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Suggestions and ideas for craft show

Hello Orchid-land,

Well, I am taking the “plunge” and doing my first booth at a local
craft show. It is a small, one day school art fair, so it should not
be too difficult for a first timer, and I have 2 months to prepare.
(I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified.)

Crafting the same thing or real similar items over & over is not
really me, as I get bored very easily and prefer to make only “one
of a kind” work, but I am going to give it a try. We all have to
start somewhere, I suppose. I figure if nothing else I will get my
name and “out there” locally.

I have some questions and ideas I thought I would ask for feedback

  1. HOW MUCH/What to offer: I live in Toledo, Ohio. The Christmas
    Craft circuit is fairly busy, but I have no idea how much stock of
    different items to have on hand. Does anyone out there do the craft
    shows at Christmas time that can advise me on what to have
    available? I’m really stumped. I kind of listed out my goals of what
    to make, but have no idea how many each type of item to have on
    hand, or even to have it all hung up, or have some items boxed below
    the table and only have a couple of each thing on display. I know
    earrings, necklaces & bracelets are a fairly popular gifts. I
    initially planned on having a price range of stuff, from the
    inexpensive beaded/braided items then ranging up to the more
    expensive “Art Jewelry” with the set stones and more solid silver
    pieces, but I am wondering if having that range is even a good idea?
    Perhaps I should offer ONLY my more expensive one of a kind items? I
    don’t want to cheapen my work just to make sales, you know? And then
    do I clearly separate those items from each other on the table and
    racks? ANY feedback here would be much appreciated.

  2. Packaging: I have a logo that I designed a few years ago. I was
    thinking to have a local rubber stamp company make my stamp that I
    can stamp and heat emboss on plain paper bags and use tissue paper
    inside the bag in the same or a contrasting color. This seemed a
    fairly cheap yet decent design idea for bagging up purchases. I was
    wondering if there are any thoughts on this? Perhaps I can just then
    use zip top plastic bags or those organza zip ties for the actual
    piece? I don’t want things to look cheap, but need packaging that
    still is cheap. Expenses are piling up FAST on actual supplies.

  3. Jewelry Hangers: I am thinking of using a vertically printed
    business card with stick-on plastic hangers on the back to hang
    jewelry on my stands, which are actually CD racks painted off white
    to match my table display. I picked them up at Goodwill for a buck
    each on a sudden whim idea. My concern is, does anyone know if the
    "biz card hangers" look at least fairly professional? I have never
    seen one in person and got the idea from a web site somewhere.

  4. Making Change: How much is good enough to have on hand? In what
    denominations? (paper bills, quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies) I
    really have no idea what to expect. I am told by my neighbor, who
    coordinates this yearly sale for the PTA, that past sales have been
    fairly decent and at least brings crafters back each year. How much
    is “enough” to keep on hand? (I know that pricing items close to
    whole dollar amounts will help keep the need for making change
    down.) Does using a simple metal change box look unprofessional or
    should I rent a small cash register? If no printed receipt, should I
    write paper receipts for my customers? Should I have a return
    policy? I’m kind of lost here.

Okay, these are my initial worries, (yes I know, there are probably
going to be many more), and hammering out the jewelry is my BIGGEST
concern, so I am also a busy gal these days. ANY feedback anyone can
offer me is SO appreciated! Perhaps there is a book published that
will cover a lot of these issues anyone can recommend to me?

Excuse my long winded post, too. I guess today I am more terrified
than I am excited. I have spent the last several nights with all
this going round & round in my head until exhaustion takes over.
Failure scares the hell out of me and spending all the cash to make
it happen, then not making any sales will crush me emotionally AND
financially. But, the alternative is to do nothing and I really need
to start SOMEWHERE. I did a Christmas craft fair in a local mall
several years ago and sold not a SINGLE item. (I had made tons of
those cloth covered bulletin boards and ended up giving them all
away as gifts over the next few years.) Anyway, thanks for reading,
and any suggestions at all will be GREATLY appreciated!


