back to reality.
This past weekend was my first ever art/craft show. The “Etsy Artisans of Indiana Brown County Art Show” to be exact. I thought I would share my experience and some of my lessons learned.
I would like to start off by saying that Nashville, IN, where the show took place, is the cutest town. It’s in a lovely area of central Indiana, surrounded by woods, rolling hills, and winding roads and it was a very relaxing getaway from city life.
When I arrived in town there were lots of people wondering the main street of Nashville looking at all the cute independent shops and eating at the local restaurants. I thought to myself, “This is the perfect venue for an art/craft show.” There was a large sign at the street, marking the parking lot entrance for the show venue, the Brown County High School gym. I parked my car and went inside to find a gym floor completely covered in mauve construction paper and masking tape. A little strange, but the school had just refinished their gym floor for volleyball/basketball season, and they didn’t want tables and chairs damaging it. I was warmly welcomed by the show organizer (and a friend of mine), Shaw, and shown where my booth space was located.
I had brought several quilts of mine, a few throw pillows and zipper pouches, as well as a few quilts and small bags made by other girls from my sewing circle. Leading up to the show I made a bunting with my “shop” name Calvin & Carolyn. I printed off quilt care information for my potential customers. I made a sign indicating I make custom orders, and that I was accepting credit cards (I got a card reader through PayPal). I got a receipt book and made sure I had pens. I made business cards and tags for all of my quilts. I borrowed a folding table from my day job and a vintage drying rack from the lovely Heather at Crimson Tate. I used an inexpensive clothes rack that we use for clothes storage at home, and I purchased two wire baskets from the Container Store for pillows. I was stressed, but confident I had all of my bases covered to have a presentable first time shop.
I was all set up by the end of Friday night, and I was so excited to sell out first thing Saturday morning.
At the end of Friday night’s set up we retired to a beautiful cabin in the woods of Brown County. Friday night’s sleep was restless with thoughts of all the new fabric I would buy with my art show profits.
Saturday morning I arrived back at the gym and most of the other artists were busy putting the final touches on their booths. Everything looked so lovely. I couldn’t wait for my first customer. But I did. I waited, and waited, and waited. Don’t get me wrong, several people came through that gym (many were other artists). A fraction of those people stopped to complement me on my work, and asked about custom orders or mending old family heirlooms. But no one was willing to purchase.
Sunday morning we woke to rain, and I thought “Surely today I will sell out, what better way to spend a rainy Sunday than at an indoor art fair?”
Again I waited and waited. At the end of the day the lovely jewelry artist, Kyley, who had a booth next to mine decided to take the plunge and buy a quilt. We worked out a deal for a little cash and a little jewelry and everyone went home happy. I was sad to see that quilt go, but I have a beautiful new set of jewelry to remember it by.
And the best part, Kyley lives not far from me (and we hit it off wonderfully) so I may have a new friend that will grant me some quilt visitation in the future.
So now for lessons learned from this experience:
All in all I had a fun weekend.
I feel relaxed from the beautiful surroundings.
I received many complements on my work, reaffirming my confidence in my abilities as a quilter.
I feel a weight has been lifted from me, by not having a “show deadline” looming over me.
I find it difficult to put a price on what I do, and difficult to part with my work. I really love each and every quilt I have made.
I’m not sure an art fair is really the best venue for selling quilts. Most people did not seem interested in spending “that much money” at that time.
If I were to do another art fair I would want to have some sort of backdrop that I could hang quilts to display them better. All of the quilts I was showing were folded; some were hanging on hangers and some on a vintage drying rack. Several people seemed somewhat interested, but when I pulled quilts off the hangers/rack and unfolded them they were much more impressed.
I’m not sure what the future holds, but for now it’s back to my day job. As always, any tips or suggestions for selling are always welcome.