Indie Craft Parade 2016 Recap

What a weekend. The 7th annual Indie Craft Parade took place this past weekend, and it was, as always, one of the best weekends of the whole year. This festival of all things handmade takes place every September, and it’s extremely competitive to get a spot as a vendor, but it’s a total blast once you’re in.

It’s also a LOT of hard work. I spend every minute of the summer preparing for this show, and when the weekend is over and the dust has settled, it feels like I’ve just accomplished something big, something that’s been months in the making. Today, as I write this, everything is sore: my face (from smiling non-stop for 3 days), my feet (from standing for the better part of 18 hours), my back (from load in load out), and my brain (from keeping track of sales and trying my best to remember names), but I’m beaming with joy. I met so many wonderful customers and fellow artists, and I got to share my work with 7,000 people. There’s something really thrilling about that!

This year was another record breaker, and I’m so thankful for everyone who came by my booth. I absolutely love to see people coming over to shop who are wearing jewelry they purchased from me years ago.

I did lots of shopping as well, and these are my 2016 purchases. 

1. Bird cup from   Moonbird Pottery   2. Necklaces from   Twenty Two West   3. Ceramic ring cone from   Paper&Clay   4. Screen print on wood from  Bone and Ink • Drawings by Jennifer Janeiro Allen  5. Painted ornament from  Origin Tale  6. Print from  METHANE STUDIOS  7. Metal bunny bowl from  January Jewelry  8. Large woven wall hanging from  WARP & WEFT  9. Angry cukes, Little Rock Caviar, and Drunken Tomatoes from  Doux South  10. Bible verse cards & holder from  Thimblepress  11. Push-pop Confetti from  Thimblepress

1. Bird cup from Moonbird Pottery
2. Necklaces from Twenty Two West
3. Ceramic ring cone from Paper&Clay
4. Screen print on wood from Bone and Ink • Drawings by Jennifer Janeiro Allen
5. Painted ornament from Origin Tale
6. Print from METHANE STUDIOS
7. Metal bunny bowl from January Jewelry
8. Large woven wall hanging from WARP & WEFT
9. Angry cukes, Little Rock Caviar, and Drunken Tomatoes from Doux South
10. Bible verse cards & holder from Thimblepress
11. Push-pop Confetti from Thimblepress

As in years past, I’m sharing some show stats, mostly because this event is fun to track from year to year. I sold less items than I did last year, but I earned more, and I also noticed I didn’t do as well on Sunday as I usually do, but I did almost double my usual sales during the Friday night VIP gala. You just never know how things will shake out!

In addition to stats, I thought I’d share a few practical tips and tricks that have worked well for me over the years. These things might be useful to anyone considering doing a craft show, or even the craft show veterans out there.

  1. If you’re going to sit down at any point during the show, bring a director’s chair or taller stool so you’re still able to chat with customers and handle transactions without being hidden behind your display. It will feel more natural to talk to customers when you’re eye level with them, even if you’re going to sit. I know some pros say you should never sit (or eat, or be on your phone, etc.) but let’s get real here - you will probably need to do all three at some point!

  2. If you know you’re going to be standing for the majority of the show (either because you’re in the “never sit down camp” or because it’s going to be a busy show and sitting isn't an option) bring one of those comfort mats to stand on. Half the time I’m standing barefoot on one of those things and it really helps keep my legs from tiring out over the course of the show (and nobody can see it anyway!).

  3. You can never have too many business cards, bags, or dollar bills on hand at a show. Every stinkin year, I think I have more than enough for Indie Craft Parade, and I’m wrong. This year I packed over 400 bags, nearly double what I packed the year before, and darn it, I still ran out. I also took 100 bucks worth of one dollar bills and ran out by the end of the day Saturday. Be prepared, or better yet, be beyond prepared! I have never run out of business cards as of yet (thankfully) but I have seen plenty of vendors who did, and I just hate to see them losing potential follow-up business because their customers have no way of finding them after the show.

  4. Pack lots of food and water. If a show is really busy, you may not be able to leave your booth for a meal, and only a handful of shows offer lunch deliveries. Also - when you’re thinking through what food to pack, I find it a lot easier to eat things with a fork (no sandwiches or pizza, etc.), so you can sneak in a quick bite here and there, then get back to your customers after minimal chewing without having to worry about leaving to wash your hands, food in teeth situations, or having to take a long break to eat something big & messy in one shot.

  5. Be prepared for 60 through 90 degree temperatures, because both are possible and you have no way of knowing which. I’ve done shows where the AC was so extreme my fingers went numb and I shivered the whole time, and I’ve also had shows where I was a sweaty mess when the AC wasn’t at it’s best, so dress & pack for both extremes, no matter what time of year it is.

  6. Rethink your packaging for busy shows (or prepare it ahead of time). Unless you sell really high end or fragile items, I’d say the simpler the better. I always feel really awkward when I’ve made a purchase and I have to stand there while the artist makes fancy ribbon curls. I know not everyone agrees on this, but I wanted to put it on this list as something to encourage you to think through ahead of time.

  7. Bring back up devices for accepting credit card payments, extra battery backup, and all the chargers in the world. You don’t want any technology mishap to shut you down.

  8. Pay attention to the questions your customers ask (or keep a list, if that helps), because you’ll catch on to some repeat questions after a while which is a clue you may have something that needs to be addressed. For example, when I first started selling my Curious Cameo pendants, people were always asking if I had longer chains. I never even thought of that until people kept asking about them, so now I keep extra chains if people would like to upgrade to a longer one. Easy solution!

