Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring, Butterflies, and Behind the Scenes

Hello everyone!  I hope y’all are well.

You know I wanted to say that spring has sprung.  Except that we never really had any winter.  We literally had about 2 days of cold weather back in December, and that was it.  The rest of our “winter” has been spring like.

All this spring weather has made me anxious for craft show season.  It is finally getting close!  It is getting close to crunch time and as we get closer, my excitement level goes up.  Do you remember getting butterflies when you had your first date or first kiss?  I kind of get the same thing as each show season, and each show, arrives.

In fact, dh and I have been looking at options for updating our booth.  I had seen some ideas online and shared it with my husband.  He found a very similar option to buy online, and we almost did buy it.  Then this evening we were at Hobby Lobby and saw a shelving unit like we had bought for our house a while back.  The shelving unit is a pretty metal unit painted a turquoise color and distressed.  It is collapsible and easy to transport.  Dh and I were talking about buying this 2nd one to take on the road to craft shows.  I mentioned we could unload the one we have and try it out before we buy one.  He agreed that it was worth trying out the one we had before spending money on one … just in case it does not work out like we hope.

Whatever happens with the metal shelving, the booth update will be a gradual process.  Like most artists, it is hard to change it all at once.  We don’t want to throw off our customers with a totally new booth and they think they are in the wrong booth.  It is also a little more fun to try out something new for a season and see if we want to keep it.  Dh and I are not married to our booth, but to each other.  So remembering that helps ease transitions in the booth décor.  😃

We are blessed this spring that all three craft shows we are doing are indoors.  We like it because our customers get to shop in a climate controlled venue or at least out of the elements.  Shoppers don’t have to deal with wet grounds, rain, or wind.  In fact, the advantages for the shoppers also benefit the sellers.  It is much more pleasant inside when the weather is iffy.  Now, when it’s a nice day, I do like being outdoors for a show.

Having craft shows indoors also saves a little room in our vehicle and saves time having to put up a tent.  We still put up our “props”, and the pipe and drapes we use to delineate our booth.  The drapes are a honey color and our table covers are black.  The black helps the merchandise to pop.  For those who are die hard New Orleans Saints fans, you would be right at home in my booth with these colors!  LOL

I have been out looking the last few day for silk flowers for painted vases, decorative balls to fill some pretty bowls I’ve painted, and so on.  It is fun to match up flowers or greenery to a vase.  The colors are so pretty and each floral stem may come in several colors.  The greenery has such great texture and adds some interest to a vase even when used without flowers.  On Monday I will make final decisions on the last few floral stems and greenery selections I need to make.

This afternoon I have been working on some behind the scenes stuff.  I have gotten our box packed that has a few office supplies, small tools like screwdrivers, garbage bags and so on.  I have also been working on pricing some coasters holders.  Unfortunately, I have run out of tags for certain ones.  I am just a few short!    I have also have decided to put some color on a certain line of coaster holders to give them a little pizzazz.

The show season is quickly approaching and I feel like I have a million things to do to get ready.  However, it is all good because I am working hard at being very prepared.  I love doing this.  I get great satisfaction seeing and hearing customers’ reactions to our products.  I am still amazed when someone loves something enough to want to purchase it for themselves or as a gift.  I feel like a flower ready to bloom … come out of my shell from the winter.  It is time to get face to face with old and new friends, fellow artisans and crafters, potential new customers and those who have been around a while.

Selling in the public is quite different than selling online due to the face to face interaction.  I don’t have to imagine what the customer like because I can see it in their face or in their voice.  It is hard to feel the excitement a customer feels in finding an object they love when they are behind a computer screen.  When it comes down to it I am grateful for all my customers---those I meet in shows, those who purchase online, and my friends who send a text or a PM letting me know they want a certain piece.

Well, I must go for now but I’ll return next Sunday with another installment.  I look forward to us meeting here again in a week.  Have a happy, joy filled week.  May God bless in you in all your going and coming.

In the meantime you can follow what is going on in the following social media.  If any of the links give you trouble, just leave a comment in the comment section below.

Facebook: FansOfCynthiaWelchDesigns



God bless,

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Craft Shows Behind the Scenes

Good evening!  I hope your part of the world is experiencing some spring weather.  Did you realize tomorrow is the first day of spring?  Yes, March 20 is always the first day of spring.  😃  However, our spring has been here since last fall since experienced less than a week of real winter weather!

With spring on the calendar, it also means the spring craft show season is right around the corner.  This winter I have been prepping for some craft shows this spring.  I started thinking y’all might want some behind the scenes tidbits about what it takes to get into a show and actually come up with a booth set up.

