I’m new to the craft fair game, and when I started my business last year, it wasn’t something I originally planned into my business model. I planned to sell my work via galleries, with someone else displaying my work, dealing with the customer etc.
In reality, I work from home and most of my time is on the computer. I started to think more and more about getting out there, talking to the customers – getting some feedback! What do they like, what do they buy, what looks better in person than on the web, meeting other artists, new source of income, networking etc. There are lots of reasons to get out there.
My first fair (June 2008) was appalling! I just got a cloth, laid all my stuff out and waited for the stampede.
Not surprisingly, there wasn’t one!
I had no idea how to display my work, had hardly been to any craft fairs to get ideas, and thought that rather than do something naff, I would let the jewellery do the talking. Well it whispered, and I had no idea that really, even if you do have a great product, you still need to SELL it. Nothing sells itself.
Conclusion: maybe my jewellery wasn’t the right fit for the fair setting or that I wasn’t and left it at that.
Earlier this year I was approached by Jo Whitehead from Keighley Arts Factory to participate in a fair they were starting in Keighley. It is only over the hill from me, and a cheap table, so i thought what the heck! I took a collection of the oddments I take my photos on (apart from my kitchen window sill!) and laid my stuff on that. Well I made my fee back, plus a bit more, met some great artists and had a great day.
Conclusion: I’d do this occasionally, it’s fun but not a living. I knew my stall needed work, but didn’t know if I was prepared to spend to make it better, would I do many more? I really enjoyed the feedback from customers, and seeing people picking up my jewellery, getting compliments etc. It’s hard to get perspective when you are at home looking at it!
Next, I got an opportunity to do a jewellery-only fair @ the Loft in Leeds. Aha, that’s where the real jewellery lovers will be, I thought. I had a round table, and my layout looked good, I thought. I sold well, my best yet. Met some great people too.
Conclusion: success! this is more like it….
Then Castle Howard in August, and I blogged about it here. I only sold to one customer, but it was a set, and it covered the stall cost. However, lots of people didn’t do well, and I was on a half stall tucked between 2 visual artists, one of whom had great side panels to display her work, kind of obscuring mine. I had no banner, no sign, laid too much out. It looked like an explosion in a jewellery factory! I did get interest though, and people liked my stuff, and met more great artists.
Conclusion: the day, my setting, the way I had done my stall all affected sales, sort out my stall and it will be better…
I had signed up to do the dates on my tour here, and have now done 2 of them. I have sold 1 pair of earrings after 2 fairs. I’m no accountant, but I know that is not a good return! After the first one, I scoured everywhere for feedback on my stall, and got loads of great advice. As there was only a week between, I couldn’t do it all, but this weekend’s stall definitely looked much better, and I got as many compliments about my stall as I did my jewellery. Still only one sale though.
BUT sales, were quite low at both fairs, for most sellers. The ones who did well were selling lower priced goods. Both fairs were pretty quiet. The fair at Ripley this weekend was full of lovely artists, but many had never done fairs before. Some had never sold to the public at all before, and their pricing was way too low. These lovely people just wanted to cover their cost so they could buy more supplies and craft more. Only Lyndsey from Aprilis was using sterling silver, even. The girl next to me making lovely costume necklaces for £5, sold loads.
The lady the other side of me asked ‘ well, do you go to craft fairs, yourself?’. No I don’t!
This leaves me with lots of questions:
Do people really make money doing craft fairs?
Does my jewellery look right for this environment?
Is my jewellery priced right for this environment?
Is my stall preventing my sales?
Am I at the wrong events?
If I don’t go to them, does my target customer go to them?
Are they just badly marketed?
Is it just too early for Christmas shopping?
Is it the economic climate, and people being far more cautious?
On a good note, a lady who bought a bracelet from me from the Loft in June called today commission her to make a matching necklace, so maybe it is more than just sales on the day, after all. :)