Change is hard. Growth is hard. Sometimes people suck.
Well, that's quite an opener so, I should probably explain.
This year I have been experimenting with new locations and venues to sell my work. And boy, have I learned a lot.
First - not all craft fairs, are really arts & craft fairs. I had no idea that there was a difference. This is the first year that I have been to events that include "vintage" and non-artisan vendors. And - FOR THE RECORD - I am in no way being critical of these vendors. Most (except for the two gentlemen next to me at my last event) are lovely. These booths are filled with really fun antiques and useful products.
However, when you're selling handmade, one-of-a-kind original work, it is really hard to compete with the vintage $3 bag. Though it can be really fun to shop, the mass-produced, second-hand market does not work for an artist.
The Kalamazoo Holiday Craft Show had a good venue, lots of foot-traffic. BUT - not really an art show. A shopper would love the deals and garage sale like atmosphere. As an artist, well - no.
If you are looking for a venue for artists, don't assume that the name "Craft Show" means it is a show filled with crafters and artisans 'cause it may not be. This venue may be price-driven which is perfect for multi-level marketers and second-hand retailers.
I wish I would have asked a few questions before signing on the dotted line. Here's what I will ask the next time:
1. What type of vendors do you accept?
2. Will there be second hand sellers?
3. Are all the items allowed in the show original work?
4. How many booths are available?
5. How are you promoting the show?
6. What is the foot traffic?
7. Do you monitor the vendors to insure quality and professionalism?
8. Is this a juried event?
Another painful life lesson was fully realizing that having an independent business does not mean going it alone. Up until this event, I have never had any problems with other vendors, so working on my own has not been an issue. Unfortunately, the men in the booth next to me were challenging and unprofessional (all the sorted details below). I really could have used a partner to support me while dealing with their shenanigans. I felt alone and vulnerable. Going forward, I will be bringing a support system with me to my events and discussing with the show host how they enforce their rules.
Now, time for the vent...
This is the first time in my selling experience that I have had the booth next to me actually sell from my booth. Yes, this really did happen. They were standing in my booth. Selling their stuff. Promoting their goods.
I approached them twice to ask them to move-it-on-back and well, boundaries are hard. Not for me, but apparently for them.
Up until this past weekend, art fairs have been a blast. I have absolutely loved working along-side some amazing artisans. I have learned and shared wisdom. I have supported and been supported through windstorms, thunderstorms, and poorly run events. I have NEVER had a vendor call me "Hon" or been told he was only "2 inches" over the line (while he was standing in my booth) like, ever. And when I say ever, I mean ever, ever, ever.
Deep breath. Maybe another. One more. Okay, that felt good.
While this event was painful for me. Almost in tears painful. It was a learning experience. (Although, I would appreciate all future learning experiences to be a little less challenging). I gained much. And I am grateful.
I know what to ask.
I know what works - and - what doesn't.
Sometimes people suck.
But most of the time they rock.