On March 1st, I made a vow to myself, a sort of Crafting Lent: no outside projects for 1 month. I needed that month to prepare for Indie Craft Fair: 3D, and I knew if I got distracted by outside projects, I wouldn’t get nearly enough actual work done. This was especially hard, because when Spring comes and the weather turns nice, it is so hard to keep those creative juices in check. But I did it, I remained resolved and I actually got a ton of work done for the show.
A little backstory is probably necessary. I’ve only done one craft fair so far, Craftin’ Outlaws in Columbus, Ohio. I shared a table with my fellow craft mafia member, Amy of Ambulette, and I brought along some of my husband’s (Todd from Up With Soap!) soaps. I didn’t prepare well enough (give me a break, I was six weeks postpartum with my son Oscar) and I didn’t have time to make proper displays for any of my stuff, so I decided to take along my prototype board. My prototype board consists of all the first fetos I produce, superglued to a piece of glass I harvested from a now defunct tv cabinet. Needless to say, it was not a great display. Nor was it very practical, because people spent the entire fair saying, “Oh, are these magnets?” and yanking them off the board. I also had a lot of fetos on the board that I didn’t have supply of, really obvious fetos I should have had like the Geisha and Eva the Unicorn. But I *did* remember to bring along a ton of useless jewelry I didn’t sell very much of! And I made a big mistake, according to Amy (who works in retail and knows all about selling stuff to strangers) because I put my big bowl of Cletuses and Sweetests in their variety of skintones for $0.50/each right in the front of my display, which apparently meant that more people would just hurry and buy the one feto for $0.50 rather than look around the entire display and spend more money. She was absolutely right. We also had nothing to draw people in and engage them for a few moments, which I can now say is key to surviving these shows. No matter what you sell, your table is pretty much like everybody else’s. So the longer you can get them to stick around, the better, right?
For this show, I tried to be a lot more on the ball. I made a ton of magnets, since everybody was asking about them and mangling my display, and went without the jewelry. I also put the Cletus and Sweetest bowl further out of reach, BEHIND the other fetos. To draw people in, my husband and I constructed a carnival-type display board where you put your head through the hole, and you look like you’ve got the body of a fetus. It went over really well, since a lot of people have cellphones in their camera. We photographed the people who didn’t, and they signed a little form so we could email it to them (along with a “can we add you to the mailing list” checkbox, sneaky sneaky!). We also put together a free sample box of stuff from the craft mafia members, so nobody walked away without a sample of something. (Who turns down something free?) And we had a coloring contest where you decorated a pig (Cincinnati is Porkopolis, afterall) to win a gift basket full of prizes from CCM. It went over really well, and the entries are hysterical. Finally, since this was the debut of my Cute Little Sprouts display, I had a little garden pot with free “Grow Your Own Sprout Kits,” which was basically that growing a bean with a wet paper towel in a plastic baggie thing you did in first grade. Needless to say, there was a lot to look at, and a lot to talk about, which kept most people there for a few minutes.
In my efforts to make a display board, I decided the easiest route would be to glue photographs of the fetos next to their name on a big piece of display board. I ordered the photos from Kodak Gallery well in advance, and waited. And waited. And waited. On Friday, the day before the show, my mailbox was yet again empty (as it was today, as well, actually), so I knew I was going to have to improvise. I ended up having to pry them off my “make board” (which I use as a guide when I make fetos) and glue them onto the new board in a big collection of squares with their name and number on them. It looked pretty nice, and I was pretty happy with it, until I got to the show and realized it basically made a huge fort that didn’t allow me to see 1/3 of my table...whoops!
But I have to say I highly recommend the samples thing. It seems that when people visit a craft fair, they already know exactly how much money they are prepared to spend. This is especially true since there are usually no ATMs at the show, which means they will have to have an exact amount before they walk in. It also seems that people don’t intend to walk out of the fair with nothing. They have x amount of dollars, and they are going to leave with $0 and hopefully your stuff when they walk out.
Like I said, I’ve only done one more of these before, but I am starting to learn a little bit about them. The free samples helped tremendously, and I now highly recommend them to anybody who is a vendor. People were walking around with Sweetest Fetus decals or a sample of Todd’s soap, and they worked like magnets, drawing people back to our table as they did their rounds. That’s another weird thing about craft fairs. People always do a lap before they buy. So you get all discouraged for the first hour, because people look at your stuff, comment on it, and then walk away. Craft fair customers are always of the “grass is greener” variety. They only have a set amount of money, and they want to make damn sure that after they spend it on your stuff, they don’t walk to the next table and go “Oh crap! I just wasted my money on fetuses, and there’s this really cute purse!”
