Craft Show Etiquette and the Lack Thereof!

So now you’re a vendor at a Craft / Art Show. Awesome! You’re all set up and selling your Handmade products. If you’re at a show with us, we’d love to say Hello!

Now comes the interesting part.

Depending on what it is that you sell, you’ll find there are behaviors exhibited by a large majority of shoppers that are going to be unique to your product. For the Velvet Zebra, we sell Chainmaille in various forms – Jewelry, Hauberks (clothing) Art and Accessories. If you’re not familiar, Chainmaille is very tactile, so we expect and encourage people to touch or pick up whatever it is they’re looking at. Our Hauberks are either on a dress form ‘model’ or hanging from our booth on plastic torsos, very visible and easily accessed by curious hands. We situate them carefully in order to catch people’s eye from a distance and lure them to our booth.

We welcome touching (except by children with obviously sticky fingers). A large portion of our shoppers will start out just looking, as if they’re afraid to pick something up. When we notice that, we encourage them to “feel free to try anything on, we do have a mirror” which is always followed by their surprise and delight at how light-weight our products are, and just how much they can’t STOP touching them. If they seem hesitant, or reply with a “just looking”, we remind them it doesnt cost a thing to try something on.

Those are normal behaviors common to any Vendor.

But then there are other, more interesting things we get to witness on a regular basis.

There’s one we call, the POKER.

A Poker is a shopper who enters our booth in apparent “just browsing” mode and with one finger, literally takes a POKE at a necklace. Not a touch, to see what it’s made of, or an idle, disinterested feel-up, but a POKE delivered with enough force to push that necklace about two inches. They won’t pick it up, use more than one finger, or even look at you, they just came to Poke. They’ll go down the line, resting-bitch-face firmly in place, and just Poke at everything before giving a sniff and wandering to the next booth.

Then there’s the PLOPPER.

Ploppers find a piece that catches their eye – – they’ll pick up that beautifully displayed necklace, examine it closely, maybe even show it to a companion or make a comment about how lovely it is, then they’ll PLOP it back down in a heap and move on. Sometimes right out of your booth, but other times straight over to your next carefully and artfully draped piece so they can pick that one up, give it a feel, maybe even perform the strike-a-pose try-on, only to then Plop that piece back down in another heap, often on a completely different table.

The FEELERS are fun to watch.

A Feeler has touched one of the Hauberks and were surprised by how it felt – to the point of being unable to stop feeling it. They will pet it, caress it, put both of their hands under the bottom edge and bounce it up and down. If we’re doing our job, we can use that surprise to bring them further inside, where they discover our jewelry is equally light and fun to touch. Often they’ll then discover one of our Art Panels that they can also caress and fondle as if it were a fur pelt. Hey, we get it, this stuff DOES feel amazing!

The ARNOLDS are common to every seller.

An Arnold is someone who has spent a little time in your booth, or even a lot of time in your booth, then says “I’ll be back” before leaving. Sometimes it’s “your work is beautiful, I’ll be back” or any variation of “we just got here, we’ll be back.” Will they? Probably not. Some will. Some of them were genuinely impressed but want to see all the other booths before they decide who is going to get their money. It’s like being on Shark Tank and wanting to hear all of the offers before making a decision. If you hear “I need to go get cash, I’ll be back” you should follow up with “we take all forms of plastic, even Apple Pay.” If they really were interested and only thought they needed cash to buy, you’ll likely make a sale. If they were just being polite and seriously want to leave your booth without embarassing themselves, they’ll have another come-back to counter you. Let them go with a smile. They really only said that because they felt like they had to say something.

The UNIFORMED are also not exclusive.

The Uninformed are innocent. They’re shoppers who don’t know that they’re visiting a Handmade Only Art or Craft Show. They don’t realize that in order for you to be a vendor there, you had to hand-create everything you are selling. These people – – polite and well meaning – – will ask you “Did you make all of this?” And when you reply “Yes, I (we) did” will often react with surprise, sometimes admiration, occasionally disbelief. After you’ve done this a while, and you’ve heard that question thousands of times, you’ll start to think they should know better – – they should realize this is a Handmade Craft Show and everyone participating had to create what they’re selling.

Calm down, and remind yourself that while you’ve hear this a thousand times, each person asking you has only done it once.

The PRIVILEGED are annoying.

These people have nothing to do with shopping, they’re not attending your Craft Show, they’re not visiting your booth or even looking where they’re going. They are unique to an outdoor show. The Privileged either didn’t realize this show was taking place, or Just. Don’t. Care. They’re walking where they want to walk regardless of what’s in their way. These people will come up from behind – if your walls are up – walk through your vendor space, then your booth, simply because it is the shortest distance between where they are and where they want to be. They won’t settle for walking between booths, if there is space, and they certainly can’t be bothered walking five or ten more feet to a designated entryway. Nope. You are merely In Their Way, and they’re coming through. At an outdoor show, you have to be a tad more vigilant with your own security. People coming up from behind, through the space you have designated as your packaging / bagging / wrapping / personal area can be very unnerving. Especially if you have a cash box or a cell phone secured back there.

