Friday, 18 April 2008

To Fair or Not to Fair

photo from missbubbles card collection

Every artisan out there has thought about or participated in an arts and crafts fair at some time. There are countless stories about the wildly successful fairs, and the others that were a dismal failure. This first in a series on fairs focuses on two questions: should you participate in a fair and what fair should it be?

Why should you participate in a fair?

If I were to ask 100 artisans the number one reason they would participate in a fair, 95% would respond with one of two answers: to make money and to increase exposure. While both of these answers are valid, I believe the number one reason to participate in a fair is for feedback. There are many ways to make money and many ways to increase your exposure in the marketplace. There are very few venues that provide the direct contact with potential customers like a fair or show. We don’t often see who does or does not buy our items in a retail venue. We never see the customer in the internet environment. The person who does not buy your item, and the reason why, is just as important as the person who does.

At a fair or show, you can chat with people, as well as watch them. What item is picked up most often in your booth? Do they put it down after looking at the price tag? Do they ask for your business card? Do they keep coming back? People love to chat with vendors. Chat them up! Listen to what they say to others while at your booth or table. Listen, truly listen, to the feedback. Making money at a fair for one day, or two days, is wonderful. Having a marketable item that people will keep coming back for is gold.

Fairs and shows are a venue. Just like your website, or Etsy, they should be one part of your marketing pie. Most of us can’t quit our day jobs to follow our passion by selling on one venue. Relying on fairs to support your business is a very time-consuming job but they can be an important piece of the overall picture.

What fair should you participate in?

Okay, you are sold. You want to do a fair! With the plethora of fairs out there, how do you decide which one to do? The great thing about a fair is that it brings together lots of people. You want to make sure they are the right people for you. The first step, if you have not done so already, is to determine your target market. Don’t skip this step. Most fairs attract certain markets through advertising, word of mouth, all the way down to the types and prices of items at the fair. Do you make hip, funky, lower priced items? Street fairs may serve you well. Paying up to participate in a show with big-ticket items won’t. If you make expensive items, street fairs where people are looking to buy items under $10 will not net you many sales.

If you can, visit the fair before you sign up. Look at the booths, the items, AND the people browsing. How many are buying? What booths seem to be selling the most? Are these items in line with yours, in terms of target market? Are there too many items like yours? Or no items like yours? If you can not visit the fair, try to get a list of previous vendors. Ask the same questions as you peruse their websites. Try to email some if you can. The best question to ask: would you do this fair again? Why or why not? Returning vendors are the bread and butter for most show promoters. If they have to recruit a whole new group every time, it is not a successful show.

If your item is clearly a unique artisan item, you may want to avoid fairs where resellers participate. These fairs often attract buyers looking for a deal. If you make unique handmade purses, it is very hard to compete with the guy next to you selling mass-manufactured bags from the wholesale district of your local city. Check the rules for the fair. If everything must be made by the seller, you are safe. If it does not state this, ask the fair promoter.

Many shows are juried. In a juried show, photos and descriptions of your items are judged by a group of artisans for entrance into a show. These shows normally limit the number of vendors in a particular area to prevent too much competition in one area. The more well known the juried show, the more highly elevated your item becomes in the eyes of the buyer. For instance, entrance into the Sugarloaf Crafts Festivals in the US is highly competitive. These shows can be very lucrative. In addition, these shows help to build a “resume” for your art. Participation in these shows can be used on your websites and marketing materials, thus lifting your profile. Usually, the best, most competitive shows do the best advertising.

Other artisans are some of the best resources for good shows. Don’t be afraid to ask someone where they participate. Take time during this show season to browse through as many fairs as you can. Stop and chat with the vendors. Most of us love to talk about our art. Ask them about the fairs they participate in.

Art fairs and shows can be very costly and time-consuming. Taking the time to check them out before hand, asking questions, and matching them to your target market can save money, time, and many headaches! In the end, you must decide which ones work best for your art or craft.

For the next two installments:

What you need to know for an organised artisan fair
How to Create Your Own Show

Written by: Beth Rowan
Third Floor Designs

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sketch interview: meeting Rebecca @ Art & Philanthropy

I had this idea to pursuit my journalist's passion and write in my third language about interesting people around me. People in our Fashion, Design and Lifestyle team are these interesting ones: extremely different, interesting personalities we pass by.

This is the first blog like that, so please take your time to stop and have a read of my email chat with Rebecca, a busy artist and mum who works as Art & Philanthropy with her two children (for the link to her shop click on the blog title).

Rebecca's very personal photos... Rebecca and her son.

Rebecca: I am Rebecca Peragine, a self-taught artist and collector of unfinished projects. I do my art for a living, selling on Etsy and brick and mortar boutiques. I also do work for an organization called PEACE ( creating prototypes of marketable products for the org’s Women’s Cooperative. I also create exclusive art for that particular organization, using the images to create a number of textiles to market to the tourist population. I have lived all over, for a big part in the Yucatan Penninsula of Mexico where I met my husband. We currently live in Wisconsin, where I grew up, with our two children.

