Monday, September 20, 2010

Retro? Vintage? Fashion Watch!

There's a lot of chat about retro and vintage these days.  Etsy has an entire category dedicated to it and if you search for "vintage" you'll come up with over 800,000 items.  A search for "vintage" on Ebay comes up just short of 3 million listings.  When people started talking about "retro" and "vintage", I have to be honest -- I didn't get it.  I didn't understand why it was such a trend.  And in these past couple weeks, as I've been reading up on fashion trends for the future, I'm seeing a lot of "vintage" and "vintage inspired" looks heading our way.  So why is it so popular?  I'm not sure what everybody is thinking, but I can see a few reasons.

First, it's part of the "green" movement.  Instead of throwing things into landfills, we are looking for ways to re-claim an item's usefulness.  "Upcycled" and "repurposed" items are a hot commodity -- finding new ways to use old things.  Old blankets and quilts are made over into pillows, vests, stuffed toys and ornaments.   Blue jeans become purses.  Steampunk jewelry uses parts from old watches and well worn children's books are used to make stationery.  Old plates become clocks.  This etsy seller used an old chair to make an awesome tree swing:

Second, it's not unusual in difficult economic times to "tighten your belt" and "get along with what you've got".  Our grandparents and great-grandparents did it during the Great Depression of the 1930's and again during the World Wars.  If their clothes still "had wear in them", they wore them ... for 2, 3, 5 years or even longer, regardless of what the fashion trends were.  And when their clothes started wearing out, they cut them up and used them for quilts.  They "repurposed" ... not because they were concerned for the environment, but out of economic necessity.  For those of us feeling the economic crunch of our current day, we look around at what we have and envision new life for our old stuff.  Finding new ways to utilize old things not only feeds our need for financial consciousness, it brings a sense of satisfaction.  We are productive and have accomplished something beneficial.

And finally, it's the simple nostalgia of it.  It reminds us of times we remember as simpler and less complicated, easier, and less worrisome ... times when we felt safe.  It's grandma's house or an old photo album.  It's the connection to our roots and our families.  It's the smell of cookies baking or making snow angels.  It's drive in movies and the refreshment of going swimming on a hot summer's evening.  It's a family picnic with fresh-squeezed lemonade.  It's snuggling under a quilt with a big bowl of popcorn.

"Vintage" represents happiness and contentment, love and family, stability and perseverance, character and creativity.  Fashions have often been more a reflection of the culture than the leaders that shaped the culture and judging by the fashion trends I've been seeing lately, our clothes are going to reflect our desire for happier times.  While we're not going back to pillbox hats, some of the fashions are going to be cut simply and elegantly, much like Jackie Kennedy's wardrobe while other styles are going to be sweetly flowing romantics.

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible says that "there is nothing new under the sun" and there is an expression that "everything old is new again"  -- I think "vintage" is going to be with us for a while!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Colors of Spring

Fashion week is behind us.  The Spring 2011 colors and fashions have been introduced.   I'm absolutely no expert about forecasting colors but I've been trying to do as much reading as I can -- if you google "fashion color forecast spring 2011, you'll get way more info than you could ever possibly need!   But in my reading, a few major color trends have popped out at me -- so I'll share them.  

In general, over the past few years, colors for fashions as well as home decor have been fairly saturated and there has been much use of contrast to make colors really pop.  We're still going to see some of that with some rich tones being used, but there is also going to be a new trend toward soft washed pales -- looking very vintage.

It looks like blues are going to be really big in fashion colors next year!  I saw a lot of references to New Navy, a slightly lighter version of the traditional navy we all know.  I'm also seeing a LOT of Caribbean, water and sky blues in a range of aqua to turquoise.

I'm not seeing a lot of mid-range or clear, pure pinks for next spring -- pinks are soft and pale with hints of silver or nude OR they're fairly intense and bold.  The soft pinks will be very vintage light roses and the intense pinks are really going to pop!  Look for colors like shell pink, blush, salmon pink and aged light pink or watermelon, raspberry, fuchsia and honeysuckle.

Orange seems to be all over the place!  But in all the colors, there were really 2 basic trends -- rich, intense, saturated orange or pinkish coral shades.  It makes sense that orange will be big -- if you look at the color wheel, orange is opposite (or complementary) for blue.  I shared some color wheel info last spring regarding craft show displays but the color wheel is the same for any color application:
Look for melon, papaya, paprika, bird of paradise, peach, salmon, and coral, coral, coral!

I didn't pick up on any specific greens -- maybe I missed something?  It seemed to me that each designer was using whatever shade of green best suited the rest of their respective palettes.  Someone using intense colors also used intense greens -- someone using soft washed colors used soft washed greens.  It appears that greens will not be strong stand alone colors but will be used to add life to overall prints.

Plan on lots of red!  It works with nautical, florals or African inspired prints.  Reds are going to be rich and intense.  Look for poppy, lipstick and fiery reds.

The sunny lemon yellows that have been popular for the past few years are going to start to give way to yellows touched by honey or amber.  Look for sunflower, buttercup and beeswax.

Like the pinks (with little in the mid-range of colors), it appears that purples are either going to be color rich or the range of soft lavenders.  

LOTS of neutrals are coming down the pike!  There will be an abundance of blacks, whites, tans and grays, along with all their variations like ivory, bone, khaki, camel taupe and silver. 

A major style trend seems to be the use of neutrals or very soft colors with touches of intense colors to give them punch.  I see lots of gray or khaki or black & white prints touched with blues, corals or reds.

Some (but not all) of my information comes from this website:
You can download a pdf of the Spring 2011 fashion forecast.  I did read up several other sites which offered differing opinions.  While this post is not complete, it's a few of my broadest observations... and my observations may be somewhat influenced by my personal color preferences.  But this should give a general starting point for my design planning (and supply purchases) for next spring's inventory.  If you have other observations, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Country Girl

No doubt about it ... it's been a busy summer.  I expected to move but didn't (yet) so I packed (and now have to unpack stuff because I haven't moved).  And my business has kept me busy.  In anticipation of moving, I applied for a tax license in my new state and registered my business name.  And with a desire to offer more products, I have expanded my selection of colors and worked on some new designs.

I've also managed a few domestic moments.  I did a little gardening in buckets.  Got a little sewing done.  Experimented with a few new recipes.  We've picked blueberries about 4 times -- not sure how, but that became addictive.  And in some not-so-domestic moments, I've been able to go to a couple Nascar races (and have even fixed dinner for one of the Nationwide teams).

Before I knew it, our days have turned crisp.  A few leaves are starting to turn shades of gold and orange.  Farmers are harvesting crops.  And it's football season.

I'm just a simple country girl.  I like quiet pleasures and wide open spaces.  I love to play in the dirt (and call it gardening).  I like the smell of the breeze after the rain.  I love the sound of a shallow creek dancing over stones.  Even in my travels, I've loved the gentle drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean, the southwest deserts in bloom and sunset on Lake Michigan.  I love the colors, the views, the sounds and the smells (well, most of them -- there was this skunk....).

In a part of the world, very remote from my own, the big name fashion designers are launching their spring lines.  It's Fashion Week in New York City.  Now, I've always been a blue jeans and t-shirt kind of girl and I've never been interested in couture.  When I started making jewelry, it wasn't because I loved wearing it -- I loved the art, the craft, the sense of balance and the creativity of it.   But this year, for the first time in my life, I even bothered to pay attention to the fact that it's Fashion Week.  I'm watching the colors.  And when creativity inspires creativity, well, let's just say I have a few new ideas floating around my head.

It's not very likely that I'll be tempted to trade my jeans for runway style, but next spring, when the new clothes hit the racks at Macys, Penneys and Walmart, they will be coming out in the colors seen this week in NY.  And when you buy that cute new blouse or sassy dress, I'll have the perfect jewelry ready for you.  

