Once upon a time, in the summer of 2011, I applied to a craft show for the very first time. My Etsy shop Once Again Sam was still fairly new, and trying an event seemed like a reasonable goal for growth. With zero experience, I submitted my application for the “To Wear” category, and hoped my handmade leather jewelry would make the cut. As an after thought, I decided to also apply for the “Fiber Art” category. I had just learned needle felting a few months earlier and thought showing the judges a range of work might help me stand out.
My expectations of being accepted were low. A few hundred people applying for 75 spots = not great odds. The day the jury notifications went out I was bummed my jewelry had been declined, but not shocked. Then, I read the email again and realized my fiber art had been accepted. I believe my exact words were, “What the crap?” I had just learned how to felt, and the photos I used for my fiber art application were some of the only pieces I had ever made.
That summer, all I did was felt felt felt. Looking back, I can see that having to improve my skills quickly and develop a substantial amount of inventory in only a matter of weeks was a pivotal point for me, a crash course in this obscure craft that helped elevate my techniques in a very short time period. I felted every day for as many hours as I could manage, till it hurt.
The show went very well, much better than I expected (because I didn’t really know what to expect). I later realized just how well organized the whole thing was, and what a great group of people are behind it all. After that first show, everything changed for Once Again Sam. Countless doors were opened. I began selling in local shops and saw a dramatic increase in my repeat customers. I started taking my handmade work more seriously, as a real business, not just a hobby. As terrified as I was to stand behind my table and talk to total strangers that first time back in 2011 (hardcore introverts can relate, I'm sure), I got through it somehow, and it paid off in every possible way. The positive response was incredible, I felt overwhelmingly encouraged, and realized I could actually make a good living this way.
Since then, I've been lucky enough to participate in Indie Craft Parade each year, and not just with my Felted Curiosities, but also with my new & improved handmade jewelry (starting in 2012). This show has become one of the major highlights of my year. I use it as a launching pad for new collections, a deadline for improving my booth set up, and a chance to meet other creatives and connect with local customers. I love preparing for this show, I love being there, and I actually feel sad when it's over. There's a sort of a magical, inspirational atmosphere to it all, as funny as that may sound.
Here's a look back at my last 4 years of Indie Craft Parade application photos. I can definitely see improvement, my earlier work isn't my best now, but it was my best at the time. I still have a lot to learn, a thousand new things I want to try, and I’m sure I’ll cringe years from now at the work I’m most proud of today. It’s the curse of every artist, right?
This year, my husband’s shop Tree & Laser, will be right next to Once Again Sam at the 5th annual Indie Craft Parade in downtown Greenville, SC. There will be an amazing range of hip hand-crafted goods from regional makers, and you won’t want to miss out. Everything from screen printed t-shirts, to pottery and fine art, and of course, handmade jewelry & felted curiosities brought to you by yours truly. If you’re in the Upstate of SC, come on by!