Lessons Learned at our First Craft Show
I like the anonymity of selling on-line. I get to wear my pajamas and not comb my hair and my business ticks along but…….I would like to reach a more local audience. Our products are the kind you need to touch and feel (and smell). A picture cannot do justice to the nuances of colors in the wool or in the wood. You can’t experience the weight of something made of wood or the softness of the wool as you run your hand over it through a picture. I can try to show how large something is by putting something next to it to compare it to but once you put it in your hands you just know.
So…….craft show! I’ve been really hesitant to venture into this venue of selling. I was worried that I might fail and failing with people watching is a little unnerving. I had so many questions and concerns. So much work! Too much to plan! But alas reason won over fear and I set off on a new adventure with Mark in tow.
We decided last year that we were going to attempt ONE craft show. We went to the venue and checked it out during the Fall craft show and I once again questioned my resolve! There were hundreds and hundreds of people. I felt swamped and all I did was walk around and get a sense of the place but we pressed on and signed up for a booth strategically located by the food and not far from the bathroom.
With five months to plan and get ready all should go off without a hitch! We both began stockpiling our wares. He made bowls, bandsaw boxes, pet dishes, salt and pepper mills and hunting calls. I washed, combed and dyed wool. I spun my fingers to the bone and started weaving. We had a lot of unique items to show and sell.
We received our paperwork and I read and reread all the rules and suggestions. We made booth displays and planned out a layout to showcase our products. We enlisted help from our wonderful family – daughter Lee and son-in-law Jon. We washed the trailer and added our logo. We put our logo everywhere. I worked to unify the booth with theme and color. I made stickers and signs and business cards and sticky notes. I measured and set up and thought about and dreamed about then panicked about the set up. So with all this thought and planning I should have had everything in order right?
So this is what I learned:
Lesson 1: There will always be new lessons to learn.
Lesson 2: You can plan and do dry runs and have everything ready but if you misread how large the tables are going to be you’re screwed before you even begin!
I “thought” the paperwork said that there would be one six foot table in the booth and we chose to have another six foot table added but when we got to our ten by ten square booth there were two EIGHT foot tables eclipsing the space. Shouldn’t be a problem more space to put stuff!!! Wrong….. Big problem!!! I had ordered tailored six foot tablecloths so no table coverings to unify the space. Then we noticed that Mark’s wheelchair and my chair and Lee’s chair and Jon took up about another eight feet of space. I suddenly became quite claustrophobic as the trailer was getting unloaded and all of our stuff started piling up. Lee and I quickly moved one table out but that left us with only eight feet of table and no way to use the layout that we had to carefully planned. Fortunately I had brought a four foot table that I had planned to use to put all the extras like calculator, money, bags, wrapping materials and so on. We quickly shifted gears and folded the tablecloths to make them cover the one table and used the four foot table (which had a matching tablecloth). Voila! Booth set up! Crisis averted!
Lesson 3: You can never avert all crisis’.
Too many people, too small a booth. Fortunately for us Lee was more than willing to not come and help on the day of the show and Jon left once Mark and I had our rhythm going. Love them both for being willing to change their plans for us! Our booth was still very cramped and small feeling. I felt hemmed in sitting behind my overly high tablescape. We readjusted and move out chairs and as our booth neighbor began to sell and move his things closer together we began to move ours further apart.
Lesson 4: No matter how nice your layout looks it may not work.
Day one we had a very hard time getting anyone to come into our booth. I had one table across the front and one down the side but everyone walked past just looking at the front side of the table. I had even put the colorful items high and in the back of the booth and had a bin full of free items inside with a sign that said FREE but very few takers. At the end of day one I moved things around and lowered my layout but I did not rearrange the table placement. Day two fared slightly better but we still had trouble getting people to come into the booth and look around.
Lesson 5: Bring something to do!
I remember reading about this when researching how to have a successful craft show so I brought a small electric spinning wheel with me just in case we were slow and I needed something to do. Well we were in deed slow and I really needed something to do so after a couple of hours I broke out the machine and fired it up and started spinning…….and the kids started coming! And with kids you get parents. I can’t say that this increased our sales but it did get more people to come inside the booth. Day two I brought my regular spinning wheel and while the show did not have many children that day I did have a lot of adults who came to watch me spin! And I met some spinners who were so excited to find fiber to buy!
Lesson 6: Get to know the other vendors!
Some of our best sales were to the other vendors. Because the show was so slow for everyone there was time to go around and check everyone out! I made some great contacts and Mark has several new friends!
Lesson 7: Well lesson 7 is I’m going to do this again in the fall.
I’m going to be in the same booth with the same eight foot table (for which I’m going to get the right sized tablecloth). I’m going to open the booth and not have something blocking the front so people can walk into to see what we have to offer and I’m going to spin, spin, spin.
In some worlds “ping” might be a wonderful sound but when you are weaving “ping” becomes a crisis. I’m new to weaving and have successfully woven a few scarves with little trouble so I thought I would tackle something new – commercial wool yarn. I had been weaving with a commercial cotton warp and my handspun yarns but found an inexpensive wool “single” (which I really didn’t realize was a single until “ping”) and a thick and thin that coordinated. I knew enough not to use the thick and thin as the warp but commercial yarn should be strong enough for a warp – right?
