My First Craft Show

by Dawn Carpino.
(Ruby, NY)

My First Craft Show by Dawn Carpino  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

So, I just did my first craft show. I was upstairs in a classroom in a high school.

There were about 100 vendors. Most of the stuff was “kitchy” Xmas stuff.

I sold two necklace sets, one with a bracelet and one with earrings. Also sold a pumpkin bracelet and earrings and a couple of other earrings.

I had 20 necklaces, 27 bracelets and 88 pairs of earrings – too many to put out.

Most of the people just walked by without a glance, or a quick one. I’m thinking it was the wrong crowd for what I make.

How to find the right crowd for my jewelry – any suggestions?

Also, took a quick tour – someone in the gym was selling something similar to my necklaces but much more than me and at lower prices.

Is my stuff priced too high?

Thought about trying online selling but then I have to also buy packing materials, deal with shipping, and be tied to my computer. Seems like a full-time job.

I’m addicted to making jewelry so need to sell it, was hoping a few craft shows a year would at least support my habit.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

Dawn Carpino
Endless Possibilities

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  • Kathy Zee says:

    Congratulations on taking the plunge into selling your own jewelry. I just did a show and did’t sell one bracelet. So I never know what the public will want to buy. I sell more earrings than anything during the year. It’s my bread and butter. As for pricing, you can’t compare yourself with others on that aspect. I have raised my prices and sold more than my competitors. If someone likes something they will pay for it.
    In looking at your display, I would take away the Christmas silver stuff and maybe use another cloth is a contrasting color even white that would be added on a diagonal in the center to draw the eye to your table. I find my jewelry look s better when it has some white on the table. Don’t just show necklaces. You are limiting yourself. Don’t give up…sometimes you will sell alot, sometimes you will have an average day. Rena has some wonderful books on that subject too. I would start there and get some other ideas in how to sell your jewelry, set up your booth, etc. Took me awhile to figure out for my business how i wanted it set up. My best to you…keep beading!

  • Dawn Carpino says:

    Thanks for the tips Kathy. I had a friend come over to my house where I set everything up beforehand. She told me to make it more Christmasy as the show I was doing is all about Christmas. They play Christmas music the whole time. That’s why I added the garland and a couple of gold Christmas decos. I did have earrings and bracelets out too. Maybe you can’t see the whole thing in this photo. I see your point about adding some white to offset the gold. I think the crowd was not the type to wear what I make. I’m going to several shows the next few weeks to walk around and check it out for next year. I guess I just need to find the right venue. Thanks again for the tips, appreciate it.

  • Liz at L R Creations says:

    Dawn, I am doing my first craft show at my granddaughter’s school this Saturday, Nov. 10th. I have been designing and making jewelry for several years and I love it, but have never sold any of it. I am also put another crafter’s wreaths in my booth (which is only a 10x10ft space) which hopefully will draw people to my jewelry too!

    I will let you all know how it goes. I think we just have to make that first move to get experience and keep on keeping on doing what we enjoy!

    Liz

  • Joey Barnes says:

    Dawn – make sure you are wearing your jewelry and that the clothes you choose to wear show off the necklace and the matching pieces of a set.

    It’s probably the lighting in the photo, but my first impression is that I can’t distinguish the jewelry from the background, and the jewelry background blends into the tablecloth. I would use something that shows a strong contrast between the metal and beads of your designs and the backdrop. Your one black one is good contrast. Also, different levels of display give contrast. You’ve got two, but it’s a pretty symmetrical setup. How about a box that elevates your “special” piece that will draw the eye in. Think about what causes you to stop and look at other peoples’ setups. You have to create a way to be different from all the others.

    Good luck!

  • Donna Harper says:

    Although it was difficult to see details in your photo, it looks like you have some very attractive pieces. A couple display concepts I noticed immediately:
    1. Be sure your display cloth is impeccable. No stains or wrinkles. Drape must be deliberate and off the floor away from dirty feet.
    2. Your upright display colors did not compete with your pieces or table covering (good job). Make sure the colors compliment each piece and bring out their best.
    3. Try making little vignettes with similar pieces rather than soldiers in a row. Also try one piece very attractively lying in a gift box with tissue to show how wonderful it could look to a recipient upon opening (hint: this would make a great gift!)
    I agree with everyone else. Don’t make a judgement on one show. Kudos for getting out there!

  • Marcy says:

    All these suggestions are great!! I’ve only done holiday craft fairs myself and have never decorated my booth ‘in the spirit’ so to speak but I’ve done fairly well considering. Definitely pick the right fair for you–I scope out a lot where I can tell I won’t be a good fit. Saves me some major hassles! But here are some things I found that may help…
    I try to do a U-shaped set up (even if the ‘entrance’ is only a few feet deep, if that makes sense). I always, always have a bowl of candy (Rolos) near me-it’s amazing how many people will come in because of that! I always stand behind my booth and keep myself a little busy, polishing pieces or playing with pliers and wire –when I’m a shopper I get intimidated when someone is out in front of their booth so I’m very conscious of that. And I always wear my most elaborate, expensive piece myself–it shows people what you can do (even if you’re not selling it). If you say “Oh this is something I made for myself that would be about $300′ then all the items in your booth that are less suddenly seem more affordable.
    The best “fair” I’ve ever done was to have a trunk show at my house. I invited 25 people and said if they brought a friend they would get a 20% discount. I think about 45 people rolled though and I was also able to take special orders/commissions (and people LOVE seeing my studio space). But for me, it was more about getting feedback. I was blown away at how beneficial it was for me–I got advice about what shows to do in the future and how to set up a booth and learned more about who my customer is. I know not everyone can do this-but it was such a great learning experience! And serving a little alcohol didn’t hurt 😉

  • Sue Runyon says:

    You never know how shows are going to go. It could be the location of your booth and the traffic pattern of the show, the lighting, the type of customer the show draws, etc. I always bring my own lighting and I feel that helps. Always make the prices easy to find so people don’t have to ask. Most of the time they won’t bother to ask even if they see something they like. In fact, I’ve had greater success with big price signs for a group of items instead of little tags on individual items. Always have a mirror available so they can try on necklaces and hold earring cards up by their ears.

