Category Archives: Doing the Show Circuit

Don’t Shop-Block Your Fellow Artists


OK, I had to find a nicer way to say it.  Unfortunately inspired by true events. 

I thought about it and thought about it.  And this was the nicest way I could think of to say that and still get the sharp point across.  Don’t shop-block your fellow artists and professionals.  (And likewise don’t let anyone do it to you.)

Just don’t.

When you’re doing shows, especially juried shows, there are internal cultural parameters as to what’s acceptable professional etiquette and behavior from participating artists, and what is not.  Not too unlike wearing white to a wedding when you are not the bride and it’s not your wedding day, you never want to block or steal a sale from anyone else.  And though most of these rules should be rather common sense to everyone, since they are mostly about basic manners and professionalism, unfortunately they are too often not clear to everyone.

One of those rules is to never violate another artist’s sales space.  We all paid for space at an event, it’s your job to govern your own space, but also to support the show as a whole and to support each of your fellow artists by maintaining a professional approach to everything.  Never come over to a fellow artist’s booth and talk to the customers in their space or block them from being able to shop.  It doesn’t matter if you just talked to them a few minutes before somewhere else.  It doesn’t matter if they’re your best friends whom you haven’t seen in years.  Unless they left their glasses on your table, you don’t go after them into someone else’s space.  You just don’t do it.  Not to mention that it can be seen as stalking.  If you just must talk to those customers, do so privately and in the public arena, not in someone’s space.  Not ever.

And the same goes for friendly chatting with your fellow artists in their spaces.  It’s one thing if you’re friends with that other artist and you’re chatting privately, but as soon as a potential customer shows up, you politely exit, get out-of-the-way or at least shut up right then.  And you keep your chatter to a minimum, because everyone is there for one main reason – to serve the customers at the show.  Nothing else should have a higher focus than that.

You never stand with in front of someone else’s space and block traffic flow to their booth either.  It’s incredibly rude!  In fact, it’s a faux pas for customers too.  Congregating in front of an artist’s booth that you have no intention of shopping at, thereby blocking traffic flow so others cannot easily see or enter that artist’s booth, is a terrible thing to do to someone.  However, because we all want customers to have a good time at an event, we artists generally try to be polite and patient with customers who do this, for a little while.  (If you’ve done this unawares – now you know better – don’t do it again!)

Artists should abso-frickin-lutely know better.  Traffic flow is gold at a show.  Every booth and logo and display is all counting on traffic attention at a show.  You can only sell as much as you are seen.  And you never want to mess with that for anyone!  Talk about bad, bad show karma!  And if it’s obvious that you are doing something like that intentionally, it can get you black-listed – for good reason.

Why is all this important?  Because shows (especially juried shows) are for professionals.  Shows survive and do well as a whole marketplace.  To be respected as an artist and human being, you have to consider the long view and the reputation you build every single day with every single action and choice you make.  And how well can you represent not only yourself, but the other businesses (shows) you align yourself with.

So just on a purely professional class basis, you never, ever EVER do something that could cost your fellow artist a sale.  You know what it’s like.  It doesn’t matter if you like that fellow artist, if you do the same work as they do, or if you’re friends or enemies.  It doesn’t matter if you had the same idea they are selling out there right now or you’re so sure that your product is better and it’s killing you that they were juried into the same event.  You never show your ass or cost them a sale.  You have the decency and professionalism to keep your mouth shut and let them do business.  Express any concerns you have to the appropriate planners and then move forward being the good person and professional you know yourself to be.  Don’t stoop to lower level behavior.

These professional principles aren’t just for the show circuit though.  They hold true anywhere, even online.  It’s happened to me.

I marketed a service offer to my followers on one of my social sites once.  (I’m not just a crochet designer/writer, I work in other fields too.)  In this case, I offered some tech help to some fellow professionals whom I care about through one of my various public pages.  A page you have to subscribe to, to see.  And guess what?  Someone immediately commented about her “identical” services on my post, on my page!  She was just dying for the world of my own readership (not hers) to know that she also wanted to offer what I’m offering.  In all reality, she stepped into my booth space and hawked her wares.

Dude!  You don’t do that!

Needless to say, I took her remark down.  It’s my page, I can do that.  I didn’t choose to respond to her remark though, because anything I could say would either cost me sales, or cost her own sales/reputation.  And it would just leave a bad taste for everyone.  After all, her remark was already… professionally awkward, to say the least.  There was no way I could tolerate her move professionally.  However, I also wasn’t going to compound her mistake by making one of my own in a public response to her  either.  Taking the remark down was as much kindness to her as it was defensive for me.

