Craft Market Tips for Buyers and Sellers

Made-In-Canada_728x90_EN_grayTomorrow is exactly one month until the Etsy Made in Canada pop-up market at the Nanaimo Museum. I’m excited to meet some of my fellow Etsy sellers and to hopefully see lots of new and familiar faces come through the doors.

It’s been more than 2 years since I’ve done a craft market, so I’ve been reviewing my display set up and making lots of to-do lists. Plus, I always like to revisit my old set-up and make it better if I can.

One of the challenges about getting your display right is that booth and table dimensions vary from market to market, so it’s important to build some flexibility into your booth. Creating a gorgeous 8 foot shelf isn’t going to help when your booth is only 6 feet wide. Also, make sure that your display (plus all your inventory and equipment) fits into your car – you can’t set it up if you can’t get it to the show!

The booth size at the Etsy Made in Canada market is quite small – only 6 feet by 4 feet which includes a 6 foot by 2 foot table. For a larger booth, I would bring a free-standing display to put my suncatchers and hanging items on, but this time there simply isn’t enough room. So, I’ve had to get creative and I think I’ve actually come up with a design that will be even better than what I had previously. I will post pictures of my new and improved display as soon as I get it built!

One component for my new booth display.

One component for my new booth display.

In the meantime, here are some of my favourite craft fair tips, for both buyers and sellers:

Tips for Sellers

  1. Bring more inventory than you need

Seriously, if you’ve made something and it’s for sale then bring it to the market with you. Having too many items is a far better scenario than having too few. I usually try to have between 200-300 items for a sale, but that number will vary depending on what you sell. If you sell jewelry, you may need more and if you sell large wooden bowls, you may need less.

How much inventory to bring? It's almost impossible to bring too much.

How much inventory to bring? It’s almost impossible to bring too much.

  1. Be at eye level

Craft markets are (hopefully) busy places. There’s a lot going on and you want to make sure that people can see your work. The best way to do this is to build a display that gets your work up off of the table. Also, using different levels make your work more eye-catching.

  1. Don’t read your book

Speaking of eye-catching – you want to be at eye level as well, so prepare to stand, or bring a tall stool instead of chair. It seems like every show I go to, there’s a vendor who is huddled out of sight behind their display (sometimes with their book, sometimes not) and it’s as though this has created a black hole in front of their booth. No one wants to engage with someone who doesn’t want to be there or who they can’t see.

  1. Bring a “show-me” piece

A “show-me” piece is a super-sized piece that showcases your work. If you have the ability to create a piece that’s bigger or showier than what you usually make, bring that piece to the show. You might not sell it (although it feels amazing if you do!) but it’s basically a giant billboard for your booth that shouts “Look what I can do!”.

This stained glass girl is over 2 feet tall. She makes a great show-me piece for a market booth.

This stained glass girl is over 2 feet tall. She makes a great show-me piece for a market booth.

  1. Figure out the flow

As well as making yourself approachable, make sure your booth is approachable. This is especially important for larger spaces, where there is a temptation to create a booth with a dead-end alley. Unfortunately, this means that many buyers will skip by you entirely as they don’t want to get trapped inside your booth. Make sure your spaces has a good flow so that buyers can naturally pass through without feeling constricted.


Tips for Buyers

  1. Buy what you love

This may seem obvious – who would buy something they hated? But, how many times have you talked yourself out of buying something and then regretted it later? If you truly love it that should be enough justification to take it home.

If you love it, buy it. You might not get another chance.

If you love it, buy it. You might not get another chance.

  1. Buy it when you see it

The magical thing about craft markets is that they are often filled with one of a kind items that you will never see again. While it’s easy to convince yourself that you will follow up with a vendor after the show, more often than not, that business card will end up at the bottom of your drawer. (You know the drawer, the one that you’ve been meaning to clean out since March?)

  1. Don’t be afraid to approach sellers

Yes, I want to sell things when I’m at a market. And, I’d love to sell them to you. However, making eye contact and having a conversation with a seller doesn’t mean that you’re about to be drawn into a high pressure sales pitch. Saying hello and asking a question doesn’t mean you’ve committed to buying something.

  1. Don’t be afraid to walk away

On the other hand, sometimes something will catch your eye from across the room and disappoint when you get closer. If it’s not right, don’t take it home.

  1. Respect quality and price

Part of the experience of going to a craft market is getting to see unique, handmade items that you can’t find anywhere else. Handmade generally means that the seller designed, prototyped, handcrafted, photographed, marketed and did a thousand other behind the scenes things to create their items. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that most craft sellers are under-pricing their work. Trust me, no seller wants to hear “I could make that myself” or “I can get that for $5 at Walmart.” Respect the work that goes into each item and the price that reflects that work.

Those are my top craft fair tips – what are some of yours?

 

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A Page from My Inspiration Book #3

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Today’s page is all about black and white. I love vintage photographs, especially ones with a touch of whimsy.

And a great quote from Henry David Thoreau:

The world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

Share the Love – Shop Global, Shop Local

One of the amazing things about selling online through Etsy is the ability to send my creations to places all around the world. I’m still somewhat in awe of the fact that someone in Italy has a set of my coasters or someone in Australia purchased my desk organizers.

Etsy has also given me the opportunity to see how many amazing artisans there are in my back yard. Here are some of my favourites from around Vancouver Island:

Highberry Dew is also from Duncan BC. Her work combines whimsical watercolors with fantastic design to create unique cards and gift tags.