Hello Teresa,

I’ve been doing art/craft fairs for some time. Here are some ideas
for you. Remember that your mileage will vary.

It’s boring to make identical multiples, and about the only multiples
I do make are band rings. I coil the patterned wire around a ring
mandrel from top to bottom, draw a straight line down the coil and
cut along the line (much like making jump rings). Not too hard to
bend the ends closed, solder, and round out a bunch. With all those
sizes, I price them all the same and put the bands in a flat box so
that people can paw through and hunt for their size. You probably
know that the likelihood of a sale increases if people can touch and
try things on. I’ve had very little theft, but then I am close by
with a sizing stick to help if needed. These can be your lower price
item. Perhaps 100 or so bands in 3-4 different patterns should be

Earrings are always a good gift - no size to worry about. Hoops are
a classic, so make up several sizes and patterns. Patterned wire
makes this easy. You will tire of making plain hoops, so embellish
with bezel-set cabs or hang some pretty beads. Endless variety; and
people like unique things. Price range will vary here, and that’s
good. You can’t have too many earrings, so aim for 70 pair and if you
make more, great.

Pendants are also a no size item. If you coordinate earrings with
pendants to create sets, you have a “look” to sell. One problem with
pendants is that people will want a chain or something upon which to
hang the piece. As a beginner, don’t struggle with stocking a variety
of chain sizes and length. Provide a pretty ribbon, cord, or other
inexpensive fabric length as a courtesy. You can create some neck
wires from sterling wire, and have them to sell as an addition to the

Packaging can cost you a bundle and is bulky to transport. I’ve been
using “pillow” boxes and like them. They store flat and are easy to
pop into shape and provide protection for your piece. Wrap the
jewelry in some tissue, slip in your business card, and close the
end. Quick. If you want to embellish the outside, you can either use
a paint pen to hand write your name/initials/etc. or use your
computer and printer to create some cool labels - lots of programs to
help you. I use the paint pen thing because people seem to like the
handwritten set of initials.

For those small items, I use those 3’x4’ ziploc bags with my
business card inside. In a pinch, you can buy those small sandwich
recloseable bags at the grocery store - they’re a little bigger too.

o comment on the “biz card hangers” - I’m not familiar with them. I
do make my display cards using a quality, heavy black paper from an
art supply store. If you have larger earring findings, use a hole
punch to accommodate the hinge. I use a silver or gold gel pen to
hand write my logo initials, materials, and price on the front. My
inventory code goes on the back. Read the recent thread on display
cards for a nice variety of other ideas.

Regarding how much change… I have a money clip with 20 one dollar
bills, 8 five dollar bills, and 6 ten dollar bills. I also keep a
back-up clip with the same combination. Now, here’s the “aha” part. I
add in sales tax to my prices, and round up to an even number. There
are signs posted several places noting that sales tax is included in
the prices, and I say it to customers when they are looking around.

I know all the marketing stuff about using $19.99 instead of $20.00,
but you really will appreciate the simplicity. You don’t waste time
figuring the sales tax on top of your price, then making change with
metal coins. You can work out of your apron pocket… no cash
register. It might be a different story if you take credit cards (I
don’t). Write down your sales on a master sheet or sales book which
you keep in your apron pocket. Write out the item number, price paid,
and your signature on the back of your business card for those who
want a receipt. At the end of your show, total up the sales and back
out the sales tax to determine how much you owe the govt. This is
soooooo much easier than making change involving coins.

Best of luck with your first show. You’ll probably get lots of
advice, so use what seems the best for your situation… there is
much to learn!

Judy in Kansas, who is marveling at the most beautiful fall weather
and foliage. No freeze yet, so I can still harvest a few tomatoes.
The apples are marvelous!!

