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Thread: Crafts Fairs Conundrum - Sorry kind of long but any input is appreciated!

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Colby, Washington. Just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, near Blake Island.
    Posts
    787
    In my advertising/marketing days I often said, "People shop in the Cadillac showroom, but they usually buy Chevrolets." My point is the previous point about having an attention-getting display is important to draw people in to your booth. Hopefully, they'll oooh and ahhh over the two or three show-stoppers, but you need to have a smaller, less expensive product nearby that gives a hint of the larger one. So show your magnificent hollow form, and then offer some small ones, too.
    Russell Neyman.

    Writer - Woodworker - Historian
    Past President, Olympic Peninsula Woodturners
    West Puget Sound, Washington State


    "Outside of a dog, there's nothing better than a good book; inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Some things I've accidentally sold

    Ricc,

    Afraid I don't do craft shows and rarely try to sell something - I turn for fun and to teach where I can. However, I do enjoy making a few things that have sold well without trying too hard, some I didn't start making until I got requests requests. I do turn a boxes, stoppers, pepper mills, tops, gavels, bowls, small platters, occasionally pens and more but always give those away.

    What has been in demand and/or has sold well have been thin spindles. Maybe this is because few people seem to turn thin spindles, I don't know.

    I got started making "magic" wands when the Harry Potter books were released. One day I took a lathe, wand blanks, and a bunch of pre-made wands to a spot on the sidewalk and turned wands while people waited and sold the pre-made wands. I sold everythinig I took, prices from $25-$60. Some people waited nearly 3 hours to have one custom made. (I made $1750 in those three hours.) Several asked for more finely crafted wands than I could make in a few minutes and came to my shop later for custom wands. Even long after the Harry Potter books I still get requests for wands when someone sees one. I never advertise or have tried to sell on the internet but I suspect if I did I'd have more work than I could do. (Hey, I'm retired, not interested in another job!) Something really fun - I've even had requests for these from a few well-known pro turners!

    I started making conductor's batons after a request from a friend. I either give them away or sell for $75, but I only make one when someone asks.

    I got started making equestrian crops for Hunter-Jumper use after I gave to a large horse barn owner who wanted them as presents for her competition team. I made a bunch for her and have had several requests later, again without advertising or trying to sell them. The last one sold for $200 after I told the lady I'd give her a discount from the $300 price a friend quoted! I've probably accidentally made $3000-4000 with these but I haven't been counting.

    I often get requests for fiber-arts related items: drop spindles, supported spindles, yarn bowls, niddy-noddys, lazy kates, and replacement spinning wheel parts. You can get good prices for these depending on the quality. For example, there are lots of cheap drop spindles sold for $10 or so but one with fine craftsmanship made from special woods can easily be sold for $60 or more. Yarn bowls can fetch more. Turner Mike Stafford told me he can make on "ort bowl" a few minutes and has sold piles of them at $35 each to needle-point craftspeople.

    One problem with most of these things is (with the exception of the wands) they probably wouldn't sell at craft fairs. For the rider's crops, for example, you would have to actively research, seek out the markets, and probably sell on commission through a specialty company, or travel to the large competition events. A good market for fiber-arts things are yarn stores and local spinning/knitting stores clubs. Some contacts I've made are though people I meet bacause I have llamas and alpacas.

    Another problem is thin spindles can be difficult to make compared to many other things. Some have told me of repeated failures until I showed them techniques I use.

    I'm sure there are MANY other niche markets that are wide open if you can find them somehow. Might have to do some digging! Some years ago I read an article from a guy who sold custom gavels political and judicial markets - once he became known for them customers sought him out.

    Here are a few pictures of some of the thin spindle items. (I've probably posted all these photos here before.) I use both exotic and local woods. I don't think I ever took a photo of the drop spindles.

    cedar_and_ebony2_IMG_7528.jpg wand_holly_carved_P7203954.jpg wands_distressed.jpg wands_tangle_P7203955cs.jpg

    batons2a_IMG_4996.jpg

    crops.jpg crops_comp_texturing_.jpg crops_2015_comp.jpg

    If you are interested, feel free to use any of my design ideas. As I said, I'm not interested in another job so any competition won't affect me! (I've done several demos on thin spindles, another coming up in a few months.)

    JKJ

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Elkhart, IN
    Posts
    232
    John,

    Thanks so much for the response and all the info and ideas. Spindle turning is my weakest skill. Especially as you mentioned - thin spindles. If you are going to be passing thru northern Indiana anytime soon I love a lesson! (I don't drive as I'm considered legally blind so coming to TN won't be easy or affordable with my limited disability income budget)

    I have always enjoyed seeing your posted photos of your work. I will save this forum discussion as a bookmark so I can refer back to it.

    Thanks
    Ricc

  4. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
    Posts
    192
    I'm not into craft shows but how about getting a video monitor connected to a laptop. You could film yourself turning and then play the videos at the show. It would help convince people that you aren't buying them from China and marking up the price for a fat profit. It would also help attract people to your both as people like to watch stuff in general. How many times have you watched "How it's made". A monitor should fit easier into your car, it's probably a little lighter, and there's no mess to clean up. As I'm sure others have said, you need to find a niche that others aren't selling or doing to set yourself apart.

