Last weekend I participated in my very first craft show. 'Craft' almost feels like the wrong word, although it did happen in a church basement (very craft show-y, no?) the quality of the artists there was truly impressive, and conjured up more of a feeling of art and design show - in a church basement. But this post isn't really about the oodles of talented folks showing their work at Puces Pop (for that you should check out Michelle's post on Poppytalk), this post is about my experiences and what I learned, and more importantly what I can share with you.
A Little Push
This whole journey really began when I decided to apply to show my work at Puces Pop. You may remember I did a blog post after visiting the show for the first time back in October. When I received an email announcing they were accepting vendors for the March show I initially brushed it off, thinking my business wasn't ready yet, it would be so much work, but most importantly I felt like I didn't have enough new work to show. Luckily, Paule was over at my place taking photos for her illustration around that time, and she convinced me that the March show would be a great opportunity to test the waters, and that my fears about not showing anything new were unfounded as most people at the show would never have seen my designs. Touché! So I applied and a few days later found out I had gotten in.
T - 30 Days
After receiving the "congratulations you got in" email, I had about a month to prepare. Here's where I had the first mini meltdown. The meltdown wasn't about anything in particular, a month is plenty of time, mostly it was about having no idea what had to be done during that month. Random to do's kept popping up my head; I need a tablecloth, I have to frame prints, I can't forget change, and so on. I searched my favourite blogs for craft show how to's, first time experiences, or a list of must haves, but all my searches came up pretty empty. So here's what I wish someone would have posted for me...
Your Ultimate Craft Show Packing List
• a tablecloth (find out the exact dimensions of the table provided, if no table is provided you'll need one, and a chair or two)
• display items (frames, easels, stands, etc... things you'll use to display your work)
• pricing signage (price tags, a pricelist; have one for yourself as well as one on display)
• additional signage (business name banner, info sheets, general item signage and descriptions)
• office supplies (tape, double sided tape, stapler, markers, pens, dot stickers, scissors, elastic bands, calculator)
• receipt book
• cash box / purse
• change (I took $180 in change; 10 x $1, 10 x $2, 10 x $5, 10 x $10. If your prices end mostly in 5 then take more $5's and so forth)
• packaging supplies (kraft paper, stickers, thank you inserts, plastic/paper bags, tissue paper, ribbon, etc...)
• business cards!!! (I handed out so many, it would have been such a shame to not have had them)
• additional booth components (Big Chuck built me a structure to display my framed prints on)
• tools (the structure had to be assembled, so remembering the drill and screws was really important)
• camera (you'll want photos of your pretty booth)
• decor (bowl of candy, flowers, bunting, business card holder, etc...)
• the goods (whatever you're selling, bring some inventory if you can)
• display examples (I found that people like to touch the prints so have some for display purposes and encourage people to be hands on)
• a notebook (so you can write down all the things you want to remember)
I want to thank @neawear and @sewlounge for answering my tweets and making helpful contributions to my Puces Pop Prep list.
Rainy with a chance of blizzard
I knew going in to this March show that it would be slower than the one I went to in October. I was counting on it in fact. I wanted to be able to test the waters without feeling too much pressure and Mother Nature was definitely on my side. Saturday was pouring rain, in fact we had a rainfall warning here in Montreal, and Sunday morning brought chilly temperatures, fresh snow and a blizzard. But people still came out, and while you can't control the weather you can take advantage of a slow day by talking with customers, experimenting with your display, and soaking up everything that is going on around you.
Real World vs. Virtual World
About two hours into the show I thought to myself, I'm not so sure if I fit in here. The vendors at Puces Pop are so cool. Cool with a capital C. English Muffin — not so high on the cool factor. I'm talking guys in tight jeans, hoodies and better hair than me. (Gosh, I really sound like a grandma). What I'm trying to say is that I thought I would fit in better at a show that was geared to kids/parents/families. However, over the course of the weekend I did interact with a few families, lots of aunts and uncles and people who were buying for themselves or their friends. I saw that almost everyone who passed my booth (ultra cool dudes included) would smile when they looked at my Polar Bear or Otter prints, that many folks were map lovers and boy did I have a selection of maps for them. I talked with other artists and illustrators who I never would have guessed would like my aesthetic but went on about how polished and cohesive everything looked, I had people ask me if I was from Montreal because my style was so unique. I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but because this was probably the most valuable experience I had all weekend, watching people interact with my work. Having only ever sold online, I've never seen a customer's expression as they were looking at one of my prints. I've never heard their first impressions or witnessed the decision making process as they wrestle between the Otter and Dachshund prints. It made me realize that as excited as I get when I make a sale in my online shop, there's a customer on the other end who is just as excited! Who knew?
Here, take my card
I gave out so many business cards over the weekend that even though sales weren't through the roof I have a feeling I'll be getting a few orders from the Montreal area in the coming weeks. Even if I don't, I've planted the English Muffin seed and hopefully those people will think of me the next time they need a baby gift, or artwork or even design/illustration work. So many people commented on how nice my cards were that I was really happy I paid a bit extra to have them matte laminated and corner rounded. One woman said that no one is going to throw out such a nice card, a point that I hadn't really thought of - but so true! Spend that extra money on beautiful cards, people will keep them forever.
There are a couple things I'll do differently for next time, a few lower price point items, some more French options, tweak the table display a little, but overall I feel really good about my first craft show. There were no major stumbles and I even managed to eek out a tidy little profit!
Mostly, this experience renewed my excitement about English Muffin. Interacting with customers is really an invaluable experience and I have visions of new products for craft shows to come. Even with my initial apprehension, all the hard work and time that went into preparing and the crummy weather, I really am looking forward to the next chance I get to show my work. So if any of you are reading this while on the fence about a doing a craft show yourselves, I hope my experiences will encourage you to go ahead and do it. It is definitely scary at first, the car ride to the show on Saturday morning was the scene of my second mini meltdown, but like Big Chuck said, "It's going to be one of the best things you've done." So right Big Chuck, so right.
photos: Charles Nock