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If I Were In Charge: Organizing a Craft Show


This fall, I’ve had some opportunities to imagine organizing my own craft show. Yesterday was another one of those opportunities. By opportunities I mean slow shows with weak sales. So in my free time, I have sat and thought about what I would do differently.

For one, I’d invest a lot more time and money in advertising. There would be signs posted along the road in the area, and definitely a big sign in front of the venue. I would contact local news organizations to find out how I could get some advanced press for my show. And would make use of the Internet and the great crafting community that already exists there to spread the word about the show. I would also make sure the event was juried, and because this is my fantasy craft show, it would be a craft show only, not a “vendor show.” Only truly handmade creations of high quality, please. And while we’re talking about a juried event, I would use that process as a way to control the variety of art and craft being represented. A craft show with too many jewelry vendors, or too many ceramic artists, is not doing shoppers or vendors any favors.

I would not hold a silent auction, which seems to have been a staple of the events I have participated in. While the motivation for the silent auction, to raise money for a good cause, is a lovely one, there has to be a better way to do this. The silent auctions I have observed have been poorly organized or marked, so that many attendees to the show may not even realize that they are there or what they are for. Additionally, they have been very poorly participated in, with items receiving few or no bids for minimal amounts. And to be honest, when I look at who is bidding, more often than not it seems to be the show organizers, and I suspect they are bidding so much in an effort to generate enthusiasm and additional bids. Also, silent auctions take all day, and most craft show visitors do not hang around all day. So what would I do instead? I might ask sellers to simply donate a percentage of their profits at the end of the day, hold a drive for some sort of item (food drive, toys for tots drive), or have a raffle with regularly scheduled drawings throughout the day.

On the technical side of things, I would make sure that I held the event in a space that could adequately accomodate all the crafters I accepted into the show. And by this I mean that each craft is truly given the amount of space promised in the application, and also that each crafter is given a “good” space. At craft shows I have participated in, I have seen sellers stuck into what essentially amounts to a storage closet, or stuck at the end of a hallway past two sets of closed doors, far away from the main space of the event. Even though these crafters are paying the same fee to participate, they definitely are not being given the same chance to attract a customer’s attention. Just yesterday I found out there were crafters at the show I attended that I didn’t even know existed, because they had been placed so far out of the way. Again, not fair to shoppers or sellers. And while I am at it, I would do my best to find an event space that is in a high-traffic, noticeable area, to make it as easy as possible for people to see and drop in. Out of the way spaces may discourage people who are not familiar with the area, or simply may not attract the attention they could.

Those are some things I would focus on if I were organizing a craft show. I’m not, and don’t have any plans to do so in the near future, but I’ve had time to think about it anyway. I had a great time at the craft show yesterday, thanks to good company, but it sure would have been nice to at least have broken even.

To those of you who do come out to craft shows, thank you! It is always a pleasure to see and talk with you, even if you aren’t a buyer. To those of you who don’t go to craft shows, why not? What might entice you to drop by? And what do you think about my organizing fantasies–is it just sour grapes or are there some things you would like to see happen when a craft show is being organized, too?

4 thoughts on “If I Were In Charge: Organizing a Craft Show

  1. good luck with the craft shows! *your banner seems to be off to the right?*

    cute blog!

  2. craft shows have been disappointing overall this year – definitely slower than last year! (who new that was even possible). I often go into a similar if this were my craft show meditation when I am at a slow poorly organized or poorly attended show. I’m going to be a lot more particular about what shows I do next year I think that’s the only way… just discovered your blog on an etsy forum thread – I’ll be back! namaste, elsie

  3. I see nothing much has changed in the craft show world since I left it 10 years ago. In my fantasy craft show, I would never sell beer or food either.

  4. Oh my do I ever agree with your fantasy craft show. The silent auction doesn’t ever work unless it is in the very front of the entrance with giant signs, and even then it’s not always that great. I like it when they use an item you donate to raffle. That is a lot more fun, and people get excited to win. I have participated in one craft show that was a lot like the one you are describing. It was a long running one, and that would be the other item I would add to your list. When a craft show is good, and good for a number of years, it gets a great reputation and A LOT of traffic. I sure hope next year is better for you. I have had a great show or two, and that is what keeps me going. You can do it!

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