Drop by anytime ... I'll leave the light on.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Color of the Week - Tanzanite

Tanzanite is actually a semi-precious stone found in the African country of Tanzania.  It's often lilac colored although as a stone, it can also be anywhere in a range of sapphire blue through violet through burgundy.  Inspired by this beautiful stone, Swarovski created the Tanzanite crystal ... and I've chosen Tanzanite as my color of the week.

I'm also featuring my design "Cheryl's Smile" -- named for my friend Cheryl who always makes me smile!  It has great "swing" and is one of my personal favorite styles (I have several colors!).

Please drop in for a visit at my Etsy shop -- click on the section called "My Favorite Girls" -- any jewelry found in that section can be specially made in Tanzanite.  From June 23-28 (2010), you may purchase designs in Tanzanite at 20% off*!  Please convo me with your requests and I'll prepare a special listing for you.

Cheryl's Smile in Tanzanite Crystals

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Color of the Week - Capri Blue

Want an amazingly cool summer blue?  Check out Capri Blue!  I've been in the Caribbean and there are places that the water is really that color -- awesome!  

I'm featuring my necklace design "Czarina" in Capri Blue as well as a pair of earrings, "Caressa" but you can choose any style found in "My Favorite Girls" section of my Etsy shop and ask for them in Capri Blue.  Since it's the Color of the Week, any style ordered by Monday, June 21, in Capri Blue will be 20% off! 

So come on over for a visit!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Color of the Week - Light Amethyst

This is my first week to feature a special color -- and I chose Light Amethyst crystals.  Light Amethyst is the Swarovski color for June's birthstone.  One of the more traditional birthstones for June is the pearl -- so mixing Light Amethyst with pearl is a great way to celebrate a June birthday!   In honor of Light Amethyst, I just listed a new pair of earrings -- Caressa!  They are really a sweet style and look great in any color!!

Please drop in for a visit at my Etsy shop -- click on the section called "My Favorite Girls" -- any jewelry found in that section can be specially made in Light Amethyst.  From June 8-14 (2010), you may purchase designs in Light Amethyst at 20% off*!  Please convo me with your requests and I'll prepare a special listing for you.  See ya soon!!

*only 1 discount per order

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring Observations

It's been an interesting month in my craft show world.  The first Saturday of the month, I did a show that was awful for most vendors.  For some odd reason, the organizers had placed most of the jewelry vendors in the same general area, and the show was very poorly attended.  The gal across the aisle from me, who sold jewelry, didn't have her first sale until half hour before the show ended.  The couple next to her, also selling jewelry, had only 1 sale.  The guy next to me, selling photography, had 1 sale for the day.  The guy behind me, selling foodie stuff, had the worst day he'd ever had.  I didn't.  It wasn't a spectacular day, but it wasn't bad either -- given the attendance, I'd say my day was "satisfactory".

Week 2, I was selling again .. well, sort of.  I don't know how much advertising the sale had and it wasn't a big show (maybe 20-25 vendors).  And as it happened, it was perhaps the worst weather for any show I've ever done.  Winds were blowing very hard -- probably 40-45 mph -- and temps were low with a threat of snow mixed with bitter rain.  It wasn't a good day to leave the warmth of your kitchen -- so not such a good day to be a vendor.  The upside was that I was "back home" in a town where I'd lived for 6 years and some of the people who did show up were old acquaintances -- I got to do some fun catching up!  But I didn't make much money.

The Week 3 show was the worst show I've had since my second show ever (almost 5 years ago) .... the one where I didn't even make my modest booth fee.  I made my fee this time, but little more.  It was a first time show, and the organizers realized during the course of the day that they had made a couple serious mistakes.  We had no customers in the afternoon and several vendors sat with the organizers and there was great communication and brain storming.  We vendors shared some of our experiences ... what worked and what didn't at other shows we've done.  The organizers took us seriously and took notes.  Next year will be different.  The organizers had done some things right too -- they had attended several other nearby shows last fall and made contact with potential vendors, gathering a list of 200 sellers.  They sent out an email invitation to their list, but the show only ended up having 11 vendors (6 of whom sold jewelry).  I wasn't one who had received their email -- I found their application online.  The event sounded like fun and there was no mention on the app that it was their first year.  I'm suspicious that it was mentioned in the email -- and vendors didn't want to take a chance on a first year show.  Part of the problem for sellers was their location in relation to other activities -- next year, vendors will be placed between parking and other events so customers have to pass through the vendor area.  It also didn't help that we'd had a week of rainy cold weather and Saturday was gorgeous -- people wanted to be out in their yards and gardens, not out at a craft show. 

It's sounding pretty grim so far, isn't it?  It gets better .... I promise!!

So last Saturday, I was at another show.   This one, well established.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect ...mid 70's and partly sunny with a very light breeze.  The show was a mix of craft vendors and plant vendors and done at a beautiful Art and Garden Museum facility.  There were at least 150 vendors and it was our first outdoor show of the season.  It was well attended and  I had my best craft show of the year ... woohoo!!

So it made me wonder ..... is everyone having a tough spring with low sales, or is there something I should be doing differently?   I don't lack confidence in my craft -- I hear too many positive comments and I personally feel good about it -- so I'm not questioning that.  Is it the economy?  Is it the show?  Or is it me?  Have I missed some little factor that would make a big difference? 

We had a few minutes to talk to a foodie vendor, who has also been a craft vendor, doing both for many years.  She said that she was having the best year ever.  That was a little discouraging at first .. but as we continued talking, she made the observation that while her customers are still buying, the size of their individual purchases is getting smaller.  She used to sell a lot of "large" size product, but lately she's selling lots more "medium" size.  As I thought about it, I realized that's also been my experience this spring as well -- most of the sales were from my $5 trays and I haven't sold many necklaces, which have higher price tags.  The two shows where I'd done very poorly were also very poorly attended -- so there just wasn't the quantity of people to compensate for the smaller size sales.  And the two shows where I've done moderately well, it's been because I've sold a bunch of my smallest earrings. 

So how is it going with you?  How are your spring shows?  Are you finding your sales lower .. or maybe smaller?   I'm optimistic about my summer shows.  I think as more people feel more secure about their jobs, they will "loosen up" and begin spending.   A lot of people are more relaxed with their spending because they don't have to pay high heat bills.  And a lot of people have been very careful for quite a while -- they are ready to throw off caution and do a little shopping.  I hope they shop with me!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sometimes Smaller is Better

Yes, it was good to go a little bigger with the stone jewelry -- it works better that way.  But not all that's bigger is better, as evidenced at the craft show we did this past Saturday.

For some odd reason, the organizers put a lot of the jewelry vendors in the same area.  Across the aisle from me, there were 3 jewelry vendors side by side.  I was on a "corner" so across the aisle to our side and 2 spots ahead of us was another, and 2 spots behind us was yet another.  Within 4 spaces of my booth in all directions, there were 9 other jewelry vendors -- pretty heavy saturation.  

The show was slow ..... I mean sssslllllllooooooowwwwwww.  There were few people, and those who were there were conservative in their spending.   The show hours were 9 to 3 and like most shows, packing up early was strongly discouraged.  But at 1:30, one of the jewelry vendors behind me was packing up -- can't say for sure, but suspect they weren't selling anything.  At 2, the lady from across the aisle came over to chat -- she was SO discouraged -- hadn't had a sale all day.  As we were packing up, we chatted with some of our neighbors about their day -- the guy next to us (selling gorgeous photography) only made 1 sale and the couple selling jewelry across from him only had 1 sale.  The lady who came to talk to me did have some activity around 2:30 -- looked like she made 1 sale.  The guy right behind me selling foody stuff (YUMMY) said that this was the worst show he'd ever done.  Another jewelry vendor said her day was "horrible .. disheartening". 

My day wasn't fabulous, but it wasn't bad either -- I was satisfied, particularly in light of how other vendors had done.  So what made the difference?  I mean, I'm selling jewelry ... and there are tons of us out there.  I've been making changes to my display these past few months and tweaking things in my business ... so on the way home, my husband and I discussed what we thought contributed to our success.  I don't want to mess with something that's working!!

