I participated in my first craft show last weekend, the Crafting Patch Market in Charlotte, NC. I was very nervous beforehand and stayed up way too late to get every last skein of yarn labeled. It all paid off in a lovely day (no hint of Hurricane Hannah) filled with fantastic people and a real sense of community. Despite being well-prepared by reading everything I could about doing a craft fair, there were still a few things that surprised me:

  1. A festival provides indispensable feedback on your marketing plan. Online buyers see & buy without disclosing what prompted the purchase. Did they seek me out? Did they stumble upon me? At this festival, several knitters came specifically to see me (thanks to my posting on forums, the blog, etc). Others registered recognition when they read my label. The feeling was indescribable. People recognized Blonde Chicken Boutique as a brand. The thought still makes me all sparkle-y.
  2. Instant feedback is a drug that I'm afraid I may be addicted to. Sending out yarn to my lovely online customers, feels a bit like sending my squishy friends into the ether. They may show up on Flickr or Ravelry, but mostly I release them into the wild with hopes that they find a good set of needles (or at least a comfy stash to marinate in). Watching a real, live, chatty, interesting person walk away with my yarn is ridiculously satisfying.
  3. Describing a product is entirely different in person. The long, descriptive prose that is so necessary to sell a tactile item online isn't necessary in person. The customer has the squishy soft item in their hand and can clearly see the colors. This may seem obvious, but after writing web copy for so long, I had to remember it while writing the labels. I also had to scale back on the descriptive talk with most customers. Some people want to know all about the farm where the sheep who grew that wool was raised, but some don't.
  4. Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilerating. After years of waitressing, followed by 2 years managing a retail studio, I was expecting the usual exhaustion of a day filled with smiling at people and describing the product. I was shocked by how different this experience was. Yes, I was tired, but I was exhilarated. Selling someone apple pie is NOTHING like sharing a passion for creating!
  5. You don't have to (and probably can't) fake enthusiasm. For the first time in my customer service experience, I didn't need to tell myself “be nice”. The fiber artists came in, chatted and I was overwhelmed with happy, smiling words. I nearly hugged someone (everyone). It was ridiculous (but I didn't hug anyone other than my husband, so don't be afraid to come by my next booth!) Describing my process, demonstrating the wheel, chatting fiber, it was all so FUN!
5 ½ . I want to do it again! Ok, this isn't so shocking, because I've already agreed to do National Alpaca Farm Day at Silver Thunder Alpacas and have been accepted by Craft Attack. But I am surprised at how much I'm looking forward to the events. I am shocked at how much the experience has cemented that live, in-person selling needs to be a part of my overall business plan.

So if you're thinking about doing a craft show, I strongly encourage you try one. Find an inexpensive option (like a small one, or share a booth) and go after it! You may find it shockingly fun!


Edited a year later, to add:

Thanks to my continued great experiences at craft shows, I got a lot of questions about how to make it work. If you want to try this very satisfying experience, I put together a class, How to Rock a Craft Show.
If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better,
check it out!

21 Comments on 5½ Shocking Facts about Craft Fairs

  1. Scarf It Up!
    September 9, 2008 at 7:15 pm (11 years ago)

    This is a fabulous blog post – so well-written and SO passionate! I’m thrilled to hear that your experience was so positive. I’ve applied to the Handmade Market in Raleigh in November – an indoor show – and will hope (if accepted ) to have a similarly positive experience. Thanks for all the heads-up.

    BTW, do you know anything about the Handmade Market? If so, could you email me at: scarfitup [at] ec.rr.com.

    Thanks,
    Louise

  2. thaneeya
    September 9, 2008 at 7:16 pm (11 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing your insights! I’m glad the craft fair experience was such a positive one for you. Best of luck with the upcoming fairs!

  3. Mary V. Smith
    September 9, 2008 at 7:24 pm (11 years ago)

    Congrats on your fair…I have similar feelings when I do shows! Selling your work person-to-person validates what we do as Artists/Craftspeople!

  4. Jen Hintz
    September 9, 2008 at 7:26 pm (11 years ago)

    I had so much fun meeting you at the Crafting Patch, and I’m still petting my banana-fiber yarn!
    I haven’t done any fairs yet, but I’m hoping to do Crafting Patch next year. See you there! =)

  5. Amanda
    September 9, 2008 at 7:34 pm (11 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and linking the post on Etsy too! I’m going to be in my first show in November with a group and I am so nervous, but I can’t wait!
    All the Best,
    Amanda

  6. liz aka hobbledehoy
    September 9, 2008 at 7:37 pm (11 years ago)

    wow, thanks for the post! I’m still a bit scared/sketchy about attending a craft fair, mostly because the single one I vended at was barely attended.