Our Original Booth

Basically the process is the following but I want to share what it takes to actually get in a show ….

~ Application Process

~ Booth Set Up

~ Creating Work

~ Set Up

~ The Show!

~Tear Down

~ Application Process

An artist or craftsperson who desires to get into a show has to start at least 6 months, 9 months or up to a year before the show.  Applications for spring shows usually go out in the fall.  Fall show applications usually go out in the spring.  See how this works?  So, that means if I want to do a certain fall show, I should start looking for an application now.

So where do artists and crafts persons go to find out about shows and get an application?  It is not an easy thing to do unless the show is already going on in an area you are familiar with.  Today we can Google© anything.  So artists or crafts persons can google the area they want to go, such as New Orleans.  In this case I would Google© New Orleans craft shows.  If I do high end art I may Google© New Orleans fine art shows.  If I wanted to go to California and do craft shows I would Google© California craft shows.  Once I begin finding shows I am interested in I take note of those I want to apply to and those I want to eliminate.

Most of the better shows have an application and the applicant must be juried in.  When there is a jury, this usually means you must submit photos of some of your work and your booth set up and rarely, samples.  It is a good idea to have several booth shots especially if you do different configurations, depending on whether you have an end booth are in a run of booths.

So, applications go in the mail 6 or more months in advance.  Then it is a waiting game for approval or rejection letters to come in the mail, or by email.  As they start to come in, it is time to start filling in the calendar with the dates for shows you’re accepted to.

~ Creating Work
When a craft show is approaching, we have what I call “craft show mode.”  This is when we are concentrating on finishing up coasters, painted pretties, and so on and then packing the up in boxes.  Really, creating work must be an ongoing thing.  I must have work that I’ve already created so I could include photos with my application.  However, once I have made a few things to photograph, the work does not end there.  As pieces sell, other pieces are needed to replace them.  So the process of making coasters and chalk painting new pieces is an ongoing , seemingly never-ending process.

We usually use our living room as a staging area.  Sometimes it can look pretty chaotic in there.  We will have extra tables set up, a wagon underfoot, photography equipment for photographing new pieces, a duffle bag with "office" supplies, another bag with drapes and table covers, and so much more!  Fortunately, we can get away from it in the den.  So all this planning, preparing, work, money spent and we have not yet left for a craft show.

~ Booth Set Up

Booths, the thing we display our work in, are offered in many different sizes, price ranges, and with just as many accessories.  The most common-sized booth at a show is 10’x10’.  That is it.  One hundred square feet.  It is smaller than most bedrooms in houses being built today.  The next most common size booth size is 12’x12’.  Usually in shows with a 12’x12’ space, the artists still use a 10x10 booth and use the extra space as a buffer between themselves and the next booth.  Behind the tent is a great space for storage if the show offers a space bigger than 10x10.

It is a good idea to get practice setting up your tent before the show.  Depending on the model, it can get complex with different pieces to connect.  Many people like to use a brand called EZ-Up.  It provides an easier set up and is on the lower end of the price range.  They are easily obtainable for $200 or less.  This will include the legs, the canopy and sometimes the side panels.

After we practice setting up our tent, next comes filling it with our beautiful creations.  No matter what a person sells displays are necessary.  What a person sells will determine the type of displays needed.  Artists who do canvas art will want to hang their work along the walls and possibly have a couple of easels set up.  Bins are good for prints whether matted or not. 

In my case I started out selling Turkish tumbled travertine coasters, trivets and plaques.  Over time I have added new items and taken away some.  Now I still sell coasters---at least an edited down selection---but I also sell chalk painted home décor so I need tables and shelves and pretty things to display it on.

Since our first booth style we have evolved and changed to bring a better experience to our customers.  Our first booth style was what you might call whimsical, and on the cheap.  LOL Our drapes were some cute shower curtains we had found at Walmart.  Our table covers were flat sheets from Walmart.

Now we use a pvc pipe and drape system to bring a higher end “showroom” to our booth.  Dh put together the pipe system using pvc from a big box store.  It’s easy to put up and take down.  The drapes are honey colored and the table covers are black.  When I chose those colors, I did so because our coasters were light in color and needed a dark table cover to make the product pop.  Our friends who saw our original booth and now see this style say it is big improvement.

We have ended up with 2 six-foot tables and 5 four-foot tables.  We can use these 2 sizes to format different set ups.  We bought a pretty, distressed metal shelving unit at Hobby Lobby a while back to use in our enclosed patio studio.  It holds supplies but we are now thinking of bringing it on the road to display our wares.  We will try this before buying another one to take on the road.  If it does not work out at least we save around $100 bucks.

