Don’t get me wrong, I love selling on Etsy. I mean, where else can you go to work in your PJ’s with a cup of coffee in hand, blaring your own music as loud as you want and in the course of a day have meaningful email interactions with people not only across the country but across the world. It’s 8am here on the east coast and I’ve already chatted (well, via email) with a great customer in Taiwan and one of my favorites in Australia. And I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet.
That said, there is nothing like actually getting to talk to people face to face, and in this business (since I have no plans of opening a brick & mortar shop), that means craft shows. I’ve only done a few so far, but every time I learn so many new things. Online you’ll see an item get 40 or 50 views, but no one favorites it and you wonder why. At a craft show, people will actually tell you (nicely) all sorts of things about your creations and the comments are worth their weight in gold. I used to make a lot of spoon handle necklaces until at a craft show last fall several people came by my booth, handled the necklaces thoughtfully, then told me or told the person they were shopping with “wouldn’t this look great as a key chain?” I’m sure you can guess the ending of that story- spoon handle key chains are now one of the more popular items in my store.
Great product advice aside, it’s also immensely gratifying to be able to thank someone in person and to see them light up when they see something you’ve made that they just have to have. Not to mention the other artisans at the show. Meeting people who, just like you, have started a small business based on a passion for their craft and their belief in themselves is exciting and inspiring. One of the first things I do after setting up my booth is to walk around to the other vendors and collect their business cards. I follow them on twitter, bookmark their blogs and favorite them on etsy because when I’m shopping for a gift, whether it be letterpress birthday cards, handmade clay bowls, baby tutus, knitted goods, what-have-you, that’s where I’m going to look first. I don’t want to say, “look what I bought you at Target.”, I want to say, “I got this from Jane, an amazing local artist I met last year at a show. She makes her ink from vegetable pigments that she grows herself. I saw this print she created and knew you’d love it”.
This year when I was researching spring and summer shows, I zeroed in on the Spring Bada-Bing craft show. It’s put on by the Richmond Craft Mafia and their motto is “rubbin’ out the mass produced”, and is held at the Plant Zero art center (amazing place- artist apartments, studios, exhibition areas, restaurants and common areas, all under one roof). I absorbed every word on their website, looked at pictures from past shows, then stared at the application form in terror for about 5 minutes (they get far more applications than they have booths), took a deep breath, and applied. Last night the email came through I got in!
Here is the info for anyone in or around the Richmond area, and I will be posting more as we get closer to the event. Click anywhere in the FAQs to be brought directly to their website.
Plant Zero is located at 0 E. 4th Street Richmond, VA 23224. This is directly off of Hull Street in the Manchester District of Southside Richmond. (Note: some mapping software gets confused by this address–if you encounter this problem, you can use 7 E. 3rd St, which is the secondary entrance to Plant Zero.)
I know there are about 5550094301 “What You Need To Know For A Craft Show” blogs out there, but I will likely raise that number to 5550094302 later on this summer after I’ve done a few more shows. In the meantime, hope to see you on April 17th!