We came up with a list.  I'll share more of that list next week -- because I also want to take some photos this weekend at a show we're doing to post with the points.  I looked around at other vendors and compared -- I wasn't trying to be critical but I definitely wanted to analyze why my sales were reasonable when others were doing so poorly.  I have 5 trays of little earrings that I offer.  Each tray  holds 50 pairs of earrings on 1x1" cards.  The earrings are very simple and small and all the earrings in the trays sell for $5 each.  Most customers think nothing of dropping $5 for an item at a craft show.  I'm pretty sure that a lot of them end up being for girls, and some get purchased by older women who don't like dangles.  They are good for complimenting another piece of jewelry -- when you've got to have earrings but don't want them to detract from a stunning necklace.  Teen athletic types seem to like them -- they have to keep their jewelry small, as do many in medical professions.  Last Christmas, one lady, who was the head nurse of a unit bought a pair for each of her crew -- 13 pairs!  Big earrings are trendy and I see jewelry crafters offering a lot of bigger items -- but at a show where many vendors weren't selling enough to cover their booth fees, those little trays of earrings were turning me a profit!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Going Big!

If you've seen my work, you know that a lot of my jewelry designs are delicate and petite.  I don't actually wear a lot of jewelry ... but I love making it!   But I don't like a lot of the really big stuff that's so popular.  Apparently, I'm not the only one -- because I sell a lot of the little stuff at the craft shows I do.

At shows, I have several trays of very small earrings.  They are usually very simple with just one or two crystals, pearls or stones and a very basic earwire.  I sell everything in those trays for $5 each -- they don't cost a lot to make and I can make several in an hour so it does come out ok for pricing.  I'm sure that some of them will be worn by children, some are purchased to coordinate with a larger piece of jewelry and some are for women who, like me, just like their jewelry small.
I have a line of semi-precious stone jewelry -- none of it is listed on Etsy yet -- and it includes a tray of earrings.  I do sell from that tray, but for the longest time, my stone jewelry hanging on the earring rack wasn't getting much attention at craft shows.  Last week, I decided to really "analyze" my collection -- I came to the realization that I was offering too much that was too small.  As I thought about it, I realized that people tend to buy the larger designs in the stones.  I have 3 or 4 designs that I've been carrying around for several years and have either sold only one or two pairs or none at all.  So I decided to try going with all my larger designs.  I had to make a bunch of earrings to fill in my display racks but it paid off.  If I were guessing (educated guessing, of course), I would say that I've only sold 3 or 4 pairs of earrings off that rack in my last 6 shows.  In fact, the sales have been so slow, my husband was encouraging me to drop the whole line.  This past Saturday I was in a craft show -- it was not well attended and a lot of vendors were unhappy with their low sales.  In spite of the selling conditions, I sold 5 pairs off that stone earring rack!   We'll see how it goes in the future, but if sales continue, this could be one of those little tweaks you have to do from time to time that make a world of difference!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Keeping it Safe

Yesterday I posted my little journey of the past days into a very scary craft show application zone (if you haven't read it, you probably need to so today's post will make sense).  I do want to make it clear that I'm not accusing the organizer of scamming anyone -- I never sent my check.  If I had, he may very well have returned it.  And, as I mentioned in one of my forum posts, he's organized a show before at that location -- he may have been planning on it when he set up his show season and website and when it didn't pan out, he just didn't change his web info.  I have neglected my Etsy shop and my blog from time to time -- laziness is not the same as fraud.  It's not the best management or the most professional, but that doesn't make it a scam.  I posted my story because I could see how easily it could have become a scam and I hope that sharing my experience will help others be more watchful.

One of my forum friends reminded me that there was a big scam in Boston using a Bridal Show as a front -- I knew about it.  Apparently, a show organizer took large sums of money from vendors for booth fees at a bridal show (such shows are usually far more expensive than craft shows) and even went so far as to advertise on a local radio station.  The whole thing looked very legitimate -- but wasn't and the vendors were left out in the cold.  While it's awful that the vendors were scammed like that, my concern is actually about the forms they filled out.  

I don't know about you, but a lot of the craft show forms I fill out ask for my tax ID or Social Security number -- in many states, show organizers are required to provide this information to state tax authorities (which I totally understand).  My issue with it is, that I may not get accepted into a particular show but I've provided my most private identity information to someone I don't know and who is unlikely to be bonded in any way.  I've begun enclosing a note with my applications stating that due to concerns over identity theft, I will not provide my private numbers until after I've been accepted to a show.  I'm sure that adds to the work load of the show organizer -- having to link my info to my application later on.  But identity theft is too big a problem for crafters to be handing their info to just anyone.  Many applications require a self addressed stamped envelope for the return of photos submitted -- I've gotten photos back, but have never gotten my application back.  What did the organizer do with it?  Where did my personal information go?   Those vendors in Boston not only lost hundreds and thousands of dollars in booth fees, which is tragic enough, but they also provided personal information to these same scammers.

I would like to challenge craft show organizers to find a different way of collecting and securing personal information from vendors -- maybe indicate to a vendor on the application that such information will be required after acceptance.  Add a "security page" to the application which can be filled out and returned after the vendor has been accepted ... or send a small form with their acceptance letter.   There needs to be some reasonable way for the vendor to provide that information without putting themselves in jeopardy of identity theft.

And for those of us who take credit cards from our customers, we need to have a secure method of handling and storing their information.   I use a knuckle buster at craft shows to take credit cards so I have a "paper trail" to prove the transaction -- but I also have to maintain those forms in a way that's secure.  I don't really want to reveal what I do here because I don't want to announce that on a blog and invite trouble -- but just know that I have a security plan for keeping my customer's credit card numbers safe.  

We need to be keeping it safe -- for ourselves and our customers. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

In the Nick of Time!

I had the application printed and filled out.  The check was written.  The envelope was addressed and contained the necessary photos.  And I was SO excited!!!  This craft show application was special!!  I was applying for a show that was supposed to be in a mall for the 3 days after Thanksgiving -- so I was going to be selling in a mall on Black Friday!!  My mind reeled with the possibilities!!  My head kept saying "cha-ching!  cha-ching! cha-ching!".  And I smiled.

Then I stopped in at the forum for one of my Etsy groups.  Another group member had just posted that friends of hers had signed up for a craft show, paid their fees, but when they arrived at the venue, there was no show.  I wasn't worried about my application -- the organizer of my show had been doing this for several years in a number of locations -- if he hadn't been honest, he wouldn't be in business anymore.  But some of his material was a bit vague so I posted a question about the organizer -- had anyone done any of his shows?  One vendor had -- she was unhappy that he allowed so much non-handmade junk and she felt that he had inflated the attendance numbers for the show she'd done.  I wasn't worried about non-handmade items .. after all, I was going to be in a mall.  And I wasn't worried about attendance -- I've been in this mall on Black Friday -- no concerns whatsoever about the number of people!  I dismissed everything, but in the back of my mind, there was a little voice.

The booth fees for this show are quite high compared to most shows, which I expected.  And the booth sizes were a bit small -- I was going to be cramped.  I had also been hoping to involve both my husband and maybe a couple kids as helpers -- the sheer number of people in the mall could be overwhelming and I know I need help to do this show.  I was having some second thoughts -- loved the idea of possibly selling that much stuff but the thought of being crammed into a small space for hours and hours over 3 days was a concern.  I get tired doing a 9-3 show with a normal booth size -- would I be able to physically handle the demands of this show?  None of the information, either on the website or the application, gave the hours of the show -- everything was qualified as "mall hours".  I was also running a bit late for the first application deadline, so thought maybe I should also make sure there was still space available -- I could only imagine how quickly a show would fill up for that location on that weekend.  Before mailing my application,  I emailed the organizer with my questions about times and space availability ... and waited.  After several days passed without response, my little voice was getting louder.    

