Monday, April 6, 2015

Craft Fair Conundrum

Most people don't sign up to be vendors at craft fairs to make money. At least, that's what I'm learning. I was one many moons ago when I honestly didn't care about making a profit. I only did a few a year specifically to clear out all the crap I had made with beads.

I went through a phase where I was obsessed with beads, glorious beads!! I could spend a happy evening merely sorting their various shapes and colors. But to make something beautiful out of them, ah, that was the dream. I made jewelry (natch), but I also made sparkling Christmas ornaments and twinkling sun-catchers. I didn't have a clue how much it cost me to make each item but my husband and I agreed it had to be less expensive than therapy. Beading made me happy.

Now that I'm older and not any dumber, I decided I really, really want to make money off my crafts. You know that feeling you get when you create something wonderful? I assume even right-brain people feel it, when they've done an excellent job on their spreadsheet (or whatever the heck it is that they do). It's a rush of satisfaction deep inside, like finally hitting that high note or smacking a baseball over the fence. Yeah. Well, I'd like to turn that feeling into cash.

Focusing on my photos seems to make sense since I have a bursting collection of beautiful images on my computer. It ain't my camera skills that created them- it's the beautiful surroundings that seemed to simply appear in front of me while we were in Canada and in the Hill Country of Texas.

Knowing that bluebonnet season is a big deal here in The Lone Star State, I made greeting cards, coasters and pillows using some kick-ass photos of bluebonnets I took last year. That's right. Coasters and pillows! No lie.

The photo below is not of some oddly upholstered arm chair. These are all the squares of fabric I ran through my printer before sewing each one into an 8x8 inch pillow.

The finished product is small, but I think they're adorable.


Greeting cards:

I also put together a batch of  plants in little clay pots. The plants are artificial from Michaels and the clay pots are....wait for it...recycled Keurig cups! Did your head just explode? No? Then I need to work on my writing skills. But enough about things that will never happen, look at them!

Fake plants in fake pots = FUN.

Once I felt I had enough adorable things to sell, I signed up for a local craft fair. Woo-hoo!

The morning of the fair, I dragged myself out of bed and felt like sobbing. What the heck had I done? How could I sign up for an event where random strangers were going to walk by, judging my work, judging ME? Not to mention the vendors on either side of me, who would look at my wares and be all, you know, judgy. Girl, this was judgement DAY. And let's not forget that I have social anxiety. I can't speak to people I don't know. Waahh!!

But, by golly, I dug down deep, gave myself a pep talk, squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and, um...let go and let God? OK, I'll be honest. I did none of that. Instead I performed a little play in my head about a wife (played by me) telling her husband (played by mine) that she had given actual money to rent space at a fair but didn't feel like going. And off I went.

Here are my sad little tables:

I like my stuff, I just wish I had had MORE. The other vendors were seasoned pros. They knew what they were doing and practically danced a ballet while setting up their extensive inventory. They also knew how to schmooze the unsuspecting shoppers. "Hey! How you doing? How's your day going?" Before these people knew what was happening, they were forking over money for a quilted toaster cover.

"Have a great day!" my competitors called as these happy people moved on to my table. As my customers looked over my stuff and then at me, a puzzled look would creep over their faces. I attempted to put them at ease by diving under my table, pretending I dropped something.

Every single person was amused by my fake potted plants. "Oh my God, look! Those are Keurig cups!" they'd say, prompting me to peek out from under my tablecloth. "You are VERY clever!" They'd look my clever creations over, show them to friends and carefully put them back. "Look! Quilted tea cozies!" And they were gone.

The other vendors were incredibly nice. In fact, the day turned into more of a chat-fest and less of a fair, since we had nobody to sell our stuff to. To say we had a poor turn out would be like saying Kim Kardashian's butt is a tad large.

The woman next to me remarked that the day she starts doing fairs for the money is the day she'll quit. Nods all around. "Well, that sucks," I thought, since I'm in it for the lettuce, the do-re-mi, the chedda, yo. that I'm thinking about it, I may have said that last part out loud because the group suddenly scattered, looking scared.

So there's the conundrum.  I love to make things. I dare say, I NEED to make things. But I don't have enough window sills for all of my artificial succulents, or enough cups to justify all of the coasters I made. Pillows? Well, a girl can't have enough pillows. Right, guys?

The money I made covered the cost to rent the space, but that's not exactly what I was going for. There has to be a better way. I'm aware of Etsy and other sites like it. That may be the way to go for a socially awkward creative person. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Cute post, and I like all of your wares. Table looked cool too. How did you make the coasters? (crafty person looking for ideas)
I agree though, craft fairs are not the way to make money. I did find if you personalized things on the spot those items do sell. Good luck! :) Liz

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have a dozen of those little plants! I have real mini cacti over my stove but they are all dying - if only you lived closer!!! All of your work is beautiful Caryl! I love to craft too and, once again, I wish I lived closer to you because I can chat up a storm at a craft fair. :-D

caryl said...

Liz- just google "transfer photos to marble tiles" and you'll get specific instructions.

Jan- I'm going to try one more fair here in TX and then a few when we go up to NY for the summer. If I'm stuck with all of those plants, I'll be happy to mail some to you. And, btw, we're planning to drive up to eastern Canada sometime this summer. Our friends rent a cottage somewhere and invited us to visit. I'll let you know where it is. Prob still too far from you, but who knows?

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! I love all the bluebonnet stuff since I'm a sucker for all things flower. The fake plants are cool! I think you should put things on etsy. Then I could get them. 😊


caryl said...

Thanks, Jane! I'm thinking it wasn't my crowd. There was a moment, when this couple, who were maybe slightly younger than me, came by a bought 6 cards. Before they left, she asked if I was local. I didn't understand at first. She wanted to know where she could find me in the future because she "really liked my stuff. Squee!!

Barbara said...

I would have bought your stuff. I love the pillows. And I love anything with bluebonnets on it. I'm such a Texan gal I guess. :-)

caryl said...

Barbie! We were just talking about you guys. C'mon up to the lake before we split for NY for the summer! (I'll give you a pillow.)

ILENE said...

I LOVE your crafts especially the pillows and coasters Caryl! Keep it going....hoping your next craft spot brings more customers to the event.

caryl said...

Thanks, Ilene! Thinking about making a few with daisies...