Whatever your profession, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

So here’s the thing my dear artists and colleagues of all walks of life.  I’m betting you already know this, or my title wouldn’t have drawn you in.  You’ve probably already had it happen to you at one time or another.  You know of other fields and incidences where this principle can be applied.  And if you’ve chosen an indie-business path, then you also know that you’ve entered a world where everyone expects you to show some class, to elevate your awareness and likewise raise your level of professional behavior.  Because you are everything in your business and your business reflects on your reputation.  There’s no one to praise or blame but you.  That’s part of what makes this path such a growth-inspiring one.

But it behooves us to help set the example.  Reach out there and help those newly inducted into the world of business ownership.  Be a part of discussions and local Chambers of Commerce and get to know other artists and professionals in your field.  And help everyone understand the level of professionalism that is expected of them.  By example if by nothing else. Pass this article around so others who might not realize what they’re doing can wake up and smell the coffee.

We all need to eat.  We all need to survive.  We all have medical bills, and special needs and causes we fight for.  And we all have lessons to learn.  There’s plenty of need and plenty of pie to go around.   So have some class.  We’re all in this together.  There’s no need to cost someone else their piece.

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Filed under Business, Doing the Show Circuit, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows


I’ve done shows for some years now. And one of the things every newbie (and many seasoned) sellers struggle with is how to handle displaying your pricing.  Sometimes sellers think that not using tags or pricing will somehow make their items look more professional and nicer.  But one of the biggest mistakes an artist can make is by not displaying (or hiding altogether) the price of their work.

From a marketing standpoint, you want your customers to not only be able to see your prices, but to see that you have a range of prices. You want highs and lows and in-betweens. You will always have those buyers looking for the cheapest they can get and occasionally (maybe more often depending on the venue and location) those buyers who have no financial restraints. But most of your customers and sales are going to fall into that mid-range.  And a lot of that is frankly psychology.  Most of us don’t want the cheapest, but we also can’t always afford the best.  So we aim for the middle somewhere.  I can’t afford X, and Z is not nearly as nice, so I’m going to settle for a lesser expensive Y.  We like to work in three’s.

We tend to approach everything in life this way, like a bowling ball bumping its way down a kiddie lane, trying to find that nice wide middle.  By not providing that largest of human buying demographics the middle-ground it seeks, you set up a scenario where it’s not easy for buyers to make the decisions they are used to, because one (or more) of the three legs is missing.  Either that or there are way too many legs to choose from.  And if it’s not easy, then buyers don’t buy.  So you’re also handicapping yourself in sales.  Because let’s face it – buyers of handmade goods in the US don’t typically quibble over 50 cents here or a $1 there.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.  What they are really looking for in their buying decisions is justification.  And they will judge your pricing as a means of measuring the worth of your work.

So make sure your prices are visible and do not hide them.  Whether you do this by pricing with tags, little cards, or by using a sign with color codes dots, I’m not sure it matters. But make those prices visible and have a high, a (or some) middle and a low always. You could always opt for a pricing gun or gold ink or something if you’re trying to professionalize the look further.

There’s another consideration in the matter of pricing.  Many of your best customers are also the ones who do not like to touch displays very much and who will want to window shop a show for bit first before they handle any items. (And many buyers do not like to “show their hand” when they are interested in something.) Too many of these customers would rather walk away than touch an item to look for a price if it’s not clear what price range your booth is. Haggling is not a “high-end” kind of mentality and most juried shows don’t allow it, but also, many customers are uncomfortable with it. Also keep in mind, there are most definitely some shows out there where customers will judge you if you are not expensive enough. If you don’t think your work is worth very much, why should they?

Lastly, you should know that it’s not only your typical buyers who peruse shows.  You could have potential customers who are looking at your items from a business point of view (i.e. consignment shops who peruse shows looking for new blood).  Making sure your pricing is visible, broad spectrum and in balance, can help them make a business decision faster too. There are several kinds of eyes at shows and if you want to make sales, you want to catch them all.

Pricing is not just about affordability, but also the value you place on your work. It says a lot about you.  So think about the image you wish to convey and price accordingly.  And don’t get stuck on “nobody will pay that, so I’ll charge pennies” mentality.  Women are especially bad about valuing their work for some reason.  So think on it this way.  For the same money, you can work super hard at lower quality to sell several, or you can pour yourself into better quality and sell one.  One of these requires more patience than the other.  Which will help you find your balance in life and get you where you want to be?

If you need more ideas for doing shows, I wrote an article about shows you might find helpful here: aberrantcrochet.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/about-doing-craft-shows-ob…

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Filed under Doing the Show Circuit, Education, NaBloPoMo

How Much Are You Worth?


