I should probably do a little post on craft shows, and my expectations of craft shows, and some tips for would-be crafters (well, would-be craft show crafters, I guess.)

I've been setting up at this particular craft show for over a dozen years. (I've really lost count; I know it's been more than that, because my 14th high school graduation anniversary is coming up next year.) I joke and say that I'll put my table in my will and leave it to someone, but I'm not really kidding. Barring major catastrophe or the demise of the craft show, I will be there forever. (I missed one year; the year I was getting divorced and moving in the space of a couple of months. I just couldn't make it work. But otherwise, I'll be there.)

I've been setting up at St. George's for three years, I think; that one's a much newer craft show than the one at St. Mary's. And I don't do this for a living. However, the money's nice (and it varies, depending on the weather and everything else, of course) and I've weathered the course of a million fads and come out with only a few scratches.

This year, I noticed something a bit strange. Listening and watching the people around me, I realized that I was almost the only person there greeting anyone who passed by my booth. If I couldn't say hello, at least I waved.

98% of the time, the person I greeted stopped--even if they were on their way somewhere else--and looked at my stuff. 2% of the time, I got no response at all, which sometimes is what you get. (And these weren't only people I know, either.) Sometimes, the people who stopped bought something. Sometimes they didn't. Either way, I said hello and how are you and smiled. A lot.

In my opinion, someone should have been on door duty and not let a single person in the door who hadn't been greeted. But that's just me.

Now, granted, I have fun at these things. I only see some of the crafters there once a year, or maybe at Meijer or somewhere else if I'm lucky. We catch up and have conversations if it's slow, and buck each other up if we're not doing so well. It's like a big extended family, really, that you only tend to see once a year. (And since I'm usually kind of anti-social, it works well for me.)

Across from me was a newbie, and it was her first time at the show. I swear I've seen her sister somewhere before; she looked awfully familiar. And she kept coming over and telling me how much she loved my stuff, which is nice to hear. However, they packed up after the first day and didn't come back, which is the #1 no-no and will guarantee you aren't asked to come back next year. (I mean, if you had a good excuse, that's one thing. But she didn't say a word to anyone.) Someone said that she hadn't sold anything all day, which sucks, but hey. It happens. You win some, you lose some.

If you sign a contract to be there two days, then what are you out? It only costs $20 to set up, after all. You're going to lose the money either way. If she had come back the second day, then perhaps she would have sold something and at least made her money back. Who knows? Breaking the contract means she won't be invited back next year, or any year after that.

So my first advice to anyone contemplating setting up at craft shows is don't put yourself into major debt if there is no guarantee you'll make back the money you've spent on supplies. That's why I have my rule about my hobbies having to pay for themselves at least in supplies. If the craft you've chosen isn't at all profitable and you're intending to try to sell some of your items, and your items are twice the price anyone else is selling them for, you're not going to make any money.

Also, setup fees have to be taken into account. The going rate for church-run craft shows is anywhere from $20-$25 for the entire show, not per day. It does help if you've been to that craft show before, and looked at what people are selling, and especially what people are buying. If there are eight people there with handmade soap, that might not be the right craft for you to do for that show. (Unless you have different soap, of course, like olive oil soap vs. goat milk soap. For example.)

If the show is for two days, plan to be there two days. If you can't be there yourself, hire someone to sit at your booth for you. The people who run the shows are stressed enough without having one of their tables turn up empty on the second day.

Pay attention to displays. One of the problems some crafters have is that it's difficult finding displays for hanging things that don't end up looking messy. If you lay your necklaces on the table and don't hang them up, is anyone going to see them as they walk through the show? If your table is almost bare because you didn't make enough to fill it up, at the very least find something to fill it up with, display-wise.

Pay attention to the craft show's rules. If they specify that table coverings have to reach the floor, then make sure whatever you choose reaches the floor. If they ask that you don't tear down until after the show ends (on the last day, I mean), then wait until then to start taking apart your booth. Five more minutes won't kill you.

And if the church has a raffle, they probably wouldn't like it very much if you have one too. The same applies if they have a bake sale and you're planning on selling baked goods. Feel free to ask, of course, but don't be surprised if they say no.

Price according to the location and the clientele. I'm pretty sure the lady at the other end of the hall didn't sell any of her $50 czech glass beaded bracelets. In fact, the very same bracelet would have cost me maybe $4 to make, so charging $50 for it is a rip-off, sorry, unless it was 14 karat gold or something like that. Even sterling silver could have been priced around $25-$30, not $50. I was quite surprised to see those kinds of prices there.

I've mentioned the plastic beaded bracelets before, but here it is again: If it costs maybe $.05 to make, then why charge $1.00 for it? Who is going to buy a cheap-o plastic beaded bracelet for $1.00? Not me! Instead, I'll charge $.25 and sell a million, while you will maybe sell one to someone who doesn't know any better.

Also, if you have little ornaments that only take a bit of muslin (at $1.99/yd.) and stuffing (at $1.99/12 oz. bag) a tiny scrap of wood and some fabric paint ($.50/bottle), then charging $1.50 for them is just fine. You're making money, which is the whole point. (They were snowmen ornaments, and very cute.)