  • Allison says:

    When I was trying to decide what markets would work for me I went to any and all I could find, sometimes on my own and sometimes with a friend with a discerning eye. We looked at what was being sold, what quality, what level of difficulty, and what price points. We looked at booths and displays – who had lots of people stopping, who didn’t, what seemed inviting and what was more intimidating. What all did the vendors bring – how much display area, how many tables, did they go vertical – how high and using what sort of display? How did they price things? And finally, the crowds. What were they buying, what were they spending, what were they saying to each other about the goods? It was serious market research, but also fun. I got to see a lot of other artisans’ work, meet some very nice people, and gather a ton of good information. It showed me the shows/markets I want to be in, and how I should start working my way up to them. (And incidentally, where I needed to be to get a spot of at some of them.) It’s the prime season for markets and shows – go to as many as you can and take notes.

  • Dawn Carpino says:

    Good Luck Liz! I wish you much success.

  • Dawn Carpino says:

    THanks to everyone for your suggestions. They were all great. I don’t have any more shows planned for the near future as it’s too late to get into the holiday blitz now but that’s ok. Like Allison mentioned I plan to go to any I can get to in the next month or so.

  • Christine Yuss says:

    Just my 2 cents worth, I too agree that you could use a contrasting color for the table drape. Either a white or black background so your displays didn’t fade into the table color. My first experience a couple years ago was a flop – only sold 2 items. Not even enough to pay for the space fee! But I learned a lot and took note of those around me who were selling and improved my display and array of products. I included key chain bling,bookmarkers with gemstones and suncatchers with gemstones. Not a lot, but just enough to get people over to the booth to take a closer look since they immediately saw something other than jewelry. Let’s face it, there are always lots of people selling jewelry. Even if it’s all unique, it’s still jewelry and without something just a little bit different to draw their attention, they walk on by…
    I also found a couple charities locally that I could donate items that didn’t sell so I could get a tax deduction for my donation. That allowed me to make more and feed my need to bead!
    Don’t give up and keep on beading 🙂

  • Karen Watson says:

    Look for a networking group. Networking Today International has groups in several places in the country. If not in your town, Google “networking groups”. I have had websites, an Etsy shop, and other online methods of selling, and have sold more through networking than any other way.

  • Dawn Carpino says:

    Thanks Liz. I will check it out.

  • Lynda C. says:

    Lots of great advise here! Such a generous community! I would add another idea that I think made a real difference in my display. I bought seven inch bed risers at Bed Bath and Beynd. I think you can also get them on line as well. Raising the level,of the table puts your beautiful jewelry at a more attractive level. Customers are not having to stoop,over for a closer look. I also use multi level displays.
    Lastly, and I may have posted earlier about this…I have a small basket of mini earrings as a gift with a minimum purchase. (You set the minimum. Mine is thirty dollars) I use up my left over beads and silver plated wire. Customers love this!
    Can’t emphasize enough to do your research. Talk to other vendors and visit as ,many craft fairs as possible. I not only look at jewelry vendors, but the traffic flow of customers and what they seem to be drawn too. I remember one fair I did where I hardly sold anything. Spent my ‘down time’ counting the customers who walked by and tallied how many wore any jewelry. Only 6 out of 48. Did not return the next year.

  • Nicole Green says:

    Lots of good suggestions.
    Dawn, I feel your frustration. Over the years, I have remade my displays over & over. I was going to tell you to raise your tables, too. I feel that is very important. I went with 37″. If you are on a shoestring budget, sometimes PVC pipe can be used as risers. I used large tablecloths I got from Amazon to use instead of fabric in making floor length, tailored tablecloths. (The hems were already made!)
    I also went with 2 tables, so that it wouldn’t look so crowded. When choosing or making displays, I stick to a theme. I use muted colors that don’t compete with my jewelry and creates a flow that keeps the customer looking. I get a lot of compliments & more customers seem to be drawn in. A stool is better than a short chair. It shows that you are interested & available, if needed.
    Years of experience has taught me which shows to do & which ones to stay away from. Try to identify your target customer, and do everything from creating jewelry, displaying, to choosing venues in which to participate. Good luck to you.

  • Jean says:

    My pARTner Lynne and I are just finishing our first year of selling at craft shows. We agreed this would be our Year Of Learning and we would count a show as a success if we lived through it, regardless of sales. One thing I learned was that a show gave me an opportunity to do market research. I paid attention to Which pieces are people attracted to? Even if people didn’t buy a piece, the fact that they looked at the rainbow Byzantine necklace more than the silver Persian 3 in 1 told me which of the two was more marketable and what I should produce more. Having someone spend some time looking at my work, even if they didn’t buy, was a compliment to me, and I made sure I thanked them for stopping by. Another thing I watched for was Who is buying (or looking)? I was delighted when 4 biker dudes came by. Only sold one necklace, but it confirmed my hunch that there is a market for chunkier stuff for men and got me thinking about how to sell to them. No show is a failure if you learn something from it.

  • Jean, thanks so much for sharing some of your market research and your Year of Learning strategy. I so agree, I always view any show or venue as a golden opportunity to do market search – directly from the people who might give me brilliant insights!
    Wishing you and your pARTner all the best with your next jewelry year! 🙂

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