I love participating in craft fairs. Despite the work involved - prepare, pack, travel, set up and break down, I find them truly rewarding. They provide an opportunity to get out of my studio, meet my customers face-to-face, network with other vendors, showcase my creative work and garner valuable feedback. I'm a "people person" and enjoy the art of selling. Craft fairs are fun! Until something goes terribly wrong.
I've participated in three craft fairs thus far this season and have many more ahead for 2016. The first two were indoors.
Last weekend I did Gardiner, Maine's, Waterfront Festival, my first outdoor show in many years. In preparation, I purchased a new canopy and sand bags to weight it down after reading horror stories about tents blowing away with the wind. I wanted to be prepared. Each bag was filled to capacity. My tent wasn't going anywhere.
My daughter, Laura, came the night before to help me get ready and we hit the road at the crack of dawn Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day and only an hour's drive through farm country. With my (tall) helper on hand, setting up the canopy was easy. Then the fun began. In addition to the tent, weight bags, tables, tablecloths and "fair box essentials" (sales slips, pens, calculator, clothes pins, twine, etc.), I bring more props than the law allows - a collection of various-sized old wooden boxes and drawers (about nine of them and they don't nest), a large section of barn board siding from my retail boutique in NYC, a very heavy fat birch log cut from my parents' property on the mountain, birdhouses my son made for me in 5th grade, doll furniture my grandmother gave me when I was a child, antique jars filled with scraps of felt and needle-felted balls, table-top trees, wicker baskets, bowls, and so on. Yep! My props take up every inch of packing space I have; my tub of actual product fits on your lap.
Laura and I played interior designer. We set up a charming retail space with little scenes, stacked boxes to create nooks for stuffies, rigged the barn board siding for an upright backdrop and set birdhouses atop wood boxes to resemble a barn where farm animals live.
Then, when the props are all set up, it takes about 15 minutes to actually put out my ornaments, stuffies, bowl fillers, etc.
Open for business!
Saturday's show was fun. We had steady traffic, made new friends and enjoyed spending the day together. My tent never budged an inch. About 45 minutes before breakdown, I took a stroll to check out other vendors. When I returned our booth was in a state of chaos! Poor Laura. A single gust of afternoon wind blew over our display (pictured above). Wooden boxes toppled into one another spilling everything inside and bringing the barn boards down with them. Little stuffies and ornaments were strewn about. My antique Mason jar tumbled to the ground and shattered, sending little felt baubles rolling. Signs and business cards went dancing in the wind. Neighboring vendors came to the rescue in my absence; it was quite the sight!
Fortunately, no one was hurt and the show was coming to a close. Little by little Laura and I packed up. My tent never faltered but my product display was unstable. Lesson learned. We talked the whole way home about the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) principle and how to modify our display.
Soooo . . . We're designing a SIMPLE, hassel-free set-up. In just two weeks we'll test it out at Belfast Arts In the Park, a two day festival on the waterfront. No more stacked boxes. No more barn boards. No more glass. I can still use my props for photography but I'm excited about the change; it will be a lot easier to pack!!!
Do you have display ideas or stories to tell about your experience at shows? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
Thanks for sharing,