There are a few tricks we’ve learned over the years, like piling empty Tupperware containers to form a wall just high enough for a Privileged not to want to step over. Placing our chairs firmly against the legs of the canopy adds another of barricade. If you’ve procured a space behind your booth for sitting, consider an outdoor seating umbrella – they form a little cubby for you to sit in, secure some of your kit, and you can even bungee them to the legs of your canopy, forming a tiny but mighty force field of security that really irritates the Privileged. Lowering your sidewalls halfway down can also deter them from cutting through.

If they come up behind you and demand loudly that they want ‘through’, politely direct them to the nearest designated entrance. They will sometimes complain that you’re in their way, that you don’t belong there, etc. Don’t let it get ugly, for your own safety and that of anyone shopping your booth at the time.

We also recommend not using a cash box. Keep your money on your person. Fanny packs are weird, sure, but they do make some pretty fancy and very attractive newer versions and alternatives that can blend right in with your outfit. Or you can even have a pocketed apron custom printed with your logo. Just be safe.

If you think spending 2-3 days at an Art Show is going to equal a lot of sitting-on-your-ass-eating-snickerdoodles, you’re wrong. You’ll get in your steps every time a Poker or a Plopper leaves your booth, having to go reset everything they Poked, Plopped, or Felt-Up back where it belongs quickly before more shoppers come in. Even a well-meaning Feeler can disrupt your set up.

And these are adults. The kids are another story.

If we could offer up one tiny piece of advice to your Parents out there it would be this: Please stop telling your kids to “Touch with your eyes”. All they hear is the action word TOUCH. And it isn’t their fault, they’re larva, still learning the rules of polite society that some adults never master.

We do not stop children from touching our products – they can’t hurt them – but kids don’t just touch, they PICK (lifting the pieces up and down partially with two fingers, up and down, up and down, while staring at you as if daring you to tell them to stop it). Kids POKE, too, like a lot of the adults – but they Poke Every-Single-Item.

It’s only made more annoying by the parents repeating over and over in futility “Touch with your eyes.”

It’s best not to say anything, just smile and endure – but do keep a politely watchful eye on the little buggers, some of them aren’t above depositing a booger on your display or table cover. If this outdoor show has large rocks, like in a city park, or a statue or a plaque of any kind, it’s going to get played on / with / around. If your booth is anywhere near one of these attractions you’re going to experience some stress. Kids can’t resist those things. They’ll climb the rocks, hang off the statues, jump up and down on the plaques. You’ll spend a few hours in fear of them killing themselves, or falling right into your canopy leg, before you realize they’re not your children. Hopefully whatever they’re playing with isn’t going to block the entrance to your booth. If it does, have a discussion with the organizer and see if they can move you, or adjust the line-up of booths a little better.

Again, it’s not all children, but therer are always a handful at every show.

You’ll start to think it’s only happening to you, or that you’re the only vendor there who has to constantly get up and reset your products in their proper place after a booth visit by a Poker, Plopper or Picker, but trust us, it’s happening to everyone.

Think your potential shoppers are the only ones who get weird? Nope.

Your Booth Space is all the space you get. That 10 x 10 section has got to house You, anyone working with You, your Displays, all of your Product, and your kit (supplies, chairs, lunch). It’s considered rude, and against the rules, to ooze our and put some of your products out in front, outside your booth. That’s where customers walk. That’s where the Fire Marshal says people have to be able to run if the zombies come. That’s just good manners.

That’s also a rule one or two other vendors will ignore. Just remember Karma is a bitch, so you don’t have to be.

Now that said, if you’re at an Outdoor show, with plenty of space between vendors, and you have ALL agreed to spread out a tad – that’s fine. Either the rules allow it, or everyone around you has agreed to it. It does make life easier, but don’t count on that happening.

At an Indoor show, you can forget it. All of you are packed inside a limited space, and your alloted area has likely been taped off to indicate where your space ends and your neighbor’s begins. Respect that, or be prepared for a very uncomfortable show and a lot of angry elbowing and evil-eye contact. That’s where your floor length table covers come in handy for hiding a lot of what you don’t need to use. This is also where verticle display space will be your friend. A corner booth space may help you out, but they are usually more expensive. Just be careful not to box yourself in or those infrequent but needed trips to the restroom are going to be more adventure than you wanted.

Most indoor venues that last more than a single day will offer a few amenities – like a booth sitter if you need to use the restroom, or coffee/tea that will be brought around at very irregular intervals and never when you want it. In the summer, an outdoor show might offer free water to help setting up your booth/unloading your car. If you are doing a show alone, don’t be afraid to ask a fellow vendor for a hand – there’s always going to be someone there willing to help.

