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Preparing for an arts and crafts fair or show

A good way to monetize your art (helps pay for the supplies --wink) is to attend arts and crafts shows and fairs. I presently am getting ready to attend two event in the coming weeks. These are some of the thoughts I have while deciding (1) to apply for the event; (2) what I will take to sell at the events ; (3) the type of people you will encounter at an event; and finally, what I will need to take with me to the event.

First and foremost, for outdoor events, you need a good canopy system. It must be a pop-up canopy. That means it is a frame that stretches open. You usually only have a couple of hours to set up the canopy, tables and displays. The canopy needs to be waterproof. Even if rain is not predicted, you could get a shower, thunderstorm. You need to protect your art or crafts. It should have walls. I refer back to the possible showers, but also it could be cold. The walls will protect you from the cold somewhat as your body heat will add warmth to the enclosed canopy. Also the walls can help protect your art from the damaging rays of the sun. The top should be UV protected (helps protect you and your product from sun damage). I use a canopy by ABC Canopy. The size you need is 10' x 10'. Anything bigger and it will be too big. The size of your area as a vendor at an arts and crafts show is usually 10' x 10'. You canopy cannot exceed the assigned space. This means the legs must be straight, not angled as many home systems are.

This is one of my set ups. They change depending upon the event, weather conditions, etc.

Next you will need weights. The ABC Canopy does come with 4 weights but you also need weights for your displays, tables, etc. If you are going to be out in high winds (over 10 mph) you will need additional weights for your canopy. I also use plate weights as well (I put on top of my display tables to help in the event of wind). The first arts and crafts festival I did followed a big thunderstorm and brought with it sustained winds of 25 mph with gusts of 55+ mph. Weather prediction that morning was winds of 10 mph with gusts of 25 mph. (Boy were they wrong.) Most commercial grade canopies are wind rated to about 50 mph with weights. This rating means that the canopy system will not be damaged in winds up to the rating. This event had exceptionally high winds; not only was the wind blowing sand and other debris at everything (including us) but it was also lifting the canopy off the ground with 80 pounds of weights on the legs (we had four weights of 10 pounds each on each each leg, plus a plate weight on each leg (each plate weight is 10 pounds as well). I also had weights attached to the top of the canopy and on each table and display grids that I had. We attempted to put up the canopy walls, but the wind was too much for that and actually moved the weighted canopy over 20 feet as we attempted to quickly remove the walls. What I am saying, is you need to make sure that you have weights and plenty of them to cover any eventuality.

You will need a table for display. I also use grid walls (see next paragraph). For ease of transport, I have a 6 foot table that folds in half (so it fits better in my car) and two 4 foot tables that I butte together to create an 8 foot table. You want adjustable legs so that you can adjust the height with ease.

I cover these with white table cloths. You can then hide your paraphernalia under the tables and it is hidden by the table cloths.

I also use grid walls to hang items for display. The grid walls I use fold in half. Again for ease of transportation. I also have legs for the walls (sold separately) and you will need hangers (again sold separately).

When you sign up for an event and pay the fee, you will be given a location and time for set up and tear down. From experience, you want to get there as close as possible to the set up time as possible. As organized as you think you are, there is always something that will delay you, whether it is the table not opening, uneven pavement, wind, inclement weather, etc. If the weather calls for rain, I do not go. Art and rain do not mix. Most events are rain or shine but if the weather is really bad they will delay either the start or if they have a rain date, reschedule to the rain date. If they do not cancel or delay, and the weather is bad, I make a decision and just do not go. If you choose not to go, the event fee is not refunded. It is only refunded if the sponsor cancels the event. You gain nothing by going in the rain; most people do not go to the event in bad weather. If the event is indoors, weather does not affect your attending just how many attend the event.

You have all the necessary paraphernalia, now you have to get your product together. If you have going to hang your art on display, make sure you have hangers on the back or easels for display. I use boxes and racks and place the canvases on the table top for display. Large canvases I hang on grid walls that I attached along the frame for the canopy top. I have found that people like to stop and leaf through the art so I use displays for record albums and boxes that I label. By doing this people have a chance to talk and ask questions; interaction with people leads to sales. Below are some of the items I now use.

Pricing is based upon type of canvas and canvas size. There are charts to help you with pricing. Just research it. Make signs that tell how much you are charging. Make signs that talk about the canvases you use. These are of interest with people and great conversation starters.

Some final thoughts. Make sure you have a sign telling people who you are and what you are selling. Make sure to have a lot of business cards; hand them out even if they do not make a purchase. Have a thank you note to put in the bag is you make a sale. Have bags that fit what you sell. People are going from stand to stand, so that it an essential item to have. If they cannot carry it, they will probably not buy it.

Also you will need a cash box to hold your money and change. You may want to accept credit cards. You can easily do so with your phone using your data. I have a card swipe and a contactless card reader. You will need an account with Square, Swipe or some other credit card company. I use Square. They have been reliable and the fees are low. Many will pay cash but some will want to use debit or credit cards. You can get the card readers on Amazon or through the company you choose to use.

I will close, you will not always make sales; however, it is fun and a great way to network.

Until my next blog....


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