Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thoughts on Craft Shows

As I searched today for shows to do this fall, I wondered what the economy is going to be like later on. Will people be spending again or still fearful? This affects the type of shows that I'll try to get into and of course the products that I'll bring.

Scenario A: I focus on small, inexpensive shows - like elementary schools and church bazaars. When I've done these in the past, I've only sold the very least expensive of the items that I make, something in the $10 - $40 range. The entry fees are usually around $25 - $35 so you aren't out much if you don't sell much. But then you don't get the traffic, these shows usually only pull in the most local of customers. No traffic = no sales.

Scenario B: I go ahead with my normal show activity - focusing on large, juried shows. The booth fees are much higher, in the $200 - $350 range, so you stand to lose a great deal if you don't make enough to cover your costs. But these shows generally have much higher traffic, with regular customers. And these people can spend the money when they want to, I've done well at these types of shows with the $60 - $75 pieces.

But with the economy the way it is, do we know what will happen in the fall? You have to decide now if you want to get into the larger shows as they generally have application deadlines months prior to the actual show. I also have to ask off from work - meaning that I don't get paid because I work at an hourly position. If I have a good day at the show, it more than makes up for the lost hours at my job. But take too many Saturdays off and I'm likely to get fired so I have to pick and choose my shows carefully.

This would be an easier decision to make if I wasn't working. I could schedule my larger shows now and then pick up some of the smaller shows at the last minute - and if I don't have a good day at a small show, all I'm out is the small cost of the booth and my time.

When I started doing craft shows 12 years ago, you could still make a good living at it...but it was starting the downturn already. Vendors traveled from show to show, their products were well made and it showed. People came to get the unique because they valued the handmade aspect of the arts and crafts.

Today, there are so many people selling at craft shows, its really hard for anyone to make a living at it. Handmade used to mean something. Now, just about anyone can put something together and sell it at their local craft show or flea market. I see such poorly made things at shows now, it makes me sad. It makes it harder for those of us who do it for a living.

I understand where they are coming from, people need another way to make money in this horrible economy. They've lost their job and can't find another one, or they've had to take a lower paying one. I understand that, and I feel bad for them, but by flooding the market with poorly made crafts, they detract value from what everyone is doing - and everyone loses.

Sorry for the rant. Started this post about choosing shows and ended up on my soap box. That seems to happen alot lately, lol. Sometimes you just have to let it out.



  1. Actually,

    That's a very perceptive observation of what is motivating people to push low-grade items. I do think there will be a limited economic recovery soon driven by optimism. Quite alot of the market dynamic is driven by faith rather than numbers.

    Michael (also in Rockwall).

  2. Michael - I hope you are right! I know that the customers who come into the store where I work are selling, but mostly the lower quality, less expensive pieces that they make. So I am focusing on well made, well designed pieces that didn't cost so much to make - plus lowering the prices on some more expensive pieces and taking less profit, hoping that will sell more items. Thanks for your comment, appreciate you taking the time to read my blog!


  3. My kids (two girls) get me to go to the Square (Old town Rockwall) to the shops there for things they seem to enjoy.

    I think they appreciate the local flavor of some creations and after living in Europe so long we miss the crafts and surprises we'd find around every corner in the cities we lived in.