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Give It Up for The Craft Show

Give It Up for The Craft Show
June 29, 2010 quickfix

Have you ever been blown away by something you thought you knew so well?  Well, I was left in the dust by… the craft show.

I was raised by a full time craftswoman. My mother sold her Rag Rugs exclusively at craft shows- no wholesale, no consignment, no home sales and no online sales. A handful of Craft shows each year- you either brought home the cash or… you didn’t. Here’s how it went..

You leave home before dawn; your less than reliable vehicle is packed solid, you lug everything you need to construct a  “shop” on uneven ground in a space the length of my arm [ok, a wee bit bigger], you work feverishly to create a magnetizing display, you guzzle some coffee and wait nervously. You hope the people come rushing in thru the gates, you hope they have money, you hope they like your kind of stuff and you hope it doesn’t rain or the wind doesn’t rip down your cattywompus tent.

Wait, what’s that?  What? It’s not the 80’s anymore. Ordinary people care about handmade stuff? What? I don’t have to dress up like a colonial servant at your craft show. What are you talking about?

All this to say, there is a new craft show in town. Let’s give it up for the craft show.  The new guy [gal] is hip, fresh and very savvy.  I have been put in my place; I never thought a craft show would be considered even remotely, “cool.”

It may be the same dance- you are probably still working like mad to create an amazing, display within a few hours and your booth might get blown away in  gale storm winds- but the whole thing has a new, fresh vibe. It’s got a catchy and a little edgy name like  Art Star Craft Bazaar or Renegade Craft Fair or Meet Your Maker.

You may still be praying that the next person to walk by stops in and gets the cash out- but you know you’ve got options. You can check your email, maybe something sold in your Etsy shop [a “place” that really knocks my socks off] or you can brainstorm for your next blog post. If they do stop in, you can tell them about your website or let them know you would happy to add them to your email mailing list.

I’m sure you’ll have your share of snide comments by the end of the weekend- but I’m guessing there’s going to be bucket loads of wow, “this stuff is really cool,” “that is so awesome that you make this,” and on and on. Handmade is definitely catching on.

After ALOT of time in my younger years wandering aimlessly thru endless earthtone craftiness – I confess I’ve always been a bit skeptical. I guess that’s how it is when you grow up in something- you become blind to it’s beauty. I’m coming around.

Its dawning on me that the craft show is a legacy. It’s the ye olde medieval market, evolved.  The craft show is our filling a deep need to buy our stuff from real people with real hands.

Long live the craft show!

Photos by Hello Craft & Renegade Craft Fair [of Empire Press]

Comments (10)

  1. tara - scoutie girl 10 years ago

    Kate – WOW. This post is INCREDIBLE.

    Gah – I’m not sure what else to say… I’m going to have to ponder this for a while because I desperately want to add to this conversation…. I’ll let you know 😉

  2. kate 10 years ago

    Thank you Tara! 🙂 You are such a great supporter. I really appreciate it. I could probably write an entire series on “craft shows.” I would love to continue the conversation- please do let me know. I’ll await your spark!

  3. Lesley 10 years ago

    I have yet to do a craft show… I’m kind of intimidated/not sure where to start! But it is high on my must-do-very-soon list.

    I’m excited that this sort of handmade revolution is happening. I think as things become more and more mass produced, accessible and in-your-face, more groups of people are peeling away from the masses and seeking out things that have been created with human hands, or at least originated with a human thought.

    It’s like a whole new type of scarcity, knowing you’re buying something that’s one-of-a-kind or limited edition. Quite a different scarcity than a megamart running out of the latest gadget. Now if only I could have people clamoring over themselves for my artwork like they are for the latest iPhone. THEN I’d really be in business! hehe : )

  4. Lorraine 10 years ago

    I have done a few shows, which were were okay, not great for me..I have had more success selling online, but that does not mean I won’t ever do another craft show…I most likely will one of these days… I love craft shows! Handmade rules!

  5. Brad Sears 10 years ago

    Great post! Personally, I love doing shows. Even when sales are below expectations, connecting with actual and potential collectors is an amazing experience.

  6. Joanne 10 years ago

    I have watched the craft fair evolve from a rural mix of handmade toys and jelly through raku pottery and nature photos into the current digital awe of sophisticated art prints and upcycled fabrics in laser cut patterns. The human anticipation is still genuine even as we wish for better cell phone manners. There is an added layer of buzz too with the new sort of “rock star” class of design bloggers who may be wandering the shows along with the long rumored stories of major store buyers looking for new items. Throughout the decades though, I think the craft fair reinforces what handmade selling is all about. It’s regular people who communicate with each face to face sale a joyous exchange of real values between the artist/maker and the appreciator/buyer. It doesn’t get any better than that.Thanks for making me think about doing another fair. Can we get a list together??

  7. Barry Leader 10 years ago

    Those “rag rugs” made by your mother were made of recycled blue jeans if I recall. I bought those rugs and handed them down to my son and his wife, who still use them today! My son also has my wooden bowls, birdhouses, stools, shaker boxes, baskets and much more, as my wife and I “downsized” our home. I know that some day my grandson will have these things in his home.

    If only people who buy at Target and Walmart could instead, have the experience of paying more but connecting with something for generations.

    Thanks for reminding me of your mother’s rugs.

  8. Karen Larko 10 years ago

    Great post! I’m right there with Lesley. Thinking about doing my first show too and feeling a bit intimidated.

  9. Kate 10 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. I really appreciate the time you took to share here.
    Lesley & Karen – I wish you all the best with your first show! You will sell, you will make some wonderful contacts and learn lots. 🙂 Thanks Brad and Lorraine for your positive and upbeat comments.

    Yes, yes, Thank you Joanne for your very thoughtful comment. You’re right about the, “the added layer of buzz with a new rock star class of design bloggers.” I think that is very interesting.

    Thanks Barry. Good to hear from you. Yes, mom’s rugs certainly do last a lifetime. I love how you said, “have the experience of paying more but connecting with something for generations.” Your work has certainly inspired us.

    all the best to you all- I really enjoy hearing your different perspectives!

  10. Karen 10 years ago

    I love love LOVE craft shows, both for shopping and for selling my Paper Demon Jewelry Japanese paper jewelry (http://paperdemonjewelry.etsy.com). At my town’s craft fair my ‘hip’ acquaintances would walk by my booth in the dusty, hot, windy parking lot, and give me these skeptical sideways glances before averting their eyes in embarassment for me, and sidle away. To hell with them, i would think, I am making beautiful things and getting money for them, AND having a fantastic time. Sometimes the bluegrass fiddler sets up her chair and money box next to me, and pretty soon she’ll collect a little crowd and a couple more musicians all jamming happily. Sometimes the smell of kettlekorn becomes too much to stand I have to get some. Sometimes a kid drops his ice cream on my jewelry. It is all good. The internet is ok, but it’s a distant second to the craft fair. The thrill of setting out your wares and seeing the delight in someone’s eyes when they come upon them– that can’t be beat.

    Wow, i didn’t know i had so much to say about craft fairs. I better write a blog post myself! Thanks for writing this. It made me think!

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