For posterity, here's how I price my stuff:

Necklaces and chokers: $4/each or 3/$10. (Cost to make, about $1.00 each. A long time ago, I bought about 6 kilos of glass beads from Fire Mountain Gems for less than $1/kilo (which is 2.2 lbs, approximately.) I still have a bunch of those beads left.)

Earrings: $2.00/pr. (I used to charge $1/pr., but people were telling me that was too cheap. So okay, I doubled my price. No one's complaining. They take no time to make and use maybe three or four beads each. Cost to make: $.25)

Flower pins/brooches: $2.50/each. (That seems to be a good price for them, considering they cost about $.20 to make.)

Plastic beaded bracelets: $.25/each. I make these for the kids. They love that they can still buy something for a quarter. If the kid is really cute or nice, I sometimes will give them two for a quarter, and their eyes just get really big. :) (Cost to make: $.10/each, tops. I can get about 15-18 bracelets per package of elastic, which costs $1.10, and the beads, well, I bought a whole box of plastic beads at a yard sale years ago for $6.00 and I'm still using them.)

Fabric stockings: $2.50/each or 2/$4. I only sold two, so I'm not sure if this is a good price or not. Since they all came from the eight boxes of fabric that I paid $24 for (total), they probably didn't even cost $.50 each to make.

Hats and scarves: I tend not to buy yarn unless it's really cheap or in lots from ebay. I sell my hats and scarves for $12/each or 2/$20. I sold one set. That seems to be a good price for me, but other people charge a lot more.

Flower pincushions: $4.00/each. I didn't sell any yet, so who knows?

Mice: $4/each. I sold one mouse at the craft show. I think that's a fair price, although I could probably come down a bit.

Sweater bags: $4/each. I sold one. Again, I'm not sure, since they were a last minute idea.

Cat toys: I sold 12 out of 20 for $.25/each. They were made out of scrap yarn and took no time at all to make. People really liked them. I will definitely have them again. (Cost to make: probably less than $.10.)

Large primitive style dolls: $25/each. Cost to make is much less, about $3.00/each, however, they involve a lot more time than most everything else. This goes for all the dolls. I sold one. Not bad, since they were new this year.

Medium primitive style dolls: $15/each. I sold one for $10 to the person who bought two of my cashmere dolls. But $10 seems a bit too cheap, so they'll stay at $15.

Large santas: $25/each. I had one finished and he didn't sell, so we'll see.

Medium Santas: $15/each. I had two, and the one dressed in cashmere sold. So I think that's a good price for them.

Cashmere/Wool Art Dolls: $40/each. I sold three. Obviously this is a good price. I even upped the price from what I was selling them for on ebay!

Small dolls: $15/each. I could probably sell these for $20. I sold one as an order at the show, and I didn't have any others ready. If I finish the ones I plan on making this week, I'll try them for $20 and see what happens.

Emily the unicorn sold for $25. That was a fair price, considering the work involved.

I am probably going to drop the prices on the bears. People looked, but no one bought. Although the rag crocheted bear will stay at $25, since it took forever to make.

Be friendly. You want people to come to your booth. Greet them! Say hi! Mean it! Smile! Unless, of course, you really don't want to sell anything. Then do whatever you wish.

Have a good idea how your table is going to look before you get there to set up. That helps you, because you don't end up moving things around a million times before you get it right. This year was the only year I've not had a good idea of where to put things.

Have something free at your booth. I usually have Dum-Dum suckers. I couldn't find any this year (I found some today, of course, so I'll have them at St. George's craft show) so I broke my own rule. Oops!

Offer to make custom items. Maybe someone really likes your hats, but they want a different color or something. You can always offer. They can always accept, and hey, you have a sale! (That's what you want, after all.)

Be prepared to have a bad year. Don't count on the craft show money for bills or necessities. You might not make a dime. Every year is different. Heck, this year, each day was different. Stuff sold the second day that sat the first day. You never know. This ties in to the "Don't go into debt to do this" suggestion.

Consider the time involved. If you are selling an afghan, say, that took you about 30 hours to create and cost $40 in yarn (I'm guessing here) and you put a price of $100 on it, but someone else had afghans for $35, I think you'll be taking your afghan home unless it's very, very special. The kitten that has taken me forever to complete will be at the craft show, but some things I actually make for myself, after all, and I try not to sell complete firsts. (As in Meg, and the kitten, and my first bear, for example.) As you get more experienced crafting these things, you'll get faster, and then you can price according to the location.

And again, a very simply beaded bracelet will not sell for $50 unless you sell it to a rich person who doesn't care about money.

I read a 'business of crafting' book once, and it said to give yourself an hourly rate + supplies and then triple that to get to a price. If I did that for the cashmere dolls, I'd be charging somewhere around $100/each and I'd still have plenty of them here. I'd much rather they go to good homes and be affordable art dolls instead of unreachable art dolls. So keep that in mind as you price your things.

I'm a cheapskate, so I tend to price as if I was going to buy my items. How much would I pay for ___________, especially when I know how much ____________ costs to make?

It really irks me when people sell at designer prices, and they're only stringing beads. Or whatever. (I could mention the lady with the $50 purses, but I'm not going to go there.) And this post is long enough. :)


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