Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another day at the winery and more new merchandise


Oh, Wow! What a fantabulous day! The weather could not be better.

Once again we went to a music thing at a winery! (We must be becoming winos!!) Actually, we only went through one bottle between us. (And it was a different winery!)This time we were at Boordy Vineyards in northern Baltimore County (MD). You can bring in anything non-alcoholic, so we also had water, iced tea and sodas. The Big Guy's brother and s-i-l joined us and a couple of friends of hers. There was live Jimmy Buffet style music and several thousand of our closest friends! In fact, one of our "bestest" friends, seated next to us, shared some yummy homemade peanut butter fudge! (Actually, we all just met her when she passed
the tray with the fudge but we now love her. The fudge was terrific!)

A local creamery was there with fantastic, smooth and delicious ice cream. The Big Guy couldn't resist and bought us all some to share. Those little plastic spoons couldn't cut it (no pun intended) for dipping, so they used a knife. We literally stabbed chunks of the ice cream to get it out and, for lack of bowls, we filled our wine glasses with ice cream. (No, we didn't make floats but it was discussed.) Hey, go with whatever it takes!
Okay, some did use regular plastic cups but I had mine in a wine glass!!

----------
More new stock:

I did promise pics of more new products. I just posted this one in the shop today. It's official title is Hungry Kitty Apron. For details, click here. Let me know what you think of it.











Since all work and no play, makes for a really dull existence. I'm signing out and going out to play for a while.


Y'all have a great one!!!



Friday, May 29, 2009

Part VII - Marketing Series on Craft Shows - Bits'n'Pieces

This is the final segment of this series. (Okay, please keep the cheers to a low buzz.) Here, I'm just going to throw out some last thoughts on the matter and then turn you loose. I hope you have gained some helpful information from this series.

There is no way I can begin to cover everything, nor do I know everything. The craft show business is constantly changing and I learn something from every show. Please continue to stop in on Wednesdays for my ongoing feature of Working the Shows Wednesdays where I will be giving new, comments, display ideas and other show tidbits every week.

--------
Show Log Book

As you do shows, you should maintain an ongoing record about each show. I keep mine in a loose leaf notebook. Include all the basic info, the full name of the show, date, contact info for the show director, space price and any other expenses (application fees, electrical fees, etc.) I note total sales, and total expenses (hotel, tolls, food, etc.) I now add a photo of my display at that show. (I just snap it with my pocket-size diigtal camera and print out on my computer. ) Make notes as to any details about the space, i.e. lumpy ground, poor lighting, excellent location, near restroom, etc. Is there anything special you want to remember about this show? (great food, top-notch entertainment, un-Godly heat or hum idity, unsupervised children running amok, etc.) Was there one product that was really moving well? (You'll want to remember this next year.) I also attach a copy of any mapquest directions I used and any notes about a different route or any detail about getting there. I always note the total mileage to the the show and how much gas I used. (At $4/gallon, this was vital info to consider.) Sometimes I attach any paperwork sent by the show committee about layout, etc. If you decide to do this show again next year, this information will be very helpful.

Price Tags

Be sure to have prices attached to or posted for every item you are selling. Customers tend not to ask. if they can't see how much it is, they simply move on. It is bad form to haggle or negotiate with customers at a show. It is acceptable to make a deal if a customer is buying multiple pricey items. It is also frowned upon, and often prohibited, to post "clearance" signs or "end of season sale" signs. "Show Special" on a specific item or group of items is acceptable if posted in a dignified manner. (For example, a single earring display stand with a 3"x5" card reading "Show Special" would be appropriate.)

Cash/Checks/Other
Know ahead of time what payment choices you will accept. Be prepared for those payment methods. Have adequate change available. Do not expect customers to have exact change. If you will be charging sales tax, have a sales tax chart readily available to allow quick and accurate calculations. Have pennies available for that purpose and do not attempt to "round off." It is unprofessional and illegal.

If you are sharing a booth with another seller, discuss before hand how money will be handled and how combination purchases (things from both of you) will be packed, etc. If it appears to be one display, customers will not expect to deal with each of you separately.

Attitude
Regardless of what happens at the show or why, maintain a cheerful and friendly attitude for your customers. They won't buy from a frowning, grumpy vendor. (They just may run for the hills.) If sales are slow, do not whine. Your customer and neighbors do not want to hear it. Stay ujpbeat. You can always cry all the way home or beat up your pillow before turning in for the night. SMILE, it really does help sales.

Be ready on time...
If the show starts at 9 a.m. be ready to sell at that time. Allow plenty of time for set-up. If possible, be ready earlier than the opening moment. By the same token, never close down before the appointed break-down time, regardless of how bad sales may be. (The exception here is devastating weather. We've all bee forced to accept defeat from time-to-time.) Breaking down early hurts both your fellow crafters, your reputation and, most of all, your potential customers. Many a person has returned to me late in a show to purchase that bigger item they needed to think about. Many like to see everything at the show before making their buys. i've also made many sales becasue I was the last one standing when latecomers came by.

Display Pics
Take pictures of every display you do. Review them later and decide what works and doesn't work. Don't count on your memory to recall how you did it last time. Many show applications also require pictures of your display as part of the jury process so you will be prepared.

Most Important:
Have plenty of stock of product. Take more than you could possibly imagine selling. Have it all tagged with information identifying you so they can get in touch with you for more. Drop business cards into every bag.
--------------

I know there are so many more things to mention and suggest. I will be adding those comments along the way in Working the Shows Wednesdays.

So, go out there prepared for anything, and have a good, profitable and, most of all, enjoyable show! I'd love to hear about your experiences and see pictures. Contact me at Splashincrafts@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You can't sell from an empty shop!!

I was reminded of an old rule of business this past week - You can't sell from an empty shop! Or, to paraphrase, you can't sell from a shop that has nothing new to catch your regular customers' attention.

It seemed I just couldn't get motivated to produce new products for a while there. Oh, I came up with ideas and sketched them out but when it came time to actually sit down and begin painting, it seemed I always found something else that really "needed" to be tended to right at that very moment. Then, it seemed my sales were slowing down some and, some weeks, they were practically non-existent. I decided I needed to promote. I looked in the shop and discovered there really wasn't anything new to promote. That woke me up!

I immediately turned to and started painting. I'm now in the process of adding items to my Etsy shop and stock-piling for my next show. (Yep, I stopped procrastinating and went ahead and got those applications in, too.) I even got a box of new merchandise out to one of my brick and mortar shops! They got them in this week and have already sold some of the new items. Sales are great motivators and I'm now plugging along at a respectable pace again.
Thought I'd share a few of the new things with you. Above, the crabby outfit is one of my oldest designs and one of my best sellers. It's almost summer and, around here (being the Chesapeake Bay area), that puts folks in a "crab" mood. I've now built up a stock of these in the full range of sizes for the upcoming show. (This one often sells out at shows.) Another axiom of the craft business: Try not to run out of your best items!

And here are some of the newer designs:






































All of these will be listed in the shop by the end of the weekend. (Some are already there!)



Some have designs on both the front and back!









I have more new designs that will be going in the shop next week (and, hopefully the week after that and so on and so on...) I'll be sharing them along the way, too.

Don't forget Part VII (the final segment) of the Marketing Series on Craft Shows will post tomorrow.