And if you love to people-watch, a Craft or Art Show is pure entertainment gold!

Check out our next Article: Craft Show Realities – the Stuff no one Tells you About.

We’d love to chat about your experiences, advice, or questions – please feel free to leave a comment.

Craft Show Facts, Tips and Reality Checks

So here you are. You’ve taken the plunge, you’ve joined our little gypsy squad, and we’re thrilled to have you, but you’re not too sure if you’re doing this right . . .

Well first off, congratulations for being a Handmade artist – the world needs more of us. I hope you took our advice and the shows you’re vending are only allowing Handmade goods.

Now to make the most of your new situation.

You’ve got your canopy. You’ve got your displays. You’ve got your lovely Handmade goods laid out in an easy to shop fashion. That’s going to depend on your product and how it needs to be shown. If you’re not sure how to display, the only thing we can suggest is to search the Internet, look at other vendor’s set-ups, and experiment. Someone selling paintings has a completely different staging requirement than someone selling jewelry, or that guy who carves wood bowls. There are loads of DIY methods for building interesting displays, and you might have to experiment and make changes as your vendor career evolves.

You can go down the rabbit hole of the ‘net until you’re dizzy, but whatever you decide, our advice to you is: Keep It Simple.

First, because you want your Product to show, not your Staging.

Second, you want this to be portable and not-too-difficult.

We’ve been doing shows for 20+ years and we have it pretty easy – relatively simple staging, easily torn-down for taking home, doesn’t require a trailer. However, we DO require an SUV with a roof rack.

Whatever you’re selling, and however you set it up, the key to a good experience for your shoppers is visibility. You don’t want to clutter your booth with SO much product, their eyes are confused as to what to look at, because their brains will be confused, too. And a confused shopper is an irritated shopper.

An irritated shopper is going to the next booth.

We get it. You have a LOT of product. Believe us we get it – our inventory feels massive some days. Still, it’s better to have a tidy, visually organized booth that clearly shows what you’re selling in an attractive way that invites your shoppers IN, over a cluttered booth that you have all to yourself. You don’t have to put everything out at every show. Have six different colors of the same thing? Put one out and mention to your shoppers that other colors are available – it’s an opportunity to chat with them if they’re open for it.

That being said – you probably read a lot of advice when you went down that rabbit hole telling you to display your products “creatively” using props and pretty things that are only there to enhance what you’re selling. You probably read that you should sell an ‘experience’. That’s fine, if the experience you want to sell is a pretty spot for shoppers to get some shade before they go see what the next booth is actually selling.

Pretty is nice, yes. Props do make a booth attractive. But when the seventh person asks you for a price on that Prop you’re using, or glances at your booth and decides there isn’t enough Product to make stopping in there worth their while, you’ll start to wonder just how useful pretty is. If your customer can’t tell immediately what it is you’re selling, something isn’t working. And don’t forget, the cost of all those props cuts right through the heart of your profits.

So seriously think it over. Look at other booths, visit other Craft shows, ask yourself what is the first thing you see when you look at someone’s booth? What is the first thought that comes to your mind? Do you see their product, or just their pretty? Do they have enough variety, or just props?

We’ve all seen lovely photos online of the seller who has that pretty, well-set-up-booth that has a mat on the ground simulating a shop floor – large displays that span the entire width and length of their booth with maybe 10 items on them to give an open, airy feel. The sun is out, the booth is nice and shaded, everything is color coordinated with little ribbons floofing in the breeze (yes, we said floofing) You look at a photo like that and think “damn, my products don’t fit like that, I have too many or they’re too bulky or can’t be displayed that way. But now you’ve seen what the magazines call “The Way You Should Display” and you feel inadequate and a little messy.

Snap out of it!

You’re not inadequate or messy (okay we can’t SEE you but we’re confident you’re not messy). Take another look at that Booth. Are the displays wall-to-wall-to-wall? The photo was taken with no one inside that booth – is there room for more than 1 shopper? Honestly? If your shopper bends over, is his or her butt knocking over the other display? Where does the vendor sit? Or stand? Is there room inside that pretty, organized booth for 1 or 2 vendors, 3-6 shoppers, at least 2 kids and possibly a dog looking for shade or a spot to pee? Can the vendor see his or her entire booth’s contents or are there blind spots?

Pretty has a place, but it’s not always at an outdoor Art Show.

Now, you’ll soon learn that people come in waves. Each show is different, but each show has the same Wave pattern: Light in the early morning, building until noon – everyone vanishes during the lunch hour for just enough time to make you think you could scarf down a quick snack (you’re wrong) – then they come back, but by some alien timeclock no vendor is privy to, they all disappear at 3:00. No one knows where they go, or why, but you can set your watch to it. 3:00, poof! They’ll come back, and keep shopping, but don’t even bother asking what goes on at 3:00, they won’t tell you.