What is the true cost of handmade items at a show?  I’m not really talking about taking a bead and sticking it on an ear wire. There’s almost no training or skill involved in that.  There’s not much honing of a craft going on there.  Though it does take time to assemble, it’s small and not considered skilled labor.

How much do you make an hour for your expertise?  How much should a hand crafter make per hour?  What is right for a living wage?  It’s easy to forget sometimes the nature of how some jobs work.  In many jobs, you get paid a set wage + benefits.  Some jobs involve a commission, which is generally highly taxed by the government even if it is really what you feed yourself with.  Other jobs, like waiting tables, are often half of minimum wage with the expectation that you will make up the rest in tips.  That was a rude awakening when I landed my first waiting job right out of college.  I was taxed out of my $2.13 an hour each week as if it were twice that, because it’s assumed I would make up the other half of minimum wage on tips.  And I didn’t.  Sigh, those were the days.

So how much should a hand crafter make?  Well, one obvious thing to consider is the cost of table fees to get into the show in the first place.  Just here in Austin, there are shows that range from $40 a table to over $3000.  It’s a chunk of change, and somewhat of a gamble playing the odds whether you will sell something at the venue or not.  Space rental is not cheap.  Neither is security, electricity or many other expenses people might not think of.  If you take credit cards, you have expenses there as well.

You have the cost of materials as overhead.  When it comes to yarn, it’s interesting to me that so many buyers really have no idea how much yarn can cost these days.  To buy enough to create a garment is a pretty substantial chunk.  Are we using “That Old 70’s Yarn?”  Or something nicer like silk or cashmere or even a microfiber?  Either way, it’s way more now than it was when I was a kid.

Then there’s the amount of materials as well.  Just because a hat you find at WalMart cost $5 doesn’t mean it has a comparable amount of fiber in it to something handmade.  Nor does it mean the yarn can be purchased in the US for so little either.  Where many often use one yarn for a design, I often use three myself.  So that’s a jump in cost for me.  Plus there’s the value of other elements, like antique buttons or sterling silver findings.

And then we come to the aspect of time and of skill.  What would you pay an expert to do and what would you pay a beginner?  There should be a difference.  There’s something to be said for a skill that has been honed over time.  Because the quality of labor is much different.  Why should an expert be paid the same as a beginner?  There’s a reason why we pay doctors what we do, they are highly educated, trained and skilled.

But let’s say we have a beginner.  Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.  Even people receiving training to flip burgers get at least minimum wage.  If an item requires $30 of materials and takes 4 hours to make, you have at minimum a $59 item, before taxes.  Right?  What if you decide not to charge minimum wage?  Even at $5 an hour (a minimum suggestion from Crochet Liberation Front founder, Laurie Wheeler), you still have a $50 price tag.  At minimum.  For beginner grade work.

I like some points Laurie made on this subject in previous years on the Crochet Liberation Front forum, “The best way I know of raising the value of anything, is to value it yourself.” 

Followed up in her article last year “At What Price?” Laurie has this to say:

“FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS FUZZY DO NOT…and I repeat…DO NOT UNDERSELL YOUR WORK!!  …. Materials + Time x Skill = $$…. Time is valuable. Especially in today’s fast paced world, time is PRECIOUS, your time is VALUABLE. If you spend 2hrs on a  hat and you spent $3 on the materials and you only charge $4.00, $3.00 covers the materials and you just made FIFTY CENTS an hour. Really?  You are not a SWEATSHOP…You are WORTH more than that… “

Also, I’ve heard many women make comments that should never be made, like: “Oh but I enjoy doing this so I don’t charge very much.”  WHAT? Seriously? Did I just hear that?  SO you should only get paid for what you don’t derive a sense of satisfaction from?  (I’ve never heard a man say something like this, btw.)  If you’ve ever been guilty of saying something like that, stop and consider the craziness of what you’re suggesting.  Not to mention how it undervalues the work of all hand crafters when you do that, including the ones who rely on selling their wares to put food on the table.  Just because you don’t have to rely on it to feed your kids, doesn’t mean you should undersell your work.

Factors to keep in mind as you consider pricing also include rarity, how labor intensive, precision of the work, and expertise and range of experience. Some items, you’ll have to judge.  You may have to tweak your prices or process a bit here and there.  Just because you are capable of making wash cloths out of cashmere doesn’t mean it’s practical and that everyone will buy one for what it’s worth or at all.  Hmmm… So maybe there’s a cap there somewhere on what kind of materials you expect to use for what items and the price range most of your customers will fall into?