Hope you're all out there working on your crafts or at least doing something creative.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday

Welcome to my new weekly feature - Working the Shows Wednesday! Beginning with today's post, I'll bring you weekly craft show info, commentary, advice, etc. every Wednesday. This is a separate feature from my Marketing Series articles. While the Craft Show Marketing Series will end later this week, the Wednesday features will continue indefinitely.
---------------
Jewelry Displays
This display by Avocado Creations, demonstrates the effect of upright jewelry table displays, a hanging earring display and the overall impact of a neat, uncluttered table display. (See http://www.avocadocreations.etsy.com/.)

Up first this week, is some display information that pertains specifically to jewelry vendors. Because of its size, jewelry is often hard to display in an eye catching manner. Your display needs to catch the attention of those passing by and draw them closer to get a look at your terrific merchandise. In most cases, jewelry displays best on a solid colored background. The contrast of dark colored velvet or velour gives many pieces a visual pop. (Velour tends to be a more "easy care" fabric than velvet but has the same visual effect. It is also usually cheaper.) Many sellers believe something with sparkle will make the jewelry look brighter but my personal thought is it takes away from the product.

This display shows how a busy table cloth pattern can really take away from the jewelry displayed on it. the bracelets laying on the table simply seem to disappear amid the print. Even the hanging necklaces that are not against the fabric seem to be less impressive just by proximity to the busy pattern - kind of "guilty by association."

Very few pieces show well simply laying flat on the table. We have addressed varying the height of the display in earlier posts but in the case of jewelry, angling a display is also important. Jewelry boards can be leaned up against an easel or a higher shelf. This allows necklaces and earrings to hang giving the same effect they will give when worn by the buyer. I have seen folks create their own necklace displays by forming low cones from tag board or card stock, draping them with lightweight fabric and then hanging the necklaces over them creating an upright display. (Again, this varies your display levels.) One attractive display had some interesting pieces of driftwood and a few very large conch shells sitting on the table with necklaces draped over them. They really caught my eye!

Many upright earring display racks can be purchased very inexpensively in stores such as Walmart, Dollar General, and others. I have seen a number of vendors make their own jewelry boards using a picture frame and backing the frame with window screening or plastic canvas mesh. They then prop these frames upright and the earrings hang easily on the mesh.

Rings are somewhat difficult to display without a commercial ring display case with the foam inserts. You can make such displays using a piece of 1" - 1 1/2" foam rubber cut to fit a box lid. Using a box cutter, you can then form slits in which to display the rings. This looks best when the whole display is then propped at a slight angle toward the front of the table. I have also seen rings shown very effectively in a terra cotta flowerpot saucer filled with colored fish tank gravel, sand or even dried beans. The rings are simply set upright in the gravel. Another creative display involved hand silhouettes cut from heavy cardboard and spray painted in solid color with the rings displayed on the spread fingers. The hands were attached to small blocks of wood to hold them upright.

One of the most creative bracelet displays I've seen lately involved stuffed, long formal gloves (the kind that go almost up to the elbow). They had a few simply laying on the table with the bracelets on the "arms" and had one or two supported by dowels standing in an upright position with the bracelets pinned in place. The jeweler told me she bought them at a consignment store shortly after prom season for only $1.00 a pair. She had dyed them dark colors - black, navy and emerald green to best show off the bracelets. They were getting a tremendous amount of attention.

It is important to keep jewelry displays clean and uncluttered looking. Too much, jammed too close together will cause all of the items to simply blend and make it difficult for customers to appreciate the beauty of each individual piece.

***For a very interesting and easy to make earring display, check out the blog post dated 5/25/09 at http://www.indiecraftshows.com/blog/. The post actually tells you exactly how to make the display.

------------

The good news is, even with today's economy, Spring shows seem to be doing well. Crafters around the country are reporting good shows. Some have even set attendance records and those folks are buying.

------------
Not to scare anyone off but for some frightening accounts of weather complicating a show this past week, check out http://merlavageimages.blogspot.com/2009/05/delfest-2009-big-storm.html for reports, pictures and videos of wind, hail and rain destruction at the Delfest in Cumberland, Maryland. Delfest is a large, 3-day music festival with a large number of vendors and several stages. A large number of attendees camp there for the weekend. A sudden storm, referred to as a micro burst (similar to a small tornado) ripped through the festival, destroying many tents, canopies, stands and equipment within an hour's time. The good news is, there were only minor injuries and I'm told everyone turned to and helped pick up the pieces. Musical performers actually took the stage again shortly after the storm although a number of vendors were left without booths of any kind and lost a large quantity of merchandise. These accounts underline the necessity of weights and other weather precautions and point up the benefits of booth insurance to cover both the vendors' own losses as well as the damages done by their flying equipment. (An EZ Up frame actually went through a car window.)

-----------
Tune in next Wednesday for more craft show chatter.

***The final segment of the Craft Show Marketing Series will run this Friday with bits and pieces of helpful information and tips to give you a better selling experience.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Part VI - Marketing Series on Craft Shows - "Must Haves"

Now that you have your show lined up and your display planned out (I'm assuming you've been making merchandise to sell!), you need to start gathering your "Must Haves." These are those items that you need to take with you for every show as you will either definitely need them at each show or may possibly need them for emergency fixes, display problems or personal needs. Most are self-explanatory and some you'll think are so obvious that you'll wonder why I bothered listing them. (I probably put them on the list because, at one time or another, I didn't have it with me!)

These items should probably be considered part of your display supplies and should be kept with the display pieces when stored. (I keep everything except the first two in a large Rubbermaid box.)

Chairs (You'd be surprised how many folks "forget" them.)
Weights for the display
Table covers
Tarps/plastic sheeting in case of rain
Small hammer
Duct tape
Twine
Clothes pins (These come in handy for securing table covers and more at various times.)

These basic items are part of your general business supplies and should be kept ready to grab for every show. (I use a plastic tackle box for mine.)
Scotch tape
Receipt book
Scissors
Paper
Straight pins
Safety pins
Ball point pens/pencils
Markers (A fine point felt marker for tagging and signs when necessary.)
Paper/Cards (for notes and table top signs)
Extra tags
Paper clips (can be used so many ways)
Twist ties
Some large trash bags
Bags and wrapping supplies for your products
Business cards
Your mailing list book (or something for folks to sign)
Any other brochures, list of upcoming shows or other P.R. handouts for your customers
First aid supplies (bandaids, antiseptic, gauze, tweezers)
Needle and threads (if applicable to emergency repairs to your products)
Glue (if applicable for emergency repairs for your products)
Hand sanitizer and/or wipes

I also carry the following:
Paper towels
A small broom and dustpan (I have arrived at shows to find broken glass, trash and more in my space.)
Bug spray (invaluable at times!)
A small roll of toilet tissue (especially when using port-a-pottys)
Sunscreen

For each show, I also pack:
Change (You'd be surprised how many people forget to bring change.)
Any applicable licenses and permits
A cooler with beverages and some snacks (There are times you will not be able to get away from your booth at all.)
A change of clothes (I have done shows where I have gotten soaked through with a sudden storm, have had something spilled on me before the show even starts or have just generally gotten dirty in the process of setting up.)

