Arts and Crafts Show Reviews 2012–October and November

 

Annual Old Wethersfield Fall Craft Fair at Cove Park

Roseland Cottage Arts and Crafts Festival

Handmade with Love

Handicrafts and Collectibles Show

Keene Holiday Craft Fair
Annual Deerfield Police Association Craft Fair
Shepherd Hill’s Festival of Crafts



Annual Old Wethersfield Craft Fair at Cove Park

 
This is our second time selling in Old Wethersfield.  Two years ago we did well enough to return though most sales were moderately priced traditional jewelry.  Veteran vendors informed us that it was a down year. This year we were blessed with great weather for most of the day and terrific crowds.  People were lined up before 10 am despite an admission fee of $7.  While that might discourage some people from attending, it also means that those who come are there to buy.  And buy they did.
 
 
Three vendors near us with handmade stuffed or painted holiday decorations seemed to be doing well.  As was the woman selling dried flower wreaths.  Fine art didn’t fair as well except for one booth selling watercolors of local buildings and Victorian homes.  Small quilted items across from us seemed to be selling but larger bed quilts not so much. There were about 12 jewelry vendors, several selling gemstone jewelry.  As usual my steampunk style won praise for being unique.  It also won us many sales.  From past experience I would’ve thought my more traditional jewelry and silver would sell best.  But I sold primarily steampunk style including some higher end pieces.  So this year we took in 25% more than 2010.
 
This is a one-day craft show that takes place in Connecticut the first weekend of October.  There are about 100 vendors and the cost is $135. Once you’re accepted into this show you no longer need to be juried but only need to send in your application and booth fee for the next year.

Linda Willard runs this show with the help of her committee. She’s been doing this for many years so they all have it all down to a science. Pre-show communication is great. Linda responds herself to emails. They send directions to the show and a coupon for coffee and bagels in the morning.   You can drive right up to your booth space and there are volunteers to help you unload.  Thank you Alex and Cheyanne.  There is the option of a Friday set up.   Break down is also easy as you can again drive right up to your spot to load. The aisles between the tents are wide enough for cars from both sides.

This year there was a small farmer’s market (mostly pumpkins), a couple of food vendors with hot dogs and hamburgers or pizza and panini, live entertainment, and pony rides and llamas for the kids.  

Roseland Cottage Arts and Crafts Festival

Four years ago I had my best show ever at Roseland Cottage.  I was so excited about getting into that show again that I expected too much.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful show and we sold over 30 pieces of jewelry.  But we only made a bit more money than we did in Wethersfield, a 1-day show, the previous week.

Roseland is run by Historic New England and they’ve been doing this for a long time.  The group is well organized and responds to questions and concerns.  They provide vouchers for coffee and muffins each morning and allow vendors to use the indoor bathrooms.  Vendors also receive a list of B&Bs in the area and other places to stay.  

Roseland Cottage is in Woodstock, CT, a bit off the beaten path on Rt 169.  Yet this show brings in people from all over the area, people who wait for this show so they can begin their holiday shopping.  So traffic was heavy on Saturday and lots of people stopped in the booth.  But unlike 4 years ago, purchases were mostly in the under $60 range, with only a couple of higher priced pieces sold.  The Sunday rain kept people away until after 1pm and there were more lookers than buyers.  Two herbalists I know did exceptionally well.  Higher end fine art was not doing well at all.  My neighbor was selling hand woven chenille scarves and  also did well enough to return and the potter in the next booth does so well that she comes every year.  People who are able to shop in her nearby studio would rather come to Roseland Cottage to buy from her.  Moderately priced jewelers did well but the higher end ones made much fewer sales.

Friday load in is an option and I strongly suggest taking advantage of it.  Because load in is spaced out over a few hours, you can often drive right up to your space to unload.  But the aisles are narrow and don’t allow for 2 cars side by side so load out is chaos.  And even if you do get near your booth to pack up, getting out of the maze of cars can take awhile.

This show is worth a try. The jury changes each year so it can be a bit difficult to get in. This show was $150 this year with a $10 jury fee.  I did well enough to apply again next year.

