Preparing for an Art or Craft Festival
Festivals are a Great Way to Sell Your Creations and Meet New People!
Art and craft festivals are a lot of work but worth it for the exposure you get and the great people you meet. Here is a guide to preparing for a show and having a great time.
Oh yeah, and did I mention selling your creations?
The very first thing you have to consider when thinking about participating in a festival is "Do I have enough stuff to sell?". Booth sizes average about 10 feet x 10 feet, if you only have a couple dozen very small items it's just not enough to fill a booth (however with big items like paintings you may only need 8-12). If the answer is yes that's great! If it's no then you need to get busy making more stuff!
So you've got your merchandise now to find a festival. I suggest starting small and local. First of all you won't have to spend as much money to participate and you'll be able to invite all your friends and family for support and encouragement.
When you apply to enter a festival make sure you do it well before the deadline (you don't want to find out they've run out of spaces), pay the fee on time, and follow all the rules of the festival as to what sorts of items are allowed and how much space you have.
Check with your local government or small business administration about all taxes and permits you need before participating in a show. In some states you'll need to register with the state in order to collect sales tax, some towns may require a vendor license, and you may need to file self-employment taxes.
I'm not going to lie to you, this is a lot of time and work. It's absolutely worth it and a lot of fun but still work. If you don't have the time to spend doing a great job then maybe you should consider giving festivals a pass until you know you can put the time and effort into it.
Your first few festivals you aren't likely to make much money. Be happy with breaking even. You need time to get experience running a booth and for people to get to know you. Enjoy the experience at first and then worry about making money.
Along those lines, listen to what people are saying about your work and use it as market research. I found that while my octopus jewelry sells well online to my niche audience it doesn't do as well in person because it's too weird for a lot of people, however seahorses and seashell jewelry sells much better. I also needed to make sure I had more lower priced items for impulse buys.
Finding a Festival
The first place to look for a festivals are local papers. Most states also have an Arts Commission that have event listings.
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Simple steps to take in setting up and running your booth.
1: Never leave your booth unattended. If you have to take a bathroom break get a friend to watch your booth or make a deal with the booth next door to watch each other's booths when you need a break.
2: Keep organized. Have one station for people to buy your work at and keep all your business stuff there. Stow empty boxes and extra merchandise out of sight.
3: Bring lots of business cards. Make sure as many people as possible who come through your booth get a business card, if you have brochures make sure they get those too. Some people just can't make up their mind the day of a show whether they want to buy something so make sure they are able to contact you later.
4: Have a Guestbook. Have visitors sign your guestbook if they want you contacting them about future shows or to be added to your mailing list.
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Never rely on the weather at an outdoor festival. Canopies are a must.
If you're participating in an outdoor festival you absolutely must have shelter of some kind. The weather is rarely reliable and you do not want to be scrambling to cover your stuff if it rains. Even if it doesn't rain you'll appreciate the shade on a hot day.
Canopies range in price from cheap $30 models up to $200-300. If you are only planning to do 2-3 shows in a summer then an inexpensive one is perfectly fine but if you're planning to do a show nearly every weekend you should really invest in a good quality canopy that is more reliable and can be taken down and put up quickly.
Art festivals are far from a dangerous activity but they do take place outdoors in the summer so you should practice common sense outdoor safety.
1: Keep hydrated. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you.
2: Wear sunscreen. You probably will not spend all day under your canopy so make sure you don't get burned.
3: Watch out for the bugs. If you are doing a festival in mosquito or black fly country wear insect repellent.
4: Bring a basic first aid kit with you. You never know when you'll get a paper cut from your business cards or hammer your thumb setting up the canopy.
5: If you are on any medications, make sure you bring them. The middle of a festival is not the time to realize you need your allergy medication because there's ragweed somewhere in the park.
Your Free Online First Aid Guide
What Should I Wear?
Since you're going to be outside all day, often in hot weather you want to dress comfortably and casually but neatly.
Name tag or shirt with your business name/logo
Hat and/or sunglasses
Halter tops, skimpy skirts, etc.
Anything ripped or stained (the one exception is if you are doing demonstrations that are messy)
Badly fitting or high heel shoes. You will be on your feet most of the day.
Just In Case
Bring a sweater or sweatshirt and a raincoat in case it gets cool or rains. If you are doing demonstrations you might want a change of clothes.
Do I Need a Sign?
Simple answer is: Yes!
You really need some sort of sign that is visible to people walking by. It doesn't have to be expensive, plenty of places can print a vinyl banner for you fairly inexpensively or you could paint your own.
My old sign was painting on an old piece of chip board that at one time or another belonged to a piece of furniture (I think). I first primed it with a white acrylic spray primer, sponge painted with sage green acrylic, then painted the rest in shades of green and purple. I display it on a cheap wooden easel I bought for about $8.
I now have a vinyl sign that cost about $25 to have printed for me.
Creating a Great Display
Your display can make or break your festival experience.
Your display presents your creations to the world so you want it to look it's best. there are some very simple rules to follow in creating a display.
1: Keep it neat. You don't want your customers to be digging through piles of stuff, keep it organized so they can find what they need easily.
2: Use varying heights. To make your display more visually interesting display some items higher than others. If possible hang some of your items. You can buy acrylic or wooden risers, build them yourself out of wood, use found objects like wooden boxes, or even sturdy cardboard boxes covered with pretty fabric.
3: Color coordinate. Group similar colors together and when choosing colors for your table cloths make sure they don't clash with your projects. Nuetral colors are always good, my creations feature lots of blues and greens so I use table cloths in those colors.
4: Bring extras. Bring more items than you plan to display, that way when some sell you can fill in the bare spots.
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Visualize this scenario: There are two booth at a festival side by side selling jewelry. Both artisans can beautiful work. One puts purchases in a plastic zip bag with the receipt and the other puts purchases in a nice gift bag with the receipt, a business card, and care instructions for the jewelry.
Which would you buy?
How you present your products and how you package them for your customers can mean the difference between a few sales and a lot.
Tips and Tricks to Make your Booth Special
Chances are the festival has dozens of booths to tempt visitors. You need to make yours stand out from the crowd.
1: If you sell jewelry or other wearable items always have a mirror available so customer can see how your jewelry looks on them.
2: Consider working on some small projects while at the show. People love to see how stuff is made. Just make sure it's something easily put down when a customer wants to buy something.
3: Wear a name tag. You're creative, make it pretty but let people know who you are and what creatiosn you're responsible for.
4: If possible wear your creations. If you create jewelry or clothing this is easy, if not consider having shirts printed with photos of your work. I created screenprinted Noadi's Art t-shirts with the silhouette of one of my sculptures on it.