Jeez, time passes so quickly- especially at this time of year! I’m freaking out thinking about all the things I want to make for the holiday season.
It was about a month ago, now, that I participated in my first real outdoor craft fair!
Urban Air Market is a San Francisco-based craft fair that used to be called “Capsule.” They organize a few fairs around the city every year (as yet no Holiday show, sadly), and this is the first time I have done a fair like this. It was exciting! Previously, the only outdoor fair I had ever done was the bi-annual fair at the California College of the Arts.
This was quite different from those fairs, and it was an incredible learning experience! I feel like every fair I do teaches me 100% more about organizing my thoughts, products, and goals. I highly recommend looking into your local craft fairs if you are a maker, even if you don’t think you would like selling in person!
This is a janky website, but it has quite a lot of listings for fairs all over the U.S.—-> http://craftmasternews.com/ <—- they want you to sign up to get more information, but I always just google the name of the fair to find out how to apply and the deadlines, and so forth.
Benefits of doing organized craft fairs
If you are on the fence about whether you should do fairs like this one (which was $200 for a 10×10 space for one day), consider these benefits you gain from a larger, more organized event (as opposed to say, a church fair, or small “art walk” fair)
1. Instant customers.
You get access to the following that fair has built up over the years (if it’s a juried show, these people are primed to your particular brand aesthetic- BONUS). I can’t say exactly how many people showed up that day, but a good street fair can draw 5-10,000 people easily.
2. Get featured on their website.
A great aspect of a fair like Urban Air is that they post up “makers” pages as a kind of teaser for people who might catch wind of the events online. In the days leading to the even, I got a massive increase in my website traffic. And, occasionally someone will be at your booth and say that they came specifically to see your work- which is always nice! Also, this particular fair has this link page to my work up all year! Bonus!
Organizers are on your side! They post, share, and pin images of their vendors- more free marketing!
People tend not to buy from you before a fair (for obvious reasons- saving on shipping, actually getting to hold/try on the work &etc), but it’s free promotion, and who knows- maybe they bookmarked your site for later.
3. Practice talking about your own work!
It is so important to be able to tell people what you and your work are all about! Talking to people can be intimidating (and, for me, hard to do before 11a.m.), but don’t you want to be able to have a really great-and unrehearsed- answer to the question “So, what do you do?” or “What’s your story?”
And, although most people aren’t as direct as to ask “What makes your [insert here] so special, anyways?” it is a question you should also be able to answer in your address to the first question.
This is the design on the back of my postcards, where I included a short “About” or “Brand Statement” about my work. In print, I always try to be grammatically correct, and to reflect both my art school background as well as my brand identity in my tone and diction.
Try to have something prepared that captures the essence of your brand in one or two sentences, and that sounds right when you say it aloud. For example:
“You know, I’m really inspired by the history of jewelry, and I try to make pieces that are modern, and minimal, but have a little of that history in them.”
“My work is an amalgam of ancient craft and modern design.”
While I use the second phrase online and on my post cards, if you say it so formally in-person you sound cheesy (haha, okay, maybe it sounds a little cheesy in print, too, but I don’t care because I like the word “amalgam” because it references alchemy).
4. Building a good display can help you better understand your brand identity.
Sometimes I hate talking about the things as I make in such corporate terms, but whatever. Lessons from corporate enterprise tend to scale down well and help keep ME organized (an off-topic example- thanks, Barnes & Noble for teaching me how to organize 300 books in less than 10 minutes!).
“Brand Identity” sounds horrible and corporate, but actually just refers to how you visually represent the work you make. Ideally, someone passing by should be able to see your work and your display and make a quick judgement of Love it/Hate it—–> AND YOU WANT THIS.
Brands that have confusing visuals (say, tie-dye scarves being displayed on stainless steel ikea shelves) can confuse customers, and the last thing you want is for one part of your display to turn away people that might otherwise be drawn into your work.
For me, I feel like with every new fair experience I have, I learn what works and doesn’t work for me. If you will recall my first fair I had no idea what to expect from the experience, and looking back now I hate my display and am shocked I sold anything at all.
For this fair, I had some specifics I have been wanting to build into my displays:
1. Grey “weathered” wood paired with blackened iron.
2. A vertical display for necklaces/ earrings.
3. Something that fit on top of a standard table (most of the fairs I have done have provided me with a 5 foot table)
Ignore, if you will, the 70′s apartment cabinets.
With those in mind, and with an accidental discovery of turned table legs from Home Depot, I made this display. I built it out of found wood, and a wooden Ikea bookshelf from my studio. I liked the detail of the turned legs, to give it a little roundness and a touch of the ornate.
I really enjoyed this display! I can stand behind the necklaces and still clearly view and talk to customers. And people seemed to respond to it well, too! I got a few compliments in he vein of “Your displays works well for your work.” which is, of course, the goal.
I ended up destroying the top portion of this display because it was all screwed together. An important thing for me is going to be having a display that disassembles to be packed flat. I don’t have much space to store a big display, so this is paramount. I will be working on a peg-in-hole design that involves no screws or nails to hold together securely.
My next fair is at the end of this month, so we will see if that gets done in time!
I have faith in myself.
5. You get to meet your fellow makers!
It’s easy to get stuck in your own little world, and you can meet a lot of cool people, get good advice, and glean tips on visual merchandising from other sellers like you!
And, while you may have the misfortune of being stick next to cheap factory-made items, or next to a stinky port-a-potty, you might also be next to a funky-cool incredibly harmonious band like I was!
Overall, the whole experience of Urban Air was AMAZING. I felt so invigorated the entire day, and left soaring with ideas about where I want my business to go from here. I will definitely be doing more fairs in the future!