At the end of your show, regardless of tear-down time, you’ll have stragglers. Even if you’re in the middle of packing up, don’t send them away! We make more sales during our tear-down than you can imagine!

Now for some Honest Truths – a.k.a – Things that WILL Happen:

Poeple WILL set their drinks on your displays.

Regardless of what you sell, or how it’s displayed, people WILL set their iced lattes or foo-foo frappachinos with whipped cream oozing down the outside of the cup ONTO your displays while they look at your product, try it on if appropriate to what you sell, or even just to adjust their own clothing or hunt for their phones. And the children – keep an eye on those children! If they have ice cream, gum, something gawd-awfully sticky – its going on your display if you’re not vigilant. There are parents who seem to assume that by entering your booth, you’ve accepted the responsibility of babysitting while they shop. It’s going to happen – not with every parent because a good majority of them are far more adult than that – but it WILL happen.

People WILL take up your entire booth to chat with their friends.

If they’re not wandering together in a gaggle, they’ll discover each other while inside your booth, then suddenly forget where they are and start catching up on all the latest. One or two of them might idly pick up some of your product as they chat, but they’ll also forget they’ve done so when the gossip gets juicy. And since a crowded booth attracts more people, your real customers are going to have a hard time getting inside to see what you have.

There’s really no good way to handle this, so its best to just let it ride. Eventually one of the Gaggle will realize they’re taking up space someone else wants to occupy, or they’ll begin to naturally wander to the next booth. You may be tempted to ask them to move along, but nothing good is going to come from it, unless it has become a serious hinderance. Use your own judgement, but if you do ask them to move along, make sure you do so politely, your customers can hear you.

People WILL try on everything you have and still not buy a thing.

If you sell a product like ours that can be tried on, be prepared to do a lot of work for occasionally no reward. If you’re doing your job marketing and schmoozing, you’re going to have a few people who need to try on EVERYTHING, and occasionally the same thing three different times. When they make a purchase, it’s worth it. But when they look at you, say “Thanks” and leave without buying a thing, it’s exhausting. But that’s part of doing business. They weren’t there to buy no matter what you were selling or how well you were selling it. They were there to be entertained, and they were.

People WILL take photographs.

For us, this is not an issue, and it’s occasionally amusing. You’ll make your own decision about photographs, but for The Velvet Zebra, we welcome photos. Our product is online, we regularly post pictures on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and right here on our Webpage. We WANT people to see what we make, so why would be refuse them taking photos? But some vendors do loudly forbid their customers from photographing their products. Which is why we see people trying to hide their phones, pretend they’re not taking a picture, or we’ll hear one whisper to another that they want to take a photo and to please distract us.

Again, our policy is; Go Ahead. So when we see someone trying hard not to be seen taking a picture, we tell them they don’t have to hide. We will even hold a piece out in the sunlight so they can take a better shot. Some of them ask first, which is polite, and we always say Yes.

Customer service may not always land you a sale, but it IS noticed, and it will often lure people into your booth who want to buy, not just photograph. Keep in mind, everything you do while in your booth is being seen by someone – unless all four of your walls are down and zipped. The Truth might not be Out There, but your Customers are.

Got any tips or tricks? We’d love to chat, feel free to leave a message.

Check back in July for our next article: Craft Show Etiquette and the Lack Thereof.

You’re Here, Now What?

Welcome to the world of Craft Show Vending. You have a Handmade product that you decided to start selling, you’ve read our previous articles, and you’re taking the plunge!

Good for you! Now’s the time to find out if someone other than your family thinks your products are worth buying. The Velvet Zebra is lucky, our family members are utterly unimpressed with our products, but the general public love us.

When you start out, you’re going to feel like a real rookie, but don’t worry because we all started somewhere. One thing you’ll find to be true is that ALL the other vendors were once rookies too, and 98.2% of them are going to be helpful, informative and kind. They’re going to offer suggestions if you ask them, they’ll answer questions you might have regarding the event, and once they get to know you, they’ll share about other shows they do that you might also enjoy.

If you have issues with wind knocking over your displays, they might offer suggestions like how to use clamps, small fishing weights, or build your displays differently.

If you have trouble setting up your canopy, since you’re new at this and all, some of them will come over and help you out. If you realize you needed duct tape, a pair of scissors, some tie-downs or the use of a step stool for ten minutes, don’t be afraid to ask. One or more of them will happily loan/share with you. Seriously, we are one big happy family out there – a little band of gypsies, if you will. You’ll see many of the same people at other shows, and you’ll see this group again if you come back. You’ll get to know your fellow vendors very well and enjoy catching up once a year or more.

You’ll notice we said 98.2%. Just like any gathering of human beings, there is the occasional ass-hat. Don’t worry, they don’t last. They’re usually so grumpy, so territorial or so paranoid, they eventually stop coming. Don’t stress about them.