Hi Teresa

My suggestion is first of all : Keep it simple. When overwhelded,
take a step back and breathe. Works for me, and we’re on the same

1 ) HOW MUCH/What to offer : I would do two areas on the table : one
side affordable (not cheap) items, the other the sterling etc. One
example of each, if available, the rest behind the table on request.
There are always buyers for both. Don’t overcrowd the table, 'cause
it becomes hard to see the beauty of it all ! Instead, change/ add
(always from your stash behind the table ) as it sells or to update.

2 ) Packaging : I use the plastic bags, and organza zip ties or
nicer boxes for bigger purchases.

3 ) Jewelry Hangers : your idea is fine. I also put necklaces,
bracelets and long earrings on an easel (tall one)

4 ) Making Change : about $200- in small change and $ 5- bills. The
metal box is perfect !

Good luck, smile a lot, you will sell!

Hi Teresa,

It seems like you’ve gotten some good feedback already, but you
mentioned you are looking for published on the subject.
Bruce Baker is a marketing expert who has three cd’s dealing with
sales techniques, one being Booth Design & Merchandising for Craft
and Trade Shows. You can find more details on his website,

For anyone reading this who lives near Metalwerx, Bruce will be
coming to Watertown, MA on October 23 for a full day seminar called
Thrive! not just Survive as an Artist. He will cover Booth design
and Merchandising for Art Shows and Galleries, Your Images and the
Jury, as well as Sales and Customer Service Techniques. You can read
more on our school’s website:

We also just interviewed Bruce for our latest Ganoksin Blog article.
He talks about some of his strategies that you might find helpful:

Good luck! I hope you have a fantastic show!

how to price earrings

You could either put each pair on purchased earring cards or print
them yourself - Rio sells adhesive plastic hangers to stick on, then
hang the cards from the display - or you could label the earring
display itself. This method would work best if your earrings are
priced by style, so it’s easy to tell where the $25 earrings go vs.
the $15, for example.

Susan “Sam” Kaffine
Sterling Bliss, LLC

Hi Teresa,

I always take no less than $100 in change with me and usually a
little more. Better to have too much than too little. I’m in Canada -
a roll of loonies ($25), a roll of toonies ($50) and the rest in 5’s
and 10’s. I use a simple change box with a decorative handle I added
but it’s not out in plain sight.

It’s hard to tell you how much stock you need - how about ‘a
table-full’ :slight_smile: Be careful not to overcrowd your table. If it’s too
full, people will get confused and won’t be able to see what you
have. It will only be a jumble to them. And if people like your work,
they will find something to buy from what you have. You don’t need to
give them 100 pairs of earrings to choose from for example.

Also, you said you considered having some cheaper items up to
expensive ones but then you said you didn’t want to cheapen your
work just to make sales. I’m not sure if that means you normally
make less expensive items or not. If you make a range of items, I
would offer them all.

As for packaging, for your first show, I wouldn’t go all out. Having
a rubber stamp made is a good idea. You could just use a nice
metallic or rainbow ink though to keep the cost down. I found that
every time I did a show, in the first few years, my display and
packaging evolved and the things I initially spent a fair amount of
money on, I wished I didn’t. The idea I had either didn’t pan out or
I found a different and better way to do it. Eventually you’ll know
what you want and you’ll have a client base built up as well as some
cash from your sales :slight_smile: so you can spend a little more to portray
the image you want.

This is just what has worked for me and others may find their
experiences to be very different. Either way, I wish you lots of
luck and I hope you come back and give us a report on how it went!

ArtSea Jewellery

We stopped using the traditional gray metal box for money at shows
because they are too easy of a target for thieves. For years we have
used one of those plastic drawer units sold at the big box office
supply stores and Wal-Mart. We use the top drawer for bills, change,
checks and credit card receipt. We use the coin tray from an old gray
metal to keep those organized. We refer to it as the “portable
office”. It makes it a little harder for a thief to run off with. We
don’t keep more than a couple hundred in it at anytime.

We use the other drawers for small plastic zip lock bags, silk and
velour gift bags, credit card stuff, business cards, mirrors, etc.

Rick Copeland