Handmade with Love

I love this little show mostly because I know most of the other artisans.  And in between the waves of traffic I get caught up with people I don’t see often.   It’s an intimate show that takes place at Eastworks in Easthampton, MA.  This year there were 21 local artisans exhibiting and they collectively displayed a nice variety of handmade items.  The show is publicized well and they even scored a feature in the Hampshire Gazette!  Nice job.  As a result traffic was pretty steady all day.

While I didn’t do as well as I have in previous years, I did find out that hand decorated onsies were selling well, as were herbal  heat packs.  My neighbor selling greeting cards and small prints did extremely well with both her holiday items and her regular ones.  She was too busy to chat most of the day.  And I saw several  stuffed dogs from across the room leave the building.  Lower priced items seemed to sell best.  None of my expensive pieces went and people are still being very deliberate about what they buy and how much they spend.  I hope Pres. Obama can fix that problem for next year.

It’s a well organized show.  Communication is easy. Load in and out is pretty quick and easy with a ramp from the parking lot.  Spaces are 6′ x 8′.  This year’s cost was $45 and applications are available online.

Handicrafts and Collectibles Show

This show that takes place at the Salem Cross Inn in W. Brookfield, has been around for a number of years. As a result it has a following and despite an entrance fee, people are lined up at the door at 10am.  When weather is good traffic is between 800-1000 people.  And despite booths being spread out over 3 floors, people find them all.  They come from CT and RI as well as MA  prepared to buy with most paying with cash.

While I loved my roomy spot on the 2nd floor, I did need help carrying heavy tables and a suitcase of displays up the stairs.  There were 4 of us in one room with 4 more in the room beyond.  As with the Easthampton show, people were cautious about spending.  I did sell a couple of $65 necklaces but most other sales were below $50.  And again I didn’t do as well as the last time but I did sell a respectable 20 pieces of jewelry, both steampunk and fine silver.  Twice I was told that I deserve a prize for the most creative jewelry.  So I think people here do look for something different.

At this show holiday decorations sell best.  Wreaths and hand painted furniture were set up outside and there was a primitives artist across the room from me with wooden decorations.  From customers’ bags I noted lots of these larger items.  And the jelly lady, also in my room, cleaned up with $3 & $6 jars and catnip toys.  As I was alone I couldn’t tell how other jewelers were doing. They did spread us out nicely.  I do know that there was a silversmith in the basement room who has done this show for many years.  It’s the only show she travels west from the Boston area to do anymore.  So I would guess she always sells well.

This application eventually appears on the Salem Cross Inn website.  The show is juried and the cost is $75 for the booth and $15 if you want electricity.  I always opt for electricity as it’s an old historic building and can be rather dark in places.  It’s not an expensive show so I’d say it’s worth a try, particularly if you have something unique.

Keene Holiday Craft Fair (Keene, NH)
reviewed by Aviva Sieber

This show is always held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at Keene High School.

 
It’s a well run show and has a good amount of traffic for the morning until early afternoon.  Still some stragglers in the late afternoon.  It’s a decent show and I did better than I have in the previous years that I have done it (possibly due to the fact that they canceled their spring show).  Some vendors didn’t do so well (tables with strictly holiday oriented items, and some of the lesser quality items) and others did very well (American Girl clothing and mid-range jewelry was selling).  I do not believe that this would be a good show for fine art (my husband is a fine artist, but does not show at this fair).
 
I find that the people are very nice and understand quality.  I get several repeat customers each year.  Historically and today, items between $25-100 sell better than my low end (under $20).  My high end (over $200) pieces are always looked at and appreciated, but I have yet to sell one at this show.
 
 
 
Annual Deerfield Police Association Craft Fair

This is the 30th year for this local fundraiser for the Deerfield Police Association.  It always takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Frontier Regional School.  Having attended this show as a patron for many years (it’s a short walk from my house) I’m glad to see that it is finally growing and attracting some new vendors.  While still only having 5 jewelers, one of them, a glass bead artisan, is relatively new to the show and was selling very unique and beautiful pieces.  This year there were definitely more vendors than in previous years as some were in the hallway and a small group was located in the music room.  Normally it’s just the gym and part of the cafeteria.

