- Work Box (Thank you Barb Lieberman for pointing out this one)
It's a good idea to keep some type of work box, or in my case a work bag. In this bag includes all necessary equipment for repairs. This will vary depending on what you make and sell. This can include needle and thread, pliers, jump rings, glue, etc. This also includes all necessary equipment for making the sale, such as receipt book, pen, calculate, anything that goes with a sale (such as the instructions for how to take care of your fairy garden). I also include yarn, tape, scissors, extra pens, my folder with everything from more business cards to tags to stickers for my bags to important paperwork regarding the event I am attending. Your sellers permit or business license is another good thing to include in there just in case you need it. And if you are anything like me, keeping a first aid kit on hand will be very wise. The more experience you have with events, the more you know what to bring to be prepared for the next event. Barb from Seeds of Inspiration advises making a list of items you know you need while first packing your tool box and then just keeping everything in that particular container so you know you always have everything you need.
- Dress comfortably
At the Steampunk Expo, one day I dressed in my Robin Hood costume in an attempt to dress the part. I added gears to it and I had these boots which were rather comfortable. The costume as a whole, while cute and somewhat fitting with the theme, was not. My skirt was short and because of this I am not too comfortable bending over in it. This makes it difficult when dealing with customers and trying to grab bags or bins to restock from under the table. In short, pun not intended, not my best idea.
For Whiskey Flat Days, I was considering a longer skirt, one I can bend over in and move around as need be, and that also fits the theme. However, the first day of Whiskey Flats we have to set up. Personally, I have yet to master how to set up tables in a skirt. I decided to stick with jeans this first day. They offer comfort and I can find other ways to dress the part and match the theme, such as my cowboy hat, customized to be specifically Acorn Tops with the help of The Delightful Bee's acorn felt hair clip! It also works well to avoid the inevitable sun burn that comes with warm days in the desert/mountains.
The skirt will be reserved for tomorrow and Sunday, the busier days.
On the fourth day, when we will have to tear down and pack up, I'll return to the long skirt.
- Use the bathrooms first thing in the morning, especially if they are port-a-potties.
This is a good rule to apply to most events. First, mornings, especially during set up, when it is not as busy, is a good time to slip away from the booth without worrying about missing a sale. Second, the bathrooms will not be as crowded. Third, there will be plenty of toilet paper, especially when dealing with port-a-potties. Nearing the end of the day, they tend to run low on those much needed essentials. And fourth, near the end of the day, the port-a-potties stink. Outside of stuffing a Seeds of Inspiration's dash sach up your nose, you can very possibly pass out from the green fumes rising out of that particular restroom. Save yourself the trouble, limit your liquid intake and go first thing in the morning.
On a similar note, you will want to have some hand sanitizer on hand. Occasionally, they will have hand washing stations, but expect and plan for them to not.
- The First Day Phenomenon
The first day of expos and multi-day events will be shorter and slower. There is always less traffic on the first day. It's the look-and-see day, the day customers make mental notes of which booth they want to come back to. Jess and I saw this at the Steampunk Expo and many vendors who have done Whiskey Flat Days in previous years told us the busiest days, the days 40,000 people descend upon this small town, are Saturday and Sunday, the second and third day of this four day event.
I suggest using this day to work on your product in the booth. (Normally I do this every day at every event because it's a good way to draw people's attention and explain product, but tomorrow I'm planning on being so busy, I'll be unable to carve at all.) This way, you won't feel a whole day is wasted sitting around with very few sales and there will be less frustration at the many people who will not dish out their wallet for reasons stated previously.
- Bring a variety of work
If you bring things to work on in the booth for the whole event, make sure to bring a nice variety to work on if you can. By the third day of the Steampunk expo, I got a lot of ornaments carved, but I was so tired and bored of it, I had to put it away. (As stated above, this will not be a problem for me with this event. However, still a good thing to keep in mind.)
A few tips and tricks I have forgotten and some new ones after this first day at Whiskey Flat Days!