I have tried to list everything I have in my Must Haves but each individual finds specific items they need. This is a jumping off point. Remember, it is better to drag it with you and not need it than to desperately need something that you don't have.

The final segment of this Marketing Series will run on Friday with some general odds and ends of advice and suggestions.

Tomorrow, I will begin my new weekly feature of Working the Shows Wednesdays, which will offer more show advice, commentary, display suggestions or just general show news and trends.

What a great holiday weekend!

I meant to post this last night but, to be honest, I partied hearty and simply didn't have it in me!
On Saturday, we loaded up the car and headed off to a winery (Linganore Vineyards at Berrywine Plantation) for the day. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we found us a nice spot at the top of the hill in the shade. A very slight breeze blew and it was wonderful! A few thousand of "our closest friends" joined us for some great Caribbean music, wine sampling and a little shopping at the craft booths. ( Actually, it was the most crowded we have ever seen this venue. We were almost elbow-to-elbow with the folks next to us!)

I was disappointed in the "craft" selections. There were a few really nice and well-made jewelers, one good bath and body lotion stand, a cast iron plant stand and pole man, and one or two others that I thought were of good quality. There were a few jewelry folks who have simply learned to thread beads onto an elastic string and a few by-sell jewelry stands. There were some other by-sells and at least two import stands. I'm not sure if they've increased the space rentals to the point where true craftsmen have trouble with the expense or what but the selection of quality crafts has definitely gone down this year. I did not see anything "impressive."


We started Sunday off with going out to breakfast and our plan was to go home for a few hours and then head out for a free blues concert in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and The Big Guy came up with an alternative plan which involved doing some yard maintenance and fixing a nice roast on the grill. We got a fair amount done and made a fantastic dinner for just the two of us. In retrospect, one of the tastiest meals of the week!


Yesterday, our next-door neighbor held a cook-out with just a few neighbors, family and friends. Despite a cloudburst which sent us scrambling inside for an hour or so, it was a fun and relaxing day involving tons of food and karaoke. We were the lucky recipients of a huge pile of leftovers at the end of the day. I may not need to cook all week!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Part V -Marketing Series on Craft Shows - More Display Info

Announcing a new weekly feature: “Working the Shows Wednesdays

This is the second part of my discussion concerning craft booth displays and set-up. These are just the basics. There is so much more to talk about that I’ve decided to begin a weekly feature dealing specifically with the how-tos of doing shows. At the moment, I’m planning to run those posts on Wednesdays each week. They will not be part of this Marketing Series. As I mentioned the other day, there will be one post specifically dealing with displaying and showing jewelry. I will try to present that to you next Wednesday.

-------------------
Part V of Craft Show Marketing Series : More Display Info

This is yet another set up done by Charm City Soaps. Check them out at www.charmcitysoaps.etsy.com


So, have you come up with some display ideas for your upcoming show yet?

Stability should be a primary consideration. Your table or display WILL get bumped and leaned on. Never underestimate the power of a “light breeze.” Your display has to be able to stand up to a fair amount of jostling. Otherwise you’re dealing with a house of cards and we all know what happens to them.

Remember, a collapsing booth display may not just effect you. In many shows, we are set up close enough to our neighbors that a falling display can have a domino effect. You don’t want to destroy that beautiful stained glass display next door.

I’m a big believer in using weights. I always weight my tables with homemade sandbags. I simply sewed two 20” x 8” rectangles of canvas together. I folded the rectangle in half end-to-end and stitched across that line. I then filled each end of the rectangle with 4-5 lbs of playground sand. They’re easy to pack and carry. I simply drop the sand bags over the rungs of my tables for 16-20 lbs of extra support to keep that table secure. They are hidden from sight by my table covers. Many folks use plastic jugs filled with water as weights. Again, inexpensive and easy to make.

I do NOT agree with tying all of your tables and display pieces to each other for securing them. In my experience, a good wind can then take the entire display over with one strong gust. This is not to say, I have never tied one lightweight rack to one table for extra support for the rack. Remember, my tables are weighted individually.

Are you using a canopy or tent? Do you know how to put it up? Can you do it alone or with the help that will be with you? You cannot count on a Good Samaritan or your neighbor for assistance with this. (I know this is a problem for me as I am fairly short and cannot reach the joints to snap everything into place.)

Be aware that canopies can easily grab the wind and take off like a giant parachute! I have seen them fly and roll several aisles away, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Again, you must consider weighting or staking the canopy itself. Do not assume you can use tent stakes just because your space is on dirt or grass. Many shows prohibit stakes for a variety of reasons, underground sprinkling systems, soil damage (I have been told this one!) and, the most common reason, tent stakes tend to create hazardous conditions for pedestrians near the tent.

You should ALWAYS carry weights for your canopy regardless of whether you notice a wind or not. There are many commercially available weights and there are numerous inexpensive homemade weights that can be made. Sand bags and water jugs tend to be the most common. Many folks also fill pieces of PVC pipe with concrete and hang them for weights. I also believe canopies with additional cross-bar supports are best. I feel most of the “cheaper” (under $75) canopies are not good choices for craft shows as they tend to be flimsy and really need to be staked.

If you are making do this time around, a nice beach umbrella with a solid stand should work well. Be sure you are able to handle the base to get it to your space. You may not be able to drive right up to your location.

If you are sure you can put your canopy up on your own, a second issue becomes, can you do it in a timely fashion?

Once you have figured out how you plan to set up your booth, do it. If it is an outdoor show, set it up in your yard. Indoor show? Try your basement or garage. Mark out the assigned space size and set it up. Do it several times. Time it. Be sure you can set the entire display up and be ready to sell in 2 hours or less. Often, you may have more time and, frequently, less. It is vital that you be ready for business when the show opens.

Setting it up and breaking it down will also point out any problems you may encounter. It gives you a chance to resolve difficulties or eliminate problem pieces. Fix any problems you come across now, BEFORE you are at the show without tools or supplies you may need.

Take pictures and make notes while doing these dry runs. Note what tools you need for set-up. Add these to your Must Haves list. The pictures will help you remember how you did it.

Finally, load the display in and out of your vehicle, several times. Figure the best way to put it in. I try for the reverse order from my set up procedure with the tables going in last and coming out first. Remember to leave room for you actual merchandise, cooler and anyone who may be riding with you.

Keep in mind, that many shows require you to pull in, dump your stuff and move your car out as soon as possible.

This great display is one done by Avocado Creations. She has hung her fabric shopping bags from a "tree" she made by using sturdy branches from her maple tree and " planting" them in a plastic pot of concrete. Definitely an attention getter. (A bit hard to transport though.) She has a folding wire rack on the left that folds flat for traveling and the pots of flowers add a nice inviting touch. She has a clear and visible sign and her table display is neat and pulled together looking. The booth is inviting us to enter and look around. (You can check out this merchandise at www. avocadocreations.etsy.com.)

Oh, one more thing -- Be sure you are prepared for the weather, even if it isn’t forecast. Carry enough plastic drop cloths and/or tarps to throw over your display in case of a sudden storm. They can come out of nowhere without warning. Do not count on your canopy being enough to keep your work dry. It usually won’t. I also usually carry a box of yard and leaf size garbage bags. There have been times when all I could do was drop my merchandise in those bags as quick as possible to prevent damage and loss.

