How to choose the right craft fair for your audience
Choosing a craft show to participate in is a lot like shopping for a college. Before committing, you want to be sure it's a good fit for you and your goals. Then, even when you think you've found exactly what you’re looking for, there's a chance you won't get in.
It takes research and planning to find craft shows that are the ideal fit for your handmade products, with the right venue and the right audience. Before you invest, here are five factors to consider.
1. Reputation –Talk with veteran vendors to gauge the value of a show, says Rebecca Burdock, artist and owner of Rebecca Ink. "I talk to vendors to learn which ones are good to apply for. The artists will give you the best scoop."
In addition, connect with local crafters on Etsy and Facebook to get their thoughts on shows they've attended, suggests IndieMade contributor Darlene Ostrowski. What was the experience like? Will he or she return next year? Why, or why not?
2. Type of show – Both types of craft shows – juried and open – have their upsides and downsides, says Patricia Hoskins, owner of sewing and craft supplies retailer Crafty Planet.
Experienced artists prefer a juried show, which showcases vendors whose handcrafted wares are selected by a panel of judges. Applicants submit product photos that are reviewed for style and quality. (But if you aren't selected, your application fee may not be refundable.) On the plus side, being chosen by judges with an eye for quality – and an understanding of the show’s audience – increases your chances for success.
Open shows accept applicants on a first-come, first-admitted basis. Ideal for those new to the craft show scene, these shows allow less-experienced vendors to introduce their wares while honing their sales skills. Drawbacks include competition from cheaper, mass-produced goods and product oversaturation, Hoskins says.
For more information on juried vs. open shows, see “Confessions of a Craft Show Organizer.”
3. Focus – Are handmade items the primary focus of the event? Or will other attractions be competing for your customers' attention? You're likely to have more success when handmade products are the stars of the show.
Lisa McGrimmon, founder of craftprofessional.com, says craft show directories provide show names, dates and locations, booth fees, attendance figures, show websites and the organizer's contact information. When you identify an intriguing event, visit the show's website to verify key information, including the all-important application deadline.
To find upcoming events, check out these directories.
- Art & Craft Show Yellow Pages
- Midwest Art Fairs
- Sunshine Artist
- Craftmaster News
Local crafting guild and arts associations also offer directories of upcoming shows.
4. Fit – Burdock, whose pen-and-ink drawings have been displayed in galleries throughout the Greater Columbus area in Ohio, recommends taking in shows as a guest before registering as a vendor. "I look at the layout of the venue, how many people are attending, what people are buying and if it seems like my artwork would fit in." She also seeks out the longest-attending vendor and asks for insights.
Visit the show's website for participating vendors and check out their work online. Comparing the style, quality and prices of competitors' products with your own will help you determine if the show will appeal to your target customer.
5. The buzz factor – Is the show being promoted? Is there an event Facebook page? Have postcards been mailed to last year's attendees? Are there ads in regional craft show guides?
Check out the show's marketing materials to see what people are saying and whether it's on your audience's radar. If you haven't heard a lot of buzz, there's a good chance your target customers haven't, either.
Key tips and takeaways
- Talk to veteran vendors to gain insight into which craft shows are worthwhile and a fit for your products.
- Weigh the differences between juried and open shows, and choose the format that best fits your goals.
- Attend shows as a guest before registering to understand the audience, venue, types of vendors and overall experience.
- Check out the show's marketing materials, social media, website and craft show directory write-ups to get a sense of the audience and the amount of buzz.