Monday, September 7, 2009

Tips for Participating in Craft Fairs

Those of us who are crafters generally consider selling our creations at local craft fairs or holiday bazaars a great way to introduce our work to the public. These can be lots of fun, generate income, and help create visibility for the home crafter, not to mention they offer plenty of networking and inspiration.
These types of events not only happen at Christmas time anymore. There are spring fairs, farmers markets, fall festivals, and holiday bazaars - just to name a few. They are often held in schools, churches, homes, outside, and even specialty retailers are now opting to showcase the hidden talents of their customers. But before you venture into the world of craft fairs, there are a few things to keep in mind.The first ting to consider is the cost of setting up at the event. You will most likely be charged with a flat table fee. This will be a charge for the actual space you want to reserve. Usually spaces are a predetermined dimension and there will be a flat fee for the basic setup. If you require additional tables and other extras like electricity, window lighting, or rack display space, you may be charged extra. Keep in mind, space is often limited, so be prepared to respond quickly to the opportunity as many arrangements are made on a "first come, first served" basis.

Very established art fairs often require you to submit a written application and pay an application fee. Along with this you may be asked to submit pictures of your work and your plan for setting up. Organizers will "jury" your line and decide if it fits with their vision and compliments other items that will be for sale. They will also want to insure that your set up is professional looking and suitable. This does not mean that it has to be fancy, just well designed. Simple and uncomplicated is totally acceptable. Usually the application fee is refundable if you are nor accepted into the sale, but may not be - be sure to ask. As for not being accepted - don't be discouraged. It could take a few tries to get into a really established and large sale. If your work is good and you're persistent, your day will come.

If you feel the cash outlay justifies your participation, be sure to consider a few more things before you sign the contract. When is the event? Does it fall at a time that conflict with other community events that might spread your customer base out too thinly? For example, is the Christmas Bazaar you want to participate in too close to Thanksgiving, or even Christmas? Are there other bazaars happening at the same time? Location, location, location - is the location easy for people to get to? Is in attractive? Will the organizers be decorating the venue? Do you need to bring your own table and chair? What about advertising? Will the organizers be advertising enough to entice people to attend? These are all questions that can affect the success of the bazaar. Other things you might ask about are how many years the event has been held and what kinds of things will be sold. Many artists assume that a craft fair will showcase only hand crafted items and arrive to find it jammed with manufactured items of all sorts. You may feel this compromises the integrity of your product. It can also affect sales as many manufactured items will be sold for much less that custom designed work and will attract a different clientele.

A final, question might be relative to the hours. You will want to make sure vendors will be required to be set up and be present for the duration of the event. Often vendors who feel they are not selling enough will pack up early. Empty tables peppered among full ones not only look bad, but spoil the experience for other vendors and customers. On that note, remember that you may not sell anything. Stranger things have happened. Many an artist with a beautiful, reasonably priced line will not sell what they had hoped. If this happens to you, chalk the experience up to exposure, networking, and a chance to relax. Always hand out business cards or other contact information. It costs almost nothing for you, nothing at all for the customer, and may bring someone back at another time.Now that you've done your homework and feel you are ready to make the commitment, the rest is easy.

A few days before the event, be sure to confirm your requirements/requests with the event organizers - number of tables, electricity, or wall request for example. Once your product is ready and you have enough inventory, make sure everything is priced before you head for the craft fair. You may think you will have time to do this once you're set up, but this will not be the case. Even the most experienced vendor will feel rushed and somewhat overwhelmed at first. Organize your merchandise in such a way that it will be easy to set up. You'll have several categories of "stuff" so it is easiest to use clear bins or well marked boxes for transport and avoid mixing these categories if at all possible. Remember you will have product inventory, display items (tables, signs, extension cords, racks, trays, tablecloths, shelving, lighting), sales items (money, cash box, sales receipts, business cards, bags), personal items (chair, lunch, purse, keys, things to keep you busy is traffic is slow like magazines, books, knitting). You will be unloading in a hierarchy (table, displays, inventory, and personal), so make things easier by keeping things organized from the beginning!

Now you're just about there, but there are a few more things to remember before you start to greet customers. There are definitely items of necessity that you cannot assume will be at your disposal. Always bring an extension cord or two. If you have requested electricity, the outlet could be many feet away. Be sure to bring wide masking, duct, or other strong tape to tape down your cords. Choose a tape that will not be too unsightly and consider your location.