I called the mall.  I figured they would know what the hours were ... and while I was talking to them, I'd find out about the craft show.  Interesting chat.  They knew about this organizer -- he had done shows in the mall before.  Good.  But there was no show scheduled for this year.  WHAT?!?!!  The voice on the other end repeated ... there was no show this year.  Why did I think there was?  I'd seen it on a website.  Well, the website was misinformed.  There is no show at the mall this year.  

So here I sit.  A little disappointed that I won't be selling jewelry at the mall on Black Friday (I'm still hearing an echo of cha-ching!) but quite relieved that I never got around to sending that application.  I'm glad I had a little voice .. and that I didn't totally ignore it.  And obviously, I'm going to recommend to my friends that before they apply for an expensive show, they need to check it out.  I don't know that this guy even deliberately tried to defraud anyone -- it would be a stupid thing to do for an established organizer.  He HAD done shows at the mall in the past and may have assumed that he would be able to schedule this one.  I'm not impressed by his organizational skills and not enthused with his communication skills, but I don't know that he intended to defraud -- that might be a bit harsh.  But I'll never know.  Because this application is about to find it's way into my shredder. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Craft Shows -- a few last thoughts

Well, I have a few last thoughts before I wrap this series up.  I appreciate all the kind feedback and I”m glad that it’s been helpful for some of you!   I was going to split this post up but wanted to get it all finished in March .. JUST made it!!

Plan for easy set up and tear down.  You don’t want to spend a lot of  time getting set up before a show and when it’s done, you’ll be ready to hit the road and head for home.  Craft shows can be a LOT of fun, but they can also be tiring – when it’s over, you’re ready to be out of there!  So, when planning your display, plan for keeping it easy before  and after.  Easy tear down can be especially important for an outdoor show – sudden bad weather can cause you to have to hustle.  We were at a show where a tornado watch closed the show down – we had to get packed and out in minutes!

Plan for security.  Make sure your whole display is easily visible from wherever you are going to stand or sit.  It’s not pleasant to think of people stealing from you, but it happens.  Don’t make your display part of the problem.

Plan for storage.  Not that this will affect your sales at a show, but if you’re considering your display, keep storage in the back of your mind.  You may have a gorgeous display – but if you can’t get it in your vehicle and get it to the show, it won’t help you much.  I’m “space challenged” (I live in an RV full time) so it’s a much bigger consideration for me than for most but just because you have a whole room where you CAN store your displays doesn’t mean that you want to USE a whole room to do it!

If possible, show how your craft will be used.  Some things are obvious – if you make aprons, wear an apron.  If you make jewelry, use some busts.  If you make crocheted hats, put some on mannequin heads.  Something I’m considering (another item on my wish list) is using a digital photo frame in my display that slideshows through photos of my jewelry, including people wearing it.  As I want to do more to market to brides, I can show photos of brides and wedding parties wearing my jewelry.  But I don’t want to limit myself to that – so I’ll also show photos of women in business suits or teen in t-shirts wearing my earrings.

Now, go wander through your local building and craft stores – keep your eyes open for ideas and be prepared to think outside the box.  If you’re not handy, you probably know someone who is – tap those resources.  There are lots of ideas on the internet – some are good, some not so much.  Take your time and think through your display plan.

I have ideas for different types of displays (because we are builders, I spend a LOT of time at Home Depot and Lowes).  If I were selling bath/spa products, I might make a display of risers, maybe 2 steps high, using 4x4" spa green bath tiles – the fronts of each step would be a tile high and the shelf of each step would be a tile deep and to keep the weight and size manageable, I’d make it about 4 tiles long.  If I wanted more display space, I’d make additional units..  Something like this would give the display a spa feel while doing double duty in giving it vertical dimension.  I might also add a tall glass column vase filled with bath puffs or soaps.  The whole display would be in spa green, white and tan and maybe next to the vase, I’d put a seashell.  Add a small stack of folded towels and you’ve got a great display!  If I made candles, I’d definitely use the digital photo idea – you can’t have open flames at most craft shows, so I’d take short digital movies of candles in different settings and play them continuously.  

If you’re having a hard time being objective about your display, you may want to give this a try: set up your display in your garage or backyard, and then PLAY with it.  If you have more than 1 table, move it around in every possible configuration, even if you don’t think it will work that way.  Once you feel like you have a good traffic flow, start arranging and re-arranging the way your display is set up.  And my biggest recommendation here is that you take a picture of EVERY change you make .. in arranging the tables and then arranging your display.  If you have different colored table cloths, try them. If you have or can borrow different colored table skirts, try them.  Use cardboard boxes to stack things.  If you find an arrangement you like, you can use appropriately sized crates or fabric covered boxes or acrylic shelves.  If you don’t use tables, try ladders, shutters, or shepherds hooks.  Could you use a small antique cabinet or an antique child’s chair?   Look around your house and your garage – be open to try anything -- think outside the box.  But keep taking those pictures.  Our brains overlook or look past things sometimes – the camera sees it all.  I discovered this principle just this week.  I’ve changed my display from last summer and needed new photos for some juried craft shows.  So I put my whole canopy set up together to take photos – when I looked at the photos, I saw some things I hadn’t really seen before.  I have 3 small tables that I’ve loved because I could configure them any way I needed to depending on my booth space – so I took my photos in several different configurations.  Turned out that one of them is really awful – looks crowded and if more than 2 people are there browsing, it’s going to be tight.  I’ve used that configuration a couple times – never saw if before but it was SO obvious in the photo!

And then, always be READY.  
I took those jury photos in to be printed.  When I picked them up, the photo lady RAVED about my jewelry, my photos, and my display.  She said that everything looked professional and was so beautiful – it was a great massage for my ego!  I gave her a business card. 
Last Saturday night, after we’d been at our craft show/expo for the day, my dear honey took me to our favorite restaurant for dinner. We have gotten to know some of the staff and the hostess who seated us knows what regulars we are – we always chat for a minute when she takes us to our table.  Of course, coming from a show, we told her about our day.  Turned out her sister is getting married this summer and hasn’t found jewelry for her wedding party yet.  We got a few necklaces from the car and showed them to her – she loved them!  She took my card to give to her sister.  She also gave me her card with her sister’s name and wedding colors.  I stopped at David’s Bridal on my way home and picked up the swatches.  I have crystals to match.

I don’t know if either of these situations will result in sales – I’m hoping.  But my point is, there are opportunities if you’re keeping your eyes open and ready to meet them.  You don’t have to be pushy (I’m really quite shy in person) – just let people know that you’re AVAILABLE and you have solutions to meet their needs.  If you love what you do, you’ll talk about it .. with enthusiasm .. and enthusiasm is contagious!  

¸.•´ ¸.•*´¨)¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•`¤~♥ ♥ ♥ ¸.•*¨)Sales fairy dust on you all!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Bad and The Beautiful

Having just written this series of blogs, during a lull in the show I just did, I walked around and observed the displays and vendors of various booths.  This show was an expo, not a craft show .. so the vendors were not only crafters, they represented various home based sales companies and small local businesses.  Some of the displays were very professional, some were not.  I don't want to sound critical or arrogant, but display issues have just been on my mind and it would have been hard not to notice the bad as well as the good.

One lady had a nice display – not spectacular but pleasant enough.  But as I walked by, she didn’t even look up from the book she was reading.  I didn’t stop. 

Another lady was selling some kind of hand care product .. she nearly chased me down as I passed.  I politely told her “no thanks” and smiled as I walked away ...she was still calling after me when I was 3 booths away.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be the booth next to her. 

