100 Craft Shows

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Craft shows & art festivals are important to my business and I meticulously track them. My very first show was Indie Craft Parade in 2011. Doing that show changed everything for me. It's hard to believe I just did my 100th event, but the spreadsheet doesn’t lie.

My craft show spreadsheet turned out to be a great evaluation tool. I track everything - expenses, sales, and the ever so important column “Would I come back?” There were shows when I made a grand total of $80, there were shows when I made a whopping $14,000. Some of these events I only did once (for good reason), but the others I’ve been doing for years and look forward to every time. There were years when shows accounted for nearly half of my total income, which felt awesome at the time, but now that I look back, I realize that may have been a foolish business model.

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The purpose of this post is not to share tips and tricks for successful craft shows (but here’s an older post if you’re interested - scroll to the bottom of the post for 10 tips). Today I want to look at the big picture and share 3 reasons why craft shows have been amazing for my business growth, and issue 3 warnings about relying on them too heavily (because I’m 100% guilty of that).

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3 reasons you should do as many shows as you can (at least in the beginning)

1. You will undoubtedly find your target customer.

Pay attention to who’s buying and if they’re purchasing for themselves or as gifts. Study them, not in a creepy way, but notice how they dress, their life stage, and what else they’ve purchased. This info isn’t always available when you do the majority of your sales online, but it’s literally right there in front of you at a craft show.

2. This is a major marketing opportunity.

Yes, you’ll sell a lot at in-person events, but you’ll also give out tons of business cards. You’ll never hear from most of these people again, but a surprising number will pop back into your life at the holidays or when they’re ready to move forward with that commission they were asking about. Marketing in person can double or triple your craft show sales if you’re patient.

3. Real life feedback.

If you sell online, you don’t know what customers are thinking when they’re browsing. However, in person, you’ll likely hear verbal comments about your prices, sizes, and styles, and you may also notice people asking the same questions, so even though the answers may seem obvious to you, there’s a good chance it’s unclear to your customers. Find a way to communicate these things better and take that knowledge and apply it to your website or adjust your product if necessary.

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3 warnings about leaning too heavily on craft shows (if you want a sustainable business)

1. Shows come and go.

One year, the show is huge and everyone is making a killing. The next year, there’s no sign of the event. And that’s fine. Nobody owes you a craft show. Real people are behind these events, they take an incredible amount of time & money to produce, so sometimes the plug gets pulled. Established shows usually stick around, but even good shows can change their model, dates, or location, and that can make or break the whole event. Don’t count on them always being there or being the same as previous years.

2. Bad things can and will happen.

You could get a terrible booth location, a blizzard or hurricane may blow in, or you could get sick the night before. A few shows require you to apply for multiple categories if you work in different mediums, and they may only accept you for one and not the other, dictating what you can and can’t bring. The show may have an astronomical entry fee for shoppers and hardly anyone attends because of it. Do you really want to tie the vast majority of your livelihood to these things that are completely out of your control?

3. The burnout is real.

If you travel out of state for shows all year long, the exhaustion will eventually catch up with you (unless you’re young or super energetic, in which case - ignore all this). Depending on the type of work you do, all that time on the road away from the studio may mean you fall behind on other orders. As soon as you catch up, you’re back on the road again. It’s a tough cycle if you work alone, and the physical & mental exhaustion can affect other areas of your life. Having experienced this burnout year after year, I’ve gotten extremely picky about how far I’m willing to travel now, and how many shows I’m prepared to do in a season.

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You know what they say about putting all your eggs in one basket…don’t do it!

If you’re considering trying craft shows, just jump in, even if you’re not 100% ready. You’ll get a lot out of them even if it’s only for a few seasons. In 2013, I decided to sign up for every craft show that came my way. There were some really bad ones, but there were some gems in there too - ones that didn’t sound all that good on paper, or were not yet established, but turned out to be fantastic events that I still enthusiastically participate in years later.

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If you’ve been doing shows awhile and notice you’re planning your year around them and relying on them to make your numbers each quarter (that’s me, up until last year!) please be careful. Consider having some other income streams like online sales, commissions, or wholesale. These may be more steady in the end, which is important when you’re earning a living. If you do this Maker thing long enough, you’ll probably have an off year eventually, and if you put all your eggs in one basket, whether that’s the craft show basket or something else, that might be enough to put you out of business. However, if you’ve diversified your income streams well, a bad year will just be a little dip on your sales bar graph and nothing more.

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The Mountains in Autumn

It’s the first week of October, and sadly everything is still green here in Greenville, SC. However, I’m daydreaming about the mountains in fall, and it’s showing through in both my jewelry and fiber art. Burnt reds, golds, deep orange tones, shades of sienna, olive greens … they’re coming soon to my backyard, but until then, they’re alive and well in my studio.