Be aware that water will collect on top of your canopy. Know how to dump it without drowning those around you.

There is so much more to say about displays. Please watch for those Working the Shows Wednesdays posts in the weeks to come.

Part VI of this Marketing Series will help you make your Must Haves list (everything you should have with you to do your show.) There will also be a few pointers about the merchandise you plan to sell although you are on your own to design and produce that!

Have a great weekend, y’all!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another sneak peek ...

Yep, still painting.
Definitely feels good to be replenishing the stock. I've been bursting with new ideas for designs and being very productive for the last few days. Believe me, when the urge strikes, I like to go with the flow. Here's another peek at things to come...

I'll be adding these items one at a time to my Etsy shop starting tomorrow. I find adding one item per day keeps my views flowing better than adding all at once.

-----------

After a hard day at the brushes, we went for a fun evening - BBQ and some great live oldies rock music. It was an absolute beautiful day and evening here (60ish and sunny at 6 p.m.) and one of the best BBQ restaurants in the Baltimore area was holding an outdoor party on their parking lot.

If you're ever in the northern Baltimore County area and looking for some true slow cooked and smoked food, stop in at Andy Nelson's. Andy was a Baltimore Colt back in their glory days but he grew up in a Que-ing family and definitely knows how to smoke a great brisket (and ribs, and chicken, and fish, and more!) Another member of the Nelson family, Linda, makes all the homemade, Southern style desserts and sings the blues and some old-style rock with the best of them. She and The Jody West Band (a popular band in these parts) played while we enjoyed some brisket sandwiches. They certainly drew a crowd for a Thursday night! A good time was had by all!

Well, it's back to the drawing board (literally) in the morning.

Don't forget to check out Part V of the Craft Show Marketing Series here tomorrow. See y'all then.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Part IV of Craft Show Marketing Series

**NOTE: Part V of this series will also deal with Displays and will be posted on Friday.
--------------

So, you’re now officially about to do your very first craft show. You’ve done your research, asked all the right questions, been accepted and paid your money. You now have a goal date looming out there in front of you. Now, you need to prepare.

In addition to producing as much merchandise to sell as you can, you need to think about your display and gather what you will need to show off your work to its best advantage.
Since this article is geared toward those doing their first shows, I will not suggest you go out and a spend a fortune on the perfect display rack. Such commercially available racks and stands are quite costly and should only be invested in when you know you will be doing a large number of shows and you have determined that the item will truly show your products off in such a manner as to “pay for themselves” in sales. Many great and effective booths have consisted of a very basic, single table display or with a few basic display pieces that were found around the house.

If time permits in the weeks before your show, visit a large craft show specifically to look at how folks are displaying their wares. Look to see what displays attract your attention and why. Which ones seem to get the attention of the shoppers? What pulls the customers over to the tables? Will any of these ideas work with your merchandise?

Many craftspeople will be glad to discuss where they purchased a display rack or how they made it, as long as you approach them when they are not busy getting set up or waiting on customers. **Never interrupt a sales pitch or approach a seller who seems to have a booth full of customers. Wait until there is a lull in traffic. Also, do not simply take photographs of a booth you like unless you have spoken with the seller and asked their permission.

(You can check out Seaside Quilts' merchandise at www.seasidequilts.com.)

Now, armed with some ideas, take inventory of what you have to work with and then beg, borrow or make do. Aha! You thought I might say “steal,” didn’t you? I can’t condone that. However, if a great piece is sitting out at the curb with somebody’s trash or hanging at the dumpster behind the mall… Well now, that’s just up for grabs.)

Basics
At an absolute minimum, you will need some sort of table, a chair, a sign and a tablecloth.

Tables
Determine which and how many tables you will be using for your display. Be sure they are solid. Customers will bump, lean on and otherwise shake your table. Wobbly displays will fall over, damaging the merchandise and possibly injuring a potential customer. If the table is not solid, figure a way to stabilize it or find another table. **Remember, you need to be able to transport and handle the table. Keep size and weight in mind.

Table Covers
Once you have selected your table(s), find appropriate tablecloths. Tables should have floor length covers on all selling sides. (* Many shows actually require this.) In most cases, solid colors are preferable. A busy table covering will usually detract form the merchandise displayed on it. There are, of course, exceptions. I have seen crazy quilts, camo or other themed cloths work well with specific products. You will need to take an honest look at your table and determine if your creations “disappear” on any such print.

Many people use flat sheets or pieces of inexpensive fabrics for their covers and simply pin or tape them in place. (*When draping the table, remember to pin the corners flat as a loose drape can create a tripping hazard for customers which can spell disaster.) Whatever you use, they must be clean, unstained and pressed to look professional. If using multiple tables, they should be matched, or at least, color-coordinated. (*If you choose to continue doing shows and will be using the same tables, I suggest making fitted cloths for your tables. They are simple to make and save loads of time during set-up.)

Chairs
You will need something to sit on at your booth. It is unlikely, you will be able to stand throughout the entire show. Your chair/stool should be neat in appearance, somewhat compact (space is always at a premium) and should be something you can get up and down from easily and quickly.

Sign
You really must post some sort of easily viewed sign telling folks who you are. They need to be able to remember whose booth they saw that perfect gift at so they can come back and get it before leaving the show! You are a craftsperson. You can make a sign. It can be fabric, tag board or wood but it needs to get your name out there in front. It should be large enough to see from a short distance and clear enough to read easily. It should not resemble the daily Jumble. Most of those sellers in these pictures have done this well.

Making the most of your table space:
Most of us need to use very inch available when setting up our displays. It is both eye-appealing and effective use of space to create multiple display levels on top of your table. This can be accomplished by adding shelves, table top racks and building up levels with the use of boxes.
Charm City Soaps, has one of the most effective, basic displays I’ve seen. She uses one small table with several low shelves supported by solid boxes to create some height. The display is neat and pulled-together and looks inviting. She has visible signage so we know who she is and there is a price guide posted. She can keep extra stock under her covered table and even has room to display samples. (Interested in seeing more about Charm City Soaps? Check out www.charmcitysoaps.etsy.com.)

Avoid simply plopping your merchandise in flat piles on your table. They won’t catch the eye of a passer by and lots of customers will do just that - pass right on by. Flat fabric creations can be difficult to display but there are simple ways.
Rachel of Seaside Quilts uses baskets to create visual interest on her tables. This picture shows her creative display of burp cloths. (Check Rachel's wares out at www.Seasidequilts.com.)

What if your merchandise is not table-oriented?
A lot of merchandise simply doesn’t show well on a table. Some things need to be up where they can hang and be seen. Some folks have found a simple clothing tree works well for this purpose. A simple clothing rack like many of us use at home can be used for displaying clothing. (This pic is from www.artifacthandmade.etsy.com) Others have figured ways to string a clothesline (This works especially well if you are using a canopy. You can run lines from one support leg to another and then simply use clothespins to hang items.) (More on hanging displays in Part V of this series on Friday.)

