Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's Showtime! Gearing up for holiday shows- how-to's

Shows are personally the highlight of what I do. I am addicted to them. Finally, after 4 years, preparing for a show has become a little less crazy. I would like to share my story.

In September of 2008 I participated in my first show. When the call for vendors came out for the the first annual DIY Street Fair in Ferndale, MI I teamed up with a friend and we applied to share a booth. What did I just do? I had NO idea what doing a show meant. All I know is ever since I babysat a friends booth at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair one year, I wanted to do that. I wanted to have a booth, and sit there, with MY stuff.

The dream was about to come true. But it scared the pants off me.

In the upcoming weeks of the show, I remember having some freak outs that consisted of the following:
* do I have enough stuff?
* how do I display it?
* what do I charge?
* do I make business cards?
* do I have stuff for all types of people?

and the biggest.....
* will they like me?

My friend was kind enough to share some of her display items for my part of the tent. I had no branding so I had the worst generic tags...ever. My boyfriend designed some amazing cards which were so great so I was at least covered in that area. But, what if they didn't like my stuff?

I remember forgetting about my display and I went into this production frenzy. I made a list of everyone that may come and shop. I wanted something for EVERYONE. It was a bit overzealous, but I didn't care. I wasn't thinking rationally! I had turned into a mad woman that was overcome with excitement, fear, insecurity, greediness, anxiety, and exhaustion.

Then I remembered. This is my first show. It won't be perfect. I have to accept that.

It was also my birthday weekend. I was turning 26 and I decided that if it went horribly, then at least I would be celebrating something.

TIP 1: Relax. It will never be perfect.

This was my side of the booth. Notice the horrible white tags. They were handwritten, ugly, and frankly a pain in the butt to use. That large black hanging thing is a really old and ugly cork board covered in black felt, hung up with wire. I then used velcro to attach Ikea hot pads and stuck push pins in to hold the tags that earrings hung from. To add to the ugliness, I had a handwritten tag that stated the price of the earrings.


Fortunately...this turned out to be an amazing show. Both fun and very profitable, it started my addiction to showing my work.

TIP 2: Some type of "dig through" bin on your table

* Whether it is a bin of pinback buttons, clearance items, bowl of candy, who knows.......people want to "find" something. When my stock is low on key chains for a show, I will throw a bowl of buttons on my table and they are touched by everyone...and usually gone by the end of the show too.
My second show was the Detroit Urban Craft Fair that was hosted by Handmade Detroit. This is a pretty huge show for the area so my acceptance was exciting! The stress soon surfaced and the pressure of the reputation of this show began to weigh on me. Since DIY was throwing it's first fair, no one knew what to expect! But the DUCF is known for amazing vendors, lovely displays, and LOTS of shoppers! AHHH

Here I am at the DUCF in December of 2008. This time I had to condense my stuff down to one table and no space to hang.

One think that I learned is that people like to dig through things. Here is a tray full of keychains I made. They were basically gone at the end of the show. People loved to find that perfect one! It allowed them to feel and see them all, and possibly fall in love with a couple. These were at my first show and they went FAST!!

TIP 3: Packing display items - think HEIGHT and LAYERS

I have learned that having HEIGHT is important when displaying. To have some options when I set up, I usually invest in a ton of those cheap photo boxes that they sell at Michaels. Not only can I use the boxes to prop stuff but I can pack all of my stuff in them when I pack! Having options without a lot of extra clutter has proven to be very helpful. As you will see with the rest of the photos, no two set ups are the same.

Also, invest in a set of bed risers. This brings the table closer to people. I think I brought this up a couple of posts ago, but I think this makes a HUGE difference!

For this show I added some height with my earrings. In the past they were pretty low and unattractive. Now this big gold frame will attract some people.

Recently, I have been displaying my earrings on branches.

I created this tree-like structure for my earrings and have been told that people notice it from across the room. They zoom over to see what it is and if I am lucky, I sell a pair of earrings to them!

Layer display items and merch! It peaks interest and maximizes space on a table. If you sell jewelry, a mirror is a MUST! Once people see something on, they usually must have it!

TIP 4: Portable office

Some essentials you may need and should always have:
-notebook with blank paper. (I always have my notebook from Chicalookate. Mine is polka!)
-scissors - I got these Fiskars for a gift one year. All in one!!!
-calculator (I use Square on my phone or iPad)
-tape - scotch, duct, clear
-pins (safety pins or straight pins - I use these a lot when outdoors in the wind. Keeps my tablecloth from whipping around)
-pencils, pens, highlighters, SOMETHING! - ALWAYS have a red one for markdowns. (I like to mark some things down at the end of a show. Special "last hour deals". If you don't mark on the tag, you can create a sign! Great for last minute sales)
-extra tags
-camera - to snap a shots of your display and customers in your goods... for a blog recap perhaps?
-cooler - with nutritious snacks, water, lunch, etc. My fav. - AVOCADOS!
-tools - (Hammer, pliers, wire, nails, wire cutters, screwdriver with various heads) My table collapsed once at a show and thankfully, the fabulous Janna Bisset of Lilacpop had her handy hammer and nail which saved the day!!!
-something to work on! - bring some of your items to work on. People always come over to see what I am doing and I have even got custom orders at shows because I had my stuff there! It gives you something to work on during the slow times and also attracts people. It's fun too.. duh.
-extension chords
-table cloth(s) - Not office supplies but definitely important! Layer these for a fun look too!
-CHANGE - $1, $5, maybe some 10$
-receipt book

There are lots of great blogs that supply their ideal list of "Must have items." I am preparing for one of my last two shows in Michigan that happens tomorrow and thought I would share some of the things I have learned that have made shows even more fun to do. The key is to be prepared, be organized, eat a good breakfast with a good cup of coffee (or 2, or 3, or 4), get there early to set up, and HAVE FUN!!!

Some of the things I LOVE about shows:
- The giggles I get with some of the pieces. Nothing is more fun than hearing the giggles. I WANT GIGGLES!
- Face-to-Face interaction with customers.
- The chance to tell them personal stories about the pieces.
- Listening to their stories about memories that are triggered when they look at some of my work.
- Meeting other crafty people and making friends with so many talented folks.
- Networking and finding out about new shows and MORE opportunities for the future.
- Buying new goodies with my profits from the show and supporting other artists!

Let's face it. With the joy comes some pain. I hope this helps you prepare for a show in the future and makes things a little easier.

1 comment:

  1. dear Casey, this is amazing and it made me so happy for my upcoming two and first ever craft shows, there's so much negativity around shows, and having someone who has done them for a few years like you who still appreciates them and enjoys them, it is such a huge relief and such a huge encouragement for a newbie like me (oh and I re-tweeted this @lemondear) xoxo and a million thanks!