  5. #20
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    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Zeller View Post
    I'm not into craft shows but how about getting a video monitor connected to a laptop. You could film yourself turning and then play the videos at the show. It would help convince people that you aren't buying them from China and marking up the price for a fat profit. It would also help attract people to your both as people like to watch stuff in general. How many times have you watched "How it's made". A monitor should fit easier into your car, it's probably a little lighter, and there's no mess to clean up. As I'm sure others have said, you need to find a niche that others aren't selling or doing to set yourself apart.
    That's sounds like a nice idea. I think you can get a monitor now that will play a video or slide show (perhaps almost as good as a video) from a memory card or disk.

    Maybe a big photo frame like this? http://www.bigeframe.com/

  6. #21
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    Mar 2005
    Location
    Elkhart, IN
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    Alex & John - great ideas thanks!! Although I would have to learn editing so I can edit and bleep out the salty language that is heard from time to time!

    Ricc

  7. #22
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    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricc Havens View Post
    Alex & John - great ideas thanks!! Although I would have to learn editing so I can edit and bleep out the salty language that is heard from time to time!
    Ricc
    Learning to edit video would be very useful. Fortunately, both the hardware and software needed these days is SO much cheaper than not too many years ago. The learning curves now are far easier for the novice as well.

    Some ideas: I suspect a video like that is best played without sound for a craft fair environment, either completely silent or have soothing music added which could be turned way down if needed. I can't imagine you'd want voice on the video competing with interacting with the customers. Appropriate labels placed over the video but out of the way could help the viewer understand what is going on, e.g., "Making a Pepper Mill" with subheadings like Wood selection, Drilling, Shaping the outside, Assembly, etc. Best done in controlled lighting with a clean and consistent background - plan the shot and background to provide an uncluttered space on the screen for the text. Shoot each step of each project several times from different angles with identical blanks then edit to simulate multiple cameras. Might be best with a second sound track with audio narration "voice-over" - almost always better than narrating while turning. For ambient background sound always record the lathe and tool noises (without phone ringing, kids yelling, talking -- or cussing!) then edit that into the video at a controlled volume - this can be very effective to add dimension to the video. Note that it's best to plan things ahead of time and write and follow a script - the actual time for each step doesn't matter much since it can be cut as needed in edit. Another thing for a professional looking video - keep transitions to simple cuts or occasional cross fades. Using flipping and rotating/zooming/scrolling transitions scream "clueless amateur"!

    It is guaranteed to be a LOT of work (I used to create technical videos as needed for my work) but it would probably make you stand out in the crowd and provide a professional credibility. Also, put the video on the web somewhere and point to it on your business card or the flyer you hand out at the booth and with a purchase.

    JKJ

  8. #23
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Brentwood, TN
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    650
    Regarding the arts & crafts show venues - I used to do a number of shows in upstate NY as a gemstone cutter and jeweler. I hardly ever sold articles of value at the shows, mainly because of my pricing being so high no one carried that much cash; and it was before cell phones and swipe devices.

    So, I gave it up - but last weekend I setup at a friend's neighborhood yard sale in a pretty posh area of Nashville. I sold quite a few smalls that were mainly practice pieces made from left overs of large bowls. Things like small lidded jars, and ornament birdhouses. I did have my Square device to be able to take credit cards, but never had to use it. I will engage each person and tell them the story of each piece of wood (locally obtained from my yard, or nearby, what type of wood, and comparisons of growth rings between species, etc.). I could see the connection that some people have to the local trees, and it's heart-warming that folks like to share their stories too.

    I think next year, I'll have platters, urn and bowls there to see if there's a market for more pricey articles. I even thought of getting a used mini lathe and demonstrating to draw even more interest, but the that sounds like work, but the show must go on. I like the idea of make a video and having it play on my laptop. That seems a bit easier than hauling a lathe and tools.
    Last edited by Mark Greenbaum; 06-16-2018 at 8:36 AM.
    Maker of Fine Kindling, and small metal chips on the floor.
    Embellishments to the Stars - or wannabees.

  9. #24
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    Feb 2008
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    Mini lathe to demonstrate

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Greenbaum View Post
    ...I even thought of getting a used mini lathe and demonstrating to draw even more interest, but the that sounds like work, but the show must go on.
    The times I've set up a lathe it was a huge draw. I think of it as an educational outreach, especially for kids - most people have never seen a lathe and or have seen chips fly. They are astounded at how the wood can be shaped by a tool held in the hand. I usually give them thin pieces of wood and sometimes they want to take chips home.

    wandmaking_comp1.jpg

  10. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
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    192
    For the more expensive pieces you are trying to sell you could have the video of you making it. If a potential customer showed real interest in a piece then you could ask them if they would like to see how it was made. While it's playing you could a simple narrative of what's going on, not drone on boring though.. I think it would go hand in hand with what Mark was saying about giving the history of where the wood came from. Even if you don't sell what they were looking at I'm sure you will make a good impression and if you give them a business card or flier you could get a future sale. It would take a little learning as you would need to figure out proper lighting and camera angles as well as how to edit video but that's just a new aspect of the hobby.

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