Don’t have a tent or canopy?
While some shows require tents/canopies, they remain optional at most events. (Tents will be addressed further in Part V of this series on Friday.) While they are wonderful additions to help protect against the elements and provide all kinds of display opportunities, there are other solutions if you don’t have one. An attractive beach umbrella can create a simple and cute effect while still protecting you and your merchandise from the sun. Sara has also used hers to help display her purses (Extra stock and other colors are displayed flat on the table but there are eye-catching hanging pieces.) She has also designed and built a very simple stand-alone stand to display her purses in an easy to view manner. (Sara does not have an active online sales presence at the moment but can be contacted through Craftster using the member name of Dishwasher 182. I’ll keep you posted on when and if she sets up shop in the near future.)

This is just a start. There is so much more to say about displays. Part V will be posted on Friday and will discuss more display issues. Jewelry display is a subject unto itself and I will address that in a separate post. I will also discuss some really unique, more involved displays in a separate post. These will not be part of the Marketing Series but will run in the next week or so.

Display Rules to Keep in Mind:
1. Be sure whatever display pieces you use are stable. You do not want them to fall over when bumped or if the wind blows.
2. Keep the appearance of the overall display neat and put-together. Color coordinate your display. Avoid a cluttered appearance.
3. Be sure you can handle the equipment. Keep weight and bulk in mind as you need to be able to transport and handle these pieces.
4. Keep your set-up flexible. While billed as 10’x10’, a space may not be perfectly square or there may be some other factor to consider and you may need to juggle a bit.

Be sure to check in on Friday for more display information in Part V of this Marketing Series.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Take a sneak peek --

It's been another productive day. I've been busy doing quite a bit of painting. My stock was down and it really reflected in my sales both online and off. I've managed to create quite a lot of items in just a few days of buckling down.


Unfortunately, that did cut into my computer time. Something had to give. I didn't really take time to prepare a post for tonight so I'll just give you a peek at some of the forthcoming merchandise. These are in-progress pics so the finished products will be different yet.






Look for these items to show up in my shop within the next week or two. I generally only post one item per day when adding merchandise.


Remember, Part IV of my Craft Show Marketing Series will run tomorrow.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"I feel good!'

Just wanted to share one more of those gray-sky beach pictures from the weekend!
--------------
"I feel good!" I got a lot done today.

Today was one of those "behind the scenes" kind of work day.

I'm still tweaking those promotional items I told you about the other day. I've got one definite and I'm still on the fence about the other two designs, not to mention the two others I have yet to sketch out. I did do some work on those today.

I had a considerable amount of research to do for a couple of articles I'm working on. As they finish and are published, I will tell you about them. All are craft related. I did complete one of the drafts and need to go back and polish it up tomorrow.

I've just about finished Part IV of the Craft Show Marketing Series. That should run here on Wednesday. This one deals with creating an eye-catching and deal-sealing display booth, hopefully, without breaking the bank.

I finished a few new products but didn't get the photos done today. I hope to get them in my Etsy shop within a few days.

For my final act of the day - I dug into my "Rethink Box." That's a box I toss my non-sellers into and then, from time to time, go back and try to rethink the presentation or change the product in some way to make it more marketable. In most cases, I do manage to do something different and put it back in the marketplace and it does sell. The funny thing is, that's usually the thing someone thinks is fantastic and wants it in other sizes or colors. too. i managed to rethink two items. One is going to simply be presented in a new way and the other is being altered and changed a bit.

I think it was a good day, all in all. (Very productive.)

So, what can you accomplish today? (Do you have a "Rethink Box" too?)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday's post on EARLY Monday morning!

Wow, did we have a full weekend!!

For several weeks we've been trying to accomplish one of our annual rituals of Spring - visiting the ocean for a day trip and walking the boardwalk before the season officially kicks in on Memorial Day. (We live about 2 1/2 hours from the beach.) We usually try to do this in April but hadn't been able to get there so we decided Saturday was THE day to do it. It was really hazy and foggy when we left home early in the morning. We were headed for Ocean City, New Jersey, a resort town located about a half hour south of Atlantic City.

On our way, we stopped at Cowtown in Woodstown, New Jersey, to shop at the market there. Cowtown is a twice weekly market with stalls featuring everything from underwear to Amish meats to cell phone equipment and garden supplies. Just about all of the merchandise is new, mostly closeouts or knock-off look-a-likes, edible or home grown. There are some bargains to be had if you know what you're getting. We bought some edibles, socks for me, an extra auto plug for my cell, and a few other stray items.
There are always a few things to make you smile when you're wandering through the stalls. Many of the sellers are not fluent in English which often results in some amusing signs. One lingerie stand quoted prices for bras in terms of $$ per "pair". You can imagine some of the comments we discussed with regard to that. We still aren't sure whether one bra constitutes "a pair" or if that was another way of doing a 2 for 1 deal.

I had hoped to have some bright beautiful pictures of the beach for you but the closer we got to the beach the foggier it got. At one point, you could only see about 4 blocks down the boardwalk. I took pics they're just not real bright. Even with the heavy fog and SPF 30, I managed to get a little too much sunburn.


Ocean City is a quaint little town with beautiful residential areas lots of historic buildings and a bustling Main Street type shopping area as well as the traditional boardwalk shops. We arrived in the middle of a Heart Walk on the boards so we took some time to simply sit on a bench and watch the folks go by and enjoy the ocean air. Once the walk was over, there was a band playing and some healthy cooking demonstrations. We enjoyed the band while having a customary frozen custard (probably not real heart healthy), bought a tub of caramel popcorn (again of questionable health value)

and walked through some of my favorite shops. While the boards feature plenty of fast food, junk shops and such, they also have a number of truly interesting , high quality gift shops that actually feature some excellent handcrafted gifts. We also spent a lot of time simply sitting on the benches and watching the waves roll in and inhaling that wonderful combination of sea salt and sand while the sea gulls squawked all around us. It was a fantastic day!!


Today, we didn't risk any more sunburn. We attended a Blues for the Cure concert at a club in Middletown, Delaware. It was held inside and in fairly dim light. I'm sure my skin thanks me for this! There were 6 or 7 bands scheduled but we only stayed for the first three as we were expecting guests at our house this evening. As it turned out, our plans changed and we headed over to the casino for a few hours where we ran into other folks we knew and had a bite to eat with them.

So, that, folks, is why Sunday's post didn't get here until early Monday morning!! I've been really busy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Creating Swag ...

It was an absolutely beautiful day here today with temps climbing into the 80 range and the sun shining brightly. Unfortunately, I had a lot to do and ended up staying inside and just looking out from time to time. Isn't that the way things always seem to go?

Yes, I was stuck inside straining my creative brain! I had some work to do preparing some promotional materials. I have the opportunity to provide merchandise for swag bags for a number of events in the next few weeks. I always try to tie my promo item to the event's theme and three of those events will center on the same theme. The only variation being location. There will be some overlap of attendees at those events so I'd really like to do something different for each.

Each swag bag contains about 15 items from various types of businesses and civic groups and it is really hard to come up with something that will stand out. I've done bookmarks, magnets, Christmas ornaments (at Fall events) and small stuffed animals. I want them to convey my general style with bright, colorful painting and a whimsical design. This is easier said than done! Again, I need to keep time and cost in mind.

I spent several hours simply sketching and designing. Once I came up with what I thought were a couple of workable ideas, I had to paint some prototypes to determine if the idea worked, if it can be done quickly enough and if it will actually be worth the cost. (Two of these events need about 100 pieces and the other about 75.)