About a month ago, my awesome friend and equally fantastic local artist, Jessica from Jessie J Inspiration's invited me to include some of my items in her booth at Her Royal Majesty Steampunk Expo at the Queen Mary. It was a three day event and from that experience we learned a few tricks and tips.
This weekend she and I are booth buddies once more at Whiskey Flat Days in Kernville (and there really is no better person to share with than Jess) While this is not exactly an Expo, it is a multi-day event with a clear theme, so many of these tips and tricks apply. Two weeks following, her and I will be at the Long Beach Comic Expo, and maybe I'll blog about a few more things we learn along the way.
But for now, here is what we learned and will be applying to our upcoming events:
A sign at the start of the garden welcomes all the fairies to 'saddle up!'
A cowboy fairy forgot his hat after it fell off a ride on a buckin' bronc!
An abandoned wagon wheel leans against a succulent, ready for a fairy to reattach to another wagon!
Follow the horseshoes down a path lined with turquoise through the desert...
... to a fence where the cowboy fairy left his rope!
There’s an irony to accidentally cutting yourself while carving a door inspired by the man of steel. It’s not the first time I’ve done it. I carry enough bandaids with me on a daily basis for my purse to be considered a first aid kit. During the last craftsman’s guild fair I received a very nice scar on my finger. On the bright side neither of these injuries required stitches. But it reminded me of something I and some fellow crafters talked about during the HMSB Maker’s Retreat last weekend, the difference between a hobby and a business.
One of the crafters there talked about how it was the difference between something like Handmade in South Bay and something like the Torrance Craftsman’s Guild. On the ride home from the retreat, though, we decided it was more than that though. For us in Handmade in South Bay, it’s our business, our income, our livelihood or what we’d like our livelihood to be, but it’s also our passion. There is a flame that refuses to die. Yes, we get frustrated and walk away for a bit. We put down the needle and thread and paint and brushes, but we always come back. We walk around with idea books stuffed in our bags and purses. We have our planners as our brains. And we never stop thinking about our business. Even when it’s something as simple as spying all the trees that would be perfect for a fairy door, or dreaming up a new design. We are our business and we take it with us, in our purses, in our notebooks and phones, in our brains, and in our soul. You can hear it in our voices and see it on our faces when we talk about it. We live and breathe not only our businesses, but what our businesses can do for the world at large.
And we bleed for it. We cry for it. We try for it. We risk for it. And we work for it. From the moment we wake, to the moment we rest our heads on our pillow. We do not work a nine-to-five. I don’t think we know how. Sometimes dinner, when we remember it through our painting pallets and sewing machines, is at 9 o’clock at night. Lunches are optional and breakfast is accompanied by updating social media and scheduling posts. When Degas was going blind, he switched to sculpting, because there is no such thing as idle hands for a passionate artist. Again, we don’t know how.
We are disciplined enough to accomplish it amidst the mind-sucking everyday distractions that come with working from home. We are brave enough to bare our souls to an often unkind world, sometimes even in the circles where we should feel the most safe in doing so and who should be able to understand the most. We push ourselves further than we ever thought we could go. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Passionate handmade entrepreneurs do hundreds on a daily basis. Larger events. Events out of state. More events. Different events. New products. And we do it with very little respect, sometimes even from our fellow crafters who use air quotes whenever they refer to their work as a business. Because while to them they fail to see it for themsevles, us who are businesspeople, who are passionate, who do what we love and love what we do, it is an insult to us.
We are crazy. Crazy to think we can do it and put ourselves through it. To be this passionate. But as Jack Kerouac said, “The only people for me are the mad ones.”
So, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Apple Inc.)
Another great event, the last one for the year! It’s ending on a good note, which makes me happy. There are definitely exciting things to look forward to in the new year (for both you and me), but before the year is over, there is still plenty of time to buy online. If you couldn’t make it to my last event, here is some of what you missed.
