Craft Show Blues
Good for Some, Not for Me
When I first started my business in 2008 and moved from graphic design to fine art, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to participate in craft shows and art fairs. I pictured traveling every weekend to different venues and being a display/booth rock star. I was for a while and over the course of a few years, I did a number of them, from outdoor parks to indoor facilities. Every venue had a different size space and set up and I had to adjust my displays and booth design each time. It was sometimes a full 10x10 booth and sometimes it was just a 6-foot table. I loved finding interesting pieces for displaying my work, bowls, cakes plates, boxes, etc. I also changed the vibe of the booth a couple of times, and it always rocked.
But over time I began to realize that this wasn’t for me. I would always make back my booth fee and some extra, but if I counted the hours of packing, unpacking, setting up and then being there for hours trying to sell, I really didn’t make any money for all the effort. It did give me some great exposure to new people, but not enough to make it worthwhile. I found it really exhausting, both mentally and physically.
Besides exposure to new potential customers, I learned not to take it personally when people just walked by without really looking. They either loved my work or didn’t get it. My watercolor mandalas are not for everyone and I started to learn my audience from the experience. So that was a plus. Today I am much more aware of how I walk through a craft show and interact with an artist based on my own experiences.
It’s been a few years since I did a show. I have a small following that orders directly from me, a few online shops and great exposure at a retail store called “Just Jersey” in Morristown and Montclair which only carries handmade local work from all over the state. I may only make half the amount selling at wholesale prices on consignment with them, but when you take away the time and money I spent on the shows, not to mention the anxiety I felt before each one, this works much better for me. I don’t know if I will ever do one again, it’s always a possibility... never say never.