I definitely think one of my ideas is a keeper. I'm still not sure about the other two. I need to let them sit and stare back at me for a day or two before making a final decision or tweeking them some more. One just seems to take too long to make and I need to rethink it and find a way to streamline it a bit. This can be quite frustrating when you need to rework it so much to cut the time and cost.

Ultimately, I have found these promo pieces do bring in some business and it spreads my identity throughout a larger part of the country, so I do believe they are worthwhile. If you get the chance, give it a shot. Some organizations I have worked with include sororities, college alumni groups and the Eastern Star. The latter two usually bring me lots of "buying Grandmas" (an ideal target market.) The three I worked on today are for a baby-boomer crowd with more men than women. I always find it harder to create give-aways for the men.

I have two other events that are unrelated and I still need to come up with designs for those. As I've said before, tomorrow is another day!

Y'all have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No motivation ...

Today was one of those days where I really had trouble getting motivated. I did what was "necessary" but just couldn't get in a creative or productive mood.

Instead, I played on the computer - "doing research" (if anyone asks.) In real terms , I was browsing other blogs, reading opinion sites, checking in on some forums I haven't visited in a while, etc. If I really stretch the concept, I can insist I was "working" since I did make a few notes as to interesting topics, good ideas or concepts to explore at a later time. Even armed with those notes and my book of blog ideas and notes, I'm still drawing a blank here tonight. So this is going to be a quickie.

---------------

In my internet wanderings, I did find a couple of new terms I plan to work into my vocabulary:

One I thought was great was a note about someone actually naming their craft room. She said it was so full of UFOs that she had begun calling it the "Procrastination Station." I really liked that one.

Another poor soul described her day as having been "craptastic." What a great word! It fits so many situations. I can't wait to use that one on my friends and family!

---------------

Quite a few folks provide an inspiring Quote of the Day. I like that idea so let's give it a shot here:

"People may not remember what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." -- from Finding Nemo


So, with that thought in mind, y'all go out there and treat somebody kindly tonight. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Part III of Craft Show Marketing Series: Questions to ask BEFORE signing on!

Now that you’ve had a few days to look around and do some research, you should have a list of possible shows you’d like to do. It’s time to make some calls and get down to setting it up.

Some of this information will be available on the show’s website (if there is one) and application/registration forms are often there, as well. You should still try to make personal contact with the director or show staff to ask some additional questions. When you make contact, there are some questions you should ask before committing to a show. Show directors are used to being asked these questions and will not be surprised or disturbed to have you ask.

Key questions for ALL shows:

Obviously, price and space size are of primary consideration. Is this a juried or non-juried show. If juried, what is the process?
Additionally you need to know: How many years has this show been held? How many crafters/artists will be participating? How many of these participants have done this show before? Are there limitations on numbers of folks in various categories like jewelry, woodworking, pottery, etc. Is there an admission fee for shoppers? How many shoppers/visitors has this show attracted in the past? What type of advertising and publicity will be done for the show? Is there any major change this year as opposed to previous years for this show? (Examples of this would be adding live entertainment, changing the venue, suddenly charging an admission, etc.)

Are there rules pertaining to your actual booth display such as specific tablecloth specifications, height limits, can you have a candle burning or music playing, signage, must all boxes be completely hidden, etc. Once you have these answers, you can make an educated decision as to whether or not this is the show for you.

If this is an indoor setup, ask what the access to the building is like. How close can you park to the door to unload? Are there steps to maneuver? How far will your space be from the door? Will everyone be unloading at the same entrance at the same time? Will you be set up against a wall? What is the lighting like in that room? Will all the displays be in one area or will they be in several rooms and/or hallways? If the answer is several locations throughout the building, what percentage of the crafters will be in the same area as your display? Will electricity be available, and if so, is there an additional charge?

***So what is the significance of these answers? The first four relate to how easy or difficult it will be for you to get your display into the space and set up. This will let you know if you need a wheeled cart or if one will even be of any use (steps) and will give you an idea of how much time will be required to just get your load inside the building. If everyone will be using the same entrance, you will want to get there as early as possible as this will be a very congested area and you may be double or even triple parked for the unloading process, causing some foot traffic congestion at the door. If you will be set up against a wall, you may want to take advantage of that with your display design. (In most cases, you will NOT be allowed to tape or attach in any way to the wall but may lean something against it.) Lighting is an important consideration as hallway spaces can be very dark even during the day and you may need to consider bringing your own lighting. The last question will tell you if your display will be away form the crowd or off the beaten path. If that is the case, you may not want to do this show.

If this is an outdoor show, a primary question is whether the event goes on rain or shine. You will want to know how close you can drive to your actual setup space. In some cases you can drive right up to the space but in many municipal parks you cannot drive onto the grass and must schlep your booth and merchandise a fair distance across rough ground. Again, you will need to know if steps or a steep hill is involved . Will your space be set on level ground or is it possible you will be adjusting to a hilly area. Can you drive support stakes into the ground? Is the show known for high winds? Is the show set up within a confined area or is there open access. (Open access often means there will be shoppers milling around while you are setting up.) What are the restroom facilities like? Is there a source for running water? Electrical access is somewhat rare at outdoor shows and almost always involves a sizeable fee and special arrangements.

After this discussion, be sure to thank the contact person for their time and assistance. Ask to be provided with an application or registration form and determine the deadline for submitting that form and the appropriate fees. (Often the forms will be available online.)

Armed with all of these answers, or at least as many as you can get, you must make the decision as to whether or not to do the show. Once you sign up to exhibit at an event, you are committed to that event or are out the money. In most cases, application and/or registration fees are non-refundable unless the show is canceled by the show sponsors. If it rains, and you simply decide not to do the show, you will be out the money.

***Fee Clarification - I have mentioned several fees throughout these articles. There are three distinct fees involved in doing craft shows. All of course, require a “registration fee” (also called “space rental fee“). Juried shows often require a “jury fee” (generally $5-$15) paid whether you are or are not accepted to participate. Some shows also require an “application fee”, paid up front with the jury fee but before the space rental. Again, application fees are never refundable.

I’m assuming you have found a good show to try for your first event, so go ahead, fill in the registration form and make it official. Now we’ve got a goal date to work toward in getting your display and merchandise ready.

A word about taxes and licensing:

At this point in time, you need to determine if you need a sales tax permit/license or vendor’s license of any kind. In most states that have sales taxes, you will be required to collect that tax for ALL sales made within the state. Many states have temporary permits/licenses available that will cover one specific event or a specific time period (often 30 or 90 days). There is normally not any fee to obtain a sales tax permit. Applications can often be done online or by phone. You will need to contact your State office of taxation for information about obtaining such a permit/license.

The County Clerk’s office can generally tell you if you need a vendor’s permit/license. In most cases, a vendor’s permit is not needed for craft shows where you are selling merchandise handmade by you. (Resale items normally DO require such a license.) I have done a few shows where a municipality did require temporary permits but that information was provided by the show promoter and generally was handled through them.

Okay, go out there and get that paperwork done! We'll meet back here to discuss the booth setup and displays you will need in Part IV of this series.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Celebrating --

Well, today is our anniversary, so I sort of took the day off. I lounged around most of the day enjoying the warm sunshine. Then, when The Big Guy came home we went out to celebrate. We don't usually make a huge thing of it - just sort of have a quiet "date."

We went to see the new Star Trek movie and it is fantastic!! They did such a terrific job of casting the young Kirk, Spock, Scotty, McCoy, Sulu, Uhura and Checkov. Yes, Leonard Nimoy is there, too, in a surprising role. You can honestly picture them growing into the characters we knew so well. The special effects are awesome! If you can possibly see it in the theater, you should. While it will still look good at home on the TV set, it is really impressive on the big screen. We actually sprang for the extra couple of bucks and saw it on the IMAX screen.

The evening was completed by a stop at our favorite micro-brewery (which just happens to be right across from the theater) where we had a couple of brews and a few appetizers for dinner. (They've got a nacho platter with chili that could count as a full meal!)

I think I'm just going to keep the mood flowing and call it a night.

See y'all tomorrow!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Answers to the Mom Trivia Questions

Okay. Okay. By popular request, I will provide some background info on those Mom’s I talked about yesterday. Apparently some of those rhetorical questions stumped a few of you!

Phylicia Rashad
Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show is currently a spokesperson for Jenny Craig and can be seen nightly on our TV sets showing off her new slimmer figure. She currently directs live theater productions. **Interesting note: In 2004, an Opinion Research Corp. poll named her “The TV mom closest to your own mom in spirit.” She and Cliff Huxtable were raising five children on that show: Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. Interestingly all are still acting. “Sondra” is in a 2009 movie “The Stalker Within.” She owns her own interior design business and is active in live theater. “Denise” currently is seen in “Life on Mars.” “Theo” is currently doing some acting, performs with his jazz/funk band Miles Long and won "Celebrity Poker Showdown" in 2003. “Vanessa” can be seen in “The Replacements” and also has two movies in post-production at this time. “Rudy,” who was only 5 when The Cosby Show started, graduated from Spelman College in 2001 and has been seen in House of Payne and in the movie Madea Goes to Jail.

I guess their kids turned out pretty good. Just proves love, lots of humor and two really healthy incomes can give kids a great start in life!!

Barbara Billingsley
It wasn’t easy for June Cleaver to clean house and cook in those nice, freshly pressed dresses, pumps and pearls, let alone look after two rambunctious boys! Now 93, she is still acting. She appeared in an episode My Name is Earl in 2007. On Leave It to Beaver, she and Ward used gentle guidance and words of wisdom to raise Wally and Theodore (“The Beave”). Wally is now 64 and creates sculptures, mostly working in bronze. “Beaver,” believe it or not, will turn 60 in June! He keeps busy doing live theater on Broadway these days.

Okay, humor and wise anecdotes raise good kids.

Jane Wyatt
She died of natural causes at the age of 96 in 2006. **Interesting note: Also known for her portrayal of Spock's human mother on Star Trek. Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best, she helped husband, Jim, raise their three children, Bud, Betty and Kathy. Betty (Princess), now 72, is still acting in live theater and was in the movie Princess Diaries 2 in 2003. Bud, now 71, was involved in Speedway Motorcycle Racing in the 70s, 80s and 90s. He invented the F1 Guitar Pick (I bet you always wondered about that!) And little Kathy (Kitten) will be 64 this year. She had a very rough real-life family situation and was married at age 16 and divorced by 18. She got involved with heroin and prostitution. In 1973, she finally got her life together, started a family and was last known to be working as a hotel concierge in Orlando.

Maybe if that show had stayed on the air longer, Father would have known best and been able to keep her on the straight and narrow.

Bonnie Franklin
Bonnie has stayed busy performing in live theater throughout the Northeast and is now very involved with bringing theater into the school system in Pasadena, CA, working closely with several high schools and helping to develop a theater curriculum. As Annie Romano on One Day At A Time, Bonnie was one of the early single moms on TV. (The first one I remember was Diahann Carroll as Julia.) She struggled to raise Julie and Barbara despite the help of her (overly) friendly apartment super. “Barbara” has done okay for the most part. She married and eventually divorced Eddie Van Halen with whom she has a son. She’s currently serving as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig and showing off her new body. She also appears as a regular guest on The Rachel Ray Show, helping with various features. Julie, ran through a bad time with drugs and alcohol and was eventually fired from the show. She eventually completed rehab and got her life together. She is acting again and has a 2009 TV movie, Radio Needles. You may also have seen her guesting on Cold Case, 7th Heaven, Without a Trace, and more. She has also performed with her dad, John Phillips, in his group The Mamas and The Papas.

We learned just how tough doing it all on your own can be from Bonnie.

Meredith Baxter
A breast cancer survivor, she’s still acting. We’ll see her next in a 2009 TV movie, Bound By A Secret. Elyse and Steven Keaton, on Family Ties, did their best to raise four kids: Alex, Mallory, Jennifer and Andrew. We all know where “Alex” is. In fact, he had a TV special on this past Friday about dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. Mallory is still acting, most recently in Psych, Californication and Desperate Housewives. Jennifer is married with two children and has performed with her brother’s band, Jaded. Andrew retired from acting at the age of 14 in 1995 and has had a number of run-ins with the law. He is a member of the band Thrasher.

Again, it’s that youngest one that was a problem. Why couldn’t he be more like his brother, Alex?

Harriet Nelson
Harriet passed in 1994 of congestive heart failure. Together with her husband, Ozzie, she helped raise real-life sons David and Ricky Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. If I remember correctly, Ozzie actually did most of the writing and directing himself, basing the story lines on their real life at home. David is a film producer and Ricky went on to become a very successful singer before his death in a plane crash on December 31, 1985. Ricky fathered actress Tracy Nelson, singers Matthew and Gunner (The Nelsons) and Sam Nelson, who also sings.

Since Ozzie was often as much trouble as the kids, Harriet proved a strong mom can keep the family healthy, functioning and semi-happy.


Carolyn Jones
We lost Carolyn to colon cancer in 1983. **Interesting tidbit - she was once married to Aaron Spelling. She and Gomez Adams raised Pugsley and Wednesday on The Adams Family in a rather “unique” manner with the help of a loving and “helpful” extended family. Wednesday grew up to do PR work for a hotel chain. Pugsley is a set-builder for TV shows.

What do you know? Even an off-the-wall childhood can create somewhat “normal” adults!

Just goes to show you, there’s lots of ways to raise your kids and no one method is fool proof or guaranteed to create happy successful grownups. All one can do, is go with your gut feelings, love them with all your soul and sit back and laugh whenever possible. Most really do recall the love later on and they’ll always remember the laughs. Those are the stories they’ll repeat to their grandchildren one day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day !!!!

REMEMBERING MOMS ---


Mothers most of us have known and loved through the years:



Can you name them all?



Character names?



Can you name their TV kids?






Where are they now?


How did their kids turn out?





Okay, I'll make it easy on you. Top to Bottom: Phylicia Rashad (Claire Huxtable), Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), Jane Wyatt - (Margaret Anderson), Bonnie Franklin (Annie Romano), Meredith Baxter (Elyse Keaton), Harriet Nelson (Harriet Nelson), Carolyn Jones (Morticia Adams);

Okay, I'll name just a few of the kids -- Pugsley, Ricky, Alex, Barbara, Kitten, Wally, Theo - (You can take it from here! I can't do all the remembering for you!)

----------------

Hope you enjoyed a great day, today.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Help!! We're being invaded!!!

There's thousands of them, maybe even a million, maybe more. They're little, sneaky, extremely quiet and really fast! They weren't there at all and I turned around and a whole army had appeared instantly!! The ants are coming...they're everywhere!!! (Or at least all over the dining room floor!)

To be more exact - they WERE there. I think I've taken control and gotten all those suckers out'a there. At least for now.

Seriously, I consider us lucky. They usually come in along about mid-March. This is our first invasion of the year. (One more "pleasure" of living with woods near the house!) I'm sure we will see them again and again and probably, yet again. A couple years back we just could never gain control. We tried everything, even an exterminator.

I have to admit, we don't handle them in a green or organic manner. We tried and we haven't found a working method. Don't tell me to plant mint. That's where they've established their headquarters - in our mint patch. Last year, we were forced to give up fresh mint as we needed to treat that area - several times. Cayenne pepper does nothing to head them off either. We read books that said they would not cross a pepper line. Oh yeah? Beg to differ there, Dear.

We spray. We bomb. We use both indoor and outdoor traps. We try to be meticulous about keeping the floors and counter surfaces clean. We've blasted the chimney, inside and out. They were literally walking two stories up the outside of the chimney and coming down the inside!

I found them this morning which immediately changed my plans for the day. They weren't there last night when I scrubbed the floor. (I have ceramic tile in my dining room.) I immediately sprayed the floor. Then I needed to wait while the spray dried and killed them off. At that point, I needed to scrub the floor to get rid of the spray. (I treat sprayed surfaces like a communicable disease!) Then, to be safe, I scrubbed everything in the room. Finally, I did treat the perimeter of the room. (We do not have pets on the floor. We only have tropical fish and we don't spray in that room at all.) I placed a few strategic traps in corners under furniture.

Then, just to be positive they were under control I scrubbed the kitchen down, too. Note: No ants have been seen in the kitchen. Yet.

Well, so much for well laid plans. I was working on a commissioned article about finding inspiration when I found the ants, instead. Made we wonder if anyone had been inspired by ANTS.

Well, here are just a few ant-inspired items I found on an Etsy search!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Part II of Craft Show Marketing Series - Finding the Shows

I know I don't usually run the segments of my Marketing Series on consecutive days but this Part is merely a continuation of the posting from yesterday. The next segment will not run until next week.

--------------
Okay, now that you’ve figured out what type of show you are looking for, how do you go about finding one?

First of all, set a date in your mind as to when you would want to do such a show. Having a goal date will keep you focused and help to move you forward in your plans. Be sure to allow time to obtain any tax permits you will need, time to gather all the supplies and equipment you will need and, most important, time to make enough product. (Each of these aspects will be discussed later.)

If this is your first craft show ever, I suggest you aim at a smaller show, located semi-near home and in a moderate price range. It is best if your first show is a one-day affair, or at least no longer than 2 days. There will be a lot of responsibilities and new problems coming at you and you don’t want to be totally overwhelmed with your first effort.

If you already have a specific event in mind that you have seen and thought would be the right venue for you, try to obtain information concerning that show. The most obvious approach is to go online and search the name of the event if you know it. Most well-established events have their own website. If you know someone who has exhibited there as a crafter or vendor of some sort, ask them who you can contact. Do you know who sponsors the event (the City, business association, school, etc.) ? If so, call that office and ask if they can provide a contact name.

*It is important to realize that many larger and established events take applications up to a year ahead of the event’s date and you may not be able to simply waltz in and sign up. Many shows have a limited number of crafts spaces and have a waiting list for available spaces. If you run into this, simply ask to be put on the list for next year and keep looking for the right venue for you to do this time around.

Ask at your local craft supply stores and check the bulletin boards in your local grocery stores, libraries and coffee shops. Keep an eye on your daily paper and check local weekly and monthly publications for both your community and others nearby. All of these publications tend to run calendars of community events. * As many of these events are not listed until a week or two before they occur, I have also gone online (or to the library where necessary) and checked last year’s issues for the time period I am considering. Most events occur annually at or near the same time of year. Contacting last year’s contact name will usually get you to who is running that event this year.

You may also call your local Chamber of Commerce and your parks and Recreation Council and ask if they know of any upcoming arts and crafts events in the area. As my merchandise is child- oriented, I have, at times, even called a selection of local schools and asked if they were holding any such events within the next few months. (I long ago discovered my target market is frequently found at private grade schools.)

Most States have a tourist office that publishes some sort of state-wide calendar of events. This is a great place to start. In just about every State, you can access this information online. I live in Maryland and find this info very easy to find by simply searching the words “Maryland Events.” In addition to the State’s listing, you will also come up with a number of other listings relating to activities in your State. Some sites will be produced by counties, municipalities, non-profits and more. You can also search “arts and crafts fairs in [Maryland]“ , or “art festivals in […]“ Try any variation of these terms you can think of.

As I like to do street fairs and community festivals I also use those terms but, I would not recommend them for a first time craft vendor. I pick and choose these carefully. At those events, you will be competing with many others for sales, not just craftspeople. There will be lots of by/sell, imports and junk in general. Customers are not attending a street fair necessarily looking for crafts.

Some sites will be trying to sell you a subscription. For now, stick to the free listings. If you decide to go into doing craft shows on a frequent basis later, you can consider such services.
Jot down the names and dates of those events you feel you may be interested in. Unless you are new to the area, you should be familiar with some of these events and can make an educated guess as to which would be appropriate for you. Hopefully, you will have even visited a few of these events in the past and have a feel for those. I know our State calendar lists phone numbers and/or websites for contacting each event‘s committee. Should that information not be available, try searching the name of the event online.

Generally, crafters are a friendly lot and, as long as your product is not in direct competition with theirs, will usually be more than happy to provide advice and information about upcoming events. Walk through as many craft fairs as you can and talk with the vendors. Tell them you will soon be doing your first show and ask them what shows you might consider. If you have signed up for one already, ask if they are familiar with that show and do they have any specific suggestions (or warnings) about doing that show. (Warnings can be as innocuous as knowing the crowds swarm very early in the day, sometimes before the official opening. This does happen - often. It is fantastic to know this as you can’t sell if you’re not set up yet! We do one show that “opens” at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, but there are large crowds milling about by 7 a.m.!! We have actually begun setting up in the dark there.)

If you are an active participant in an online forum, you might also try asking there if folks in your area know of shows you might try. A number of sites actually have threads devoted to this information for specific geographical locations. Once you have signed up for a show, you might also ask for advice about that particular event on those forums.

There are also numerous publications and paid craft sites that list shows and helpful information about each. I will, at some point list those sites I am aware of but that will not be part of this particular Marketing Series. I’m sure you will come across some of those in your general web search. Until you are sure, you want to continue doing shows (Yes, a number of folks only do them ONCE!), I see no reason to make such financial investments.

*There’s still more information about finding shows I want to share but I’ll put that at the end of this series as those events are more appropriate for the experienced show vendor.

In Part III of this Marketing Series, I will address the questions you should ask and the information you need you get when you make contact with the show director.

Again, we’ve reached the point where we should all take a breather. You need to turn to and work up that list of possible shows and find the appropriate contact numbers or sites. I have some shows to visit this weekend (assuming the weather cooperates.)

Have a good and creative weekend.