  9. HAVE A SIGN.

  10. Consider taking custom orders during the show. For the longest time, people would ask for a custom item and I’d give them a business card and send them to my Etsy shop, and never hear from them again. Now, I offer to take their order right then and there, and I’ll even apply any show specials I have going on, so that I’m not leaving this possible future order up to chance. I also make things easy by bringing a color chart to the show so customers can see all the available options and choose exactly what they want.

When Making & Writing Collide

In May of this year, my second novel was published, titled Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe. It’s a quirky coming-of-age story that takes place on a farm in Nebraska, where a pair of well-meaning but impulsive brothers and their sixteen-foot stowaway spend several weeks falling in love with their newfound freedom, the wide open land, and the book-smart redhead who lives there.

It’s no surprise both sides of my creative mind have influenced each other recently, and that the process of writing & publishing Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe has lead me to create a special collection of work inspired by the story. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the new pieces I’ve been working on lately, all inspired by the book. These are available for purchase in my Etsy Shop.

My favorite series features needle felted paintings, jewelry, and laser etched wood blocks that contrast an aerial view of farmland in Nebraska with the patterned hide of a giraffe. I loved that contrast in the story - an exotic African creature living on a rural farm.

To celebrate these two new things, my book release and new handmade collection, I’m hosting a giveaway on Instagram this week. The winner will receive a signed copy of Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe, a $10 Amazon.com gift card, plus their choice of handmade pendant (shown below).

To enter the contest, simply follow both of my Instagram accounts @sarahmandellauthor & @onceagainsam and comment on the giveaway image (on either account) letting me know which pendant you’d choose if you’re the winner. Contest is open worldwide now through July 10. Good luck to all!

Landscape Mood

June is for landscapes

I’ve been on a landscape kick for the last two months. This new-to-me obsession has recently appeared in my handmade jewelry and fiber art, and has gotten me interested in improving my painting skills as well. I can trace this inspiration back to 3 specific assignments I received during a month-long art challenge called #creativesprint. Here’s the blog post if you missed it.

Although the assignments were diverse, and I used different mediums as much as possible, these 3 challenges had a similar outcome. On April 9th, the assignment was to create something inspired by water - I painted 3 seascape pendants. On the 15th, the assignment was to work with your non-dominant hand - I awkwardly painted an abstract scene with my left hand. On the 17th, we were challenged to create something inspired by a poem - I chose Whitman’s “Pioneers! O  Pioneers!” and needle felted a landscape inside a small embroidery hoop.

Those pieces were just for fun, an excuse to give my creative mind a bit of a workout, but I’ve been in a landscape mood ever since. I recently launched this series of 7 pendants featuring bright blue skies and wide-open prairie, and just posted this #MakersEyeView video showing the process (time lapse) to my YouTube channel.

This week, I’m excited to be launching this limited edition series of 5 needle felted landscapes. Each piece goes live at 8PM EST, one per day, starting Monday June 6th, through Friday June 10th. Pick out your favorite and follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter to see the introductions this week!

#CreativeSprint: A Half-Finished Challenge that was Wholly Worthwhile

For the month of April, I signed up to take part in a daily art challenge called #CreativeSprint, organized by Another Limited Rebellion. The idea of a daily assignment delivered to my inbox, intended to spark creativity and get me to try new things, sounded like something I would certainly enjoy, but also benefit from. The challenge promised to “pump up your creative muscles” but it was very open ended, you could take as much or as little time as you wanted for each assignment, and be as literal or abstract as you desired.

The daily assignments ranged from making something that fits in the palm of your hand, to working with your non-dominant hand, to making something inspired by a song. There were days when I knew right away what I would make as soon as I read the email, and other days I felt distracted for hours because I couldn’t come up with anything. All in all, it was a great mix of idea starters that really got my mind (and hands) working. Trying new things is something I enjoy, but don’t often make time for, and #CreativeSprint motivated me to do just that.

I was unable to keep up with the daily challenges once the Mother’s Day rush hit hard - I was simultaneously featured in Etsy’s Editors Picks, the front page of Etsy, and in Woman’s Day magazine, and received over 800 orders in only 3 weeks. Oh my goodness, never experienced anything like that before - it was awesome but it nearly killed me! I was overwhelmed, sick for several days, and had zero spare time for the second half of the month, but I kept the CreativeSprint challenge emails because even though I didn’t get to participate again after the 17th of April, those emails gave me ideas to try out later on.

I almost forgot the best part / worst part: sharing whatever it was you made that day. Eek! Even the stupid stuff? Yep! Sharing my work was a little nerve wracking, because these pieces I made were just experiments and didn’t necessarily “go” with the rest of the work in my Instagram feed. They weren’t previously tested or perfectly photographed, but I enjoyed making every single one of them. I also enjoyed peeking at the #CreativeSprint hashtag at the end of the day to see what other participants did. Lots of talent and creating thinking out there!   

Click through the gallery below for a closer look at some of my favorite creations. 

 

 

New Generation of Makers

Recently I've been corresponding with a very talented 11 year old girl in London, Ellie, who's just getting into the crafting world. She's off to an amazing start with her Etsy shop called Befuzzled. I was glad to share some words of wisdom with her on her blog about making a living with your hands, inspiration, and lots of other stuff too: http://befuzzledlondon.tumblr.com/

I ordered one of her cute little plushy toys a few weeks ago. The s'more with the curious face is on it's way to me! Can't wait to put it in my studio so it can smile at me while I craft away. I'm so glad to see a new generation of makers at work, younger than ever, and I look forward to watching how Ellie's creations and brand progress in the future. Be sure to visit her shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/befuzzled

Photo credit: Befuzzled

Photo credit: Befuzzled