The human touch
I participated in a craft show this weekend. There's always a lot of eager excitment in preparing for a show. First there's finishing your newest creations. Then packing, making sure you've got all the supplies you'll need for the day. Finally, arriving early for setup, and trying to make things as enticing as possible for potential customers.
Setup time is also the time to check out the other vendors. Of course I immediately look for other woodworkers to check out their items (and prices!). You can also count on reps from Scentsy, Steeped Tea, Avon and Tupperware. But there's also a huge number of others, selling a variety of original handmade items. (Side note: we always seem to be beside a table selling baked goods...it's hard to sit there all day and not succumb!)
I love to look at the other tables, getting ideas for displaying items and marketing. It's also great to compare notes with the vendors on different events - the good, the bad and their experiences with both.
Then there's the crowd. It's a study in human behaviour watching people at a craft show. Some are shopping. Some are browsing. Others are being dragged through with a look of pain on their faces equivalent to the waiting room at a dental office.
The toughest part of craft shows is managing your expectations. You dream that you'll sell a ton of items, but those dreams often fade as the day wears on. Your anticipation of a big payday in return for your hard work turns into the desperate hope that you will make enough money to cover the cost of your table rental.
I didn't make a lot of money at the show. I did cover the cost of table plus a bit more (which went out the door again thanks to the damn homemade jam table). I did manage to get a couple of custom orders. But I realized that the money wasn't the real value of the show. The real value was making new friends and contacts. It was passing out business cards and building your name. It was seeing people look at and touch your items, and receiving compliments on your work. And that is enough to re-energize me and head back to the workshop.