    You’re right about the instant gratification of watching people with the yarn you spun. It’s surreal, each little skein has it’s own little personality, and watching them walk away with someone who loves them is a thrill!

    And YAY! People recognized your brand! That’s super-awesome!

  7. Christie Cottage
    September 9, 2008 at 7:45 pm (11 years ago)

    Enjoyed your post. Craft shows are exhilirating! Oh, and exhausting too!

    I highly recommend them!

    Thanks for sharring!
    http://christiecottage.etsy.com

  8. Helen (Secret Lentil)
    September 9, 2008 at 7:46 pm (11 years ago)

    Yes! Yes to everything you said. It’s so energizing. Plus I get to see people try my clothes on – that is absolutely priceless – much better than shipping them off in a box. (Um, not the people, the clothes.)

    I have a show in a few weeks and I can’t wait to interact with real people again. And every time I finish sewing something I think, oh good, if this sells I don’t have to photograph it and write about it!

  9. Broken China Treasures
    September 9, 2008 at 8:01 pm (11 years ago)

    Congratulations on surviving your first show!

    ~~ Tanya

  10. niftyknits
    September 9, 2008 at 8:24 pm (11 years ago)

    What an inspirational post – thank you! I have my first craft fair in October, I’m looking forward to it even more now.

  11. Havi Brooks (and duck)
    September 9, 2008 at 8:41 pm (11 years ago)

    Exciting!

    And yeah, you have a completely memorable stand-out brand.

    And yeah, talking about something you’re thrilled about is way more fun than talking up the daily special at a restaurant (unless you’re the chef?).

    Love it. Rock on.

  12. cloudlover
    September 9, 2008 at 8:53 pm (11 years ago)

    Thanks so much for posting about your experience! You can never really learn enough about these things. I’m doing my first show in Oct. and this post has me really revved up!

  13. Tanya
    September 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm (11 years ago)

    I participated in my first fair last weekend I completely agree with you here. Especially on # 5 and 6!!!! It’s really weird though, because I was a waitress for 5 years, and going on my second year at a chain portrait studio.. Definitely will be doing a ton more fairs and getting on my way of quitting my day job 🙂

  14. Confections
    September 12, 2008 at 1:15 pm (11 years ago)

    Great points! I’ll keep these in mind as I anticipate participating in my local farmer’s market.

  15. AnneMarie
    September 12, 2008 at 3:02 pm (11 years ago)

    Excellent – I’m glad your first experience was so positive. I love meeting people who already know my work. It happened to me again just the other day. Totally amazing!

  16. Alpaca Granny
    September 12, 2008 at 4:54 pm (11 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing your fun day.
    Maple

  17. Laurel
    March 28, 2009 at 9:12 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks for writing about this in such a straight-forward yet very descriptive way. I can really feel what it was like. I've been planning a similar type of yarn business for at least a year -while I finished a sweat-equity home building project. I'm calling mine Local Yarns.
    It's good to see others interested in the same thing.

    localyarns on Twitter

  18. Laurel
    March 29, 2009 at 1:12 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for writing about this in such a straight-forward yet very descriptive way. I can really feel what it was like. I've been planning a similar type of yarn business for at least a year -while I finished a sweat-equity home building project. I'm calling mine Local Yarns.
    It's good to see others interested in the same thing.

    localyarns on Twitter

  19. Lingslist
    August 30, 2010 at 12:48 am (9 years ago)

    I stumbled upon your blog by chance. Even though I’m not a craft person, never enjoyed it, but I can relate to the exhilaration that you described here! I sell books online and the first time I had a table set out at a function, the sense of achievement and pleasure when a sale was made was absolutely way too exciting compared to receiving an email to say that an order was placed. I get to ask what the customer’s need was and recommend a book that’s suitable. When the eyes lit up and say, “yup, that’s what I was looking for” , I felt so satisfied that I had helped someone today!

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Anonymous
    September 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm (9 years ago)

    I’m so glad you found something here you could relate to!
    And thanks for reminding me that I wrote this (a long time ago!) as I get
    ready to do my biggest show yet.

    Have a lovely weekend!