrafted.  I don’t weave my fabric but it takes a lot of work to sew and design the gowns. I think it is the people who run the shows responsibility to make sure that if they are selling space as handmade only that they should not allow buy/sell.
I think the economy is causing them to compromise also and are selling the spaces to pay their bills as well.  If they do they should seperate them from the handcrafted people and require they have a sign that says “resale”.  I love what I do but I want to get paid for it.  It;s not a hobby.
By Connie Crisp on December 13, 2010

By Constance Crisp on December 14, 2010

I too have been frustrated at many shows where buy/sell is in competition with my handmade glass jewelry.  I have been at shows where vendors next to me sell glass pendants for far less than I can even buy the glass for!  There are too many opportunities on the internet to buy ready made pieces and sell them as your own.  As a glass artist I obviously don’t make the glass, but I cut it, design it and fuse the pieces in my kiln.  I don’t make the molds that I slump my plates into, but I cut and design the glass and fuse it before it is slumped.  My pendants are sold with chains, and I tell my customers that I make the pendant, not the chain.  Does this make it 75% handcrafted?  I don’t think so.  There is only so much you can do.

By Marlene Delugish on December 15, 2010

Pricing has always been a sore subject for me.  I have been making dreamcatchers for 11 years now ( I was taght by a Cherokee woman )  I had no intentions of selling when I first learned, but I couldn’t stop making them!  She was the one who encouraged me to sell, so I put a few in a small store.  I was there when the first one sold, and I was amazed!  Since then, I have vended many craft fairs, festivals, flea markets, anywhere I could go to share my art.  I have had every question asked of me, from “Why are you selling it for that much?  I’ll give you a dollar” to “Are you Native American?, What business do you have making/selling these?  They’re not real.”

No, no part of me is Native American.  What I make is Spiritually guided Art.  When someone asks me to make a piece for a loved one, and they want it a specific way, I do so with the best of my ability, but it doesn’t always come out exactly that way.  I can have the image in my head, but my hands are guided to do slightly otherwise. Sometimes it’s not what they asked for at all, and I warn them of that prior to making it.  My customers always have an open mind though towards my art, and they say “OK, whatever you think is best”.  It has NEVER guided me wrong, and my customers are very rarely displeased.  My one unhappy customer was early on in my career, and it was because I took too long.

So, how do you price your hand crafted one-of-a-kind art?  I have heard many things, from by the inch, to materials plus time and travel.  I have been reprimanded for charging too low, as well as too high.  I use metal hoops, leather, wool, fur, skulls, stones, bones, feathers, willow, birch, crystals, wire, and artificial sinew to tie them all together, and somehow it creates something pleasing to the eye.  I teach classes and tell stories in as many places as I can, and yes, I have even taught a few Native Americans because there was no one left in their community to show them.

What I do is not common.  I am HIGHLY insulted when someone compares my work with a “Made in China or Mexico”  machine spun, quickly falls apart, cookie cutter, piece of garbage they bought at the gas station up the street for five bucks.  I take pride in, and guarantee my work, and repair it for free if it falls apart.  It hasn’t happened yet to my knowledge.

To those of you who think buy/sell is appropriate, Shame on you!  Take some time to learn how to create something besides lying to your customers about what you call “handmade” and then MAKE IT for 1 year.  Do it from scratch, and see how you feel about your product then.  I know I will never get rich off of making dreamcatchers, but as I said in the beginning, selling was not the original intent. 

I had a booth for myself for the first time at Woonsocket Autumnfest in 2005.  One of my pieces, a 5” leather hand painted white buffalo medicine wheel sold for $25.00.  It was given to a Native man who was visiting his best friend from Montanna.  Let me tell you, the love and gratitude I felt from him as he opened his gift, was worth more than all the stones at the Tucson gem and mineral show.


By Reikimaster on December 15, 2010

I was looking on the internet for alternatives to sell my hand made glass pendants when I came across this conversation.  I have had great difficulty in the past year selling my glass at craft shows with the junky imported glass pendants others are selling for between one and five dollars.  Show promoters are allowing this to fill spaces and a show that I have done for many years allowed the imported junk in this year.  I barely made expenses and told the promoters I would no longer attend their show.  I really hope all of you are passing this conversation along to your show promoters to let them know that crafters and artisans are outraged by what is going on.  Americans are willing to spend the money for the quality hand made merchandise when it is presented in an “All Hand Made” show.  Good luck to all the crafters and artisans who DO make their items!

By Bobbi on December 29, 2010


By TID0 on February 5, 2011

I was asked to do a show and I specifically said is it all handmade?  I only participate in all handmade shows.  They told me yes, I paid my fees.  A month before the show they start promoting the vendors and I see manufactured tights, makeup, bags.  Im mad and I want to not show up.  These vendors are great at promoting their products and bring in a lot of people but those people attend to see their legging vendor or bag vendor and do not have it in their heads to shop handmade.  They buy what they have ordered from their fav vendor and leave.  Im going to attend and let the organizers know that I am not happy I was lied to and I will not be returning nor will I advertise/promote for them on my social media.

By Melissa on November 2, 2018

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