Other things you think you won't need, but likely will - scissors, pens, markers, extra paper for last minute signs, extra tags, scotch tape, and a mirror if your product is clothing or jewelry. Also keep in mind that your bins, coats and extra inventory most likely will have to stay with you. That means you need to plan on storing these things either in your car, or more often than not, under your table. Because these items can look sloppy under a beautifully displayed table, bring a table cloth large enough to drape over the front of your display. If you are sitting near a wall customers will not be able to see behind the scenes, but if you are in the middle of a floor, you will want to be sure to drape the back side as well. Large color coordinated sheets work well for this. You can drape the over the table, overlap if necessary, and then cover those with your preferred display table cloth. Keep in mind that floor length coverings can create a tripping hazard so be sure to tuck the corners in or even tape down from the inside so the tape is not visible.

When displaying merchandise, keep the customer in mind. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to check out your work. You want your display to be inviting and interesting, but not too cluttered. You may find your original display ideas need to be modified once you see the actual footprint of the location. Be open and ready to adapt!

As for making actual sales, most people expect to pay in cash or with a check, so don't feel you must offer credit card options. A large, established craft sale may offer credit card checkout as an option, but smaller ones often do not. Be sure to have enough small change to make your sales. Whether or not you take checks is up to you. Most people are very honest and will be writing a legitimate check. On the extremely rare occasion that you get stuck, you will have to determine how far you feel you need to go to recoup the funds. This will of course depend greatly on the amount of the sale.

Don't forget packaging. It is nice to offer a bag if nothing else. The sale will probably not be affected by how you bag the purchase, but it is nicer to have some consistency there. If you items are small enough, you can easily use clear small zip lock bags or organza bags found at your local craft supplier. Be sure to send your customers off with your business card as well. Remember, you have gone out of your way to create a great product and presence. Be sure to close the deal the same way.

Wow - it's as simple as that! At the end of the day if you have gained lots of compliments and recognition, made a few sales, didn't spend all your profits on food and other great craft items, you can consider the day a great success!

UP Your Jewelry Sales at Craft Fairs

If you sell handmade jewelry at craft fairs here are some tips that can help you maximize your sales. I have found through my experience as a craft "buyer" that when you sell jewelry you need to get your jewels up to eye level. So many times I have been to craft booths and they have the low standard height tables w/ racks of earrings and necklaces. However, the customer does not want to stand there bending over to look at the tiny little details in your designs. Your goal is to get the middle of your jewelry stands to eye level so the customer can comfortably look at them. The more people have to bend down to see your crafts the less likely they will buy something. It's simple really. You probably have over 100 pairs of earrings on one stand, and you probably have several stands. So if someone has to bend all the way over to look at everything you are hurting your sales. Ever wonder why people will come up look at half of one stand and then run off. Well it might be because it hurts their backs to view your jewels.
Another important reason to get them up high is the sun light. Jewelry looks amazing in the bright sun light. The crystals shimmer and the metal glistens. The higher you get your jewels up the better it will catch the light and the more people you will get to your booth.
Trust me on this, you can try keeping them on lower tables, but if you are at a craft show that has a jewelry seller with high tables pay attention. You will see the difference in the amount of people that show up to that booth and skip yours.
This is a pretty easy mistake to make, because you can't find tables at this specific height. Most tables at stores are made for eating or entertaining, not displaying crafts. So, that means you will need to make your own, or buy some store made tables and raise them up high. One way you could do this is buy PVC at the hardware store and attach it to the legs of your table. But, don't forget to reinforce the legs!
Another tip is that you want your booth to look professional, not Holly Hobby like. I have never had good experience with wild colors; my best advice is to use neutral colors. Wild colors tend to take away from what you are selling. Whatever color table clothes you use you want to make sure they go all the way down to the ground. No one wants to see all the junk you have to stash under the tables. This is a good way to cover it up and hide all the mess.If you follow these two steps you will be on your way to making more money at your craft booth!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Squeaky Clean Jewelry

We all want to keep our beatiful baubles in tip top shape. Whether you are selling or buying jewelry it's always a good idea to know how to clean your metals and stones so your investments don't go down the drain!

A little bit of care goes a long way in keeping your jewelry looking its best. Here is some helpful cleaning info you should know:

Soap will cause a dulling film to form on gold jewelry so always remove before bathing. Chlorine bleach and other harsh chemicals can damage or discolor this precious metal so never wear your jewelry when cleaning your home, doing laundry or swimming in a chlorinated pool or hot tub.
To clean, you have a few options. Mix a few drops of ammonia with water and gently scrub piece with a soft bristle toothbrush. Rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth. There are also many commercial cleaners available. Have a soft chamois cloth at hand to give your piece some extra polish.

When wearing silver avoid chlorinated water and harsh chemicals.
To store, wrap individual pieces in a soft cloth or place in a tarnish-preventive bag to prevent scratches and exposure to light and air which can cause it to tarnish.
To clean, use a mild soap and water solution and pat dry with a soft cloth.

