Local Crafts Festival Photo Journal: Fairs Combine Business and Pleasure
I was admittedly skeptical about participating in my first local crafts festival this fall. It is already a notoriously busy time of year, and I wasn’t sure how much work a local crafts festival might entail.
Well, it took a lot of work in the end. But it was totally worth it.
I joined forces with a fellow photographer, who is also a good friend, and together we created a tent worthy of the best local crafts festival around.
Creativity is key, we discovered, and is much more important than experience or even budget. The project was intimidating and daunting at first, since we had no idea what we were up against and the Facebook photos of the other Tampa area local crafts festivals showcased what looked like entire boutiques worth of merchandise.
Since we were operating on a limited budget, as well as limited experience, we determined to take the advice of Mark Twain: “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”
We dove right in.
Creating Your Showcase
Since our forte is photography, our tent space at the local crafts festival was concentrated on our prints. One of the great things about local crafts festivals, however, is versatility- you can easily promote any arts or crafts with these same ideas. The important thing is enticing someone to come over to your tent and check out your crafts.
To begin, we purchased a tent and a folding table, some $2 frames, and our site at the local crafts festival “Art on the Water.”
(Aside: Although it’s ideal to find a free local crafts festival, it’s not realistic. Just choose wisely. Don’t rush into any. Research local crafts festivals in your area, and select the one that would best suit your style as well as your budget. It’s an investment into your brand, so it’s probably tax-deductable as well [but don’t quote me on that]).
So, after the hardware, the real work for this local crafts festival began.
My friend drove the creative campaign. She began by designing DIY banners with our photo shop names, using burlap, paint, and stencils.
She created a lovely clothesline-inspired backdrop to our tent, which showcased some of our works in smaller sizes. And my favorite parts of the display material were the handcrafted “business” cards, which she stamped individually and which we then wrote out and painstakingly tied around 100 Dum-Dums each.
The piece de resistance in our prep work for the local crafts festival was actually two pieces, and it was actually all her prep work with just a few of our photos: the wind chimes that she created with yarn, punched-out stars, more paint, and some of the boldest colors from each of our prints.
All of these works were executed pretty well, in my opinion, and they could be easily duplicated with a trip to the local crafts store and these photos of our displays for inspiration.
Ready For Our Closeup
While I opted for plain black and brown display frames to place on our table at the local crafts festival, she painted hers with color. Both looked lovely.
We didn’t invest in any fancy, freestanding metal frames or easels on which to display our showpieces, like we’d seen at other local crafts festivals. Instead, we just relied on our table.
And as luck would have it, the director of the event gave us another table on the day of our local crafts festival, so we had ample display space.
Each of us compiled books featuring some of our favorite work for the table at the local crafts festival; hers were sophisticated, custom-made albums from her professional printer, while mine were printed at the local drugstore and topped with a label I made and printed at home.
The local crafts festival folk responded with equal interest to both, I can report with some relief. I do want to upgrade eventually, but being a crafter, I think more allowances are made for presentation.
We chose to display our prices, along with our prints at this, our first local crafts festival, but one of the things that we took away was a market-style desire to talk, and engage in a little good-natured bartering, so we will probably not display prices at the next local crafts festival we attend.
Luckily, for us, it dawned bright and sunny on the day of our local crafts festival, but the tent was instrumental in keeping us and our photo displays in the shade, which made it the most important thing to remember.
Other important items to bring along to our first local crafts festival included our folding table; our handmade display pieces, frames, and photo books; a side display table from home; chairs from home; a cooler with water; decorative props; our lollipop business cards in a basket; tablecloths; small bills for change; our display stands; pens and order forms; and our cameras, of course!
My personal must-have was sunglasses. Even in October, it was a bright, sunshiny day!
Why Local Crafts Festivals are Worthwhile
We dressed casually yet appropriately, because while local crafts festivals are fun, you are still representing your brand to the world. The driving force behind your displays, business cards, and interactions with customers should be to build your brand and create a positive connection with a potential client.
You might wonder, what if no one shows up at the local crafts festival? Did you even sell anything? Is it necessary to put in the extra effort on top of my online accounts?
Well, the local crafts festivals in Tampa can be hit or miss, and this one, held in early October, on a Saturday, was kind of a dud.
And no, we didn’t sell much at this particular local crafts festival. But I still believe that it is worth the time, energy, and even money put in to represent yourself and your work on a personal level, and to do so in your city or at a local crafts festival in your region creates an instant personal connection.
We handed out over half of our business card lollipops at the local crafts festival, and assuming that half of them ended up in the trash, that still leaves people who have heard our name and who might potentially find that piece of paper at home in their jeans or purse later than night, who might toss that piece of paper onto a nightstand or dresser, and who might recall that there’s a local girl who sells lovely photographs come time for Christmas shopping.
My friend might yet see benefits for her personal family and children photography business, Bluebird Photography, which she promoted during the local crafts festival “Art on the Water” with displays and discussion.
I gained a lot of confidence during my whole experience doing the local crafts festival with my brand, Amor Fati: Photography by Justine Benstead.
Our tent was flat-out the best looking one out there, I was really proud of our commitment to taking this local crafts festival to the next level, and we are already planning to do another somewhat local crafts festival in mid-November, in nearby Clearwater, Florida.
We had a great time once we got past initial stage fright, too, from our hours spent in her living room doing prep work to walking around together on the day of the local crafts festival and exploring the other tents, wares, and sellers. It was a great learning and bonding experience, so if you are considering attending an event, I would buddy up with a friend or find another local crafter to join in on the fun.
Let’s Talk Numbers
To be blunt, the money we invested was worthwhile, as we will reuse the displays and hardware again next month at the Clearwater Juniors Christmas local crafts festival. And ideally, the entry fee at the local crafts festival is neutralized by your sales. With luck, and in time, you might just make a profit along with expanding your network!
Finally, for those skeptics who are fine with using the computer for commerce, understand that while the majority of our traffic comes from our online stores, spreading the word about your online store IRL can have very real digital results. My same tent partner from the local crafts festival participated in a local Tampa charity event earlier this year, offered business cards, and received emails about her work the very next week.
I, too, am a 21st century child when it comes to communication. Putting yourself out there at a local crafts festival takes dedication, and more than that, it takes confidence. But I promise, there is something about having complete strangers stop and look at my work, discuss it amongst themselves, ask me questions, or compliment me on a particular photograph that makes my confidence soar. Participating in even one local crafts festival can do the same for you.
Have you ever participated in a local crafts festival? What was your experience like? Do you think that participating in local crafts festivals could enhance the online experience of your brand?
Keeping it local,