Also I had not finished watching all the weaving lessons that I’m going through and I jumped right in and warped the loom and began to weave. I have an 8 dent rigid heddle. So off I go weaving and weaving and weaving. Now I did notice that I had a little trouble with the tension. It felt very (very) tight when I was raising and lowering the heddle but that’s normal – or so I thought.
As I was weaving I began to notice that the warp threads were getting fuzzy and sticking but I had read or seen or heard that this could happen???? About 8 inches in there was a “ping” but I didn’t pay that much attention and kept on weaving then something didn’t look right. There was an end sticking up where I didn’t put it. After some investigation I found a broken warp string. No problem. I had read that you could fix that so off the loom and back to the books, videos and Pintrest. Fixed the problem easy enough and back to weaving. I should mention that I did set the loom aside for several days while I thought about whether to take this project off and start over – I’m so glad I didn’t because restringing would not have helped me figure out how I caused this problem.
So back to my weaving on my incredibly tight warp – I was so proud of my tension. I just knew I had warped this one right!!!! About 3 inches later “ping”, “ping”, “ping”…….
Not a problem I know how to fix a broken warp string! Fixed and back to weaving…..”ping”. Now I was getting frustrated. I really didn’t want to spend all of my time fixing when I wanted to be weaving (but do you think I watched the rest of the video?)
Weaving a little…..”ping” a little.
So I finally watched the rest of the video about tying up your warp and creating your shed and the light bulb came on and I realized what I had done wrong….besides using the wrong size heddle and the wrong type of yarn for the warp. I didn’t raise the heddle when I was tying off and was putting undo stress on the yarn in the holes and abrading it with every beat!
Scarf is now finished and not too bad looking and I don’t panic when I break a warp thread. I also raise the heddle to create a nice shed. I’m sure I’ll hear “ping” in the future but I hope it means I have mail!
I love to share my LOVE of fiber with anyone who is interested but I have a captive audience! GRANDCHILDREN! Mark loves for the children to come to his wood shop to learn about wood and building things too.
We have a total of 8 grandchildren with two of them living less than a mile from the house so we get to spend A LOT of time with them and they love to be in the wool room with me. Kaylee, 6, and Max, 4, are budding Fiber Artists. Both have their own ideas of what looks good in batts.
Kaylee loves to add lots, and lots, and lots and then just a little more sparkle in her batts. She also comes up with unique (and bizarre) names for all of her fiber. She has been known to climb into my box of wool scraps and roll around. I think she’s a lot like me and loves to smell and feel the wool. She is also interested in learning to spin and spends time working her yarn in and out of the spinning wheel. She informed me that the look on her face was not an angry look but a look of concentration.
Max on the other hand is more subdued and likes to draft and stretch the fibers. He loves to watch the machines and touch everything on them. He learned the hard way recently not to put his fingers around the belt to the carder. Max names his batts after people – cracks me up!
Further up the road we have Schuyler, 10, and Brailey, 6, who also love fiber. “OH MY GOSH” is a term that I hear a lot when they are working with me. They’ve been able to make batts to make scarves and have needle-felted little gnomes. Pop-Pop was a little nervous when they were using the needles and Schuyler found out the hard way that the needles really hurt! I can’t wait until they have more time to spend with us learning this craft. Schuyler has also been in the wood shop and has turned an ink pen on the lathe.
Daniel, 11, lives further away so we don’t get to see him as often but when he comes he likes to be in the workshop with Grandpa. He spent some time this summer building gifts for each of his family members. He has an amazing knack at following directions and putting stuff together. He put together all the shelves for the fiber room!!!
My nephew Tim, 11, also likes to be in the wool! He loves colors and design. He’s one I can call and he’ll come help me with the fiber. He has made several batts which I’ve spun into yarn to make him a winter hat and he’s designed a batt that we wet-felted into a lovely, colorful scarf. He too has needle-felted a gnome and seemed to have a great time doing it.
I enjoy watching the children’s faces as they watch piles of wool turn into something recognizable! As time progresses I hope to be able to have them playing more active roles in the wool room and soon in Grandpa’s workshop working on wood projects.
Mark was born in a quiet little town in Vermont where he spent his childhood out of doors hunting, fishing and trapping. As a young man he served his country in the National Guard and moved to Virginia where he raised his family.
An avid hunter and fisherman, Mark has bagged his share of deer, turkey and other wild-game however his quest for an elk has eluded him. He became an outdoor photographer and captured many animals on film. He was successful in elk hunting with the camera!!!
In 2010 Mark’s ability to walk became impaired and by 2013 he was wheelchair bound fulltime. In an effort to fill his days he turned to wood working as a hobby. He started with hand-turned pens – wood, acrylic and even deer horn. He then moved onto wood bowls and other utensils. Some of his bowls look like works of art! Bowls however can be very fickle and there is a lot of down time while waiting for the wood to dry. During these periods he would turn a duck, deer or turkey call to pass the time. Hunting calls became his passion and he has been creating his own designs and using his own photos to enhance the calls.
MK Unique Designs was born out of his mission to “feed the hungry children”. He’s not sure what led him to this but knows God is working miracles through this company. MK Unique Designs donates 10% of all sales (or more) to the local area food bank through his church Grottoes United Methodist Church. He also assists the youth of the church with fundraisers and donations.