Tips for Indoor Craft Shows

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

With the Christmas craft show season upon us, preparing for a show can be an overwhelming process. Here are some practical tips, prepared by Karen Tiveron of Zippster.

Planning for the show:

1. Get all the pertinent info: show times, load-in/out times, load-in instructions, parking, what is provided (table/chairs/linens), exhibit restrictions (display height, what can’t be sold, etc.), whether access to electricity available if you need it, contact info for organizer, what is your table size. Prepare a checklist or worksheet for the day so you have all the info handy.

2. Work on your inventory: give yourself plenty of time to make sure you have enough items in a variety of styles, colours and price points. Try to get a sense of the target audience for the show so you can gear your display and items towards potential buyers.

3. Advertise: Do you own legwork to get the word out: Facebook, Twitter, forums, your own blog or website, an announcement in your Etsy store, Flickr, flyers on bulletin boards. If the craft show organizer creates a website for the show, make sure you send in some photos to be used for promotion.

Your display:

1. You will need a table covering if one is not provided; if possible, have one that goes all the way down to the floor (table cloths and bed sheets are a good option – go with a solid colour rather than a pattern). If plain linen is supplied, you may want to add your own topper or runner (if allowed) for a bit of colour and personality.

2. Create an interesting and eye-catching display for your items using a variety of heights; you needn’t spend a lot of money on display accessories, but do put some thought into what you are using to showcase your hard work. Take a look around your house to see what interesting objects can be used, but for a cohesive look, be consistent in the type of materials or colours used.

For example, this is my table set-up for Karen's Creations. I created height with bins and a shelf that comes apart for easy transport - I use the bins to carry my inventory:

3. Consider using accessories to fit a theme (colour, seasonal), but don’t over do it or buyers will be distracted by your decorations.

I really like Debra Norton's tables (Vintage Paper Parade), which have a unified colour theme and make good use of height (love the bunting!):

4. Create a banner or have a table sign identifying your business.

5. Consider bringing small lamps (if you have access to an electrical outlet during the show) or battery-operated lights to highlight your items.

6. If you’re doing a show for the very first time, practice your table set-up with a dry run, even if you just mark out the table size on your floor. Take a picture of your set-up so you’ll remember.

7. Your inventory and display should be easy to pack up and transport.

Preparing for the day:

1. Gather all your supplies ahead of time:
-put emergency items in a small toolbox: tape, scissors, marker, pens, extra price tags or stickers, any tools you may need to fix items
-keep money in a little box, out of the way yet accessible, or consider an apron (make sure you have lots of loonies, toonies, five and ten dollar bills)
-hand sanitizer, tissue, bag for garbage
-snacks, water
-business cards
-bags/packaging (do you need boxes and tissue paper for fragile items?)
-breath mints/gum
-credit card processing supplies and receipts, if needed
-inventory list to keep track of what you’ve sold
-sign-up sheet for mailing list if you have a newsletter
-lights and electrical cords if required/allowed

2. Your inventory:
-bring a variety of items in styles and colours, keep extra inventory underneath your table
-don’t overcrowd your table – if it looks too overwhelming, people won’t look
-it’s best to have your items individually priced; if appropriate, list the ingredients or materials used (if you make food or bath items, make sure you know what ingredients were used so you can answer questions about allergies. You may want to have samples or testers available).
-if the craft show is offering door prizes or a raffle for shoppers, donate one of your items nicely packaged and include your business card – it’s great for advertising!

Day of show:

1. Set-up: Allow yourself plenty of time to set up your display. Introduce yourself to the organizer and your neighbours. Find out where the washrooms are, and if there is a bank machine nearby.

2. Selling:
-keep the area around your table neat and tidy – store extra supplies and storage bins under the table
-keep your displays tidy but don’t jump up to neaten while a customer is browsing
-greet buyers, even if with just a simple “hello” or “good morning”; be friendly but not aggressive
-don’t talk on your cell phone while people are at your table
-explain the materials used or how an item is used
-if possible, wear one of your items (jewelry, knitting, clothes, etc.)
-eat only during the slow times (have a small snack before and after the lunch time or dinner rush)
-if the show is not as busy as expected, don’t complain in front of customers
-if you take custom orders, prepare a small portfolio or photo album showcasing your work and have order forms on hand
-bring something to work on
-you may have to defend your prices – don’t get defensive, just tactfully explain your process and time put into your work
-take photos of your table for future use – when applying for craft shows, some organizers like to see an example of your table set-up
-if you have a chance, visit the other vendors


For table set-up inspiration, take a look at Flickr group pools:

Packaging and display sources:

Retail Bag Company

King’s Display



Retail Depot:

Creative Bag

Progress Packaging

Also: dollar stores, home organization stores like Solutions and Kitchen Stuff Plus

Happy sales everyone! Please share your indoor craft show tips.

T.E.S.T. Interview: minouette

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Méfiez-vous de la contrefaçon!We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the second in our series, an interview with minouette.

Tell us a little about your and your shop.

