T&A #2: To Arts Fest, Or Not To Arts Fest?

Are you considering participating in a local Arts Festival/craft fair, or have participated in the past? Are you unsure about how to feature and price your items, or are frustrated that some items just aren’t selling? Here’s a small selection–or rather, the tip of the iceberg–of what you should know when preparing to showcase your handmade items at a major craft event. Let’s begin, shall we? ๐Ÿ™‚

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of participating in a variety of festivals.ย  Since 2014, I’ve showcased my work at events ranging from community book sales to sidewalk sales with over 125,000 visitors. After being featured at those events, I know from experience that there are definitely trends you’ll notice when you go into the business (or hobby) of selling handmade items.

First, a few important things to keep in mind, that may or may not influence how well your items sell:

  • Location.ย If you’re selling your items in the middle of a crowded, bustling city area, vs. a cluster of tents closer to the suburbs, accessibility will be key; especially when determining the quantity of products to make in advance. Make sure you map out how accessible the area is, who’s likely to go there, and how many people may show up. Environmental factors, such as desert vs. woody vs. commercial locations, geographical climate, and other aspects, should also be considered–unless you know the area well, though it never hurts to re-familiarize yourself with a place. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Relative price of items in said location. If you’re showcasing work at a special event, like a convention, chances are the people attending will expect higher prices, whereas if the event you’re participating in is more ‘unofficial,’ such as a neighborhood showcase or locally-based, smaller craft fair. Both are equally worth attending, as you’ll still gets tons of experience in business and communication, among other things. However, make sure you price your items accordingly, and don’t assume everyone will pay the same amount. Sometimes that, in and of itself, is the reason why some folks don’t buy your products, no matter how original they may be.
  • ‘Theme’ or niche of the event itself. This is especially important to know ahead of time, and to fully prepare yourself for. If the craft fair or festival you’re part of is for antique or vintage items, don’t sell modern, “in-style” fashions (or anything else that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of vintage). If it’s an overarching festival for hats, don’t sell mittens. Stick to the criteria of the event, as chances are you and all the others vendors will be catering to those who already have a fixed purchasing agenda in mind.

Something else that you’ve probably heard before, which I’m going to continually emphasize now and in future: know your target audience. Who will be attending the festival? What age(s) are they likely to be, and how will that affect the items you should make for sale? Is there a product out in the market that has become very popular, and if so, what items can you make to remind people of that product, to evoke their interest? Answering those questions in advance will help you go a long way in figuring out pricing and everything else.

I’ll give you a real-life example of how finding that niche market is crucial:

It was the summer of 2015. In anticipation for the Arts Festival, I decided the theme I would work on that year would be crochet coral reefs; featuring accessories, individual reef sets and other ideas. It was a project I worked on since January, getting friends involved and even reserving two tent spots. On the morning of the event, there was a heavy downpour. To make matters worse, when people (kids especially) started showing up, there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in the usability of the corals. The visual appeal was there, but the necessity for the item was less so. It was a tough lesson that day, but a valuable one nonetheless.

There is always a certain amount of risk when choosing to participate at a craft show. The question is how much of a risk you’re willing to take. It can be surprisingly fulfilling and successful; or on the flip side, equally heartbreaking. If it’s the latter, please try not to take it too personally. If your items didn’t sell, it’s not because people hate you; sometimes it’s simply that they don’t see a practical enough reason to buy the items you sell. Well, it’s not always a fair reason, to say the least… but if you keep trying and don’t give up the first time, I bet they’ll eventually realize that they’re the ones missing out, not you.

Bottom line: don’t be disheartened. Learn from the experiences, and enjoy all the wonderful things that come with it. Remember, the goal of participating inย anyย craft event is to have fun. Don’t stress out, stay calm, do your very best, and just be yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re returning to an certain event, one way of ‘testing’ your market is to make more of what sold out previously. If you’ve made something in the past that has sold considerably well, follow that pattern and see what happens the next time around. It may not always be the most reliable pattern, as people’s interest can fluctuate significantly over the years… but it’s important to keep track of certain trends all the same. Even better, try creating a new type of product to sell, that can be featured alongside your initial items, and perhaps alternated for different years. That’s one of the ways to get a sense of your niche market, and develop an enhanced, cohesive strategy to go with it.

In the days leading up to some of this year’s major Arts Festivals, I’ll be posting a series of exclusive photos and interviews from my 2016 Arts Fest Memorabilia, starting with Children and Youth Day. On the day(s) itself, I’ll post in-depth articles that will include interviews with the crafters and vendors, ‘shining the spotlight’ on their items, maybe a live podcast of the event itself! I can’t wait to share it all with you guys!

Additionally, for the next T&A post, I’ll focus on guiding you through the actual preparation process: figuring out what to do once you’ve decided to participate, and how to be all ready on the day itself. I can reasonably say, after tons of last-minute panicking, that the more prepared you are, the better the outcome. You’ll also feel more self-confident and will likely not let anything negative get in your way.

And with that, I’ll now conclude this post. Hopefully I’ve left you with plenty to think about. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you’re going to give one of your local Arts Festivals a try, or have showcased your work before and are coming back for another year of awesomeness, I wish you all the best with your crafting and business endeavors. You will be amazing! ๐Ÿ˜€ And, if you like, please comment below and share how it went, what you took away from the experience, and anything else!

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s special post!~

2 thoughts on “T&A #2: To Arts Fest, Or Not To Arts Fest?

  • Yvonne

    Interesting post, with lots to think about! Thanks for writing it.

    I’ve participated in a couple craft fairs over the years, and one thing I’ve tried (beforehand) is talking to the artists, especially those who are exhibiting similar work. โ€œIโ€™m thinking about going to this show, how was it for you?โ€ is a good opener. Most crafters are happy to share info (YMMV), and it’s helpful to hear how well they did.

    I look forward to your Arts Festival updates!

    Reply
    • Orchid

      Hi Yvonne, thank you for commenting! Welcome to the CB community! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Ooh, that’s a wonderful idea! It’s great that you approached the artists themselves, and got excellent feedback. Definitely something all artists should try before participating. Thank you for sharing your insight!

      Reply

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