There’s also travel time, packing materials and postage.  If I’m doing custom orders and find myself driving all over town from yarn shop to yarn shop trying to find what will make my customer happy, it becomes an expense that has to be accounted for, because they want a custom item and not something I have ready to go.  And it requires me to take time off from my regular business and work only for them until they get what they want.  That can be a lot of time, especially if they don’t really know what they want or it’s difficult to secure!  Think about the fees you would pay a graphic artist when you don’t have a clear idea of what you want.  Usually you get one or two proofs and that’s it.  Consider that custom handmade should not be much different.

So when you’re pricing, you have a lot to consider for variables.  And once you have that, stick with it and do not let buyers bargain with you.  Not only is it poor form at shows, but when you do it, you give people permission to essentially cut your pay!  Set a fair and reasonable price, based on the variables we’re discussing and decide ahead of the show how you will deal with such requests.  If you want to offer a discount for multiple purchases, that can be nice, but price your individual items accordingly so you are still coming out on top in the end. Do not stoop to the rude folks either.  They are not your market.  Be polite, but do not waste your time on them.  You want to know at the end of the year, after all those last-minute material purchases and all the time invested and you sit down to do those taxes, that it was worth it.  If you never stand up for yourself, who will?

Now that you’ve read all this and taken stock, how much are you worth?  Think about it and add to the discussion in the comments!  😀

Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.”  You know you want to!  : )


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet


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Filed under Business, crochet, Crochet Community, Crochet Education, Doing the Show Circuit

Saturday Recap For E.A.S.T. #67


Well, it was a lovely day out at the E.A.S.T. #67 location at Flat Fork Studios.  I was a little worried at first with the wind picking up this morning.  Luckily it calmed down a bit later.  There were lots of gracious people and fellow artists and artisans. And I really enjoyed talking to some aspiring crocheters and other fiber artisans, including a shy spinner/weaver.  Maybe, just maybe, I talked him into posting photos of his work somewhere publicly.  (Let me know dude, ‘cuz I’d love to see! I wasn’t joking!)

Flapper Purse in BLue for Cindy

Flapper Purse in Silk and Rust

It was also nice to talk to more traditional media artists who got some of my quirky ways of looking at texture and design and even got excited with me about what I was doing.  Awesome!  Different worlds, but maybe not so much.  I brought the purses out to show-n-tell and promised to blog more about them as I finish my work on them.  Nothing like a gentle prod to help me stay in gear.  I still need to make a trip to find the blue silk to line the blue one though.

Sunny Bear Hat For Lola

People were having a good time.  Lots of babies and kids.  Lola was there with her famous gumbo and kind, motherly smile.  She made me feel special telling me she looks forward to seeing me every year and that she still loves her hat from two winters ago.  I love you too Lola!

Purple Eggplant with Vintage Button Pin

I also had a customer from last year drop by.  She bought my Purple Eggplant hat last year and has since moved to the Rockies where she says she absolutely loves it and that she gets so many compliments.  And another let me know that she took her hat on a ski trip and stayed incredibly warm and comfortable.  That was so awesome to hear.  I don’t often have the privilege of hearing “where they are now” and it’s a treat.  I have to really thank everyone who supported my work today.  I’ll keep going because of you. Thanks for sharing my excitement and vision! 😀

Teeter Totter and Fun

Wondering who’s out there this weekend?  Well, here are my colleagues.  (You can find info about the other artists and bands in studio here.)

Craft Riot Team Members at E.A.S.T. stop #67:
Nepenthes Bathtime – artisan Soap & bath products
Robo Roku – art, apparel, accessories
Gem Junkie – jewelry for the go
R + R Design – recycled & re-purposed jewelry & home accessories
Sweetwolf – facio, ero sum
This Creative Life – paintings, prints, & apparel
Pixie Worx! & Aberrant Crochet – crochet designer, fabric artist + hand-carved crochet hooks and shawl pins

All in all, a pleasant day.  I look forward to tomorrow.

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, Doing the Show Circuit, Events

Austin Craft Riot is Over…


It was a pleasant time visiting at Austin Craft Riot today with Megan of @Love_evol.  She dropped by my booth at opening time and we chatted up our love of crochet and desire to get some hookin’ gals together.  We’re totally going to have to do this drop-in crochet somewhere in Austin thing y’all.  And maybe serve some Fearless Leader’s Crochet Bacon for fun!

ACR may be over, but you can catch me next weekend with a handful of other local handmade artisans out at East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) at spot #67, hosted by Flatfork Studio.  My friend Sam will be uploading photos from this weekend soon, so check out the link.