When you applied to this venue, and were accepted, you most likely received a packet telling you what the hours are, what the rules are, and where your space is. Typically you’re going to occupy a 10 x 10 booth space – but that can vary. You will have chosen or been assigned your size when you applied. The canopies are, in general, 10 x 10 so that is considered a standard. Our advice in this article will refer to that as your booth size.

The first thing you need to do is find your space. You will have likely been given instructions on set up procedures, typically an outdoor show simply tells you when you can set up, and where your space is. Some shows also have a load and unload schedule, if access is limited. You’ll obey these rules and try very hard to ignore the fact that a whole lotta people seemed to have decided they didn’t have to. Don’t sweat it, just follow the rules and smile. Karma will deal with them.

If you’re outside, you need your canopy, so unload and set that puppy up first thing. Stake if you’re allowed, but also use the weights that we flat-out insisted you buy. If that wind kicks up, you WILL regret not using weights. Lots of weights.

For the love of all that’s holy, use weights.

Okay so you’re there. You’re excited. You’re brand new and pumped with anticipation. Take a deep breath and unload your vehicle. Depending on your product and your set up, it’s best to get your canopy up right away so you’ll know your space limitations. Then, if possible, completely unload your vehicle and move your car to the designated parking you will have been told about. You want your customers to park as close to the venue as allowed, but don’t stress over that ONE vendor who feels it is his or her right to park RIGHT THERE and ignore the rules. Karma sees all.

Now you’re unloaded, you’re setting up, you’ve been told the times fo ropen and close but someone wanders by and starts to look at what you’re doing – – our advice, greet them with a smile and invite them to come inside. Tell them you’re still setting up and apologize for the clutter, but never turn away what could be a sale. Are they early? Sure, but they probably had no idea this show was happening, let alone what the hours are. Chances are they just wandered by, maybe taking the dog out for a jog or a tinkle – maybe they won’t buy anything – but again smile, and invite them to look. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve made sales before we were even halfway set up.

If you took our advice in our previous article, your canopy has walls. And if you’re at a 2+ day show, and you don’t want to curse the very ground you’ve been walking on, you’ll have attached those walls during set up. The canopy walls are not a permanent thing, you’ll have to put them up and take them down during set up and tear down – and how they attach depends on your canopy, but trust us when we say you need to attach them straight away, even before you set a single thing up.

If your display is better without the walls down all day, that’s fine, ours is too. You can roll them up and secure them with bungees or ropes or tie-downs, so they’re up high and out of the way. Then when it’s time to close up shop for the night, undo your do, roll them down and zip them up.

You do NOT want to try and attach the walls at the end of a very long day, with your set-up already set up. You’re tired, probably a little sweaty, your tables or displays are now in the way, and people are watching, even if it’s just the other vendors. What you’re doing now – struggling with massive white sheets of water resistant cloth that make a funny noise, flap in the slightest breeze, and don’t fit quite the way they show in the photos, while sweat makes your pants stick to your thighs and heaven forbid some plumber’s butt is happening – is not something you want them to see.

Attach them at the start, you’ll thank us.

As for zipping all four corners together like the picture on the box – it’s almost impossible your first show. You might have to pull the legs in at the bottom – the’ll splay out a little naturally, especially if the ground isn’t perfectly level, and you’ll struggle a bit. Eventually you’ll get it, and the more often you use this contraption, the easier that will get.

Oh, and the bottom is another issue. You’ve got stakes and weights – if you’re using the spiffy, never-do-a-show-without-them weights that sit on the feet of your canopy legs you’ll find the sides can’t go down and around them. Play with the bottom zipper, use a few bungees, whatever it takes to make sure those sides aren’t going to come up in the night, and no one can SEE what’s inside – don’t let your insides poke outside. You’ll get it, just be creative.

We always return the next morning with an hour to spare before opening. You might need that time to roll your side walls back up, unpack or uncover anything you snugged away for the night, check your displays and price tags, get your chairs and your packaging/charging set back up. Then you can sit back, enjoy some coffee and greet those early shoppers taking their dogs out for a tinkle again. Maybe they saw you yesterday and came back with some cash.

Helpful tip: If you’re in a park and it’s popular with dog walkers, have a bowl of water at an outside leg of your canopy – the owners will think you’re sweet and they’ll pause and glance at your product, and might even buy something.

Helpful tip #2: If you’re in a park and it’s popular with dog walkers, and you have a bowl of water at an outside leg of your canopy – just know your table cover, or sidewall if it’s down, will get peed on. Either be vigilant, or accept the inevitable and keep wipes handy.

Again, your choice.

Your canopy is going to get peed on regardless, if it’s up overnight. Just so you know.

Stay tuned for our next Article: Craft Show Facts, Tips and Reality Checks.

We’d love to chat about your experiences, advice or questions – please feel free to leave a comment.