The night before the fair, if you could have peeked in my windows at 4 AM, you would have seen a very exhausted looking mother, with her baby tied to her back, glueguning fetuses onto a display board. It was not a pretty sight, but I think children pick up on the stress of their parents, because every time I NEED to get something done, Oscar knows that these would be the best times to not nap, be salty, and generally get in the way. Not to turn this into an advertisement for mei-tai carriers, but they are seriously lifesaving in a situation like this. I got to bed around 5:30 AM, and when the alarm rang at 7:30, I was too sleepy to understand, as was my husband, so we both basically rolled back over and accidentally slept another hour. Which made us an hour late for the rest of the morning. Also, in the midst of packing the car, I placed the Cute Little Sprouts display on the roof, and it was never seen nor heard from again. So if you were in Northern Kentucky or Ohio on April 1st, and a little garden display with a picket fence and some foam vegetables came flying at you – I am deeply sorry.
We arrived at the show, very, very late, and with minimal time to set up. I was pleased to see that the Cincinnati Craft Mafia table and the Fetopia table were indeed right next to each other, just as we had requested, and that they were both clearly marked. There was also a marked improvement in the lighting, considering it was a bar. As I walked in, holding a bunch of stuff, Amy D called out, “Hey, is that a baby?” I don’t think she recognized me until I started putting out my stuff on the Fetopia table. Amy D is seriously the most awesome person to host a craft fair. She is so helpful, and checks on you to make sure things are going alright. When Oscar got bored, she took him on a tour of the fair, introducing him to other people. She is awesome. And because of her help, we were able to set up in record time, which was good, because we were still in the middle of setting up when the first customers were walking around.
About an hour went by before we sold anything. And I do mean ANYTHING. There is always an amount of sheer panic in between when you set up for a show, and when you sell your first item. Something happens in your brain when you make your first sale, like, “Okay, at least I sold one thing. If I don’t sell anything else, at least I sold one thing.” But before that happens, you get all doubtful of your work, “Maybe nobody will get it. Maybe nobody will think it’s funny. Is this the right venue for this stuff?” It is torturous. People seem to forget that whether it’s fetuses, or soap, or purses, or whatever, it’s your art form. And seeing people face-to-face, judging your work, is scary. And it will probably always be scary. At least for me. I don’t have a thick enough skin yet to not take it personally when people don’t like my work.
The previous morning, Amy and Trish, who ran the show, did a radio interview about the show. Amy informed me that they had mentioned we would be there, saying we were like rock stars to the local craft world. Very nice, but very, very embarassing. And so not true. Especially since NATALIE DEE was there. She came over when the show was just starting and said, “I’m supposed to introduce myself to you. I’m Natalie Dee.” In movies, whenever somebody meets a celebrity and gets all gushy, I always thought, “I’d never act like that. I’d play it totally cool.” And man, did I try. I tried to talk to her like a human being, and even managed to, but I don’t think my eyeballs ever got smaller than grapefruits. I was crazy excited.
The show moved along very quickly. I could not believe it when there was only a half hour left. I have never had enough time to get away and see what else people are selling. I only see what is right across to me and right next to me. It is now my mission at my next show to take a tour. I always make a deal with myself: if I sell $100 at a show, I’m allowed to buy 1 thing. It would be so easy to blow all the money you make buying everybody else's stuff! I already knew what that one thing would be before the show started, a T-bone cuddler to go with the Mr. Pickle I bought Oscar at Craftin’ Outlaws. Team Pickles is so freaking cool. They have Team Pickles jackets! I wish I had that kind of organization. I never get to talk to them at shows, I always have to rush right over, buy something, and get back to my table. But the T-bone is so freaking cute! And it even comes wrapped in celophane on a styrofoam meat tray, just like in the meat aisle at a grocery store. There is no end to their cleverness.
I also had to rush over and buy a Toothpaste for Dinner shirt for my husband. He wanted the one that said “Bad poetry - oh noetry!” But they were sold out! Which is good for them, so I wish them no bodily harm! Remember, we are the mafia! You do not screw with the mafia! But I did get to buy a cute Natalie Dee shirt with a coconut frog on it. And it was only $10! Then Trish let me come to her table, and I got an Altar magazine for free. I’ve always meant to check it out, it comes highly recommended from a number of sources.
I didn’t get any trades this time, which made me sort of sad. I love doing trades with other vendors. We even had a cute sign this time “Interesting Trades Considered – No Firstborns!” Maybe it wasn’t as funny as we thought it was...
All and all, I had a very successful show, and highly recommend it to anybody in the Ohio (or the surrounding region) area who wants to get their feet wet at a craft show. They had cool stuff like a puppet show, and a raffle for Planned Parenthood. Plus, Natalie Dee entered my coloring contest. I now have original Natalie Dee artwork to call my very own. Sweet! It's going right on ebay!
(I also need to add that while editing this to put the correct links in, I got sidetracked for half an hour looking at Toothpaste for Dinner. Panflute flow chart? Genius!)