Platinum jewelry is quite durable but it can still be scratched. A professional cleaning twice a year will keep it looking new. Store separately or wrapped in tissue to avoid touching other jewelry.
Though a diamond is one of the hardest substances known to man it can still be chipped by a harsh blow so avoid wearing when it could get hit or damaged. Also, remove diamond jewelry before doing any housework involving chlorine bleach or other harsh chemicals since they can damage the setting and cause you to lose your stone. Always remove before swimming in a chlorinated pool or hot tub.
To clean, combine ammonia and water in a small bowl. Dip jewelry in the solution and use a soft toothbrush to gently dislodge dirt from under the setting. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and dry.

After each wearing, wipe pearls carefully with a soft cloth to remove any traces of makeup, perfume or hair spray which may have transferred to your jewelry. Always apply any beauty product before putting on pearls. If necessary wash with mild soap and water as anything harsher can damage them.
Pearls are soft and can be easily scratched by other jewelry so always wrap in tissue or place in a chamois bag before putting away. Also, have your pearls restrung by a professional jeweler once a year. The knots between each pearl prevents loss if the string should ever break.

Colored Gemstones
Don't expose gemstones to salt water, harsh chemicals, hair spray and fragrance which can harm the surface of your stone. Always apply cosmetics and beauty products before putting on jewelry. After removing, wipe thoroughly with a clean, soft, slightly damp cloth to keep stones from losing their luster and store individually in soft pouches. Also, try to avoid sudden temperature changes and activities where the stone could be damaged from a blow.
Consult your jeweler on the care of your particular gemstone. Most gemstones should not be cleaned with ultrasonic cleaners. Instead, use a mild soap and water solution and a soft toothbrush.

Fashion Jewelry
Jeweler's cement and glue is used to create many fashion pieces. Never soak in water or use commercial or ultrasonic cleaners. Instead, gently wipe with a damp cloth and dry with a soft cloth before putting away.

-Don't store your jewelry together where it can be scratched or become tangled.
-Don't wear your jewelry when doing the laundry.
-Don't wear your jewelry while doing cleaning with chemicals or doing heavy lifting.
-Don't wear your jewelry when going from one extreme temperature to another.
-Do visit your jeweler every 1-2 years to make sure the settings are secure.
-Do put your jewelry on after you've applied your body lotions, hair spray and cosmetics.
*If you're still uncertain about a particular piece see your local jeweler for advice.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miss Piggy's Diamond Ring

I wanted to share this crazy story with you all......
Last week, Anne Moon, a British grandmother lost a diamond when she went to pet a 10 week old pig named Ginger. Ginger evidently thought she was offering something tasty. Mrs. Moon said she was petting the piglet at the Easingwold Maize Maze Farm, near York, England, when the swine used its mouth to slip off her beloved jewel. It clamped its mouth around her hand and swallowed the biggest diamond off her $2500 ring! The ring was a gift from her husband thirty years ago and so had great sentimental value. The upset Mrs Moon said, "If the pig wasn't so dirty I think we would have put him in the back of the car and taken him home!" So the farmer who owns the pig had to wait for nature to take its course. It's not like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's looking for a small gem in a pile of pig poo. Carefully. Without breathing. No word whether he succeeded or not....

This has me wondering...What would it take for me to sift through a big pile of piggy poop? It has to be a extremely important personal belonging, I'm sure about that!

I'm also wondering how many of you would get your hands dirty? Think of your most prized posession...would you sort through pig poo for it?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ode to the Plastic Pink Flamingo

This weekend,while at my parents house celebrating my Father's birthday, I noticed the plastic pink creature in their garden (It was a joke gift my brother had given to my mom a few years back). It got me wondering about the fascination people have for this American icon. The story I found to be very interesting, so I thought I would share it with you!

Love them or hate them, the plastic pink flamingo is an American icon that is here to stay. This easily recognized piece of lawn art began its history in 1957, when they were first created by Don Featherstone (fitting name, Huh?) of Union Products in Leominster, Massachusetts."Phoenicoptertis rubber plasticus"; a new avian species otherwise known as... The Plastic Pink Flamingo! He used photographs from a National Geographic for his design. The original design called for detailed wooden legs, but they proved to be too costly and were replaced by the metal ones still seen today.

The late 1950’s just happened to be perfect timing for the flamingo. America was moving to the suburbs. Industry was convincing America that a natural lawn was one that was mowed and treated with chemicals. And, every lawn needed a lawn ornament! Pink was the hot color...from refrigerators to cadillacs! The pink flamingo stood for two things, wealth and pizzazz. Anyone who could afford to vacation in Florida had one! And so the frenzy began!

The 1960’s were not as friendly to the pink flamingo. There was a rebellion against everything man made. It was a time to go back to nature. The plastic flamingo quickly became the prototype of bad taste and anti-nature.

