This weekend I set up a table at a craft show to sell some of my hand-carved woodenware. Although I have occasionally sold individual pieces to friends, I have never actively marketed my work. Frankly, I don’t have time to maintain a stock of wooden spoons and spatulas to sell regularly. But when a friend of mine told me about this little, one-night craft show, I decided to try it out. The table fee was so low that I could make it back in one or two transactions.
I had a few spoons and spatulas that I had made over the last year, so on Friday I turned out a few more and got myself ready. On Saturday afternoon I packed everything into the minivan and set up my table.
Unfortunately, there was a big game that night, so attendance was sparse. So while I didn’t sell as many pieces as I had hoped, I learned quite a few valuable things in the process of getting ready for this show:
- Getting ready for the show takes as much time as the show itself. Of course carving the spoons takes up a good deal of time. A big one can take me 45 minutes from start to finish. But I also had to print up literature, gather materials for the table, and get the whole thing set up.
- You can’t be too prepared. Besides my stock of spoons, I had to remember to bring a table cloth, business cards, price labels, a portfolio of my other woodwork, and most importantly, petty cash for making change.
- Price for the market. I had a pretty good idea about who made up the clientele of this show (working-class/middle-class), so I knew I had to price reasonably. In other parts of town I could have charged more, and I’m sure my prices drove away some potential customers. And that’s okay. If I charged less, I would probably not be able to keep up with the increased demand.
- Be prepared for boredom. Traffic at this show was quite slow, so I had a lot of down-time between potential customers. I’m glad I brought a book to read. On one hand, it was nice to be able to personally greet everyone who walked by. On the other hand, only a small percentage of the people walking by were actually interested in the products. I did get to talk to a few folks about how I work, which was a welcome diversion from a pretty dull evening.
- Show the process. Along with my stock to sell, I also brought my sawbench (with a vise attached to one end) and a small selection of hand tools so I could demonstrate the carving process right there. I’m glad I did. It was fun to talk to the two or three people who stopped to watch, and I think some people got pictures of me. At least it gave me something to do.
- I really don’t like doing this. That was probably the most important lesson I learned. I enjoy making the spoons, and it’s fun to set up a display and talk about my work. I sure don’t mind making a little extra money. But most of the time I was bored. I would rather have spent my time doing something else.
So will I do this again? Not frequently. I will probably do one or two shows a year, just to sell off my excess stock and make a little extra cash.
I realized this weekend that I prefer making spoons and spatulas for specific people. It’s hard to put a lot of effort into making something just “to sell.” I am more motivated to do excellent work when I know whose hands the piece will end up in.