Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Best Craft Show Advice

Casey Maute is a contributor to the OkEtsy blog and lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She has worked under the name Lollywood from 2008-2010 and recently opened a new Etsy shop called OSO handmade. She loves craft shows, eating from food trucks, finding cool local shops, and working with PR and social media.

The fall craft fair season is in full swing and most crafters are either living on caffeine as they prepare for the weekend's show, or cursing themselves for missing the deadline for yet another event.
I've been doing shows for 3 years now, and I've learned a lot through trial and error and the help of other crafters. I wanted to share one tip about shows that can save you a lot of money, time and effort.. I even made a little rhyme!
 Vend the shows you'd want to attend
 The 2011 Indie Emporium show in Tulsa,
taken by Briana Hefley Shepard of Bifftastica

Vending at craft shows is a great way to promote your handmade business and gain customers, but you need to do some research before you send in your booth fee and spend countless nights preparing. My best advice would be to attend a show as a customer before attending as an artist. You may think you are missing out on a perfect opportunity by not applying, but like each artist-- each show is different. You'll want to take in everything and look at the show from all perspectives.. including:
  • Is there an admission cost to shop at the show? If so, what incentives do they get for their ticket price?
  • Who are the customers? Who is the show's target market? Do your items fit in with that market?
  • Is the show 100% handmade, or do they allow resellers? 
  • Is there a variety of artists? Over-saturation can cause shoppers to overlook your items, thinking, "I just saw that, I just bought that, I don't need to look at more of those."
  • What is the crowd like? Ask vendors about foot-traffic and if they would do the show again. 
  • Are there other activities at the show? Free music, food vendors, or children's activities can bring larger crowds, but just make sure that the main focus is buying awesome art, otherwise crowds may show up with little to no money for shopping.
  • Who is putting on the show? Are they known in the craft community, is the show established, or will they disappear into the night with your booth fee and then cancel the show? Being a little bit cautious never hurt anyone.
  • Do I have enough inventory to do a show yet? If you are just starting out and worry that you don't have enough product to even make your booth fee back, you may want to find a show that will let you share a booth with a friend. You can split the fee and will have someone there to talk to and won't have to worry about getting a stranger to watch your booth while you get food or use the restroom. Always check before applying that the show accepts booth sharing, since each one will have different guidelines.
  • Finally, read the application and guidelines! Check for times you can set up, when your fees are due, is the show for crafters in a specific state, do you need a tax permit.. Most of your own questions will be answered in the guidelines!
 The 2011 Indie Emporium show in Tulsa, taken by Briana Hefley Shepard of Bifftastica

Researching for a show can seem like a lot of work, but if you can answer all those questions with positive responses... and the show has the environment you like and your customers would like.. then start prepping your application and get it submitted before the deadline! I've had great experiences with Oklahoma craft fairs, and am looking forward to vending at two this season! (The Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar in Oklahoma City on December 10, 2011, and The Alliday Show in Tulsa on December 17, 2011)


  1. Great Advice - I did a 2 day Cat Show - and between the fees - made $50.00. Not worth 2 days of my time.