The Craft Show Experience
Did you ever wonder what goes into a craft show from a vendor’s point of view? I decided that I would try to document some of the “typical trail” that we crafters and artists have to follow to exhibit at a show.
To have a booth at the bigger shows, you have to have a business with a sales tax ID number. You should also be the original maker of the products. So, if you see a show coming up that looks promising, you send an application to the promoters.
As part of the application process, most times you have to be juried, so you also have to supply images of your products, pictures of your workshop, proof of tax ID and sometimes a check that is a jurying fee. Once this is finished you wait patiently for a reply from the promoter to find out whether you are in or you are out!
If you are accepted, the business side has to kick in because you need to buy materials, make products, price those products to sell and still be able to feed yourself and your business. You also have to make props, prepare a display for your products, figure out how to take various types of payment and design your product pitch. You should make sure you have enough business cards printed.
Closer to the time, you will have to prepare to be away for the weekend. Book hotels if necessary and make sure you are ready in case of bad weather.
All of that is just scratching the surface. These are all the things you do before you even think about plugging the address into your GPS.
The following is about my personal trip to the Letchworth Arts and Crafts show in New York. I did all of the above and when the time came, I realized that I had to go down there the day before to set up my booth because it was over 70 miles away from home and I wouldn’t have had time to set up on Saturday morning.
I didn’t want to splurge on a hotel unnecessarily, because I wasn’t sure how good sales were going to be, even though this is typically one of the best shows in Western New York. So, I set off on Friday afternoon…
The following pictures are a step-by-step story of my set up process.
Photo: The canopy is all that protects you and the valuable inventory from inclement weather
First you have to find your spot. This show is ideal because you can leave your trailer behind the booth.
Photo: Cement filled PVC tubes add about 40lbs of weight to each corner of the tent. The mesh helps to reduce wind load and still allows visibility
The next step is to assemble your tent. Don’t forget to make sure it is weighted down from the wind as well as protected against the rain. Securing it is also important because you are not there after the show closes.
Photo: The booth starts to take shape with tables, shelves and tarps; we heard it was going to rain.
Once your tent is set up, you’ll need to position your tables, shelves, cloths and signage. Then place your merchandise in the appropriate spots where prospective customers will best be able to view it.
Photo: It’s taking shape, time to position the products for maximum exposure
Once you’re all set up, you can drive home happy and excited because tomorrow you will be selling your products and putting all that invested money back in the bank…you hope.
The next morning, you leave bright and early in order to arrive with plenty of time to put the finishing touches on your booth. Then suddenly you realize you left the keys to your trailer on the kitchen table at home, 70 miles away. Your entire spare inventory is in the trailer.
Photo: We are raring to go. Up and on the road bright and early.
Luckily, you find a giant of a man with a set of bolt cutters who can cut the locks off for you; there goes your security for the night.
Photo: Park maintenance man to the rescue after I left the trailer keys at home…70 miles away
As it happened, Saturday was a good day for sales… (I did say good and not great.) Sunday was a little rainy, so the sales were about 1/2 of Saturday and Monday was about 1/2 of Sunday.
By the time I figured in my gas, my food, the booth fee, the jurying fee, the materials to build the products, the cost of the tent and the other marketing costs, I may have broke even, but it’s actually close to a loss.
So why do we do it? Because we are passionate about our products, we love the boost when we sell a piece and we love the feedback from customers – at least I do. We get exposure and hope there will be some after show business that comes our way, and we enjoy being with fellow crafters and artists because we have a fellowship in which we help each other out and recommend other shows to each other. We certainly don’t get rich. Oh, and our time is virtually free!
So when you venture out to a craft show next year, don’t just think about the piece you are buying. Think about all the talent, effort and thought that went into making that piece and it will give you and even greater appreciation for what you are spending your hard earned money on.