Located over by Tito’s Vodka, this is a fun spot with lots of interesting artistic and handmade joy from nearly two dozen artists in one stop!  This will be the 3rd year that Lola the Nubian Queen (one of the coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting) will be present with her famous Cajun gumbo and cooking benefiting her program to feed the homeless.  Also, every year that I’ve had the privilege of being at this location, Tito’s has also offered complimentary vodka drinks.  I hear they have a new airstream bar this year!  Faith of Flatfork Studio has some crazy killer sculptures and a giant seesaw that looks like a piece of watermelon.  Made for adults in mind too!  Not to mention there will be handmade goodies from myself and a handful of my friends and colleagues.  Oh and even a couple picnic tables if you want to rest and eat.

If you’re going on the tour, this is one spot not to miss! Let me know if you plan to drop by ~~~~!

@ObeyCrochet and @Love_evol say they might be dropping by.  How ’bout you???

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, Doing the Show Circuit

Me And ObeyCrochet At Austin Craft Riot!


Look! It’s Ms. Stephanie Toppin a.k.a. Obey Crochet in the flesh! At my booth!  She came all the way out from Houston, braving bad traffic and all, to visit Austin Craft Riot!  Oh Snap!  Forgot to show her my crochet bacon project.  And ask for another pin since my others have been appropriated.  (See, I’m sporting my Crochet @Cama pins!)

Stephanie’s a beautiful, funny gal and we really need to have a crochet convention of our own here folks.  Seriously.  A crochet convergence somewhere  in Texas.  Hey!  That could be the name!  ACCST!  She was telling me about the crazy quilt show Houston puts on.  Where the quilting grannies are intense and if you make the wrong move….  Well, you gotta hear her tell the story.  She promised to blog about it, so stay tuned.

The photo was taken by my new friend Jennifer, who was helping Joyce of @GypsyHarte, an incredible felting artist.  She was saying we should do the photo in front of my booth.  Which is a good idea.  But all you can really see from my booth is my spider web parasol. But it’s a good photo!  Which doesn’t happen for me often!

It was nice to meet in person and spend time with you Stephanie!  I wish we could have had time for tea.  One of these days, we must converge on a couch with our favorite drinks, hooks and yarn in tow.  I’m looking forward to meeting Megan from @Love_evol tomorrow! 😀

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Filed under Doing the Show Circuit

Want To See My Freebies For Craft Riot?


I’ll be participating in Austin Craft Riot a week from Saturday. It’s a great handmade show full of all sorts of goodness.  Texas crochet peeps @ObeyCrochet and @Love_evol are both going to be dropping by the show.
If you’re in the area, you should too!  Maybe watch my booth long enough to give me a bathroom break?

One of the features of this handmade show is that the first 25 people through the door each day will get a grab bag of free handmade goodies. Yes, that’s right. FREE handmade items.

Admittedly I do have mixed feelings about the words “free” and “handmade” going together in the same sentence, but it does get people in the door and it is fun to win things. Plus there will be raffles for handmade items donated by Austin Craft Riot team members as well, which helps us pay for things we need to continue to put on awesome shows.  Soooo, it’s all for the cause and part of the expense of getting a booth.

Donations for door prizes are always a bit of a quandary for me, since as a crochet artist who likes to use high-end materials, my overhead is already pretty high before even considering a donation. Not to mention I cannot compete in volume of production with someone who strings beads. Last year’s crochet magnets still took a lot of time to make, not to mention materials I don’t normally stock. Which also means time away from making what I can sell.  (And additionally takes time away from other causes near and dear to my heart.)

This year I’m donating a hand carved shawl pin for the raffle cause, thanks to Jimbo’s guidance and encouragement at Crochet @Cama (which I have yet to make).  Below are samples of the handmade freebies I put together for the Austin Craft Riot goodie bags. (Click the picture to get the slide show to play.)

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The tags?  They came from Avery’s Design & Print Online.  I had to tweak the layouts, as the template does not allow you to change the size of the tags.  I needed these in a hurry, so I just moved all the text over and trimmed off nearly an inch of red from the tags after printing so they would fit the plastic bags I’m using.  I only needed  15, so I justified speed over cost of ink.  I wouldn’t recommend this for a mass amount of product.  Still, take a look at the Avery tools and it should give you some ideas if you’re getting ready to do shows and are debating on how to tag your goods.

For more help and ideas on doing shows, you might like to read my article About Doing Craft Shows: Observations, Likes and Advantages.”  I still haven’t written part 2 for it, but perhaps I will for NaBloPoMo.


Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.”  You know you want to!  : )

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, crochet, Doing the Show Circuit

Hat Embellishments From Crochet and Vintage Elements


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Here are some hat pins I made at the show today.  One is made from a vintage button, the other from a scarf pin from West Germany.

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, Crochet Techniques, Doing the Show Circuit

Photos from Austin Craft Riot – Happening Now!