-What is your dream for your life?

Rebecca: I wish I would be magically ”found”, become crazy successful and never have to worry about web upkeep, cross promoting, printing, packaging, creative dry spells, taxes or wrinkles again; until that happens, I’d be happy to live somewhere with a palm tree in my yard. They make me happy. They don’t grow in Wisconsin.

-You say you create art for children, though it is very postmodern and I could imagine myself buying it. Who are your customers?

Rebecca: I’m lucky to be able to market to moms, new moms are especially fun to work with. They are sooo excited and love the idea of custom art for their new little ones. I keep my prices low on purpose; I’d rather have my work enjoyed by 100 everyday families instead of one very rich one. My art is made predominately with recycled materials, so although they have a childlike feel, they are bought by big people too. I think it’s safe to say that my art makes people feel happy, and that’s why they appeal to a diverse crowd.

-What inspires you?

Rebecca: My kids reaction to my art ideas, hearing my son tell his friends that his mommy is an artist, positive feedback, progress.

-How did you get into what you are doing now?

Rebecca: Total fluke, I have been a crafter, jewelry maker, body product inventor, potter (for a day) - pretty much a jack of all trades. A while back my family moved into a new house in the country and my older son was afraid to sleep in his new room. So, I gathered whatever was unpacked, which was a canvas, glue and some left over papers and started making a “protector dinosaur”. One piece led to another and before I knew it, I found my thing.

-Is there something missing in your life? If so, what is it?

Rebecca: Quiet, sleep, a clean house. The basics of running a business out of your home with two young boys on top of you. Travel, that’s a big one. I’m trying to be a good, stable, rooted mom, but I guess you can’t hide your free spirit when it’s so deeply seeded in your soul. I need to embrace that.

-What is your passion?

Rebecca: Right now, it’s my art. I love nurturing it and watching it grow. I’m working soooo hard to make this a lucrative career. That would be such a gift to be able to truly do what I love….and be paid well. And if I can keep going and make it, I’m going to deserve that palm tree.

-Is there anything you would like to do in our team / for our team?

Rebecca: Promote, promote, promote. I can give you any info I come across that might help all of us. I’m constantly plugging myself, so I can do the same for the team.

-What would you like to tell me / our team members?

Rebecca: Let’s all make it a priority to find promotional opportunities for each other. I’m sure you all know how time consuming self-promotion is. Any extra help would be so great!

Rebecca, thank you for your time. It was pleasure talking to you.
P.S. You are in as our team's promoter. Let's help Rebecca with promotion ideas and assistance!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

What to put on business cards?

This is an example of the business card I ordered recently...
It does miss few details but generally I am happy with it.
Template from

In one of the recent forums I came across the question: "I'm trying to make some business cards. What are some things you put on your business cards to get people to your shop?"

I kind of thought it is an easy question as business cards are about attracting people but this means you have to think of when will you use them, whom will you give them to. I approach this subject from marketers, publishers perspective.

Your business card has to represent whom you are in a very informative, non-verbal and stylish way. The main thing is to keep the style and quality. Cheap does not mean good. If is standard that the more famous and important you are the less information you have on your business card.

There are few rules to follow:

1. Ideally the card should be attractive to keep and pass on to others (including something you would use, most used are calendars on the back of the business card). If you achieve this people will be passing your cards as interesting and useful pieces;

2. It has to represent your style, so an image of: what you do, your banner, logo, name of the business - just one of these features will be perfect;

3. Few words (very few 2-3) on what you do. Avoid general meaningless terms like "handmade", "unique", "beautiful", give more detail about what is YOUR product;

4. Your contact details: name, telephone number, shop's address & possibly link to your blog (if it is something you would like to show your customers. Do not overfill with information, leave the most important bits;

5. Not too much information but just enough to show who you are and make customers interested.

Have a look at the different useful links:

What makes a good business card? - advice and online discussion
Online business card - I use this web as it holds kind of self-updating business cards
General Business Card Guidelines - a simple checklist to start with

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Colour trends for Spring / Summer 2008

Images from PANTONE Fashion Color Report Spring 08

When you work with fashion, you need to pay a lot of attention to colour. Specially to colour trends. Each year the trends are different and each season new colours and/or colour tones appear. It can be tricky and hard work to find trends, to choose the colours for your collection and to create the most wonderful combinations.
One of the best sources for colour trends and forecast is Pantone, a world authority when it comes to colour standards.
For this Spring / Summer the Pantone’s colour report bring us very classic tones, some neutrals and some bright splashes. Red, blue and greens are a must. The pallet presented by Pantone allows the creators to explore new combinations and stimulates creativity. Colours for this season have classic inspirations, some touches of abstract and a lot of ethnic influences, although simple and always chic.
The colour pallet is rich and luxurious, with the reborn of the primary colours (blue, red and yellow). It’s truly a colour therapy!

Spring / Summer 2008 colours

Want to know more?

Margarida -- Ei! Kumpel