The first show I ever had was High School PTA show in Durham, NC. I blogged about it here in 2015. It’s about 40 minutes from my house in Wake Forest and I was excited and terrified and really had no idea of what to expect. My first mistake is one that I keep making over and over to this day – I didn’t sleep at all the night before the show. I had wands to show, fairy flower headbands, and dice bags. I’d borrowed a table from a friend, washed and dried my nicest black table cloth, prepared everything for the show – made price signs, bought dum dum lollipops to hand out, I had my business cards ready (thank you staples), it was all perfect. The set up was from 7 am to 9am and the show opened its doors at 9. My friend Eliza had a table next to me with Fairy Hair, earrings, and fairy statues. Eliza had done this before and helped me immensely. She’s actually a major part of what helped me get started making wands! (more to come about her soon!)
I got to the show, set up my table, my standing display for dice bags, my fairy flower headbands, and then realized that I had FORGOTTEN MY WANDS!
Let me repeat that: I’d forgotten to bring the craft that I was selling. To my first craft show.
I told Eliza what had happened and jumped in my car and drove home, then returned to the show (I was only about 10 minutes late to the doors opening) and laid out my wands.
That was my first show where I learned that I need to get some sleep, make a checklist for all of the things to bring and to pack up my car the night before if at all possible. Three years later and I’ve never forgotten our wands since.
Bryan and I share a Google Keep list that helps us pack. We’ve found that one of us needs to pack, the other goes through the list and makes sure it is all there. You’ll find your checks and balances along the way.
There are a few things in our show “kit” that we don’t often need but never want to be without. Paper, sharpies, scissors, tape, duct tape, bungee cords, jump rings, needle nose pliers, and a screwdriver.
Another mistake we’ve made included pricing signs that made sense to us but not to others. At one point we had a large and beautiful wrought iron holder for necklaces – we had wand necklaces and Time Turners on them. The wand necklaces were $10 and the Time Turners were $20. We had a sign on them that said: Wand Necklaces $10 and Time Turners $20. At an outdoor flea market style show a woman came up and started playing with the wand necklaces, using them as pendulums. She then saw the Time Turners and fell in love with them. When she asked us how much the necklaces cost, we told her that the Wand necklaces were $10 and the Time Turners are $20. She came back later and told us that she wanted to get a necklace, that she had manifested the money by making a sale at her booth. I believe she was a tarot reader. This is great! I often feel like it just takes one vendor with $20 for us all to pass around to each other and share our wares. This all gets taken care of with tradesies.
She pulled off a Time Turner and handed her card to us. We ran the card for $20 and thanked her for her purchase. We talked for a while about her endeavors to share her reading abilities with others and her upcoming podcasts. She was a really interesting woman.
Later that evening we received an email from her. She was quite upset because we ran her card for $20 instead of $10 that her necklace was marked for.
We all know that she picked the more expensive necklace – it was a Time Turner, which was clearly marked as $20. Had she gone with the Wand necklaces that she saw originally, we would have charged her $10. I think that the term “Time Turner” was lost on her – to someone who isn’t a wizarding world fan, what the heck is a Time Turner. Even though we said the price and she saw the price – there was a disconnect with her. We realized that only placing one type of necklace on the holder would mitigate any confusion and that would never happen again.
I refunded the entire $20 because we are all in this together and I’ve been in a place where $10 meant a world of difference. It would have been easy to respond to this person’s email with: the price was clearly stated and we told you the price. It’s not our fault that you didn’t pay attention. I think refunding the entire amount was the right thing to do. It made us feel better and she hasn’t contacted us since.
Everyone has something to teach us and we learn from ever interaction. We learned a few things from this exchange:
- That we can’t just throw out terms that we think everyone will know and understand.
- That we need to make certain that people won’t get confused – so no two priced items on the same holder
- That people from different walks of life and interests are interested in what we have to offer.
- If you handle something the right way then it won’t haunt you.
That is the only dispute we’ve ever had. We are fortunate and let our hearts lead us – I think this is the real key. We want people to love our art. We want them to want to have it in their homes. It’s a conversation, and exchange, and we couldn’t be more honored to be part of it.
There are plenty of mistakes we make all the time. We forget to save receipts, I stay up way to late and live the next day like a zombie, and we let entire shows pass without taking a single picture. I guess mistakes are only mistakes when you take a look at your goal and you can that your inaction or actions are missed opportunities on the way to getting you closer to your goal.
The biggest mistake we’ve made by far has always been doubt.
There is a phenomenal show we’ve been honored to be part of twice now – Pancakes and Booze. Mmhmm, that’s right. It’s a traveling show and in Raleigh it’s housed at the very cool music venue: The Lincoln Theatre and there are DJ’s, body artists, a full bar, and a pancake bar. People pay to get in and Bryan and I have sold wands and I’ve shared henna at this show both times it’s come to town. We were on the fence about this show the first time. We were worried that we weren’t cool enough, that we were too old, that we wouldn’t fit in, that we wouldn’t know anyone, that people would laugh at our wands, and that we would have an overall miserable time. The first time we did this show, we were even trying to talk ourselves out of it on the way there. If one of us had just said, “You’re right. Let’s not do this”, then we would have turned around, gone home, and missed out on a fun and profitable evening.