There was a lady there, selling jewelry, whose display needed serious help.  She had the part right about different levels, but nothing else.  I felt bad for her actually.  Her booth was in view of ours, and very few people stopped to look at what she was selling.  She had 2 long tables, covered in cloth ... but not table cloths ... and the cloth had edges that weren’t finished, so had a couple fraying strings dangling down.  There were 2 cloths on each table (so 4 pieces) in 3 different colors – black, white and blue.  One cloth hung over the edge of the table with a 6" drop, the other at a 10 or 12" drop.  Then she had quite a hodge podge of different jewelry display pieces – some in white, some in black some in gray and some that were wood – they were all different shapes and sizes and there was no rhyme or reason to their placement.   It made for a pretty chaotic looking display. Simply having 1 cloth on each table, edges finished, well fitting and having even drops would have seriously improved her display.  And if she had at least grouped the same colored display pieces together, her booth would have looked worlds better.  I know she didn’t see her display through the eyes of a prospective buyer.  Her work was nice .. some very cute stuff .. but her display really detracted from it and I’m sure her sales suffered for it. 

On the other hand, there was another gal there, who sold handpainted wooden knick knacks and yard decor – also very cute – and her display was very cool.  She had taken louvered closet doors and painted them all a distressed white.  Louvers were strategically removed and white shelves were placed through the gaps, creating a rustic and very interconnected look.  Her wares were then placed, grouped by color and she’d used the space from the floor to just above people’s heads.  She must have had 2 booth spaces because she had several of these units forming a U shape with an “island” unit in the center..  Customers walked through her display like a little path – and I don’t think a single customer walked PAST her booth.  Not everyone who looked made purchases, but everybody looked!

A home sales jewelry company was represented.  Their display was very attractive and well designed (I’m suspicious that the company offers design plans or some kind of professional training or help) and the ladies in the booth were well attired – made me think “I need to spiff up – this is my competition”.

I took a look at my own display – not bad but needs a little spit and polish (well, maybe we better stick to polish!).  The lights are great – really make the crystals pop!  My table cloths are a little too big – sewing project coming up.  My current cloths are white but not long ago, I picked up couple new colors (Bed Bath and Beyond was having a clearance!) – we’ll experiment with which colors look best.  We may consider scaling down a bit but display to give more emphasis on specific styles.   Note to self – making my display look “fresh” to me isn’t necessarily looking fresh to customers -- keep looking at it with objective eyes..  And we’re going to start looking for folding chairs that are more of a directors style or bar stool height – it would put us at better eye contact with customers without having to stand all day – which might help us feel a little “fresher” later in the day. 

Oh Man! I Forgot ... Again!!

In January, my husband had the opportunity to go to the International Home Builders Show in Las Vegas.   Builders, like my husband, attend this show to see the newest innovations and technology being used in the construction industry and it covers all phases of construction from design to completion.  Exhibitors pay thousands to hundreds of thousands for their space for this 4 day show.   We have encountered some specific problems on our current project and Keith wanted to see what kinds of solutions were available, since there is usually more than one solution.  Why would a vendor, who has spent thousands of dollars for a booth, have people working for them who spent all their time on their cell phones?  Keith knew he wanted to talk to several companies but at a couple booths, the people were on their cell phones and made no effort to interact with customers.  In fact, Keith returned to these booths a couple times and no one would talk to him ... because they were on their cell phones.

We've attended other types of shows and had the same experiences -- people who are supposed to be there to answer questions, take our money or tell us about their product -- but they weren't available because they were on the phone.

When you are selling at a craft show, and there is anyone remotely near your booth, STAY OFF THE PHONE!!  If you are on the phone, you WILL lose sales... and aren't sales the reason you're there?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Craft Show Selling Tips

Craft Show Tips for Success

- be sure your product is high quality and well made
This may sound a little harsh, but you need to be really honest with yourself about your product and the quality of the work you do as well as the quality of materials.  If you’re going to be successful, it has to be top notch.  When I started selling jewelry, I used silver plated findings – they were less expensive and actually, because silver is a soft metal, findings that were nickel with silver plating were sturdier.  BUT, if the silver plating chips or wears off and exposes the metal beneath, the customer may have an allergy problem and you risk making the customer unhappy.   Unhappy customers aren’t return customers.

- have adequate stock
Plan to reasonably fill your table or display space.  Figure on 2-3 times the amount you might typically sell.  I have actually been concerned a couple times that I might have too much available – that it’s overwhelming for the customer and they are unable to make a decision, so they walk away.  But I’m leary of cutting back on my stock for fear that I’ll lose sales because I don’t have a color readily made.  It’s a dilemma.

- well displayed
See my blogs from March 24 and 25 for more details about displays.

- priced to sell
Don’t price too high.  Don’t price too low.  Pricing too high will discourage sales, but pricing too low will affect the “perceived value” and people won’t buy because they are afraid it’s poorly made.  If you’re really uncertain about your prices, attend a couple local shows and check out the prices of vendors whose work is similar to yours or check online stores..  I include sales tax in my prices and keep my prices at whole numbers – making change is quick and easy because I deal in all dollars and no coins.  It’s also a good idea to have a range of prices to appeal to a range of budgets.  I have several trays of small, simple earring styles that I offer for $5 each – my higher end necklaces top out around $75 and I offer a variety of items priced in between. 

- update your stock
My designs are intended to be duplicated.  I currently offer 47 colors of crystals, and customers can order any design in any color crystal.  But that doesn’t mean I should display the same earrings show after show, year after year.  I’m too creative to stop at my current portfolio of styles .. and it wouldn’t be good for my repeat customers.  My market would be very quickly saturated if I only offered the same old designs all the time.  I change some of my stock from season to season – in spring I may display a particular pair of earrings in pink, light green, violet or light blue.... in summer, I may display the same style in fuchsia or turquoise and in the fall and winter, I may display them in autumn colors or jewel tones.  And I’m constantly developing new designs which get added to the displays.  Slow sellers are eliminated – so you need some idea what’s selling and what’s not.

- be prepared to answer any possible question
Can I ship?  Internationally?  Would I be interested in selling on consignment?  Can I lengthen or shorten that necklace?  Do I gift wrap?  What are my wholesale prices?

- look professional
Be on top of your personal hygiene – have hair fixed, smell freshly showered, brush your teeth.  Be clean.  Use deodorant.  Wear make up.  Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed... and well fitting.  Jean may be comfy, but unless your craft really demands them, you need to wear something a little nicer.  No t-shirts, especially with printed messages on them (seriously ... no beer ads!).  Think “Smart Casual”.  Men should wear “Dockers” and either a button down shirt, polo style shirt or sweater.  Ladies should wear dress pants or skirts and a nice blouse.  A cheery, feminine sundress can be great for summer shows.  Make sure your colors match and know that they are a good color for your complexion.  And the most important thing to wear?  A smile!

- have professional supplies
Have sharp business cards.  Have some type of neat packaging to protect purchased items – plastic bags, paper bags, gift boxes.  Unless you do calligraphy or some kind of phenomenal handwriting, use a computer to print any important signage.  Consider promotional literature like rack cards, brochures or coupons and make sure all your promotional literature is carefully printed.  I’ve noticed that I like my business cards printed on glossy paper – they look a LOT classier!  This is not to say that you can’t use fun fonts to create coupons or flyers – just keep it clean.  I attended a show and visited the booth of a jewelry maker whose style was similar to mine.  She handed me a card with her contact info and a price list – the information was poorly laid out and confusing on the card, and the card itself had crumpled corners.  It was just tacky – not a positive impression for me at all.  I went home and examined my materials trying to be objective – and I made a few simple changes that really polished up my stuff!

- have prices visible
Let customers browse and make your prices easy to find.  If they have to ask about every item that interests them, they will get annoyed and walk away... especially if you’re too busy to answer them.

- demonstrate if you can
At craft shows, I offer to make custom jewelry “on demand” – and if possible, when setting up our booth space, I try to be seated where customers can watch me work.  I’m a bit on the shy side, but do well with kids – it’s not unusual to have a child or two watching me work... and mom shops.   The more jewelry I sit and make, the more I sell -- it’s like a magnet!.  25 to 40% of my show sales are custom made, either by substituting posts, making custom color combinations or even sitting with a customer to make their own design (they LOVE playing ... and seeing their own ideas become a reality!).