Freebies I donated to the goody boxes.image

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Great Crowd!

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Some items that have sold.

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Doing the Show Circuit

When You’re Finally A Rock Star…


My darling daughter came home last Friday with the request that I just had to make a hat for her classmate for her birthday yesterday. Say what…? I have four shows this month that I’m trying to get ready for and a deadline to meet tomorrow.

Over the years, several of her friends have received one of my fun hats for their birthdays, usually when we attend a party. I don’t know any of these kids’ birthdays unless I’m dragged to a party.

So anyway, someone in her circle who hadn’t gotten one of my hats yet in all these years finally approached Jess and actually asked if she could please have one for her birthday too, even though she wasn’t having a party. (sigh) They’re in middle school and they’ve all practically grown up together since they began school.

So I said **NO**.

Of course I didn’t! My daughter picked out the yarn and I made her friend an ear hat Sunday night. Had her wrap it though.

I have to admit, it can be flattering when your kids and their friends think your stuff is so cool they just gotta have it. Though I wish the timing were better since I’m trying to get ready for shows.

Then all the girls decided they would all wear the hats I’ve made them to school today. And they actually did. I think even Coach wore hers. I just wish I had a photo.

Then my daughter comes home and tells me, “Oh Mommy, it was great. Everyone LOVES your hats. And oh yeah, the boys are feeling left out too. Michael wants one that says Texas Tech for Christmas. Even Zach said he’d wear one.”

“And which kind would that be, the one that looks like it has a pony tail, or one with ears?” I ask.

“I don’t know. And there’s also Marley (in the rock band) and…..”

“Jess! Do your friends know how much my hats cost?”

“Well, no, but they are hoping you’ll be at the school Christmas bazaar….”

errrghh….

Yeah, always awesome when your kids volunteer you for birthdays and Christmas.

If I end up making hats for the entire 8th grade, they better model for me and drop my name around a few times…..

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Filed under crochet, Doing the Show Circuit, Friends and Family, kids

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!”


Dan Rockwell wrote a post today over at Leadership Freak about the “Illusion of Perceived Knowledge.” Though his post was for application in a more corporate environment, I thought it was an appropriate description of something that artisans often face at shows. We’re in the middle of holiday show season, so it’s pretty fresh in my mind and there have been recent discussions amongst the artists I know. The “illusion of perceived knowledge” is a concept we are definitely familiar with.

So I thought I’d write about it a bit today for everyone’s benefit. If you’re an artist too, check out what some of us have done to help deal with this.

In our experience, there always seems to be someone who comes through a handmade market, and says, “Ugh, I can do that, and that, and that,” summing up an artist’s or artisan’s work as being without value because this person believes they can do it too. Not everyone is that bold to say such things out loud, but it is often thought. I’ve been guilty in the past of similar thoughts as well when I was young and less educated, and believe me, it was an illusion!

One of my fellow artisans had a great answer for people when they came through our market. They might pick up one of her necklaces and say “I can do that.” “Yes,” she’d say politely, “but will you?”

Whether they can or they can’t doesn’t matter. In our modern age we tend to disrespect the time and skill that goes into handcrafting something, in part because we no longer see the processes or people behind what lines the store shelves. And this is true of many other skills in life, not just art.

Instead of feeling bad or complaining about it, one of the measures our juried group took to help shift this attitude, was to create shows where the artists did demos of the kind of work they did. It’s the same concept in a way that Maker Faire has since promoted.

For instance, some people might think of chain-mail as simply a bunch of linked rings, right? Simple process; nothing to it. That is, until they had a chance to try it themselves. Suddenly they came away with a greater appreciation for the skill as well as design process.

Another artisan friend of mine specializes in jewelry made from local seeds. People might not think much of that until they learned about her process to harvest and hand process these seeds until they were suitable to be used in jewelry. They would also learn that the process was so time consuming and difficult, that some of those seeds could never be processed on a large scale and therefore would never be seen in jewelry except to be processed by hand by someone like her. Someone with the passion, patience and knowledge.

The same thing for the other artists, from silversmithing, to pottery, to sewing, to carving, to even crochet. Letting people watch us work and listen to us talk about our fields and design processes and even let them give it a try or be a part of the creative process with us. It became a teaching opportunity.

Reasons for doing these demos were multi-fold.

1) It helped preserve a sense of respect for handwork and helped dispel assumptions. Even those who might be familiar with a type of art would find themselves learning something new.

2) It was educational, family oriented and added to the positive memories and experiences of the folks coming through our market. (Important for marketing too.)

3) It helped to inspire others to try something themselves and further the love of art and handwork. It became more than just a commodity.

4) Not to mention it definitely helped sales.

