Your First Craft Show

Have you learned a new craft that you loved so much, you wanted to make stuff day and night? That was me when I first started making beaded jewelry! I was obsessed with mixing colors, patterns, and textures. It started with necklaces and earrings, lots and lots of earrings. The more I made, the worse it got. I had to start buying new and different beads, creating different combinations, until I had so many necklaces and earrings I had to do something with all the inventory!

The logical thing to do was to sell them. A friend had signed up to do a craft show at UNM and asked if I wanted to share her booth. I said sure and I ended up making around $400! I was shocked. I didn’t have nearly enough stock to get me through the two day show, my displays were non-existent, and I basically made up the prices as I went along. Those first few shows taught me a lot and I think I’ve since mastered the art of doing craft shows. This post will focus on picking the right show for you.

Where do you even begin to find a show that is right for you and your craft? I went to a lot of shows before I even applied for one. Here are some things to think about before doing your first show:

  1. Juried shows – Many shows have an application process and have a jury committee to determine who gets in the show. They may require an application fee, photos, descriptions of the work, artist statement, and bio.
  2. Curated shows – A curator invites artists to show their work for these shows. They may or may not have an application process.
  3. Size of the show – You can apply to be one of a few dozen vendors or one of hundreds! There are advantages to both. Larger shows tend to bring in more visitors/buyers and often have a large marketing budget to advertise through print, radio, or tv. Smaller shows don’t always have a marketing budget, but you tend to stand out more when there are less vendors to compete with!
  4. Booth fee – The fee can range from no fee to hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Some things to consider before deciding how much you should pay for a booth fee: 1) how much money and time have you invested in the work you have produced and will you be able to make that back easily, 2) how big is your booth, 3) how many people are estimated to attend, 4) do the show producers take a percentage of sales 5) is it during a holiday season, 6) how many days is the show, 7) do they provide tables, chairs, electricity, and linens, 8) is it indoors or outdoors.
  5. Established shows or new shows – More established shows tend to be harder to get into and may cost more, but they should have a good reputation, do a lot of marketing, and are well-attended. Newer shows may have lower booth fees, but there can also be many unknowns. Will they have good attendance? Is there a good mix of art? Is the location accessible? Do they do any marketing?
  6. Location – Is the show close-by or will you have to travel? Is it in a place with plenty of parking? Is it convenient for buyers to get to? Is it indoors or outdoors? Will you need a tent, tables and chairs or will they be provided?
  7. Timing – Consider what other events are happening at the same time. If you are up against a big event in your community, you may want to reconsider.
  8. Demographics -Are attendees the customer base for you?
  9. Business License – Some shows require that you have a business license. Make sure to check when you apply for the show!
  10. Word of mouth – Ask vendors if they like doing particular shows and why. No better source of information than from experienced crafters and artists who have done lots of shows!

Those are a few things to consider. I’ve done all kinds of shows, large and small, well-attended and one where not a single customer showed up! Take your time choosing the type of show that suits you and your art. Be selective! Once you establish yourself at a show, your customers will come back every time and you will always get new customers!

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