Handmade in South Bay puts on two shows annually, our holiday boutique (this last event), and our Spring Boutique in April (one of the exciting things to look forward to… honey, you’ll be buzzing about this event)! This was our second holiday boutique and it was pretty darn good, if I may say so myself. 50+ handmade vendors, including the always fantastic DJ Ozzie, 6 very professional young entrepreneurs that will be back for Spring (YAY! Really, these guys are the bomb!) and 5 incredible local artists in our artist alley (I really hope they come back for the spring!)
I talk a lot about what makes a good event, often saying it’s not just the monetary element of it. The customers really made this event, even the ones not buying from me. It was the kids especially. Santa handed out free ornament kits and this one little boy in a batman shirt was so happy about his gingerbread man ornament kit. He would not let it go and he kept walking up to my booth and just showing it to me.
By far, the very best moment of the show came from the little girl in the booth next to mine. She kept coming over to look at my fairy bottles. When the little girl walked away for a little while, her mother came over and bought the fairy bottle as a surprise. At the end of the show, when we were packing up, the mother told me the little girl was all upset when she came back. Her exact words were, “The. Fairy. Bottle. Is. Gone!” Her mother kept telling her it was okay and it would all work out, but she was still very upset. Finally, her mother just told her to look in the bag. She is very happy with her new fairy bottle!
Between that and the money I raised for my two charities, TSWGO and V-Day, it was worth it, regardless of my wallet when I come home.
After a fantabulous event at the Torrance Craftsmen’s Guild, my best event yet, where I not only made yet another customer cry (this time over the Rosemary Remembrance Fairy Pillow), but also had repeat customers from a year ago, I’m gearing up for more upcoming events, not only the last ones for the year, but also for next year as well. As my calendar starts to fill up, I’m planning and brainstorming products and production time for each individual event.
It helps, of course, to take certain factors into consideration when planning and brainstorming, such as themes for the event and close by holidays that potential customers could be shopping for. Four days at Whisky Flats means a lot of product, but also going western and vintage! Two days two weeks later at the Long Beach Comic Expo means comic and superhero related items and plenty of product for that event as well! Then there’s the bee themed HMSB Spring Boutique in April and the Torrance Craftsmen’s Guild Spring Event (If you couldn’t come for the holiday craft faire, here’s your second chance for the year)! Before all of that, I have to restock for the upcoming HMSB Holiday Boutique in two weeks. Needless to say, I’ll be busting my butt and cranking out as much as I can! The excitement really helps!
So, what to make first? Well, my most recent upcoming event is the Holiday Boutique. I need to focus my attention on restocking the raggle taggle fairy dolls, some doors, and plenty of ornaments. A few new fairy houses will be needed for any repeat customers (cue wink and fingers crossed). After that is a small event at a local school, but it is only a six foot table space and any product left over from the HMSB boutique can be used there. That gives approximately two months to build up inventory for Whisky Flats (this will be the longest event I have ever done) and the Comic Expo. Arguably for every comic and superhero related item I make, I should make two items for Whisky Flats.
This begs the question; do I put out the superhero and comic products I have already made at one of the events before the comic expo? Or, to be fully prepared for that event, do I put them to the side? By putting it off to the side, am I running the risk that I could lose out on a sale? To Spiderman or not to Spiderman, that is the question.
At both the Comic Expo and Whisky Flat Days I am sharing with Jessie’s Custom Greetings again. We have both agreed that our comic and superhero products will be put off to the side for Whisky Flats due to the events being so close together. These are not easy decisions to make, but it feels really great to have to make these types of decisions.
How am I, of all people, going to keep this all straight? Why, piles, of course! I have the start of my Whisky Flats piles, currently, two fairy dolls. I have a pile for the Comic Convention, both doors and ornaments, and soon to be Gotham Fairy House (keep an out for upcoming pictures)! I’m rearing to go! And now that I’ve celebrated this bursting of excitement with all of you, I’m going to get back to work! Wish me luck!
On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
The magic behind it all!