This concept can be applied in other professional areas as well. Consider that like our juried market, when you give folks a chance to learn and have a hands on experience, there are three things you can accomplish.

1) Demystify something so it’s approachable.
2) Yet instill respect for it in that maybe it’s not as simple as it seems.
3) Inspire them to get in there and learn more.

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Filed under Doing the Show Circuit

About Doing Craft Shows: Observations, Likes and Advantages…


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Almost my entire background in business is from doing face-to-face sales at shows. In all honesty, I prefer it, as being seen on Etsyand other online markets can be rather difficult to achieve.

Seeing is Believing

I find that with some items, like my crochet designs for instance, that being able to touch what I make, and see in person how I do what I do, makes all the difference in the world. No one can tell from my photos just how soft my garments are. But in person, if I don’t watch it, I’ll have people hanging out in my booth just to “pet” my items. “Err, yes… ma’am…? If you don’t mind, please don’t rub it on your face unless you’re buying….” There is also only so much texture you can bring out in a photo as well.

Demos Add Interest

I’m also a teacher by nature and so I constantly demo my work at every show. I let people watch me work and even show them my tools, how they work, tell them about the custom makers behind my tools, show them the techniques I’m using, ask their opinions even. It’s very experiential, or at least I try to be on a positive scale. People are not just shoppers in my booth. They usually become contacts. When people get to observe you as you work, and you stop focussing on selling to them, and focus more on enjoying yourself, them having a good time and maybe even helping them out (I share my favorite yarn shops and online resources all the time), they are then allowed to relax and simply enjoy themselves. I find that people often buy not just because they like the item, but because they enjoyed the experience and because they are buying a piece of you. And they remember and come back too.

Missed Marketing

It depends somewhat on your product, but I also try not to forget men and children at shows, as they are the most missed sales potential for most shows. It’s true that the majority of shoppers are women, but skipping men and children altogether is a miss! Guess who’s usually tagging along (often bored to death)? If you plan to have at least a couple items geared towards these neglected markets in your booth, you just might make sales you wouldn’t have otherwise caught! And besides, there’s less saturation and competition while most booths neglect this market! For instance, being an artist of fine pottery is great and most of your customers will be adults, but just imagine a couple bits of miniatures for “kids,” even if they are higher priced. You’d be surprised who just might have to snatch it up!

Outdoor Shows

When it comes to equipment for outdoor shows, I highly recommend EzUp. Not only have I found them to be generally much better quality, but they were highly recommended to me by several seasoned artists years ago. I have also seen several lesser grade tents mangled in just a few gusts of wind. It can even be shocking how quickly a poor quality tent can be turned to rubble. This is an area where you really do get what you pay for. I don’t care how lightweight and easy aluminum frames may seem – they just do not hold up very long. And since many outdoor shows are set up near busy roads, between buildings and other structures, wind can really tunnel through such areas in a very focussed manner. May not seem like much on the street, but in a virtual tunnel and a tent full of your wares involved, it can be gustier than people realize and even devastating. Many event planners are not artists themselves and may or may not have ever set up at a show themselves, so these types of details are not always noticed or planned for.

The best affordable EzUp in my opinion is the “Express” model which has a steel frame that uses an entire support system “web” inside the tent canopy. You can see the Express model here. They are much stronger and will – with proper weighting and/or staking – last much longer should windy conditions develop (and they do).

Also, most long-standing outdoor shows will usually require white top or blue top tents. White is generally always safe. Check with shows in your area to be sure.

Even though your tent will come with stakes, good (heavy) weights on all four legs are a must. This, of course is to keep your tent anchored down and from blowing away. Many shows will actually fine artists whose tents disrupt, or cause damage, at a show. Plus you’ll be held responsible for paying for the damage to other artists’ stuff that your tent may have caused. Also, weights are doubly important as a part of your arsenal of tools because some shows do not allow staking.

Know Your Surroundings

I just want to also mention here to watch out for hidden holes, spaces with trees where birds roost and leaky plumbing, etc.. Like I mentioned before – event planners are not often artists themselves. They may put together an event, but may not have actually ever set up at one themselves and they just may not be aware of all the things to look for. I’ve attended a couple events where everything looked like a great spot for a little market, only to find out oops! – that’s the “bird poop” tree or the building next door channels water off the roof right there, etc.. This is especially important when trying out a newly created market event. Usually the long-time shows have figured this stuff out.

Creative Display

Almost anything can be turned into a display tool. Shutters and fireplace screens can display jewelry, small bookcases can add height, plant hangers and hooks can hang from your tent, decorative candelabrum with flat style holders can be used to display clusters of smaller items, etc..