-be prepared to take special orders
Some customers may want something in quantities or colors that you don't have on hand -- but you can do a special order for them!  I've had special orders that were as much as my sales for the day -- made an average day very profitable!  Take a notebook or order book along to your shows (you can find order books in office supply stores).  Decide ahead of time how you want to handle policy issues -- payment, shipping, returns -- so you're prepared.  Consider customer needs when making your payment policy -- remember that if you were the customer, you would want some way to protect yourself financially.  If you don't have a Paypal account, it would be wise to establish one -- it allows the customer to pay with a credit card as well as offering some protections for them.  You may know you're ethical, but to most customers, you're a total stranger.  Your policies should give them confidence in you and your professionalism.  Just one good sale will make all your efforts worthwhile!!

-take a sales partner
Usually, some time during the day, you’re going to need to find a rest room or something to eat – having a person there to help is a huge benefit!  And if it gets busy, you’ll need the help.  And in my case, because I’m making custom requests, I need someone to keep the sales moving and keep an eye on things.  We like to think that customers are all honest, but unfortunately, you have to be prepared for “light fingered” shoppers -- my selling partner (usually my husband) is a second set of eyes, especially when things get busy..  Also in my case, because I’m shy, it can be hard for me to “sell”, but my husband, who is very outgoing, is great at talking to people – he’s never met a stranger!   So I make, he sells ...together we make a good team! 

- NEVER indulge in your vices while at a show – this is not the time to smoke or use alcohol.  Never use foul or crude language – it’s just not professional.  Never argue with your sales partner or raise your voices.  Never talk trash or be critical .. of anyone.  

- Don’t read.  If you look bored, people will walk right past.

- Don’t sit and chat with your sales partner while customers are browsing your wares.  Your customers deserve your attention and expect it.   Some customers may feel that they’re intruding on your conversation .. .and they’ll walk past your booth.

- Don’t eat or drink if it’s busy in your booth.

- Don’t just sit there while customer come by to browse.  My husband stands for nearly the whole show – if I’m not making something special, I try to stand to give him a break to go sit down.  We’ve noticed that if we both sit, people just keep walking past. 

- Be friendly and courteous, but not pushy.  We have a short “opening spiel” that introduces some basics to customers when they stop by my booth.  It’s informative and usually includes some little humorous line to keep things light.  We let people know that everything is made with sterling silver (so is likely not an allergy problem), that my crystals and pearls are all Swarovski and that I can make any style in any color or mix of colors – my husband usually adds “school colors, team colors, birthstone colors, colors for your wedding party” and sometimes something fun like “my husband is hunting so I”m shopping colors” – always brings a laugh!  It seems to put people at ease and they linger longer to browse .. and often buy.  And this might be a good place to mention that sometimes, customers are rude or critical -- don't let it shake you -- SOME people are just never happy.  "Just smile and nod, boys.... smile and nod".  :)

- let people touch your items
Some people need to pick it up, handle it, try it on ... and letting them do so can really add to your sales.  If you sell something wearable, be sure to have a mirror handy so people can see how they look.  If you sell earrings, don’t let people try them on – if they don’t purchase them, you have something that’s been in someone’s ears ... and that’s just gross for the person who eventually buys them.  But let them try on a necklace.  Let them feel the weight of your product, see the color, feel the softness of the fabric or the smoothness of the wood or the thickness of the quilt.  If you sell something that can be offered in samples, by all means, offer samples!  People use all their senses – feed their senses!

- keep your display neat
If customers pick up items, they don’t always put them back down in the same spot – and your display can get to looking untidy, which will discourage passing customers from stopping.  And if there’s a lull in the action, being out at the front of your display makes it look like someone is there browsing ... and customers seem to like shopping at a busy table. 

- Be friendly and courteous to other vendors.
Some of my best sales have come from other vendors.  If they’re having a good day, they have the extra cash to buy too.  And being sociable with other vendors is just good practice – keeping things friendly makes your whole day better.  Be conscious of where your displays are in relation to your neighboring booth – don’t infringe on their space.  If we are next to someone who is working alone, we will offer to watch their booth so they can take a break.

- have adequate change on hand
If you run out of the right change, you could lose a sale.  I usually take $100 in ones and fives, with a ten or two – and that’s normally sufficient.  You may not need quite as much for a small sale but you may need more for a really big craft show.

- take credit cards
You’ll get higher average sales and more impulse purchases.   I use Propay and have been happy with it.  They have several options ... you should be able to find one that’s right for you.  Check with your bank or credit union – some of them offer good options too.

- take a bottle of water and something to snack on
It’s almost inevitable that there will be down time sometime during your show day – take advantage of the lull to catch a quick drink or snack.  We don’t eat at the same time – so one of us is always available for customer service.  If it’s a warm summer show, the extra water isn’t just a convenience ... it’s a necessity! 

- above all, have FUN!!!
If you’re having a blast, it will be contagious .. customers will be drawn to you and your booth.  So get enough sleep the night before.  Do some pre-planning and organization ahead of time so that on the day of the show, you’re able to relax and feel confidant that you’re ready to take on the day!  Smile warmly, laugh often and have a good time!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Display Thoughts - Creating a Scheme

Ha!  Couldn't wait until tomorrow!  I started
writing about color in this morning's post
but as I wrote, I decided it merited it's own

One consideration when choosing your color
scheme comes from the  color wheel. You may
be familiar with this, but if you’re not,
or you haven’t thought about it lately, 
we’ll  do a quick primer.  
There are 3 primary colors: blue, red and yellow.
All colors, with the exception of white,
which is all colors and black which is the
absence of color, come from the 
use and mixing of these 3 colors.
Mixing blue and yellow 
produces green, blue and red make purple
and red and yellow make orange.
Those mixed colors are
secondary colors.  
Mix those 6 colors with their
next door neighbors and you end up with
the 6 tertiary colors – blue and green equal
blue green.

Now that we have our 12 basic colors, we can play!
By mixing any of these colors with a primary color, white or black, thousands of colors are created depending on the proportions of the mix.  From those mixtures, we’ll put together a combination of colors to use in our booth displays.   Certain combinations of colors are more comfortable than others while some combinations create drama or intensity.   This is a list of the most common color "harmonies":

Mono-chromatic colors 
   - using 1 color in multiple shades of light and darkness
Complimentary colors
     - using 2 colors that fall opposite each other on the 12-color wheel
Analogous colors 
     - are any 3 colors that fall beside each other on the 12-color wheel
Triadic colors
     - 3 colors that are equal distance on the wheel

As artists, most of us probably have a better “inner sense” about color than others.  When we see a striking floral arrangement or a stunning quilt, much of what makes it beautiful to us is the combination of colors.  As you think about the different color harmonies, what thoughts pop out about each type?  Mono-chromatic done poorly is boring ... mono-chromatic done well is striking and elegant.  Complimentary colors can be bold .. and you can get away with it!  Think of a purple pansy with a yellow eye or a bowl of ripe strawberries, rich and red with their green stems still intact.  Such colors need to be used with care however – if the quantities of the colors are off, it can also create tension.  Analagous colors often exude a certain softness, even if the colors are bold.  Red on it’s own is pretty intense, but a mix with a bit of it’s analogous neighbors can subdue it.  I find triad combinations pretty harsh on their own, but when using the mixed versions, they can be very comfortable.  Take purple, orange and green – a perfect triad, but a little too much color!  Add white – now you have lavender, peach and minty green – a lovely spring combination.  Or go dark and gray them down – you have plum, persimmon and forest green – very rich!    