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A small collection of needle felted wool landscapes showcasing my favorite season are now available on my website. These small to medium pieces are framed and ready to hang. If you’re after something specific or have a special scene in mind, please get your commissions in at least 3 weeks in advance!

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My all new painted landscape pendant series titled “The Mountains in Autumn” are also available online as of today. Checkout this new Maker’s Eye View process video showing how I create these one-of-a-kind pieces from start to finish.

And lastly, a new colorway for my popular splatter painted series called “Autumn Leaves,” which features all those vibrant seasonal colors I crave, is also live on the website. I painted this series in tandem with the autumn landscape shown above, so the colors are identical between the two collections. I personally love the way the splatter painted earrings look when paired with the landscape pendant. They’re the same colors but it’s not overly matchy.

TIP: An easy way to filter down all of these new autumn launches on my site is to type “Autumn” in the search bar. It makes things really simple!

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Art in the Wild Exhibition

 Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

I’m still bursting at the seams with inspiration, thanks to my time as Artist in Residence at Poinsett State Park. In case you missed it, I spent a week in a cabin in the woods, creating a collection of work related to my beautiful surroundings. Next week, that collection of work will be exhibited at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville, SC.

40 wool paintings are included in my “Art in the Wild” show, and they range from landscapes to birds, to other nature studies. The show runs June 14-16 and if you’re not in Greenville, the gallery will be happy to ship. Once the show is over, the work will be available on my website.

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Here’s an exclusive peek at the collection. Which is your favorite piece? Please comment!

Now that’ you’ve seen these, are you interested in learning to needle felt? It’s so much fun! I’m teaching a class this Saturday (June 9th) and another one June 30th at GCCA in Greenville.

Signup here for workshops: https://www.artcentergreenville.org/summer-workshop-descriptions

 Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

During my residency at Poinsett, I also created a new landscape pendant series called “Mill Pond” and I’m doing a double giveaway on Instagram this week. Check it out and win a pendant for yourself and a friend.

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Artist in Residence: Poinsett State Park

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Earlier this month, I was honored to have the chance to be the Artist in Residence at Poinsett State Park. I spent a week in the woods, soaking up inspiration and creating art inspired by it. This was my first time doing anything like this and it was such a good experience.

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I stayed in Cabin #2, which was built in 1937 and had been updated with modern conveniences, but still felt rustic. Each morning I’d wake up to the sound of birds, eat breakfast on the sun porch, and hit the trails for a few hours.

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There’s miles and miles of trails in the park, and my favorite ones were the Cowasee, Scout Loop, and of course the trail alongside Mill Pond, which is just about as scenic as it gets. I'm not originally from the south so the sight of Spanish moss is still a bit surreal to me. It looks like a movie set!

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After a few hours in the woods, I’d come back to the cabin and spend the hottest hours of the day painting, needle felting, and sketching. There was no shortage of inspiration in the park. Ideas would come to me while sitting by the fire pit after sunset or canoeing through the lily pads listening to choir of frogs on the shore.

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I definitely lost track of time, and had no idea what day it was for most of the week. I can’t tell you the last time I disconnected like that, and really focused on my work without any interruption. It was so good for my soul!

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I created nearly 20 pieces during my residency and have another 20 in the works that will be ready for my upcoming exhibit “Art in the Wild” which runs June 14-16th at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville, SC.

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A big thank you to the South Carolina Parks Department for this amazing opportunity! If you’re interested in applying for next year, check the SC Parks website in the fall for more info: https://southcarolinaparks.com/

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Check out this short video documentary that shows my week as Artist in Residence in a nutshell. Hard to believe 6 nights, several miles of hiking, hours of working, and a lot of fun in between, can be condensed into 3 1/2 minutes, but here it is! 

Spring 2018 Launches

During the winter months of 2018, I often found myself playing with paint in the studio. I made time to practice each week, invested in new brushes, and even took an intro to alcohol inks class at Greenville Center for Creative Arts in March. I’ve been inspired by the medium! The textural and graphic possibilities of paint have greatly influenced my new jewelry collections this spring. I’m excited to finally share these new additions to my Etsy shop with you. Each piece is an original one-of-a-kind, but thanks to the simple settings and delicate scale, they’re easy to incorporate into your everyday-style.

See the process in my new Maker's Eye View video on YouTube!

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Alcohol Ink Collection: drips and splatters showcasing beautiful unpredictable patterns in colorful dyes, frozen in time on clear acrylic.

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Mixed Media Collection: clear acrylic layered with crumbled gold leaf, pale pink paint with stark black accents, framed in a variety of simple metal bezels and laser etched wooden settings.

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