I've always had varied interests. When I was younger some of my favorite subjects were art on the one hand, and physics on the other. I decided that it was easier to pursue art on my own, than it would be to attempt to be a modern-day amateur scientist. So I work as a marine geophysicist by day and printmaker by night. ;) What that means is that my profession involves building machines and going to sea to image what is below the ocean floor, which keeps the spatial-numerical left-half of my brain occupied. But I couldn't survive unless I kept the pictorial right-brain happy, so I need to create art.

Enchantress of Numbers I make a lot of different things. My shop "things from secret minouette places" is filled with block prints on paper and on textiles. Part of magic and beauty of printmaking is the possibility of making multiples. This allows me to create original art at a very reasonable price. I've been focusing mainly on linoleum block prints. I do this by drawing an image in reverse on linoleum and carving away the negative space. I use a tool called a brayer (like a paint-roller) to apply ink to the lino block. Then I take my paper or fabric, lay it on the inked block, and burnish the image onto it with another tool called a baren. The baren was developed for Japanese woodblock prints. Mine consists of a flat, but textured disk, wrapped in a bamboo leaf. To make another image, I simply apply more ink to the block and repeat. I also make things from the printed textiles, like pillows, stuffed animals and ornaments.

Corelie in a treeIn your Etsy profile it says you have been printmaking since you were a child, starting at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Over the years, what do you think were some of the most important learning experiences you had in developing your craft?

Those classes at the AGO were a big influence on me. It's much easier to learn some things when you are a child. I think starting young was a great help to me. I've got more experience than I would otherwise. Also, I find that things like registration (lining up multiple blocks or screens in different colours to produce a multi-colour print) or never carving towards myself are now instinctive.

We have some great resources here in Toronto!
Little Boat, Big Ocean
On Vancouver Island, I did a workshop in paper-making by hand. Making paper by hand is meticulous and painstaking. It's not something I have done often, but learning about paper and how it's made was a really valuable experience. Paper can make all the difference to a print. The fibres in hand-made paper point in all directions. The fibres in machine-made paper are aligned in a single direction and hence, it is stronger in one direction than in the other, and if it gets wet it deforms asymmetrically. I love Japanese kozo paper, especially the handmade variety.

I also attended a "Moku-hanga Woodblock Printing Bootcamp". Anyone who has carved wood might understand why it's called bootcamp - this is hard physical labour! I learned a lot which I apply to my lino block prints.

I feel like Childhood and Wonder are major elements in your work. Why do you think that is?

natural history allThat's a really interesting question. While I decided, as I mentioned, that I couldn't be a modern-day amateur scientist, I'm really interested in Cabinets of Curiosity (or wonder - the wunderkammer) kept by avid amateurs from the Renaissance up until 19th century. People had huge collections of natural wonders: rocks, gems, fossils, butterflies, shells, bones, all sorts of plants and animals, real and imaginary. Science and magic were still intertwined. These collections both fostered myth (such as narwhal horns passed off as unicorn) and the development of descriptive science (including geology, paleontology, botany and zoology). I think of my shop as a Cabinet of Curiosity. It's filled with specimens from natural history (with the odd harpy or unicorn thrown in for good measure).

I also feature characters from the history of science, which is all about wonder.

Unicorn amongst umbrellas III detailOf course, I also love myth and fairytales. If the cabinet of curiosity represents a sort of proto-science, the myth is like the proto-story, the basis for the stories we tell again and again in different ways. Also, I think the same part of me which enjoys mathematical symbols and puzzles, enjoys symbols in folklore. I enjoy considering how things like zodiac cycles were attempts to explain astronomical observations.

I guess my work throws all of these things together.

What 3 skills or traits do you think makes you such an exceptional printmaker (well, I think you are exceptional!) ?

jellyWhy, thank you!
Um, well, I'm focused and stubborn, I have good dexterity, and I'm an experimentalist, all of which are very useful traits for the scientist too. Being focused and stubborn, means I am willing to put in the time and attention to detail. For me this is the right way to prepare an experiment or a lino block. Carving is a skill. It takes practice, but having flexible fingers is lucky. Being an experimentalist means that I have good problem-solving skills and a willingness to try different things to make the image in my head a reality. I pull a lot of proofs as I carve and am willing to change direction and vary my plans. I experiment as I go.

You’ve been creating and selling for a long time compared to some of us. What advice do you have for new crafters/artists or people who are new to Etsy?

I've been creating a long time, but only selling for a couple of years. In terms of creating my advice would be to try! Create what you want - experiment until you find what you enjoy and what works for you. Don't sell yourself short or make barriers for yourself. I'm a big believer in the handmade movement and buying local. Etsy is a great venue to allow buyers and sellers to find one another and avoid the mass produced. I think the main thing to recognize for a new Etsy seller is that it takes time to build up a clientele. Finding a group or street team of like-minded individuals, a community within Etsy, is really useful. Don't neglect to read FAQs and check out some of the great off-site tools like craftcult, craftopolis, and Google Analytics.

What’s next for Minouette?

