This February I will be doing the Baltimore ACC show (wholesale
and retail) for the first time (gaah!), so I am not a seasoned
pro, and I’m not even a jeweler but a bead weaver, but I can give
the perspective of four years of dabbling.
There are several newsletters and lists which “rate” craft
shows. Sunshine Artist is the one I hear of most often. You can
get a sense of the price ranges, types of craft offered, number
of attendees, etc. and also some subjective ratings from
You improve your chances of reaching the right audience by doing
only juried shows. You are less likely to be in a booth next to
the person who makes pink fluffy crocheted toilet paper roll
covers with googly eyes if there is some judging process.
Talk to your friends and your customers. Ask them which shows do
well for them and where they buy stuff. If you have a customer
who is a faithful buyer, use him/her as a “model” for reaching
While it can be impractical to go to all the shows you want to
do, there really isn’t a better way to get the feel for a show.
And as for cost, the time you spend checking out a show is much
less than the time you might waste by not vetting it ahead and
ending up in a show with an inappropriate mix of crafts and
It is hard to be patient, but I am learning that it takes a
couple of years of doing a show (even a “good” one) to develop
the recognition and audience that makes for success. This season
I joined the PA Guild of Craftsmen and did 4 Guild shows. Two of
them were in the same venue, six months apart. The first show, in
July, was not so great, but I did get a lot of new names for my
mailing list. So when I did the holiday show last weekend, the
majority of my sales were from people who’d gotten my mailing and
came specifically to buy from me.
You also need to consider whether your work is at a price point
where you’re not going to do well in a low- to mid-price show. My
really high end stuff (full size bead woven purses in the low 4
figures) sell much better at “destination” venues…places where
people go specifically for something unique, rather than craft
shows where the goal might be more like “let’s get out of the
house and do something.”
I’m sure you’ve considered most of these points already, but
that’s my 2 cents’ worth.
Fine Craft Bead Work