This is my busy season – between September and mid-December, I have 4 available Saturdays.  I say available but what I mean is I have four Saturdays that are available for studio work.  The rest of the weekends are obligated to visitors, trips, and craft shows.  

I have been thinking about craft shows because I was recently asked to evaluate some local shows.  Also, I saw an advertisement for an indoor craft show that claimed weather would not be a factor.  The truth is, weather is always a factor.  Even if the show is hosted indoors, when the weather is bad, people don’t come.

Sous-potters visit us at the show.

Shows are good for many reasons – so it really depends on what your goals are.  If you need exposure or recognition, there are shows that are good for that.  If you want to support a charity, then there are shows that provide that opportunity.  If you need to make money, then some shows can help you do that better than others.

There are services that evaluate shows for artists.  For a small fee, they provide show history, average attendance, event description, average sales for various price ranges, show fees, and application information.  All of this information can help artists select shows they think will be successful shows for them.  However, in my opinion (which is what you get if you read this blog), there are things that I can do to contribute to a successful show and there are things that I can’t control that will make or break a show.

Elements of a successful craft show that are out of my control but should be considered before deciding to participate are:

  • Advertisement – I believe it is the show sponsor’s responsibility to advertise the show dates and times.  All shows expect the artists to promote the show by letting people know that the artist will be there.  Although this is a reasonable expectation, if it is the only means of advertisement, then the show is usually poorly attended.  A few ways for you know this in advance of the show is to research how long the show has been held and how many artists return each year.  Also, go to the show the year before to evaluate the crowd size and feel for the event to see if your craft would be well received there.
  • Weather – Unfortunately, weather is a factor that you won’t know how it will affect the show until after the show.  (But I guess you could consult the Farmer’s Alamanac before committing to a show.)  This year, we participated in two craft shows that set attendance records because the weather was beautiful.  Craft shows are a numbers game – the larger the attendance, the greater opportunity to make sales.  And, people come if the weather is nice.  But if it is cold and rainy, fewer people come even if the show is indoors.  Some shows are ‘rain or shine’ which means there are no refunds for fees because the ‘show will go on’.  Consider the time of year and level of risk you are willing to take.  Remember, if you do enough craft shows, eventually there will be wash-outs.
  • Distractions – Shows that offer various forms of entertainment are a mixed bag.  Although bands, amusement park rides, chicken-plate dinners, and children’s activities may get people to come to the show, it doesn’t mean they are purchasing handmade items.  But, it can provide a lot of exposure.
  • Entry fees – Some shows charge an entrance fee.  It seems most of these shows are indoors and the fees off-set some of the show costs.  The theory is that any customer who pays to get into a show will be a serious buyer.  I have only attended a few shows that charge entry fees.  It didn’t seem like a larger percentage of people were buying to me.  The show is still a form of entertainment for most people – but that doesn’t matter if there is a large crowd.

Although these factors are outside of my control, there are several things I can do to make a show more successful.  I will share those in the next post.