An updated photo of our booth.  Will be slightly different with the chalk painted merchandise.
Setting up our booth has caused us to develop a plan.  We have certain things we do first, second and so on.  Tent first, then AstroTurf (if we are using it), tables and table skirts, displays, and finally merchandise.  The set up process usually takes about 2 hours.  Everything we take for our booth must fit in our Suburban.  Everything .... all merchandise, tent, tables, table covers, pipe and drape, props for display, and clothes for the weekend if we are staying over.

Back of the Suburban with a little bit of what we take!
If we are doing a show that is close enough to leave the morning of the show, we get up early and head out to for an early set up.  We have started set up for craft shows before dawn.  Yes, we have started while it was still dark, using flashlights to light our way.  Sometimes we are fortunate to be able to set up the day before.  This lets us sleep a little longer the day of the show.  It takes about 2 hours to set up our booth, including the tent, tables, props and stock with 3 people working.  Dh does the heavy lifting, setting up the tent, driving stakes, and setting the weights at the corners.  Our daughter and I help hubby as much as we can and then do most of the product set up.  We usually finish set up about the time the show starts if we set up on the day of the show.

Shows usually start at 9:00 or 10:00 AM and run till 5:00 PM on Saturday and usually end at 4:00 PM on Sunday.  We work from before the show, all day meeting customers and selling.  On the last day of the show we much dismantle our both and drive home.  The day is long and we are exhausted when we get home.  Sometimes we drive in, shower and fall in the bed.  Unloading can wait until the next day.  It is all worth it if we make someone’s day with them finding just what they were looking for.

If you pull back the table covers, you’ll see our back stock.  If you look under certain tables, you will find bags for customer’s purchases, price tags, a mishmash of office supplies, and a garbage bag or two for picking up our trash when the show is over.  It has been a work in progress to figure out where to store things, what office supplies we need to bring for our booth, and, oh yeah, it’s hot so we bring fans too!

~The Show

When the show starts, we are ready and all hands are on deck.  My husband and our daughter are perfectly suited for helping.  Our daughter, Ashley, loves talking to customers and packing purchases for customers.  My husband, John, is great about sales and getting credit or debit cards swiped, or taking care of a cash sale.  He also can talk it up with almost anyone.  I don’t have any worries when they are working the booth with me.  Hubby works for food.  Ashley works on commission.  I pay them each in a way that hits home.  {smile}

Working the booth can be, no, IS hard work.  We can several customers at once making purchases.  We must restock or move work around after a sale, depending on if there is back stock to replace the items sold.  I have more one of a kind pieces this spring due to all the upcycled and repurposed chalk painted merchandise I have been working on.  Those will not have back stock.  The only thing that will have back stock are the Turkish tumbled travertine coasters I do.

~Tear Down

At the end of every show there is something that every seller must do --- tear down his or her booth.  The tear down process is roughly the opposite track of setting up …. Pack up unsold merchandise, props, tables and table skirts, AstroTurf, and tent.

The tear down process usually takes 1 ½ hours.  The longest it’s ever taken is over 2 ½ hours.  We were in a very unusual circumstance when the grounds were very wet and we could not get our vehicle as close as we normally do.  Dh had to wheel stuff out about 250 yards from our booth to where his truck was parked.  Finally, he got to move it a little closer it was still about 200 yards from our booth.  This is much further than we usually have to travel to unload or load.

After one show you could see the worn, beaten path
left in our booth from all the customers coming and going.
Now that the process is out there … all the hard work, the question is this … Why go all through all this work for a one-day or even a three-day show?  The answer is simple.  I love the art I do and I love meeting all the people who come by our booth.  I love it when people stop in a buy, of course.  But I also love it when they are having a great time at the event and they want to chat about crafts and learn about what we are doing.  It is worth getting out there and mixing with everyone.

Is it hard work running a booth during the show?  Yes.  Can some customers be difficult?  Yes, but you know what?  I don’t remember them now.  The fun of the show and meeting some wonderful customers, fellow artists and crafters and being in a new town erases a lot of the negative stuff that happens.  Some distance down the road heals a lot of not only the physical aches and pains of all the work but also the rare bad egg we may meet along the way.

I look forward to this spring art and craft show season with eager expectation, a few butterflies in my stomach and an eye toward a brighter future.

If you have questions or comments about craft shows, craft booths, or anything related to those topics I’d love to chat with you.  Just leave your questions, comments, and observations in the comments below.

Happy Spring,