art-o-matic toledo, april 2013

I do a lot of craft and art shows each year. So far this spring, I’ve had three shows in three states:Michigan (my home state), Ohio and Indiana. Some shows are really, really good, and some shows are, well…not so good.

Last week I drove over 4 hours to Indianapolis, Indiana for a show called INDIEana Handicraft Exchange. I felt really good about it, and worked myself silly to get ready for it.

finished pouches

And so, it just turned out to not be such a good show. I base my success on so much more than just the money that I make. Sure, I love having a show that helps me pay bills and buy more supplies to be able to keep sewing, but it’s also about meeting people, passing out my business cards, getting feedback (more than just the negative feedback, too) and whether or not I had a good time. It seems like a loose way of determining if the show was good or not, but all of these things really do matter.

INDIEana handicraft exchange june 2013

I like to think that I put a lot of work and effort into all of what I do. I try very hard to make quality pieces that have great craftsmanship and aren’t shoddy. I may not be a great artist, but I do my best to make unique, exciting pieces that you won’t see at the other tables. But most importantly, I try really hard to make only the things that I like. I am very appreciative to have found an audience among the people that I’ve met and sold my silly bags and pouches to, but if I’m not happy with what I’m making, then I’m just not going to make it. Plain and simple. It’s not worth my time.

I’ve come to not be surprised when people either scoff at my prices or try to wheel and deal with me. I’ve also come to trust myself on this matter and stay firm on my prices. I know the work I’ve put into what I make, and in my heart of hearts, I know it’s worth (and is sometimes worth more than) what I price them for. People who come to shows looking for Wal-mart prices won’t find it at my table, and I don’t feel bad about it. (You shouldn’t either.)

hexie wristlet

But it’s the people who give unsolicited “criticism” about what’s on my table that really gets to me. Back around the holidays, I had someone ask if “I had anything that wasn’t so childish.” Nope lady, I’m a kid at heart and it shows. I like silly patterns with frogs and robots and squirrels. In Indianapolis, I had uninvited feedback from another woman who told me that “you’d make a lot more sales if you used more solids.” She told me that my workmanship was “nice, but a lot of people don’t like these patterns mixed together.” She then went to to pick up pieces that seemed to work for her, and compare them to the pieces that she didn’t like. Her criticism went on for a solid five minutes. I didn’t know what to say back to her. It was like a cartoon moment where my jaw was hanging open, and I couldn’t find the words to tell her how I really didn’t care what she thought! I make what I LIKE, and furthermore, no one has the right to tell me that my sales could be better! I’m doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. I just wish I could have told her that.

But on the flip-side of this, I really do love doing shows. I have made so many friends and met wonderful people who appreciate what and how I make what I do. But please just remember, if you’re at a craft show or art festival this summer and you like what the craftspeople are making, tell them, or better yet, buy something from them. And if you don’t like what they do, it’s not your job to tell them! Wait until you get back in the car to talk smack about those crazy folks!

7 Thoughts on “life as a traveling saleswoman

  1. People never cease to amaze me with their rudeness. For what it’s worth, I think your stuff is fabulous. And when you get a chance to put more on Etsy, I’ll be buying. :)

  2. Oh my word those people are insane and have no clue as to trends or even good taste do they! Your work is impeccable and I often run across it on pinterst and I love every bit!Also a Michigander here, if you aren’t too far from Ferndale look into The Rust Belt Market. I sell hand sewn hair accessories and toys and I have a blast there!

  3. Being a crafter myself, I totally understand the time and heart we put in to our handmade projects. No matter what other people told you, I think your original handmade goodies are one of a kind, incredibly adorable, and simply gorgeous!! Your booth looks so lovely, too!

  4. I wish I could come to a show, or you could come out east! Just from these photos, I’ve found at least 5 items I’d like for me and/or friends. I’m sure there’d be more if I could rifle through the racks. Sigh.

  5. Babs on June 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm said:

    your work is unique…don’t change it!!!
    You are great!
    greetings from Babs in Austria, Europe

  6. Well said! Keep on keepin’ on.

  7. Ellen Lane on August 12, 2013 at 12:59 am said:

    I have been a vendor, so I appreciate your experience with critics. Stay true to your own esthetics. You can’t please everyone!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation