I thought I'd see lots of crafts this past weekend but found only a few at one of the venues I attended. It did feel good, however, to see some excellent workmanship (that was lacking last week when I checked out the vendors at a different venue).
High Quality Crafts at a Small Venue
On Saturday, we attended a Wine and Herb Festival at our local winery, Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Maryland. This is an annual event, normally occurring over Memorial Day weekend kicking off their weekly summer events, and is the only outdoor event there featuring craft vendors. In addition to the crafts, there are some gourmet food vendors and a large nursery display of herbs and seasonal plants. As they do not have a huge amount of space available, craft spaces are limited in number but are right in the activity area, not set off to the side and difficult to view. They do an excellent job of maintaining quality and only allow one vendor for each particular craft. I have never personally exhibited at this venue and do not know what the fees are but the merchandise tends to be a little pricier.
We were seated near a stained glass artist and a wood crafter. Both were return vendors from years past and have some beautiful and unique items. The number of sales are not overwhelming but are satisfying enough to keep them coming back each year. I did see them each make a fair number of sales.
This stained glass artist is the only one I have ever seen feature some large yard designs like blue herons and sunflowers with posts to sink into the ground. I think they are quite eye-catching and, I am sure, they glisten magnificently in the sunlight. I would be afraid to leave one in my yard, both for fear it would be "removed" by someone who liked it like I do or get broken by the strong winds we get. Did I mention they cost several hundred dollars? In all fairness, they also offer more reasonably sized (but still fairly large) and priced pieces to hang both indoors and out. There are some fantastic birds, butterflies and flowers (all three on some pieces) that will hang from a tree (like a bird feeder) and wave in the breeze and sparkle in the sunlight. They also have the common suncatchers, candle jars, lamps and more.
The wood crafter offers some absolutely gorgeous cutting boards ranging from about 5" x 7" to something about 14" by 24". They can be a simple plain piece of wood with an attractive grain design, a piece that has been adorned in some way (with stains) or some really lovely "pieced" boards that give the effect of a wooden quilt and are truly works of art. (The latter was priced at $229.00 and I would be afraid to mess it up by using it for its intended purpose!) All are finished to perfection. He also has mugs and tankards that are made from pieced wood and finished to make them practical to use. These make really unique gift pieces and are true conversation starters as they, too, are works of art. The mugs and smaller cutting boards are more reasonably priced.
Noteable about these vendors...
Both of these sellers had custom designed their booths with strong wooden frames as they both featured heavy merchandise and both, regularly sell at outdoor events , subjecting them to weather issues. Both also had several items designed more to catch the eyes of potential customers than to sell easily, but they did draw the lookers in and get them asking questions and looking more closely at the smaller, less expensive items. In basic merchandising terms, they had come ons to draw customers. I doubt they sell many of the big blue herons as I question the practicality of these items, but people stop and look. The majority of us are not using $200 cutting boards on a daily basis either, but they drew us over to see the other merchandise.(One of the smaller boards did go home with one of our gang.)
I was concerned attendance may be down as they held it the week after the holiday this year. The joke was on me. I haven't seen official numbers but it seemed to be a record-size crowd. All of these people (2500-3000 folks) paid to get in and then spent several hours as a captive audience enjoying the picnic style venue, music and wine. The odds of selling there were fairly good.
Craft Show Horror Stories (and Laughable Moments)
Not intending to scare you away from the business, but to let you know what can really happen at shows to regular folks like you and I, I must call your attention to this fascinating thread on one of the Etsy forums. Just when you think you've heard it all, along comes another crafter with an even funnier, shocking or just plain baffling tale of woe!
Just a sampling of what's there:
**After hearing the accounts of many of us caught in torrential downpours associated with passing hurricanes or sudden tornadoes popping up, one Californian commented they were glad to live in California where, although they deal with earthquakes, they don't name them!
**One crafter tells of arriving at a large international jewelry show in Frankfort, Germany with all of their display equipment and their laptop only to realize all of the actual jewelry was at home! (Apparently not close enough to go get it.) Well, they went ahead and set up and used the laptop to show pictures of the jewelry and to show off their website. Customers found the big empty booth amusing but, amazingly, they did place orders and the crafter did fine! They do ask though, what could they have made WITH the product to display?
**And then, there's the new tongue-in-cheek crafter's show checklist ("must haves") composed by ScenicNewYork which includes, among others: mace (for the drunks), kid repellents (for the sticky fingers at street shows), sea monkeys (that famous come on to attract customers) and an airhorn (to drown out the noise of a neighbor featuring a unique musical instrument or other noisy product).
Need a good laugh? Go read this thread. It is hilarious and grows by the day. (As of this morning, it is up to 31 pages!)
Hopefully, all your shows are going well and sales are plentiful. May the sun keep shining and the winds be small.