I’ve seen some artists use gridwall to anchor in the center of their tent and display clothing and other items on that (which also provides extra anchoring weight.) I bought a used hat tree for my crochet hat designs and it was a life saver. Because before I had that, sometimes my styrofoam heads, in spite of my efforts, would catch a gust of wind and there’d go flying a head across the place with my crochet along with it.

Leeping_Deer_Tapestry_Crochet

My tapestry crochet piece. It’s about 5 feet square. This design was adapted from the work of Catherine Cartwright-Jones and her machine knitting book called “Enchanted Knitting.” This motif was originally designed for a hat and came from a tattoo design found on an ice princess mummy. An anniversary gift to my mother-in-law.

Don’t forget the power of PVC pipe. You can see the roughly 6 foot frame my husband made for me to display a 5 foot square tapestry crochet piece here.

It’s very sturdy and “modular’ as it can be completely dismantled and stored in an old lawn chair bag.

I have also seen (believe it or not) stained glass hung from pvc pipe frame that was wired to a tent frame. This was done indoors, using a tent frame with the canopy removed. (See, even if you’re not doing an outdoor show, a tent frame can still be very useful.)

Networking to Find Shows and Improve Experience

Get to know other seasoned artists and artisans. Most people are good people and most want to be helpful and help others on their path to success at shows. And in all honesty, it makes for a better show experience all the way around, if everyone is helpful to each other and helps the newbies learn the ropes. Seriously! I can’t tell you how many wonderful and seasoned artists have helped me out over the years, giving me insight that can only come from years of experience, saving me some serious headaches and helping me make good decisions too. It doesn’t matter if they are in your exact field or not. There are many things about shows that are all the same. And these folks can tell you where to get the best equipment, the best prices, and even what’s a good compromise and what’s not and to stand up for yourself as an artist. Likewise, if someone steps out to help you, be sure to appreciate them back!

Depending on your market, check with local cities (most have at least an annual event), schools and art/craft clubs. If there is an Etsy Street Team in your area, I highly recommend joining it. Or find a local art or craft group and join it. Many of the better groups are juried, so do keep that in mind. A juried group means you have to pass the muster before you can join. And you may find shows that are juried as well. This is a way to keep the quality and standards high, as well as maintain the integrity of the market – which in the long run spells success for its participants. Even 6 months or a year with a group like one of these will be invaluable for the information, experience, opportunities, and relationships you will gain. Plus it’s always nice to do a show with folks you know who can watch your back and support your work.

Advantages to Help During a Show

I personally feel if you can get help to run your booth, it’s well worth doing and the bigger the show, perhaps the more helpful additional hands are if you can get them. Two people to run a booth is good to start until you get to know your venues. However, when I did a couple shows with our Etsy Austin Street Team, several of us shared a single booth space to help gain exposure for the team as well as each of us. And it was (surprisingly) a very nice experience in that there were several of us available to help sell everyone’s items, watch the crowds and handle the credit card sales, etc..

Getting help with your booth is especially good if your helper(s) can offset any weaknesses you might have in public presentation. If you’re not so great with how to arrange your set up, maybe your helper has more the eye for how to arrange the booth to be a pleasant space people want to stay in and not feel like they’re about to be trapped. Or, if you’re like me – good at the talking, but less good at handling multiple points of sales at the same time, a helper would be great to help handle extra customers or paperwork stuff while you focus on your presentation. The “expert” and the “support” person makes a great basic team.

Confidence in Numbers

Another good reason to have help is strength in numbers or just support when you’re not sure what to do. I personally still struggle with what to do with bad situations with ugly competitors. Truly I just want everyone to be nice and I don’t personally know how to be mean on purpose when you need to. For instance, at a *juried* show I did last year (which was surprising because usually juried shows also mean better manners all around), I ended up with a competing hat maker’s husband standing in front of my booth, wearing her hats. Before I realized what was really going on, he started annoying people and blocking folks from being able to walk into my booth. It took a friend of mine coming over from her booth to say something to him before I could figure out how to politely get the guy away from my traffic. That was one of those situations where I really could have used my own husband or someone to help me with that one. I’m just not geared to be mean, nor able to be very confrontational in my own booth space.

So, if you have a hard time with stuff like that, having help with you who can run interference for you can be invaluable.

So What’s Holding You Back!

These are just some observations from my own experiences over the years. I hope you find them helpful in your own quest to branch out and sell face-to-face at shows. I’ll write a Part II to go with this at some point, as there’s certainly a lot that can go into being prepared for a show. So let me know if you liked this article and would like to see more.

In the mean time, if you have some ideas you think will help others – feel free to post them in the comments below!

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Filed under Business, crochet, Doing the Show Circuit