Know Your Audience

In the Art/Craft show world some of the best advice you will ever get is “Know your Audience.”

When you make Handmade Art of any kind, and you decide it’s time to get out there and try your hand at selling in person at an art show or craft fair, the one major question you need to ask yourself (after “how much is the booth fee?” And “is this show well attended?”) is WHO is this show for?

There are two kinds of Art / Craft shows out there – You’re regular, run of the mill ART or CRAFT show, typically benefitting a local art guild or artist society – and your more specific shows aimed at one specific group of individuals who will, in all likelihood, have no need for what you’re selling.

Now that paragraph definitely needs an explanation and some examples. We’ll start first with the examples:

A specific show – Renaissance Fairs, Pirate Days, Garlic Lovers Unite!

A regular show – Summer Art in the Park, Crafts by the Dock, Spring Art Fest.

When you’re a vendor trying to sell your Handmade goods at a regular show, you’re presenting your art to people who came there expecting to see art of all types. They’re aware they could see paintings, photography, pottery, jewelry of many mediums, knitwear, wood work, metal sculpture – really anything and everything Handmade. They’re not showing up expecting only to see glasswork and nothing but glasswork. They didn’t come believing there would ONLY be garlic and garlic related items at this show.

On the flipside, if you thought “heck, this Garlic festival needs vendors and it’s in a nice location, well attended. I bet they’d love my hand felted baskets.” You plunked down your $175.00 booth fee for the three day show – don’t be shocked when you make exactly zero sales. Chances are good you’ll spend those three days sitting in your booth watching happy people in garlic costumes walk by, admiring each other’s outfits, posing for photographs, and generally hanging out for the entire festival chatting about garlic. If the coffee vendor is lucky it’ll be a chilly weekend, but for the most part you’ll want to poke your eye out with a spoon by day two just to have something to do.

Please know this is not a reflection on your hand felted baskets.

You have incredible hand felted baskets that everyone loves and buys when you’re at other shows. People rave about your hand felted baskets. So why didn’t you sell a single one at this Garlic Festival?

At Specific shows, the people attending are there for one purpose, and one purpose only. In this case it’s Garlic. They want to eat Garlic. They want to cook with Garlic. They want to wander around with other people who eat Garlic and cook with Garlic. They want to look at Garlic-themed things that they probably still won’t buy because they’ve been Garlic addicts for years and have everything they could possibly need, except a new recipe that calls for Garlic.

It’s not just Garlic lovers, of course. Here at the Velvet Zebra, we make Chainmaille. That’s something you might assume a Renaissance Faire would love to see, right? Not necessarily. Since we aren’t in a SCA group (society for creative anachronism), we have a modern aluminum booth, we don’t dress up AND we work in colors instead of brass or steel, we are not allowed in at Renaissance Faires. You might also expect we could do, say, Emerald City Comic Con because we make Cosplay / LARPing outfits and accessories. Nope. If you aren’t producing your own Comic, or Comic-themed drawings / paintings / toys / etc, you can forget applying.

And your customers will suggest other shows you should try — they mean well, honestly, they’re just not in the know. THEY think the Renaissance Faire would be a smashing spot for you to peddle your wares, but they don’t know the Ren Faire Rules that are keeping you out. They don’t realize Comic Cons only allow comic-book art.

Don’t get us wrong – we’re not against Garlic lovers, or Comic Cons or even Ren Faires. They have a specific audience they’re catering to. That audience has specific expectations of what they’ll find at these venues. They have every right not to allow us in. We’ve put that in bold for emphasis because it’s true. They are creating an experience designed for their specific audience and that audience has every right to certain expectations when they are there. It’s up to US to realize they’re not the right audience for our work.

Another important piece of advice is the one piece of information you don’t really want to hear – and that’s: Before you apply to be a vendor at a show, visit that show as a shopper and take a good, honest look around. Is it well attended? Are the vendors varied and interesting? Did the venue advertise well? Are people buying, or just wandering around looking? Do the vendors look engaged, or bored to tears and nodding off? If you like it, find out when they take applications for next year and who to contact.

You didn’t want to hear that because it means that’s another full year you won’t be vending at that show. You may have dodged a bullet and saved yourself a booth fee and full weekend of headaches, or you may have missed a great year for making money.

It’s up to you, of course. We’ve done it both ways and experienced both outcomes. There are shows we’ll never do again, shows we never miss regardless of the weather, and shows we’d like to do but haven’t been able to get in yet.

Just remember, whatever show you’re attending or thinking of attending, there are 3 questions you need to ask:

What are the booth fees? Is it well attended? Who is this show intended for?

We suggest you also ask: Do they charge shoppers at the door? Do they require insurance? Do they allow commercial products?

For more advice and answers, check out next month’s Article: You’re Here, Now What?

We’d love to chat about your experiences, advice or questions – please feel free to leave a comment.

