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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lessons from an art & craft fair

Well, I have been very busy the last three weeks. I decided to do my very first arts & crafts fair–with only three weeks to prepare for it! The first week, I made twenty-five little pamphlet stitch booklets, some plain, some embellished. The second, I made twelve Japanese stab bound books. The third week, I made five hardcover, open spine, french braid-bound books and five hardcover accordian fold books, which I dubbed "brag books."

Obviously I didn't sleep much… But it was a really great experience, even though I didn't sell very many books. I did sell enough to cover my costs–but just barely! Mainly, I learned how it all works, and what types of venues not to choose. (I think handmade books were a bit too "gourmet" for my soccer mom audience. Not that I have anything against soccer moms: I am so glad my own mother was an at-home mom! They're just a very "kid-focused" audience. I might have had better luck closer to Christmas.)

Here are my most important lessons:

First, work in an "assembly line," if possible. If I had tried to switch back and forth between book forms, or complete one whole book before starting another, I would have made maybe half that many books.

Second, give potential customers lots of ideas on how they can use your wares! If you can think of some really unusual uses for your "stuff," display some of them or make a sign suggesting them. For instance, I used an accordian book to create a memory book of my days at the Baptist Student Union at my college. I had all my friends sign it and then added rub-ons saying "have fun," "celebrate," and "friends," accompanied by photos.

Third, clearly mark all your prices. You don't have to have an enormous tag or sign, but just make sure that potiental customers can easily find it and read it. (Print out stickers if your handwriting is really bad!) Many people will just keep on going if they can't find a price!

Finally, remember what you are selling: your incredible work…not the display! If you have really beautiful items, keep it simple. You want to showcase the beauty of your work, not eclipse it. Your props, table coverings, even your signs, should never compete with your work! A simple rule of thumb: if you can't justify its presence, dump it!

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