One vendor selling stuffed snowmen, Santas, and whimsical holiday characters was a bit disappointed in the larger vendor turnout.  Once the only person selling these items she now competes with 2 others.  Last year a soap vendor was added, this year there were 3.  Polly French is the only fine artist consistently selling at this show.  There were 3 quilters and another 3 knitters, though 1 knitter said she was doing very well.  There was one potter, as I recall, and vendors selling honey, fudge, cookies, and  the always present jams, jellies and sauces.  I find this a great place to buy stocking stuffers, teacher gifts, and baby items.

I don’t have any traffic numbers but at 10am it was pretty crowded.  And people were buying.
I do know from 2 of the vendors and watching customers that higher priced items were not selling.  Typical of this year items under $50 were selling well and those under $20 were selling better.

I’m not certain how to apply for this show (maybe contact the Deerfield Police Association?) and the cost was $80 a couple years ago.  And after all these years I still don’t know if it’s the right venue for me.

Shepherd Hill’s Festival of Crafts

This show takes place at Shepherd Hill High School in Dudley, MA.  It’s off the beaten path and as one AWM artisan put it, “the drive was lovely”.  This show has been around for a number of years.  I did it in 2009 & 2010 and found it to be well organized with lots of load in and load out help from the student volunteers. 

Three of our members did the show this year.  One jeweler said she didn’t make enough to make it worthwhile to go back.  She also counted 44 people selling jewelry.  That’s a pretty high number when the total vendor count was 150.  I recalled seeing resellers at this show, particularly one with 2 booths of cheap silver rings and pendants and another selling Pashmina scarves (with the labels still on).  So I asked if that had changed and unfortunately my friends said that it hadn’t.  One AWM member did have a conversation with the organization committee chairperson and tried to explain what artisans expect from a juried show.  And resellers is not one of them.

One AWM couple sells natural herbal and aromatherapy products.  I don’t know that they’ve ever told me that they haven’t done well at a show.  Their products are very popular everywhere they go.  They did not do well enough to go back either. Nor will the artisan with hand dyed scarves.  That’s unfortunate for Shepherd Hill.  People seemed to be looking for Christmas decorations and inexpensive stocking stuffers which was also the case 3 years ago.  

From Amy Love: “Lots of crochet items, hobbyists.  Our neighbor was selling hand-painted wooden ornaments for $4.  She should have been charging at least $12-$15.  The show seems to have gone downhill.  There seemed to be a fair number of first-timer vendors.  I don’t know if that is another sign of a show’s decline.

“Best part: the elves  (ebullient music students clad in awesome elf outfits)  and their energy.”

This show is indoors, costs $100, and applications are due by May 31.  Do this show at your own risk.

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12 lessons learned from selling jewelry at art shows and craft fairs
Katherine Swift
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012
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What I’ve learned doing 10 years of art shows and craft festivals.
I started out doing art shows in 2002, and quite frankly, didn’t know what I was doing.  I had been making jewelry and thought I would give it a try selling.  Alas, ignorance was bliss!  I’ve learned a few things over the years and am happy to share them with you.  Hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes I did!
1.    You will always run out of something.  It didn’t matter how well I planned, I always ran out of some style/color/size of jewelry at every show.  And to make matters worse, it wasn’t always the same item from week to week!  I used to work like a crazy woman at the last minute getting together as much inventory as I could and was WAY too stressed out.  As soon as I realized that I was always going to run out of something and to just do my best getting nice mix of inventory together, getting ready for a show became less stressful.
 
2.    You can’t have too much signage.  Okay, I’m sure you can, but my worry was that having too much signage was just a distraction from the jewelry.  I thought that people would be more focused on reading the signs and not looking at my selections.  What I found out is that if you have several concise, well-placed, easy-to-read signs with enough information to help them make a decision you will do much better than having just a few signs, or worse, no signs at all.
3.    Once you can afford it, design a large banner (or have someone do it for you) and hang it in your booth along with pictures of your work.  This is one of the latest things I learned.  People are very visual and make decisions in a split nano second even from 30 and 40 feet away.  Give them a reason to come into your booth.  Pictures of your jewelry is worth 10,000 words!
 