Craft Show Questions? You’ve come to the right place!

So let’s assume you make something, or several somethings, and you’ve been really tempted / curious about selling your handmade goods at an Art or Craft show, but you don’t quite know what to expect.

You’re in luck! We’ve been doing this for 20+ years, and we heartily encourage you to do it as well. Seriously, welcome to the club. Here you will find not one word of negativity toward your desire to sell your Handmade items at a Craft or Art show, but you will find some sound advice and tips we hope will help guide you into it.

First off, may the god of your choice bless you for making Handmade items. The most important – nay VITAL – piece of advice we will offer you is this:

NEVER attend an Art Show that allows Commercial products.

No made-in Peru friendship bracelets. No Scentsy candles. No brand-name clothes or knitwear of any kind! Your Handmade art, first of all, is more valuable, unique and special than any mass produced crap that sells for a quarter of the price. If your customers can’t see that, they’re not your customers. More importantly, and we say this with love because it pertains to the Velvet Zebra’s products too, you can’t compete with that.

You just can’t.

You’re making felted baskets that sell for $30.00 each, and some Schmuck at the same show is peddling felted baskets from Country-X that are mass produced by small children. The most HE did was pay wholesale and truck them to the show where he’s selling them for $8.00. We wish we could tell you that customers will see how much more value there is in your Handmade felted baskets, but let’s be honest – if they can buy one for $8.00 they’re going to.

So never – and we mean NEVER – be a vendor at a show that allows Non-Handmade anything. And if you’re at a show that professes they don’t, but you and the other vendors clearly SEE someone doing it, dime them out. Seriously. And if the people in charge don’t kick them out, never do that show again.

This is the main reason most Holiday shows are going the way of the Dodo as far as we Handmade artists are concerned. The venues that put them on, typically a High School or Benefit event, are solely interested in the Booth Fee that you’re paying. Once they have that, they’ve made their money. They could give a rip how well YOU do. They may profess to only allow Handmade, but if they don’t sell each Booth space they have, they’ll turn to Commercial vendors and sell them, which in turn is selling you out.

And that brings us to the Elephant in the room we call Commissions.

We’ll leave this up to you to decide, but if you’re doing a show that has A) a Booth Fee as well as B) Commission on your sales – we say No every time. They’re making money from our Booth Fee, we’re not about to let them make money from OUR hard work and expenses. It’s different if you’re in a Shop or Gallery, there your commission is the only money they make. The difference is, you’re not paying them simply for the chance to be there. That’s what a Booth Fee is, you’re paying the venue simply for the right to be there and sell your product.

How much is too much? Personally, we cap a Booth Fee for a 2-day show at $200.00. The show we attended regularly happens to be a 3-day show at $175.00, which is ideal.

Remember, in order to justify being there, you need to make a profit. If it takes the entire event just to earn back your Booth Fee and nothing more, it’s a bad show. If you spend more on food than you make selling your product, it’s a bad show. If you have to spend money on a hotel because of the location of the show, keep that in mind when you tally up your earnings.

Our motto is: We’ll try any show once.

That is to say, if it sounds like a good fit, if the Booth Fee isn’t over our limit, and we’re really feeling the itch to get out there – we’ll try a new show. Once. There are a lot of shows we’ve tried once and have never returned. There are a few shows we’ve given a second shot, just to be sure. We’ve even walked out on a few right in the middle – which is Craft Show Taboo. We’ll talk more about that in future articles.

Now if you’ve never done a show before, there are things you need:

A Canopy. You can get these anywhere, we got ours from Costco. We’re on our third canopy after all these years, but they’re pretty hardy. Make sure you have Walls, you’ll need them. Aluminum frames are your friend, unless there are a few strong men who are also your friends.

Weights. Don’t even pretend you won’t need weights for an outdoor show. These you can make yourself (when we started out, we used kitty litter jugs with handles and filled them with water). They make amazing round weights that fit over the feet of your canopy that are portable and incredibly useful.

Seriously, we mean this, you NEED Weights.

Tables. Also an easy Costco or just-about-anywhere purchase, unless what you’re selling requires an elaborate Wall-type structure. If you’re using tables but find they are a bit too low for easy shopping or set up, bed riser feet are a great addition.

Chairs. You might think you’re going to stand up the whole time, but you won’t.

Table Covers. If you’re like us and you’ll be using tables, be sure to cover them. Get covers that go to the ground, they’ll hide all the stuff you’re going to cram underneath them, and you are going to cram a lot underneath them. They even make some now that snug up around the legs, so there is no extra fabric flapping around and threatening to trip anyone.

Displays. These will depend on what you are selling. Search the Internet, check out other people’s displays, whatever you need to do. There are a LOT of things you can buy, and a lot MORE you can DIY.