I have a soft spot for ravens, so i love this metal jewelry from ImagesbyKentOlinger from Chemainus BC which is a nice mix of beautiful and fun.

Silver Cedar Jewelry from Cortex Island features local flora and fauna hand cast from silver and gold. Amazing life-like detail.

Emburr pottery from Brentwood Bay features fabulous hand stamped and hand painted pottery.

Finally, not that I’m biased, but for handcrafted wood picture frames and other woodwork, visit my partner’s shop at Balsamroot Woodwork.

What’s on My Workbench – Part 1

This is my main work area, where I cut and foil my glass pieces. I also have work areas for grinding and soldering my pieces as well as extra space to spread out large pieces.

Workbench

Moving from top left to bottom right:

1. Tropsie the stuffed triceratops – I got Tropsie when I was 8 years old from the Museum of Natural History in Ottawa. His current position is Chief Workbench Supervisor.

2. Craft clamps – I use these whenever I need to hold two pieces of glass together, usually with something between them.

3. Over the years I’ve dabbled in other mediums, these are some of my past needlework and polymer clay pieces.

4. Is is not possible to have too many pairs of pliers and wire cutters.

5. My glass cutter. I use a Toyo pistol-grip cutter with an oil reservoir. If you haven’t tried a pistol grip, I strongly recommend it, it is much easier to use for long periods than a pencil style cutter.

6. A color wheel is great for those times when the color combination isn’t quite coming together.

7. My workbench always seems to have a few unfinished projects on it. These have been sitting there for nearly a year.

8. My workbench is made from basic 1 inch think plywood. Some glass artists prefer a carpeted surface to cut on, but I find that it collects too many glass slivers for me to cut myself on. A tape measure is also essential equipment.

9. I have storage for large and mid-sized glass underneath my workbench and bins with smaller pieces on a shelf to one side, all organized by color.

 

 

5 Novels to Spark Your Creativity

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Usually, when I want a book to give me a creative boost, I look for a beautiful coffee table book or an artist biography.  Once in awhile I’ll come across a novel that describes the creative process so well that I’ll have to go out and create something. Here are five novels (from five different genres) that make me head out to my studio:

1. Folly by Laurie R. King (Mystery).  I read this book, on average, about once a year. King is probably best known for her historical mystery fiction and her interpretation of Sherlock Holmes and Folly is a departure from both those themes. This novel tells the story of a woodworker who flees to the San Juan Islands following a personal tragedy. King’s descriptions of both the building of the house (which is a focal point of the book) and of more artistic woodworking creations are exquisite. Plus, there are layers of mysteries to be solved in two separate time periods.

2. The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay (Fantasy). Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the best fantasy writers working today. His prose stands up to authors who write “literary” fiction but I think is often overlooked because of his placement within the fantasy genre. There are two books to this short series, which focuses on the magical story of a mosaicist who must navigate court intrigues as he completes a commission for the emperor.

3. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Historical Fiction). Ken Follett is probably the best known author on this list and the Pillars of the Earth is probably his best known book. Although this book is more about architecture than art, there is something inspiring about the scope of the architectural work in this book that makes me grateful that I work on a much smaller scale.

4. Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas (Romance). Like Folly, this book also takes place in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest. More of a modern love story than a bodice ripping romance, the main character in this novel is stained glass artist who recreates a window that has a mystical quality to it.

5. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland (Fiction). This is the fictional account of the artistic relationship between Clara Driscoll and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Although her work was largely uncredited until recently, Clara Driscoll was recently identified as the creative force behind many of the lamps produced by Tiffany studios.

The Places Experiments Lead

About a month ago, I saw a photo of a wheeled fruit bowl that ceramic artist Robert Boomer Moore had made.

That picture got the wheels turning (so to speak) about whether I could incorporate a similar concept into my glass. After some thought, I came up with this wheeled desk tray. Because I want all my pieces to have a non-glass component, the wheels are polymer clay, covered with metal leaf.

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Even as I was building this piece, I knew it was destined to become a failed experiment. While I loved the classic shape of the desk organizer, the wheels didn’t quite fit the piece. Plus, they were very time consuming to make!

However, building that piece started me down the path to building these little organizers for doohickeys and whatnots.

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Looking back at that wheeled bowl, it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly inspire a set of square desk accessories, but sometimes you end up in places you don’t expect!

My Color Palette

If someone told you that you could only use four colors for a project, which ones would you choose?1aug8IMG_6184

For me, it would have to be these four: cobalt blue, turquoise, lime green and yellow. These are definitely the colors I go back to, over and over. I love the contrast between the soothing blue and turquoise and the shocking yellow and lime.

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If I were allowed one more color to round out my palette? If would have to be the perfect purple.

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What colors are in your color palette?

A Page from my Inspiration Book

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Lots of artists make inspiration boards filled with bits and pieces that catch their fancy. I have a book stuffed full of photos, quotes and other odds and ends that have caught my attention. On this page, I especially like my handmade color wheel, made from different colored photos. Yes, the wheel actually spins to reveal parts of different photos each time.

What inspires you?

Throwback Thursday – My first stained glass piece

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This is the first piece of stained glass that I ever made, back in 2001. It’s pretty rough around the edges…it’s almost round….but I keep it hanging in my studio as a reminder of where I started. This piece isn’t the first thing I ever created using colored glass, however. That honour goes to this piece:

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I originally got into glass because I had an idea that I could create mosaics using glass and plaster. That idea didn’t work at all for a number of reasons and it was another year or so before I took the stained glass class where I made the first piece.

How about you? Do you still have any of your first art pieces?