We went in, set up, and had the best show to date. I was sore at the end of the night because I had been sitting in the same position all night just drawing on people. The lights were low, so my eyes were straining, but I met some of the most interesting people and shared henna with people for whom it was their first time. Bryan stood at our table next to a table with the coolest pair of ladies from Atlanta who were selling weed pipes and dildos. Yes – people bought wands that night – we were floored! It taught us that if we are excited about our art and put ourselves in the right setting, that a portion of whatever community we come in contact with will be interested in our art and may even take some of it home with them.
The second time we attended Pancakes and Booze as artists, we were put into contact with Lynn and Tom at Magik Craft in Durham, NC. One of their friends saw our wands and put their card in my hand and said, “You need to take your wands to these people. They would love to have your wands in their shop.” After some scheduling, we did and we are so proud to have our wands in their shop. Art has the transformative power to connect people in ways we never thought possible.
I am a true believer that the biggest mistake you can ever make is to listen to the voice of doubt that says you aren’t worth it, that your work isn’t good enough, that you aren’t good enough – that is an illusion brought to you by haters, strange brain chemistry, and quite possibly growing up in the south where you are taught to be seen and not heard – and what is art if not a way to be heard. Screw all that! Get out there and be seen, be heard, and be proud of your work! The world needs to see it!
Mistakes can be fixed. They are how we learn. I think that making mistakes is an important part of any journey, so please, make as many mistakes as you can. If you find that you are making the same ones over and over again, start looking at them and figure out what the hold up is – what is the lesson you aren’t learning. Once you figure it out and decide that it is something you want to change, then you’ll be ready to change it. If you figure it out and decide that it isn’t worth your time to make a change, then you’ll keep making it – and you may want to accept that this isn’t a mistake, but more of a character flaw. Just don’t make the mistake of staying put and not sharing your art with the world – that hurts us all.
You can make the biggest mistakes and as long as you have a good attitude, you’ll still succeed. You can have the worst attitude and not make any mistakes – and not succeed. You get to decide. I know you can do this! I’m excited to help.
So, this is how most things start… an idea.
My hubs and I are makers. He’s a classically trained industrial designer, and I’ve had the amazing pleasure of being able to seek my joy and employment creatively as a cake decorator, a theatre costumer, an art teacher, and all around crafty person for as long as I can remember.
We’ve been sharing and showing our art at craft fairs, conventions, and festivals for a little over three years now and we’d like to share what we’ve learned and learn from you. We rise by lifting others is the mantra of our hearts and has served us well in the 22 years we’ve been together. We would like to lift you up and help you get out of your studio and into the world.
A very kind and bright eyed young man once asked me at a convention how we got started and what advice would we give him as a beginner. (What an honor to be asked these questions!!!) While I was probably a little over zealous (this is my super skill – I really am excited to share with anyone who will listen!), I think I shared some great information with this young man – although I may have overwhelmed him.
Every show has something to teach us. Every crafter we meet, every customer we serve, and every person we share our art with has something to teach us.
The idea here is to collect thoughts, data, ideas, tips, and images to help you make your craft booth happen, to make it better, and to just give you the confidence to get out there and put your art on the table for people to see.
Oh, Kenna, I can’t do that.
Oh yes you can!
I have the great luxury of being an extrovert with a sheer drive to smile and acknowledge people. Bryan (mah hubs) calls me the mayor because I say hello to everyone… and that’s just walking down the street. Bryan, the one who sweetly reminds me that I am not the mayor, is a wonderful introvert who lights up when telling people about his work they are holding (we make wizard wands and other magical items – he’s primarily a woodworker). Bryan is the yang to my yin, but more than likely the yin to my yang. We are peas in a pod and adventures are always better with a friend.
In this light, my first bit of advice to you, dear artist, crafter, creator, maker: find someone to work with who feeds your heart and is positively and critically honest with you about your work.
Your mom or dad may not be the best people for the job because they love you unconditionally and will tell you that everything looks wonderful (if you have no one else, then have a serious talk with mom or dad and let them know that you need their kindness and support, but you also need their critical honesty).
None of us exist in a vacuum. You have a community – even if it’s your cat and your weird neighbor. And if you don’t have that, find your community online. Your work is good. It has value because you’ve put in the time. This is one of my favorite messages to creatives from Ira Glass. You’ve thought about putting it out there – and you should! Don’t keep it in and let it collect dust in the corner of your room. Share it with others. When you are ready to see if there is a market for your creations, I’ll have more ideas for you. You’ll have things you’ll want to talk about. I will too.
Until then, and as this idea unfolds, let me know what your questions are. Are you interested in applications, how to find shows, inventory, what to expect, taxes, accepting credit cards, vendor etiquette, traveling with your work, displays, pricing, tents, weights for your tents, what to do if you are at a show by yourself and you need to pee…. these are the things I’ll be answering and collecting your ideas on. Thank you so much for being part of my community. Please ask me anything you want at email@example.com.