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How to Set Up for Your First Arts and Crafts Show

How to Set Up for Your First Arts and Crafts Show main article image
Posted on July 26, 2021 by Jennifer Carroll

Develop a Product

If you’re a skilled crafter and you want to take your show on the road, what are you waiting for? Actually, I was there and I know exactly what you’re waiting for. Self-confidence, courage, opportunity, uhm – inventory. Well gather all of that and we’ll talk about how to set up for your first arts and crafts show.

Last year around this time I had been happily creating artwork, crafting for my own décor purposes, and wasn’t thinking about where it would take me. We had just purchased our home and I was on a mission to decorate it without any help from Hobby Lobby or Kirkland’s. I love these places and they’re four minutes from my house (I timed it). I just didn’t want my house to look like miniature versions of them. My husband and I had spent the first few months of the year traveling the backroads of Florida taking photographs of cows. So much of the artwork readily available for home décor centers around farm animals and that’s what I wanted in my house. And I wanted to draw them myself.

Decide Where and When to Display your Work

Within a few months, I had several pieces of artwork that I could reproduce and sell. But where? I had no desire to do art shows and even less desire to do craft shows. My husband and I liked to attend them and it was while we were waiting in line to park at a very well-attended show on a farm (with cows and everything) that I heard myself say, “Well maybe we should do one of these”. Right then and there I used my phone to look up the application for a long-running annual Arts and Crafts show – the biggest in our area and on a working farm. It was the beginning of September. The show was scheduled for every weekend in October. When we got home I downloaded the application and sent it out along with a few pictures they required showing my work. I chose the last week of October so I would have a maximum of six weeks to get everything ready. And I mean everything. So I became the tornado my husband accuses me of being and started creating. I made banners, signs, designed a logo, had business cards made, and oh yeah – created inventory. I learned some things along the way.

First of all – pick the venue or show that is right for you and the products you’re offering. Farm shows and vintage markets work for me, in fact, I call my collection of cows “Portraits from the Pasture.”

It’s what people expect to see at a Shop the Farm event. I don’t sign up for events where direct sales are invited to be vendors. I am an artist and crafter and I want to see what other crafters are offering.

Now that you’ve chosen an appropriate venue get ready! Make lists of everything you’ll need to prepare.

Vendor spaces are generally 10’x10’ and a tent might be required. Tables and display items are a must. I wasn’t ready to invest in my own items at first so we borrowed a tent and tables from friends. This might be an option for you too. I also made what I could. A three-panel screen can be easily constructed with just a few materials and wooden crates are a great option for risers and shelves.

Once you have the things you need to properly set up, do a trial run on your driveway or your backyard.

Keep your colors neutral. I’ve painted or stained all of mine so that they coordinate. Be mindful of how you’re going to transport everything you need for a show. You don’t want to have to trim four inches off the bottom of your three-panel screen because your husband is 6’4” and can’t squeeze into your SUV. Moving on.

Don’t Do This

Our first ever show was in the fall so I thought fall decorations were a must. I made a large garland to hang across the front of my tent and then I went a step further. I used a leaning plank sign to welcome people to our booth. Big mistake. I could have sold that sign a hundred times that day. So never again will I use anything I don’t intend to sell in my tent. A simple acknowledgment of the season with a banner attached to the tent or a table is enough. Pay attention to the theme the promotor of your event is trying to convey and you’ll do fine.

Do This

Now that you have a place and a plan for the setup you can concentrate on getting your products ready. Focus on quality. There are going to be other crafters doing beautiful work and you want to feel good about your own. If you have the ability and the flexibility, offer items that coincide with the season. If I’m doing a show in November or December I definitely want to make plenty of Christmas ornaments. You also want to have a price range that allows everybody an opportunity to shop. I have items that are $5 and I have items that are $350 and every price in between. My artwork is my main product, but I’ve found a way to slap a cow on just about everything so when a shopper tells me they love my work but they don’t have wall space, I can direct them to a set of coasters with the same artwork on them.

Engage With the People

Ya’ know what there’s going to be the most of at your show? People. They’ll be your fellow vendors, your shoppers, and hopefully your repeat customers. I don’t keep a chair in my booth because I want to be where the people are. Engage. You’re there to learn and get better at your craft. If your neighboring booth has a really neat set up and you want to know how they do it – ask them. We participate in a national franchised show twice a year because it’s local and we can fit it into our schedules. But there are vendors that travel on this circuit. I want to pick their brains (in the nicest way). They are professionals and I want to learn.

If you’re thinking about doing your first show – do it! I know you’ll love it. Until next time – happy crafting!

Visit me here to see my latest creations.

The Barnyard Boutique

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