Supplies. This is up to your needs, but keep in mind how you’re going to write receipts, package your sales, wrap anything delicate or bag up small things, and how you’ll keep your records on the fly during potentially busy times. We’ll talk details in a future article.

Food. Do NOT forget to bring food. You can‘t count on there being food nearby, and what you really hope will happen is that you’ll be too busy to even think about dashing somewhere for food. Ideally, you’ll barely have a chance to shove a PB&J down your throat when you think no one is looking. So don’t forget to bring food. Also keep in mind when deciding what food to bring – your customers are going to see you eat this, so we suggest no leftover spaghetti.

Other things to keep in mind – depending on your needs – is how you’ll accept payment. We use Square now, we used to use Paypal. When we started out we were a Cash/Check only Booth – that ended years ago, and you’ll make an S-ton more money if you take plastic. But there will be cash sales, so make sure you can make change. Everyone is going to have $20’s from the ATM, keep that in mind.

Our advice to you is also to Price your items well – by that we mean don’t make your customers ask how much something is, they’re more likely to just walk away. Prices shouldn’t be a secret or something you are embarrassed to say out loud. Put up signs, put your price tags facing outward, whatever it takes to keep the customer in your booth. (In coming articles we’ll delve into the What Now? Of being a vendor and how to deal with all sorts of customers)

So if you, too, are a Handmade artist and you’re ready to take the plunge and become a Vendor at an Art or Craft Show – do it. Find a show you want to try out, you’ll find a ton of them if you search the Internet. Keep in mind they probably start taking applications at least 6-months in advance of the show. You might have to pass a Jury to get it, that’s not hard if you’re Handmade.

You might need Insurance – don’t panic – there are places online that can provide you with Show Insurance, which is a policy that will cover you strictly for that show at an average cost to you of around $40.00. The Internet is your friend, search Craft Show Insurance and you’ll be find.

Welcome to the club ! And good luck.

Check out our next Article: Know your Audience.

We’d love to chat about your experiences – please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question or offer up some advice to all the newbies out there.

The Beauty of Chainmaille

Sometimes even the most seasoned Mailler will sit down and experiment. You may find yourself with only a handful of rings in odd sizes, unsure what you can make with the selection you have but still feeling the urge to work some rings together. So you’ll start tp putz around, play with patterns you know even though those patterns don’t work with the sizes you have in front of you.

Sometimes you end up giving up, because what you are playing with simply cannot DO what you want it to. But sometimes what you do make, will inspire you to turn it into something interesting. That is how we made our Jellyfish, by making a flower in all the wrong sizes, but realizing if we turned it upside down we could exaggerate the cone, add a top and some tendrils and viola, jellyfish!

We do not claim to have created this pattern, we just didn’t realize we were making something that would end up being so pretty. And that’s the beauty of Chainmaille.

This new design and others are now available in our store TheVelvetZebra or shop right here from the Store tab.

Shredded Love

Shredded Love necklace

This shredded heart is made with Anodized Aluminum rings in 18 gauge, 3/16” in matte Titanium Grey with Pumpkin Spice trim. 19” long and finished with a magnetic clasp.

$45.00

Valkyrie

Valkyrie

Chainmaille dress in Anodized Aluminum, size 8.

$1,600.00

Until we get the pictures from the photographer these will have to do!

Valkyrie is a chainmaille dress made in two months with 12,222 5/16” 16gauge Anodized Aluminum rings in Matte Frost and Matte Titanium Grey and accented by 172 Anodized Aluminum scales and 820 5/32” 18gauge rings.  Our model here is a Women’s size 8, but chainmaille can be pretty forgiving- she could likely fit up to a 10.  A bit smaller? Maille hugs the female form in a very flattering way, the extra simply makes her longer.

 

 

Valentines Day

Valentines Day is fast approaching, but we’ve got you covered.

Necklace and Earrings

Jealous Heart is made with Anodized Aluminum rings and measures 18” with a magnetic clasp and matching earrings. Free shipping in the US.

$45.00

Necklace and Earrings

Pure Heart is a necklace made with Anodized Aluminum rings measuring 18” with a magnetic clasp and matching earrings. Free shipping within the US

$45.00

Necklace and Earrings

Opposites Attract is a chainmaille necklace made with Anodized Aluminum rings measuring 18” with a magnetic clasp and matching earrings. Free Shipping inside the US.

$45.00

Necklace and Earrings

Optimistic Love is a chainmaille necklace in Anodized Aluminum rings measuring 18” with a magnetic clasp and matching earrings. Free Shipping within the US.

$45.00

Necklace and Earrings

Red Hot Love is a chainmaille necklace made of Anodized Aluminum rings, measuring 18” with a magnetic clasp and matching earrings. Free shipping within the US.

$45.00

Necklace and Earrings

Black Heart is a chainmaille necklace made with Anodized Aluminum rings that measures 18” with a magnetic clasp and matching pair of earrings. Free Shipping within the US.

$45.00

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