Colors have their own language and different colors evoke different emotions -- there is a "psychology" of colors.  Think of reds, oranges and yellows as "hot", sunshine colors.  They tend to bring out more intense feelings -- they may make people feel warm and friendly but can also stir up feelings of anger.  They are also active colors -- they can attract a lot of attention but also make people want to move.  A few years back, as more color was introduced into the wardrobes of the business world, red was a well known "power color".  Think of blues and greens as "cool" colors -- they are passive colors -- they make people relax or feel calm, although they make some people feel sad.  Blue is a very popular color -- very often given as a favorite, and it's associated with peacefulness and calm -- but it's also the color we use to express depression ..."I've got the blues today".   Colors have strong personal associations for people as well -- of you were in a terrible accident with a green truck, you may dislike green because you associate it with that painful memory.  When choosing a color scheme for your booth, consider how certain colors make you feel -- you'll be spending a lot of hours in your booth during a show so it needs to be a pleasant experience for you.  If a color makes you feel depressed, you're not going to want to spend 6 or 8 hours with it -- by the end of the day, you'll be emotionally exhausted.   This list gives the common and typical associations for colors:
Red       love, strength, danger, anger
Orange  warmth, enthusiasm, liveliness, demands attention
Yellow  joy, happiness, sunshine, cowardice
Green   nature, health, spring, fertility, generosity, envy
Blue      tranquility, calm, harmony, integrity, trust, sadness
Purple   royal, spiritual, wise, mysterious, exotic, mourning
Black     power, sensuality, elegance, formality, wealth, mystery, fear, mourning
White    purity, cleanliness, simplicity, coolness, sterility

Pastels (color mixed with white) tend to soften the impact.  We associate them with new life -- spring and babies.  Most are considered pleasant.  Colors mixed with gray, such as burgundy (red + gray), denim (navy + gray), seafoam green (green + gray) also tend to soften the effect and are often a bit more calming.  Colors mixed with cream, like rose or herbal greens, are warmed and softened.   Certain colors are characterized as "traditional" -- colors like navy, hunter green and burgundy.  They may rise or fall in popularity but they are timeless and always in good taste.  Trendy colors would follow current fashion or decorating trends and can be used quite effectively for your color scheme, but plan to change your booth every couple years or you'll look outdated.

Years ago, it was all the rage to have your “colors done” – based on your skin tone and the colors of your features (like eyes and hair), you were characterized as being a certain “season”.  Each season had a particular palette of colors that looked best on them.  Winters and Summers were “cool” seasons and look best in cool colors.. Springs and Autumns were “warm” seasons and look best in warm colors.  One the odd things they found though, is that we tend to gravitate toward the colors in our own season.  If you think about the clothes in your closet that make you feel your best, your most confidant or bring you the most compliments, chances are, they are colors in your season.  My mom and I got our colors done together – she has always loved peach, I’ve always disliked it.  Turned out she was a spring (think peach, yellow, green) and I was a winter (think blue, red, black) – she looks sick in black but great in peach, I look fabulous in black and horrible in peach.  So our feelings about colors are different based on our own natural inclinations.  It doesn’t make a huge difference in selecting your color scheme, but if you pay attention to your own preferences, you may notice a trend – and it’s a good idea to understand it.  For what it’s worth, more people are “cool” than “warm”.

TIP: when considering your combinations, whatever you do to one color, you should do to all.  If you add white to one color to make it more pastel, try adding white to your other two colors.  It’s not a rule, but you may find the combination to be more pleasant.
TIP: 1 color should be dominant, the other colors should be in smaller doses
TIP: our brains like to process information in odd numbers .. which is why 3 is very common grouping.
TIP: we may like odd numbers but we also dislike too many colors; if using a lot of colors, such as an African print, be sure 1 color is very dominant

And here’s a link to the colors that people like the most and least:

SO ... now that I’ve totally confused you with way more information than you ever wanted to know about colors, it’s time to consider your options.  It might help to answer some of these questions: (make a list of the colors for each answer) 
Is your craft associated with a particular color or theme? (Like pastels for baby items?)
Would your craft be considered a certain style (Victorian, retro, cottage, modern)?
What colors are associated with that style?
What kind of message do you want your colors to convey?
   Bold = daring
   Traditional = comfortable, safe
   Pastels = sweet, innocent
What colors would draw attention without overpowering your product?
What colors do you like?

Now that you have your list, is there a particular color that pops out at you?  Picking a scheme is as easy as choosing 1 main color, then applying one of the harmonies to come up with a combination for your display.

Play around with different ideas.  Ask your friends what colors appeal to them.  See what stores do in their windows (if you can find a store with a window).  Then put together a stunning craft show display!

Display Thoughts - Creating a Theme

Your craft show display has a number of practical elements to it -- size, cleanliness, traffic flow -- but it should also have personality!   An interesting display will attract more people and potentially more sales.  Your craft show booth shouldn't look like an afterthought -- it should be one of the tools you use to lure people in to look at your product.  Consider that large department stores have professionals to design their window dressing -- and there's a reason for that -- their goal is to attract customers.  Your craft show booth may only be 10x10, but you still need to think like a window dresser!
Create an overall theme or color scheme.  If your product is for children, use bright cheery colors.  If it’s for babies, use sweet pastels.  Consider your style too and make your color scheme fit.  I make jewelry with lots of crystals and pearls and most of it has a fairly Victorian feel to it (and these days, I’m also trying to market to brides) – so my table skirts are hunter green, my table cloths are white (although they are also interchangeable with pale green or pale pink cloths) and I decorate with a few small bouquets of pink roses.  Make sure your colors or scheme don’t overpower your product – they should enhance it.  By the way, I’ve followed through with my theme in my business cards, which are hunter green background with flourishes and a few little pink roses (if you look at the banner in my Etsy shop, it also coordinates – it’s part of my branding.  If you have a web page or Etsy shop, utilize some of the elements in your banner to create a connection in the minds of your customers.  And be creative about your theme – if you sell jewelry of semi-precious stones, consider a Caribbean or African theme; if you sell teddy bears, do a “teddy bears picnic”; if you sell aprons, add a couple touches of retro kitchen; if you make soap, try to create a “spa” atmosphere.  One online friend makes macrame plant hangers – she’d found a great deal on a rack used for apparel in department stores which was ideal for displaying her wares, but knew she needed a little something more.  I suggested that she head to her building store and get a small section of fence and place it at the end of her rack, then decorate it with flowers to create a garden feel – she loved the idea!  You don’t necessarily need a lot to set the mood, but a couple good props, strategically placed, can make your booth way more interesting – and isn’t “interest” what you want?

A word of caution however -- don’t be too busy looking.  If you look cluttered or disorderly, it can be overwhelming.  Keeping things in the right balance between full and neat will really pay off.  Make sure your display has a visual flow that’s natural for the eye.  Think of your display as a room, needing a focal point -- put a best seller in a prominent place and arrange the rest of the “room” around it to enhance it.  I have to be honest here and tell you that I haven’t actually done this as much as I’d like to yet – but as I’ve been considering how to polish my displays, I’ve realized this is an area I need to improve.  My husband and I are working on a plan to develop a stronger focal point in my display – and I'm very optimistic about the direction we’re going.

To music or not to music?  That will depend on the show and may depend on the time of year.  I think a little Christmas music helps set a great mood at holiday shows!  Music can add to the overall feel of your booth.  Just be sure you’re not too loud and not competing with someone else’s music.  Your music selections (and volume) should draw people, not repel them, and they should be appropriate to your theme.  Sweet little lullabies would be a great addition for the crafter making baby apparel.  Fun pre-school songs would be great to enhance kids toys.  Pachelbel’s Canon in D would be a great addition to my booth.  Nature instrumentals would work for spa products and a little homey bluegrass might be a good choice for the maker of fine jams and spreads.  Do keep an eye on your show information -- some shows may not allow music.

Keep in mind that your attire can reinforce your theme – wear a denim skirt and checked shirt if you make homestyle jams or wear a rich African print if you make stone jewelry.  Guys who do woodworking look great in buffalo checks or flannel plaids.  As we consider doing bridal shows, I know that my husband will wear his black suit with his silvery gray shirt and tie while I wear my silvery gray linen dress – it’s a classy combination and perfect for a wedding venue. 

