Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday

Wow! I really need to go to a good craft show or two to browse soon. I’ve always enjoyed the craft sections of various food and music festivals as well as community street fairs, but so far this season, it’s been pretty slim pickin’s at those events.


This past Saturday, I did not expect a huge selection of crafts as we were attending a music event at a fairly small venue and the crafts were simply supplementary. The audience was limited (no more than 1500 paid attendees) and the same people would be spending the entire day at the event. In past years, there were only 6-8 crafters but they were usually of decent quality and, while they didn’t set the world on fire, they did make some money. From the participants’ point of view, the space fee was very reasonable, they were set up inside a building which was open on one end for high visibility, located right in the center of the event and, an added plus, the beer stand was also located in the corner of that building creating fairly heavy traffic in and out all day, right up to closing. (This is an annual family-oriented event, with security and rowdy drunks are not a factor.)

I was surprised to find only one “craft” display this year and, to be honest, I question whether the product was actually handcrafted. This was an extremely large display of tie-dyed shirts, dresses, scarves and do-rags. Also in the craft area was an Avon display and a booth promoting the services of a local bank. The “crafter” did sell quite a bit as he was the only game in town and folks do go there expecting to buy something.


On Sunday, we attended a food and music festival which advertised an arts and crafts section. Well, there was an aisle for those booths but, again, I had trouble locating true crafts. There were six jewelry booths but only two featured actual handmade merchandise. The others were commercially made buy/sell items. There was also a small display of wooden boxes and trays. Accompanying those sellers were a booth featuring hats of all types, a make your own sand art stand, a local newspaper subscription promotion, one Pampered Chef exhibit and someone selling incense of all shapes and sizes as well as small brass and bamboo trinkets (obviously commercially made.) At the end of that aisle was a large booth where the sponsors were offering children’s activities and make and take crafts for the little ones. I did, however, see a few clever display methods. (More on those later.)

A few jewelry rants:

There seems to be a huge amount of commercially made, buy/sell jewelry being exhibited at “craft” shows lately. They’re even turning up at some of the nicer juried shows. When I noticed this and felt it was somewhat blatant at a show run by a promoter that I’ve known for quite some time and respected for the excellent shows she has delivered over the years, I asked her why she was allowing these sellers at her shows.

This promoter stated it was her belief that allowing them to display their “nice” buy/sell merchandise in an attractive manner (Their booth display was eye-catching and well done.) was better than having empty spaces. She felt customers would balk at paying for admission to a craft show that was not full but would not object to the presence of these exhibitors. She actually indicated she did not feel the average customer would notice. Because they were comparatively priced with those who were creating their own merchandise, it was her belief, their participation would not hurt the true jeweler’s sales. She claims her true crafters have not objected.

I, as a customer, do object to their presence at a craft show and I told her this. I would actually rather see a smaller show than see the same merchandise I can find at my local K-Mart and such. I also pointed out that, if she is doing this at all of her shows, it may be why she is unable to fill the space she has allotted for jewelry with actual crafters.

I also find it hard to believe the true jewelers involved do not object. I believe they are simply remaining quiet as the shows are generally well advertised and attended and sales are healthy (even this year). It’s time these folks, both sellers and customers, voiced their objections. Make a point of complaining to the show organizers, committees, sponsors and/or directors about the presence of buy/sell. If these groups still want to allow these vendors to take part in the event, let’s not call it a “craft show“. Simply refer to it as a “market” or a “fair.”

My second jewelry complaint concerns the proliferation of “jewelers” who are simply stringing beads together to form a single strand necklace or bracelet and filling an entire booth with this sort of production. Some have actually learned the art of attaching a clasp to the string but there are a number of sellers simply using elastic cording and tying it off, similar to the second-graders’ Mother’s Day project! Technically, these pieces are handmade and, since they chose the type and color of the beads to put in whatever order, I suppose you could stretch that into claiming they “designed” it, too. Again, as a shopper I am very disappointed when I come across these booths.

What’s really sad to say, is that all of these vendors are selling and making a profit at craft shows!

An interesting display method -

I recently saw an interesting jewelry display using birdcages of all things! Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me. This lady had a six foot table display with a black tablecloth. She had created several display levels using boxes covered in the same cloth and situated three large, different shaped birdcages, all painted black, around the table on these varying heights. She had draped some plain, green silk ivy vines around the table surface and over the cages. There were some short pieces of 1“-2” thick tree branches also set about the tabletop. At both ends of the table stood a single large free-standing birdcage (the type that stands on a pole-type base). Again, both were painted black. She had her earrings mounted on bright pink cards and hung those cards on the two high birdcages and on one of the smaller tabletop cages. Her necklaces and bracelets were draped over various parts of the tabletop cages. She had propped a few short tree limbs inside the cages on the table and had some items draped over those branches, too. Some bracelets and necklaces were simply laying on the table cloth or draped on the ivy and pieces of tree branches. There was a large plush parrot in various shades of pink perched on top of one of the tall cages. The parrot is what caught my eye from a distance and drew me over to the display from across the room. This was one attractive display and made you really want to find something to buy from the booth.

The earring cards measured 2 ½“x 3” and simply featured the business name in black letters in the lower left corner. The price was handwritten on the back of the card and contact information was stamped there also. Matching pink business cards were attached to the necklaces and bracelets with prices written on the back.

***The only drawbacks to this display I could see was the fact that the birdcages take up a lot of transport room requiring a fairly large vehicle and the time it must have taken to unpack and pack the jewelry as the display pieces could not simply be packed complete with jewelry.


I have some other displays to tell you about, but they'll have to wait for another Wednesday when I again Work the Shows with and for you.

In the meantime, go out there and sell some crafts!!

1 comment:

Hollyrocks said...

"I also pointed out that, if she is doing this at all of her shows, it may be why she is unable to fill the space she has allotted for jewelry with actual crafters."

As a jewelry maker, I wanted to tell you that I agree with this statement. I have set up at many shows where I watched vendors opening their jewelry from plastic packages before setting it up. Those same sellers would undercut my prices with their cheap, unethically made jewelry, and customers flocked to them. Often times, they were given prime booth locations. And I get sick of taking my work, which I put my heart and soul into, to a show where I am set up next to people selling tupperware and Mary K. I know there is a market for these things, but I have noticed that I don't do as well at shows where they are allowed. I do well at shows that are geared toward ACTUAL crafts because shoppers are specifically looking for handmade items.

Because of this pattern, I no longer set up at craft shows unless they REQUIRE vendors to sell only handmade items. It's mostly a business decision, since I seem to make better sales at shows like that anyway. But it's also a principle thing. So you're right, it's no wonder your friend can't fill up her booth spaces. I know of quite a few people who share my opinion on "craft shows" where the vast majority of vendors are selling items that are in no way handmade.