What to Look for When Selecting An Artisan Show

Selecting an artisan show also called craft shows requires careful advance planning. At a single show you might sell nothing at all or you might sell out your entire stock. Usually the result is somewhere between these extremes.

Some shows are excellent, others are okay but some are very poor. Since you want to avoid the poor ones and participate, if possible, in the excellent ones, picking the shows to attend is very important. Income from a craft or artisan show can be risky business; therefore, as a profit oriented jewelry designer, you must select shows based on their ability to generate sales.

You can minimize your risks by selecting a craft or artisan show that is run by competent committees or directors. Some show directors earn their living by running shows. Such directors usually run efficient shows and prefer artisans who will help them ensure professionalism but organizers can make mistakes; and sometimes they skimp on important details to save money. As in any type of show whether professionally run or not there is good and bad in all areas so do a thorough check before putting down a deposit on your booth.

So what do you need to know in order to decide whether or not to participate? Before selecting a craft show and laying out the time, effort and expense, think about the following points:

  • How many years has this artisan show operated?

    An experienced organizer is likely to have identified and solved most of the problems that have occurred in previous fairs. Also, a show that has been successful in past years builds a loyal buyer following for quality shows.

  • Is the show juried?

    If it is, you may face stiff competition. What kind of quality will you be competing against? If the show is not juried, how does your work compare with other work in the show? You may be surrounded by flea-market or church bazaar crafts.

  • How much money is budgeted for advertising?

    Where will that money be spent? Their advertising budget should be evenly allocated to the various media -- local newspapers, local radio and TV. They should also have flyers delivered or posted locally. Does the organizer supply you with printed invitations?

  • How many people are expected to attend?

    This is difficult to estimate, and sometimes the numbers are inflated whether intentionally or not. A better question might be: What has been the past years attendance and how much does the average consumer spend at your fair? You should also ask what kind of sales has this show generated for past exhibitors?

  • What does the entry fee cover, is it all-inclusive or must you pay for extras?

    Entry fees normally cover rental of a specified amount of space for a specific length of time and usually include a table, chairs and some kind of drapery between booths. Electricity is usually extra. Some shows have a list of extras that you can rent, such as lighting, carpets, extension cords, display racks, mirrors, pegboards, drapings for tables, etc.

  • What facilities and services are offered to participants?

    Your entry fee may simply give the right to your booth space, or it may include all kinds of services designed to make life a little easier for you. Some services provided might include: a booth-sitting service for meal and washroom breaks, setup and take down help, use of exhibitors' lounge, free refreshments, publicity and press interviews, booth signage, babysitting for participants or the public, or free parking for participants.

  • How many booths are available?

    The size and character of the artisan show can be important. You should also ask how many booths are allocated to any one medium?

  • Is it possible to choose one's booth location?

    It is worth spending a little more money for a prime location, such as a central aisle intersection, a corner booth, or a spot right by the main entrance.

  • Can you demonstrate in your booth?

    You might increase your sales by demonstrating your craft during the show.

  • If your display must be left overnight, what protection is there against theft or damage?

    Normally shows that extend overnight or several days, the entry fee generally covers the services of the security guards hired by the fair organizers so that you need not pack and store everything you brought each night. Even though security is provided every exhibitor should obtain appropriate insurance to cover against loss or damage or liability.

  • If this is an outdoor show, are you prepared for bad weather?

    For outdoor shows you must provide your own weather security, and are solely responsible for covering and protecting your pieces from dew, rain, or excessive sunlight. Make sure your display is sturdy to withstand strong winds.

  • What other expenses might there be to participate in a show?

    When calculating the cost of entering a craft for artisan show don't forget to add to the entry fee any costs for transportation, overnight accommodation, meals, and parking. You should have a good idea of your total costs and how many items you have to sell in order to break even.

  • You should talk to last year's participants.

    You can learn a lot from the experience of past exhibitors, ask about their feeling on the success of the show or if they felt it was well organized.

An open craft or artisan show is one in which any craftsperson is welcome to come and participate, exhibit space permitting, and is usually on a first-come, first-served basis.

A juried show, showcases the elite works of each crafts genre: quilting, pottery, woodcarving, weaving, fabric painting, fashions, jewelry, etc. All quality shows are juried and their standards are very strict.

You will be asked to submit slides or photos and a resume of your work, also called a portfolio. The selection committee normally consists of respected artisans and/or critics of craftworks who judge products submitted for consideration and select those that they think are best for the show. When jurying, judges look at aesthetics, function, creativity, originality, technique, marketability, quality of your work and sometimes booth design.

Most well-organized shows are juried so that the quality of crafts offered can be controlled; also to control the amount of any one medium in a show, i.e.: 10 weavers, 10 quilters, 10 potters, 10 woodworking, 10 stained glass, 10 jewelry designers, etc. The entry deadlines for these shows are usually a good 4 to 9 months in advance (especially major shows which have 200-300 booths), so that all decisions are made and the booths allocated well in advance.

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