4.    Prepare yourself to hear “Did you make this?” several dozen times over the course of the show.   In the beginning, the answer I wanted to give was, “No, in fact I have minions working in my basement.”  As I did more shows, I decided that when people ask this question, it’s because they want to interact with you, but don’t know what to say.  Take that as a launching pad for your conversation.  Here’s a sample response: “Why yes I did!  Which designs do you like best?”  or “Yes, I am the artist.  Here is a piece that took over six hours to make it a series of 23 steps.”  
5.    Accept credit cards.  In this day, people undoubtedly expect to be able to hand you a credit card and you be able to process it on the spot.  Now with a smartphone and a credit card reader, you can easily do it.  There are several merchants out there that can help you get this done for a small or no monthly fee in additional to a small percentage of every sale.  As I found out, if people can’t use a credit card, and they don’t have cash or a check, they will walk away without making a purchase.  (Don’t expect them to go the ATM machine either.)  
6.    Have as much inventory at eye level as possible.  This actually is a lesson I learned from dear hubby who works in the grocery business.  Not all spots in the grocery store are created equal.  Products on eye level are in the primo spot.  People don’t like to bend over to try to look at something!  Once I took that notion and applied it to my jewelry, sales went up. Combine this with effective signs, and your results will be so much better!  
7.    Have a nice, easy flow through your booth.  People don’t like to feel trapped.  If you’re outdoors and it’s possible, open up the sides of your tent to give people the feeling that it’s more open.  You can still “confine” your space by putting up some sheer curtains.  It can close the space, yet let enough light and ventilation through that people still don’t feel like they’re trapped.  
 
8.    Invite everyone and anyone you know to come by your booth.  Have you ever noticed that passersby are drawn to a crowd of people?  It must be the mob mentality, but they are drawn to find out what everyone is looking at.  (And the opposite appears true too.  If nobody is in the booth, people think the jewelry must not be that good.)  What shoppers don’t need to know is that it’s just your friends stopping by to see how the show is going.  It’s traffic!  
9.    Have a box for people to put their contact information in if they want to sign up for your mailing list (versus a clipboard).  This is an interesting one that I found out here recently.  I used to have a clipboard in my booth where people could put their information (and see everyone else’s).  Once I started using a box for people to put their information in, I averaged 5 to 6 times more people signing up for my list.  I don’t necessarily have a good explanation for this, except privacy is becoming a bigger issue and how personal information is used is becoming an ever increasing concern amongst consumers.  
10.    If at all possible, display your jewelry where people can touch the pieces. This one kind of makes me cringe.  I used to make sterling silver jewelry and had to start displaying it under glass because too many pieces were getting stolen.  I continued to use the same display when I first starting selling resin jewelry.  You might think that having it in a glass display makes it look more ‘posh’.  Yes, it does that.  And it also makes it look expensive (and maybe out of someone’s budget).  It also gets people wondering, “Who does this lady think she is?  That pendant was $15 and I had to ask to see it??”  Of course if you’re selling very expensive pieces, keeping them secure is a must.   
11.    Dress the part.  You don’t need to get out your Sunday best or your evening ball gown, but make sure that you’ve got on some nice clean clothes that are appropriate for the event.   While you may be a starving artist, people don’t expect you to look that way.
12.    Having the right amount of inventory is crucial.   I used to get very stressed going into a show and wondering if I had enough inventory to sell.  Here’s my guideline for how many pieces I should have ready to sell:  for the average show 150 to 250 pieces.  If you have the majority of your work at a price point of $15 or less, have 350 to 400 pieces ready to go.  If your price point is typically over $100, 50 pieces should be enough for you to have a good show.  Of course you may need to adjust based on your show’s audience, but this is the place where I always start.

 

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