Copernicus: De revolutionibusHmm... well I have to keep some secrets! I do have some collections of things I am working on. There will be more "Imaginary Friends of Science". Maxwell wasn't the only one with a Demon. I'm thinking I need more fungi, not just the Fly Agaric. I'm considering a western zodiac to go with the Chinese zodiac. Broadly speaking, there will be more multi-media and perhaps more media in general.

Check out more of minouette's work in her shop. You can follow her blog on either LJ or Blogger. Her flickr photostream is here. You can also follow minouette on twitter. She also writes magpie & whiskeyjack where she gathers favorite things.

Interviewed by anotherangle, November 13 to 16, 2009.

T.E.S.T. Interview: anotherangle

Friday, November 13, 2009

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. It seems fitting to inaugurate this interview series with an introduction to Michael, anotherangle, who started the Toronto Etsy Street Team.

So tell us a little about yourself and your shop?

Well, I am a very amateur photographer in Toronto. I am completely self-taught; I’ve never have a lesson on how to use a camera, photoshop, or anything related to photography so even though some people think of photography as ‘art’, I like to think of mine as D.I.Y. craft.

I started my shop in August after a close friend of mine (LaLaLollypop) suggested that Etsy would be a great place to sell my stuff. I logged for my first time that night, after our conversation, and I have been impressed with Etsy ever since!

What do you do outside of photography?

Well, I would like to keep my occupation a little secret. But let’s just say I work full time so the photography is more about pleasure and I do it when I can. As far as other stuff, I am often involved in volunteer work with a social justice focus.

What motivated you to start a Toronto team?

Well, I was motivated to start a Toronto team for a few reasons. One was that I know I tend to do more, produce and engage more, when I am working within a community rather than just on my own. It didn’t seem like the other versions of Toronto teams were active anymore and I got a sense of what could be accomplished by an Etsy Team by looking at other Teams’ sites and I thought ‘Hey! That’s what Toronto needs!’ So, because there wasn’t really something for me to join here, I figured I should put my money where my mouth is and just start it. And I have a pretty long history of starting groups and organizations, so that process is pretty familiar to me. Also, I thought that I was more likely to get sales from people who were local because of the type of craft I am doing and I also love the idea of trading, which is more easily done locally.

So far, all the Team members are fantastic! Now we are entering the tricky time of group building, where we figure out who is able to step up and take on responsibilities so the group can grow and not rely on one person to keep things going (I mean, I have bad weeks like everyone else and can’t always do everything I want to).

Tell us about your process (camera specs, lighting, framing a shot, digital effects...)

My process is very simple. I bought my first DSLR in June. I am still learning how to use it. A typical ‘shoot’ for me looks like this: I think of somewhere to go, usually in the afternoon or dusk; I hop on my bike and head over there; I then wander around, being as attentive as I can be to the things I usually don’t notice or I take for granted; then something usually ‘pulls at me’ and I start shooting; when I am in a more natural environment, often I will just sit down in one place for about 10-30 minutes and look very, very carefully at what is around me, looking for shapes and colours that I find...compelling. Right now I only use natural lighting. I kinda think of my photographs as ‘found images’ because of that....I wander around looking for things as they are rather than placing them in I way that I want them to be.

Because I live in Parkdale, almost all of my high quality photos have been taken within a 2km radius of Queen and Landsdowne, many along the Lake and in High Park this autumn.

How do you choose your subjects?

Well, this summer, I gave myself sort of ‘tourist in my own town’ locations to travel to. Like, I biked along the Lake one day, another day I hit Little India, another day I went and explored the alleys of my old neighbourhood, I spent time at the CNE just taking photos one evening, that kind of stuff. Right now, I prefer stuff that doesn’t move so I can take my time and craft the shot carefully. But I really want to learn how to take photographs of the human body so I have been getting people to model for me for fun (all body types are welcome!) so I can gain experience in how to do that.

What's next for the preservation of light and shadow?

Hmm, well, I would love to have another photo show. I keep my website updated weekly with things I call ‘Artifacts’, which are a combination of a new photo and an older piece of my poetry; often the poetry is just a fragment, not a whole poem. I have been working with an another Etsyian, Bill (HouseofSixCats), and now have coaster sets of my photos which are really cool...the only problem is I want to buy all of them myself!

I want to work on getting a decent supplier for high-quality cards; I am thinking about offering one-of-a-kind cards....we’ll see. Right now it’s tricky just balancing full-time work and my love for photography.

Maybe the community you've started to build here can help with how to achieve the elusive life/work balance? I'm sure it's something we all face. Thank you very much Michael, for taking this time to introduce yourself and your 'D.I.Y' photography. With the striking 'found images' you are capturing already, I look forward to seeing how you will continue to explore this medium, and expose this city and its inhabitants!

Check out more of Michael's work in the anotherangle etsy shop, on The Preservation of Shadows and Light website, on Preservation of Shadows and Light Facebook Fan Page, on the preservation of shadows and light myspace page and in The preservation of shadows and light flickr stream. You can also follow shadowsnlight on twitter.

anotherangle was interviewed November 5 to 12th, 2009, by minouette.
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