How To Sell Your Crafts at Craft Shows
by James Dillehay, author of seven books, is a nationally recognized
expert on how to sell crafts. Courtesy of craftmarketer.com
Learning how to sell crafts can be fun especially at craft fairs. I
personally like to sell at craft fairs because beyond the dates of the
show, there are no further commitments. When a show is over, it’s
You can do one or two events and walk away with a minimum of expense
of time and money and having learned a lot about how to sell crafts
at shows. You may end up enjoying the experience and do shows every
month. If so, take up the bohemian, craft fair life-style, while creating
a profitable craft business.
In an art and crafts fair, you have your own scaled-down model of a
retail store, even if it’s only for two or three days. You can
use a show to test new products, designs, price changes and booth displays.
You are directly in touch with the marketplace, so if your work isn’t
selling, you will find out why immediately from customers’ reactions
and sales results.
In selling direct to the public, you keep the entire amount of the
sales, minus expenses. Since almost all shows are held on weekends,
your week is free to create more pieces. You have control of your time.
It’s a great feeling to go to a movie in the middle of the week
when everyone else is laboring under canned air, moronic managers, and
How to find craft shows
Festival Network Online has a database of craft
shows around the U.S.
The Appendix of The Basic Guide to Selling Arts & Crafts
lists almost all of the major crafts fair guides. The cost of owning
so many different resources may seem expensive, but you can make back
or save hundreds of dollars more than the cost of these books by selecting
or avoiding a show because of what you learn from them. Avoiding the
bad shows is worth the price alone.
Another source of art and craft shows will be your state arts council.
They should be listed in the government pages of your phone book.
Craft show basics
Do your first show close to crafts, within one hundred miles. There
are two good reasons; lower gas and mileage expenses, and less stress.
A shorter drive and a longer night’s sleep give you more energy
for the show. Shows can be both exciting and demanding. Hundreds, possibly
thousands, of potential customers come by your booth, many of whom will
look at your work and talk to you.
If at all possible, visit a show beforehand to learn how to sell crafts
at that event and if it attracts the right crowd for what you’re
selling. If you can’t go in person, ask a friend that lives nearby
to go. If that’s not possible you’ll have to rely on word-of-mouth
information from other crafts persons and reviews found in the craft
Which craft fairs should you do
When selecting craft shows, choose the kind of event that will attract
buyers of the products you make. There are several different kinds.
For example there are fine arts shows which may or may not allow craft
items. Another kind of show is the juried art and crafts fairs. There
are events sometimes referred to as country craft shows.
Crafts are also sold at a variety of other events such as state and
county fairs, mall shows, renaissance fairs and large trade shows. Trade
shows for crafts are discussed in another article.
Fine art shows feature paintings, photos, posters, prints,
sculpture, and other fine art. Often fine art shows are found in combination
with the better craft fairs.
Juried art and craft shows are often the most lucrative market
for the craftsperson. Because the event is juried, the crafts displayed
tend to be better quality and higher priced. A juried show is one
where slides or actual pieces of your work are judged by a jury committee
who selects the best from hundreds of applicants. All of the finer
art and craft events are juried to screen out mass made products from
kits and imported items.
Country craft shows are distinctly different from the juried
art and craft shows. Their main criteria for entry is that you aren’t
selling assembled kits or imported products. The crafts exhibited
are often for the home, usually selling from $2 to $50. These shows
often work well for small inexpensive gift items. I have tried them
with high-priced crafts ($150 to $200 range) and did not do well.
When selling higher priced items, choose the more established, juried
art and craft shows.
Renaissance fairs are outdoor events that include craft booths
as a part of a total entertainment package. All the vendors dress
in medieval costume and booths have the same theme. A variety of food,
drink, jugglers, jousters, knights, and fair maidens abound at these
Mall shows are listed in craft show guides and periodicals.
They are usually produced by the mall management, a show promoter,
or a local organization. These shows are usually part of a tour sponsored
by a producer putting on events in one or several nearby states. Many
exhibitors follow the circuit for several weeks, especially in the
fall and pre-Christmas months. Mall shows may be an option for otherwise
empty weekends. Mall shows might help, too, in slow months like January
Other special interest shows
Some possibilities for special interest markets for how to sell crafts
include, but aren’t limited to:
Local fashion shows. Women’s groups and charity organizations
often produce fashion shows for original work. Call your chamber of
commerce and check the library for listings of associations in your
area. Visit the large hotels and convention centers and speak with their
public relations person. They have schedules of upcoming shows and producers
to get in touch with.
Home shows and boat shows. Many major cities have a crafts show
and a boat show at least once a year. Look for announcements in your
Gift shows. Gift shows exist for both consumers and store buyers,
usually held in large convention centers.
Flea markets. In some cities, flea markets have grown to include
smaller, inexpensive craftwork. Booth rental is not as high as craft
shows and they draw big crowds. Check them out, though, before you sign
up, because almost all flea markets are full of garage sale items. Around
Christmas time, however, smaller priced craft pieces like ornaments
and toys may do well.
Applying for craft shows
Applications for craft shows will be mailed upon request from the show
producers. Once you are on their mailing list, you will probably continue
to receive applications for a few years. Many applications are due three
to six months before the actual show date.
Better shows are juried. This means that the artist must submit slides
or photos of their recent work and possibly a photo of their booth display
to the show producer, along with a jury fee.
There is no guarantee that you will be accepted into a show with your
first application. Craft shows will often give preference for reentry
to previous exhibitors.
Hope this helps you learn how to sell crafts at craft shows.
The above article is copyrighted and excerpted from the book The
Basic Guide to Selling Arts & Crafts by James Dillehay, member
of the advisory boards to the National Craft Association and ArtisanStreet.com.