Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Craft Show Mania! Part 1

On the Road with the Mobile Mermaid

Last year I started doing craft fairs with my clothing. It turns out it’s quite a learning experience. After doing 5 events last year I challenged myself to double that or more. So here is my journey through first 5 shows this year. It really all started months ago. While there are many markets that you can apply for and sell within a week the larger shows often have application deadlines months before the actual event.

This May and June I’m doing a variety of different markets, from big city indie fairs to traditional crafts fairs to small markets.

Thursday, May 10

Time to pack up the mermaid mobile for the first time this season.

We’re heading down to PA for the Art Star Craft Bazaar - a large indie craft fair in Philadelphia. I did this market last year as well, did OK but not great, then started sharing a booth at their Holiday fair and I did great! Art Star also has a wonderful boutique in Philadelphia. I sell my clothing there, their store is gorgeous and I’m incredibly proud to sell there.

Will it all fit? Trying to be as eco-friendly as possibly both my husband and I drive small cars. I got a new tent this year and my goal is to fit a mannequin in as well. Miraculously we can squeeze it all in.

Friday, May 11

My husband picks me up at my day job at 5PM and we drive to Philadelphia. We’re quite used to the 4-hour drive as my in-laws all live in the area. We arrive at our friends’ house with a ferocious appetite.  The weather forecast is great for the whole weekend, quite a relief after downpours along with a leaky tent last year.

Saturday, May 12

The market starts at 11, it should be about a 45-minute drive from our friends’ house down to Penn’s Landing, including traffic. I’m not a morning person (turns out that is not a good thing for doing craft fairs), but I’ve been up since about 5:30 when my husband woke up and thought it was 7 already (and then of course couldn’t go back to sleep, my nerves always get the best of me before a show). We time it so that we should get there around 9:30. Miraculously traffic is actually no problem and we arrive at 9:15, which makes me a little more relaxed.   

We start setting up and soon after my booth mate, Jillian of Le Petit Hoot, who’s making her craft show debut today, arrives. She makes gorgeous bags and pouches and prepared a beautiful set up. As the fair starts I’m still tagging clothes, in the mad rush of sewing up a storm to create as much inventory as possible it’s just something I haven’t gotten too. I like to have all my items priced, other vendors would disagree. The start of the show is slow. The wifi is not working. I was so excited to use my little credit card reader on my iPod (sadly I don’t have a smartphone as we do not have cell-service at my house), I guess old school credit card machine it is. I’ll enter the sales tonight on my PayPal. I ask the customers to give me their phone number just to be sure. Last year I sold mostly tank tops, which are the lowest priced clothing that I sell. But today I start with a double sale of a silk blouse (on which I put a really good sale price) and a capelet, and then a dress; my lovely sister-in-law comes and buys a jacket and then a tank after all. That’s a good day, I did great! We lower the tent, leave the basic set up there but take all the clothing back with us as there will only be minimum security.

Exhausted and happy we drive back to our friends’ house. That spiked lemonade I had did not treat me well along with the hot sun all day. I feel nauseous but after some dinner and a double dose of Advil I feel better. We make it an early night anyway as tomorrow will be a long day of selling and then packing up and driving home.

Sunday, May 13

Today traffic is backed up and we arrive a little later than planned, but still in time. Set up is much quicker, mostly I just needed to wheel my garment rack with all my clothing in and do some fine-tuning.  It’s my strangest sales day yet. I sell two of my silk dresses within an hour of each other and then almost nothing else for most of the rest of the day. At the end of the day I sell the last one which makes the dress sold out for the moment, yay! I made less money today than yesterday but am very happy with the sales this weekend. Let’s pack up the mermaid mobile and home we go!

Friday, May 18

Time to pack of the car again! Tomorrow I’ll be doing a fair organized by the New York Etsy team in Chelsea, NYC. My best friend is visiting from Switzerland and my husband  (author Brian James – check out his great books!) is doing a reading in NYC, so I traded my little convertible with a friend of mine for her station wagon, Let’s see if we can fit the 3 of us and the tent and the mannequin. Tight squeeze again, but by taking only the smaller cinder blocks for tent weights we should be OK.

Saturday, May 19

The alarm goes off at 5:47, but I know we have to get ready as quickly as possible, quick cup of coffee and I force feed myself yoghurt and get ready. As usual I’m ready later than I planned, but we arrived just before all the cars have to get off the (closed-off for the market) street. We unload everything right in front of the booth and I go to try to find free parking. Just as I’m deciding to give up there’s a street whose street cleaning is just about up. Lots of parking, yay, and just a couple of blocks away.

When I get back to my booth my awesome helpers have almost finished setting, they’re the best!
Selling is sluggish again today, it again goes in packs and do I sell that one more silk dress that I was to produce this week. In the end we got all expenses covered and made a little extra money. Can’t complain plus a couple of my friends stopped by which is always a nice surprise.

My Swiss guest leaves Monday morning and I go back to my day job. In addition to my normal sewing day I take another day off, feverishly making silk dresses and replacing a few other items I’ve sold in the last two weekends. Next weekend I’ll be doing a 3-day show, my first big traditional fair, which came with a hefty booth fee.

Check in again on Thursday for the continued adventures of the traveling mermaid!

Photos ©Sarah-Maria Vischer except of bottom 2 photos which are ©Annegret-Kerstin Meier


  1. I don't know that you ever get over those pre show jitters; I give you lots of credit for travelling to the cities - the anxiety of parking always felt like too much - I did St. John the Divine one year and did very well there, but decided the anxiety wasn't worth it.

  2. Thank you Elena, that's a great suggestion!