Craft Fair Preparation Demystified! part 1

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I recently became a member of the SF etsy street team (yeah!) which has been incredible. It's opened me up to a wonderful community and lovely opportunities I didn't know existed! And on a regular basis too! A recent post was about preparing for one's first craft fair. That paired with meeting a couple new vendors to the craft fair scene at Unique LA got me thinking about how one prepares for a craft fair. So, I thought I'd share to help demystify the scary process. At least for me it's scary. Leading up to last year's Renegade Craft Fair, there were definitely many moments where Victoria and I would look up from our work and just barbarically yawp with anxiety!

So, process revealed! Keep in mind everyone works differently. This is just what works for me!
dawww... my first fair!

1. Planning the craft fair season
For about a solid month, I researched for every craft fair & artist flea market in every state I wanted to vend. I did this months before they requested applications (which is typically 2-3 months before the show). If I didn't see information about this year's schedule, I made sure to join their mailing list. I emailed people, asked questions about the shows, and what they thought about it. I made a list of target craft fairs, organizing them by date. As the application deadlines neared, I started to narrow it down. Rejection & acceptance narrowed it down even more & then I knew where I was headed. A bit of advice: have lots of money saved to apply to the fairs! $400 for this fair, $250 for that one... it starts to add up like WHOA! Or plan to share a booth :)

2. Inventory preparation
For me, the post-holiday months are the slowest months but I make sure to use the time well! I made a list of what I wanted to carry at the summer fairs, from prints, cards, plush and new items. I set target numbers and due dates, down to which week in which month I'd have all my dinosaurs done. For me, my plush inventory takes time. I sew every piece by hand, and it's just me. So from mid-Feb to mid-March, I sewed non-stop, reaching nearly 100 plush. Once the tough stuff was done, I worked on printing goodies, integrating a new painting or item every month or so. It was tough trying to blindly produce, with no one really buying after such an solid holiday season. But you gotta get over the discouragement because you'll be happy you did it later! (& I am :)

3. Design your Booth!
YAY! So you got all this stuff... Now to organize it in the way that is portable, eye-catching and flattering... in a 10x10 space! EASY! Just kidding! But kinda!

The interweb is a wonderful place to search pics of previous craft fairs & get ideas for booths. Victoria & I started keeping a log of photos to help inspire and encourage us. Strolls through craft fairs & Anthropologie also don't hurt (I dare you to walk out empty handed...!). Booth design, for me at least, is an ongoing project. As I introduce new goodies, I have to move this and get this piece of furniture for that. It's like a game of bananagrams! So don't stress out trying to achieve the ULTIMATE booth the first time around.

Signage is important! & try not to make your table too busy. Like one of those dang myspace pages (whoa did you just cite myspace??!?) with all the flash... you don't want them running for the hills.

4. Marketing & Publicity
Yay! The fun stuff :) I named my craft fair activity the Le Petit Elefant Summer Craft Fair Tour 2011, mailing out postcards & sending out emails to old customers & friends. I talked it up whenever anyone asked me what I was doing for the summer. If I sent out an order to a city near one of the craft fairs, I made sure to mention it in the personal thank you note.

5. The week of THE FAIR!
Ohhhh brother. First thing's first... GET SLEEP! & remember to stay hydrated & eat! You do NOT want to get sick. It's happened to me (at the first fair too!) & ooooh boy it's not great.

I've created a craft fair checklist template in excel that basically breaks down everything for me... from inventory sheet (which I print & use to keep track of my sales at the fair):
to checklist of supplies & furniture to bring:
Experience has taught me that you can never have too much water, business cards, tape, and $1 bills! Things that I almost overlooked if it weren't for Victoria... bags to package the merch after they purchase it (duh-DOY!), tape (oh boy), lights if it's a night fair, extension cord, and basic art supplies (you just never know!). Every fair is different but some require a tent, offer you table and chair rentals, etc. Some even have you set up the day before and leave it overnight. If that's the case, make sure you have a sheet with you to cover & tuck in your goods when you leave for the night a la:
Oh & make sure you label your items with prices. Price tags? Easy! Use a handy scallop punch from Michaels & a screw punch to punch the holes. Walla!
Okay, I'll break down the day before the fair when I'm actually there :) Whaaaaaat... real time blogging?!?! Oh goodness I'm so tired. Okay bye!


El at Tantalizing Stitches said...

Hi there. SF Etsy member here. Wonderful article. I was trying to print paper and then use the paper puncher like you do but I could never get the printed material to line up correctly. How did you do that?

vintagescapes said...

hey! I saw you at unique LA and loved your space and items... I included a pic of your space in my post about the fair(the lighting was not great)
You can check it out here...

Just thought you might want to know :)

genevieve said...

El at Tantalizing Stitches: I printed the tags on one big sheet then cut it down into strips. I had to then punch it upside down so I could see if it fit okay. Tedious but well worth it. It's tough on the palms too. Make sure to take breaks!

vintagescapes: Thank you thank you so much for the sweet post. Bubbly! :) If you're around for Renegade Craft Fair LA in July, please come by and reintroduce yourself! I really love your blog too so thank you x2 for sharing!

The Bobo Blog said...

Awesome tips! Thanks so much for sharing! I'm looking forward to my first show on Sunday and I'll be sure to re-read this post again before I head off :)
Ewa from

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