I'm going to give you a peek behind the curtain and reveal what it takes to be a vendor at a handmade fest
Night before the fest-
I admit I was up late sewing stuff that I wanted to bring the night before the fest, but I know that I was not the only one!
It took me a couple of hoursto get everything organized and make sure I had my table, chairs, clothing rack, display items, receipt book, square, backup charger (which you have to make sure it is all charged up), cash, bags, hangers, suntan lotion, water and snacks for the day. Then get all the product together, prepped, tagged and ready to go. Oh yeah, and load up the car. I did not have a canopy and I pack relatively light compared to most vendors, and yet my car was packed full.
Day of fest-
Get up and get to the fest 2-3 hours before it opens to set up. If there are a lot of vendors you have to leave space and time for everyone to set up. For me that meant getting there 2 hours before opening.
Set up-I'm lucky because I do not have too much complicated stuff to set up. I have to admit that I wish I had a tent and a better display today, yet I was lucky because it takes many vendors an hour to set up.
Sell- For seven hours in the heat or cold you stand and engage with your customers. Today I was lucky because the weather was lovely, but it was very sunny and I did not have a tent so I had the sun beating down on me all day. Oh yeah, and it was really windy so it took out my clothing rack a couple of times. If you are lucky, you have a kind neighbor who will watch your booth for you when you really have to run to the bathroom.
|I actually cleared off some of the excess stuff on my table but this was the first shot of the day|
Break down- Disassemble everything you put together that day and haul it to your car. If you are really freaking lucky a friend comes at the end of the day and is kind enough to help you. If said friend had not come I don't know if I would have had the energy to get everything to the car.
Everything I have mentioned covers what it takes to be a vendor at a fest and it does not include the hours it takes to source materials, prep materials and make the product. The day of the fest sees a maker recouping the labor they put into their product, but, depending on the fest, often they do not recoup the labor costs of participating in a fest.
There is a reason I am discussing this because a) while a fest can be a lot of fun to do it is exhausting and b) most of the shoppers I encountered did not even look at what was around them and it was very disheartening. I did engage with some very lovely people, but the people who stopped and took a look were few and far between. If it was only that people were passing up my booth I would just say my stuff was not interesting, but people were cruising by most of the booths.
My plea is- if you are attending a handmade market slow down and take a look.
- Engage with the maker. I try so hard not to be intrusive and I hang back until you talk to me because I don't want you to feel like I'm going to force you to buy something. What I really like about working a fest is getting a chance to talk to people and share the story behind each item.
- Appreciate the level of time and effort that someone took into making their product. If the price is too high for you then just put it down say thank you and walk away. Please do not tell me that you can get it somewhere else for cheaper because no you can't. Almost everything I make is limited edition. My prices reflect the amount the materials cost and the amount of labor.
- If you you find yourself saying 'I can make that at home' I would counter, but are you ever going to? Also, if you take a closer look you will see the little details that explain the cost of the item. For example, I was across the aisle from Daisy Bags and when I got up close and looked at her bags I could see all of the intricate details that go into each of her bags and why they are so flipping cool and well worth what she is charging.
- Support the handmade movement and indie makers. No really! For every independent business you support you make your city a vibrant place. You also help support fair labor practices and more often then not, environmentally friendly manufacturing practices. Now go shopping!
Originally published 5/5/13