By 1970, even Sears had removed the pink-feathered bird from its catalog. It looked like our fake-feathered friend’s days were numbered. But time was on this bird's side. Some people just love to do things that annoy people. You know: If you are not supposed to do something, you do it just to annoy others. If pink flamingos were the ultimate in bad taste, then people were sure to place them on their lawn to bug their neighbors. And they did so in great numbers.

In 198o's, Miami Vice kicked the sales of pink flamingos into full throttle and today they are sold for just about every purpose. They are purchased for use as wedding decorations, housewarming gifts, and as replacements for reindeer at Christmas time. Some people actually even travel with their pink flamingos. The plastic birds go camping, hiking, skiing, and mountain biking! Entire web sites are devoted to the travels of these artificial creatures.

Would I put pink flamingos in my garden? No.... Never. Okay..okay....I did, once! Then I decided they're too tacky and plasticky for my taste. But I have to admit, when I see them in other people's gardens or lawns, they make me smile. Their sheer absurdness amuses me I guess. (But please, people, keep them on your own side of the :) )

I have a funny feeling we ALL have a personal story to share about these "Pink Embassadors" of the yard!
What's your story? We could all use a smile, so share it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Picture Perfect!!

With the growing trend of online sites to sell your handmade goods from the comfort of your home comes the compelling question of.."How do I take a great picture of my designs?" Yes, ladies, not only have you started your own "niche" in the beading world but now you have to become a professional photographer too? NO, Don't worry, you can do it!!

Jewelry is one of the most difficult objects to photograph. Reflections, Shadows, and Lighting are just some of the biggest problems, when taking pictures of your homemade goods. But with these tips you'll have others asking how do you get those great photo's?

Step 1
First, you must understand your camera features. It will be MUCH easier to take pictures of jewelry if you have a good macro zoom. This will make your pictures crisp and clear, and not blurry. This macro zoom is usually defined by a little silhouette/icon of a tulip or flower and is used most often for close-up pictures of small objects. Turn this feature on if you have it.

Step 2
You'll also want to purchase a tripod to take jewelry photographs. A tripod is important for holding your camera steady. This allows your images to come out sharp and clear. You may think you can get by without one, but even taking a shallow breath during jewelry photography can cause the camera to shake, ruining your beautiful image. Tripods are generally quite reasonable in price and can often be found for under $30.00.
Step 3
Many people are tempted to use the flash because they think it will make their beads and/or diamonds shine brighter. And they couldn't be any more wrong. DO NOT I repeat DO NOT ever use the flash. Natural light is your best bet. Although it isn't extremely consistent, with flash all you will get is ugly reflections and darkened backgrounds.

Step 4
Choose a background. It can be a piece of a material or a piece of scrap-booking paper. A light pattern is perfectly fine, but make sure that when you put the jewelry item on the background, that the background doesn't take away from the item. Some people prefer a solid background. It can even be the traditional black, white, blue, or red.

Step 5
Now the hardest part, lighting! Lighting is a very big obstacle during photography like this. The best light, like I said before, is natural light, but if you live in the north pole where there is no light 10 out of the 12 months, than you have no choice. The best artificial lighting is a natural sunlight bulb. Never use fluorescent lights, as they tint everything green and tend to make things appear darker. Some people may purchase and use a "lightbox" or
make their own. It provides a soft, all-around light source that will help you eliminate shadows while still giving you the perfect coloring and they are very inexpensive.

Step 6
Haha! the fun begins! Turn on that macro, make sure the light is even, and shoot away! Do all different angles. From the side, from the top, the bottom, the chain, the gems, everything. Don't even think about it. Just shoot. Take around 15 shots for each piece because it's guaranteed that you will not use half of them.

Step 7
After you've taken your pictures, don't delete any of them directly off of your camera just yet. Take time to look at them on a bigger screen, your computer monitor, that is. Go into your editing program and brighten, change the tone, or sharpen your photos if need be.

Step 8
Ta Da! And Happy Selling!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beading Charts "SMARTS"

When buying beads for a specific design it is important to be sure that you have purchased an adequate amount of each bead to complete your design. There is nothing worse than having nearly completed a project and finding out that you need more of a certain bead! UGGHHH!!!!...kinda makes you lose your inspiration, huh ladies? I know we've ALL been there!
Often you will find that the item is no longer available or, you may be able to order more, but it is not an exact match. Gemstones, because they are natural, will always vary from strand to strand. If you are working with vintage items, these are very limited and because they are vintage we are not always able to get more. If an item is dyed it is important to remember that the color may vary from one dye lot to another. I believe that it is always better to have a little left over, than to find yourself in a situation where you are unable to complete your design. Actually, isn't it great to find out that you have enough left over to make a pair of earrings! My motto, One can never have too many earrings!
I thought this "Beads per Inch" chart might come in handy to you all. It gives you a better idea of exactly how many beads you'll need by the size bead and length of your desgn. Hope you find it helpful!