Lighting can be important, especially for indoor shows.  Keep in mind that at indoor shows, most lighting is going to be flourescent, which will distort color – if you make a product (particularly with fabric or glass) where the color is important, consider the use of lights.  Place lights so they enhance your product but don’t glare into customer eyes.  We use a string of puck lights, placed behind and slightly below our earring displays – the light comes from behind the crystals, making them sparkle – and it attracts a lot of attention.  Even if you’re not concerned with color distortion, consider using lights – good lighting look professional and can be part of your scheme. 

Signage should look professional.  Use your computer and quality cardstock to make attractive signs.  Most craft stores offer individual sheets of cardstock – choose colors to compliment your theme.  I have not yet invested in a banner for my booth, but that’s on my “wish list”.  Banners and signs should be sharp and crisp and  should further enhance (not detract from) your display.  Memorable is good!

Tomorrow -- A Primer on Colors

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Display Thoughts - Making a Plan

First and foremost, what is the most important point in developing your display?  Why, sales of course!  So the focus on your display should put the focus on your display.  What do you need to do to draw favorable attention?  What will catch the customer’s eye and cause them to stop at your booth?  You used imagination to create your product ... now use some imagination to create your displays!   And remember that this is a shopping “experience” – how can you make the experience pleasant?

Your display should show off your product to it’s best advantage.  Does your product fit a certain “style” – is it Victorian or cottage or modern?  Make sure that the displays you use are in keeping with your style.  How would these items be displayed in a brick & mortar store ... can you get any ideas from visiting one?  Product should be clearly visible and easy for the customer to pick up.

Use multiple layers/levels.  I’ve seen shows where vendors just laid everything out flat on a table ... BO-RING!  Use stacked crates or something to give your display a stairstep feel.  Hang items from a pole.   If you are using busts to display jewelry, use some taller and some shorter busts or if using all the same sized one, figure out a way to elevate some of them   A length of dimensional lumber (like a 2x4 or 4x4), covered with a piece of cloth, could be an excellent way of adding height to busts or your small craft objects. 

Group similar items together.  If you make gourmet jams and salsas, keep the jams together and the salsas together.  This may seem self-explanatory, but I’ve seen displays where it wasn’t done – it was hard to find what I was looking for and the whole thing seemed disorganized and cluttered.

Keep it clean.  Table cloths and skirts are going to get dirty, especially if you’re doing outdoor shows.  Make sure your product is clean.  Make sure your business cards have no bent corners.  Everything should be crisp and sharp.  Because I make custom items during the show, I also want my work area to be neat and clean.  Organized is good – it makes things easier for you and your look more professional to your customers.

If using a table, use well fitting table cloths and table skirts.  Too big looks droopy and dumpy .. too small looks like you were too cheap to buy enough to do the job.  If you are just starting out, and you’re doing a couple small local shows, you probably don’t need table skirts for your first couple events – but don’t wait too long either – they really do add a professional look to your display.  Oh, and one last thought about tables – I use 3 tables that are 2'x4'.  Booth spaces vary and I can adjust my configuration to accommodate different size booths.  They are also easy to transport and easy to store and most vendors won’t need more than 2 feet of table depth – if it’s deeper, it’s also more awkward for customers to reach near the back of the table.

When planning your space, be sure to have a comfortable traffic flow.  You may need to experiment with the space ahead of time at home – set it up and walk through it as a potential customer.  Is there a natural flow?  Is payment made at the end of the shopping experience?   When I can, I try to set up so that customers can watch me work on my custom orders – it seems to draw a lot of interest and some customers love to see it happen.  Some customers have their own ideas of what they’d like so it’s helpful for me to have some “design space” where the customer and I can create together.

Coming tomorrow -- Creating a theme.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh Man, I Forgot!! The Hunt, pt 4

I almost forgot one of the great ways to find more craft shows!!!  Do you have family or friends who live away from you?  Planning a visit to their area?  I have a son and parents in Michigan and 2 daughters in Colorado and friends in other parts of the country.  If I'm planning a trip to see them, and my schedule can be worked out, I look for craft shows in their area using the internet hunting techniques I've described in my earlier posts.  You can find some wonderful shows that way!   Use the Etsy team connections to inquire about shows.  

One thing to keep an eye on are the sales tax procedures -- every state and sometimes locales can be different.  If you are doing a show in Michigan, and you only plan to do 1or 2 shows in the state this year, they have a wonderful option for paying tax on a single event (I REALLY wish every state had that method!!).  In Wisconsin, you can be exempt from sales tax for your first $1000 in sales in a calendar year.   However, in Florida, you pretty much have to have a sales tax license to breathe.   That local Etsy team may be able to advise you on their tax procedures and most states have a "Department of Revenue" with info online.  Generally a Google search for the state name plus "sales tax" will get you where you need to go.

So happy hunting!  Get out there and find those shows!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In or Out?

At first blush, you wouldn't necessarily think there was much difference between an indoor craft show and an outdoor one ... and to some degree, you'd be right.  You have to have a reasonable stock of merchandise to sell, a way to display it, the usual supplies of business cards, gift bags and ready change.  But each type of show also brings it's own unique set of concerns.

Obviously, at an outdoor show, the biggest concern is weather -- wind or rain can really put a damper on the show.  Since most organizers make no guarantee for beautiful weather, your profits are a bit more at risk when applying for an outdoor show.  When you attend an outdoor show, you'll see that most vendors have some sort of canopy -- it gives shade on sunny days and protection from rain should a sudden storm blow up.  Some vendors use sides on their canopies.. I don't.  I only do a handful of outdoor shows in a year and didn't want to make the extra investment in sides (at least, not yet).  I also find that the sided ones have less air circulation, which can be stifling in hot, humid weather.  My overall set up is fairly easy to move to one side or the other if a sudden storm pops up and our rack is designed to hold up to windy conditions.  We did have to develop displays that are unaffected by a breeze, including business card holders, and the little extra props I use to decorate with.  And frankly, if the weather is too nasty, nobody is going to attend -- so trying to manage the worst weather situations is unnecessary -- I'll go home.  The upside to outdoor shows is that, as an artist using crystals, the natural light is phenomenal!  At one show, the vendors were in a park in the shape of a giant oval -- as the afternoon wore on and the sun got lower, it made my crystals sparkle!  One lady, shopping on the opposite end of the oval, caught sight of my jewelry and hurried across the oval to shop with me -- she had seen my jewelry shining from 400 feet away ... and couldn't WAIT to see what I was selling! 

So, indoor shows would seem to be ideal, right?  Not always.  While you may not be faced with wind or rain issues, those factors can still affect attendance -- who wants to get up on Saturday morning and trudge out in the cold damp rain (or snow) when they can lay around home in their jammies and drink coffee?  Indoor shows can also be a lighting challenge -- they usually have commercial or industrial lighting that may affect the appearance of your items.   Our perceptions of colors can be significantly altered in such lighting -- and with something as sensitive as crystals, it can be an extra challenge.   We have started using a string of puck lights that we can strategically place behind and below most of my earrings -- they help to keep the true color of the crystals and give them a little extra shine visible from the front of our displays.  Because indoor shows are often in large areas with concrete walls and floors, they can also be louder environments -- less "soft" to absorb sound in a  confined area makes more echo.  And someone may be playing music -- if you're the one near a speaker, it can make communication with customers a bit more difficult.   One upside (if you need it) is that some indoor shows will provide a table for your display and a chair or two for your booth -- outdoor shows rarely offer these.  And it's great for craft show newbies just starting out -- who are usually making quite an investment in supplies to have enough product -- nice not to have to invest in tables and chairs too.

So as you can see, each type of craft show venue has it's own unique issues -- the key is to plan ahead and be prepared.