10:06 AM

6th Annual Summer Craftacular, Madison, WI

Naomi Richardson from The Glitter Workshop puts together one heck of an event. I attended the 6th Annual Summer Craftacular in Madison, WI on Sunday, August 15, 2010. It's always so nice to meet in person the people you interact with and admire online and Naomi was no exception. She obviously put a huge amount of work into planning and coordinating this show. Nice work, Naomi!

The brief deets: 
  • It's an annual show. 
  • Approximately 80 vendors. 
  • This was the sixth year (hence the name: 6th Annual)
  • Location: Madison, WI 
I talked three of my family members into going with me and I let slip on the drive that we were going to be there before the show even opened. I explained that there would be people waiting in line to get the 50 free swag bags that they give out to the first attendees. They were very skeptical that anyone would bother to wait in line for a craft show. They got to eat their words when we pulled up about 20 minutes before the doors opened and there was a good 20 people in line already. 10 minutes later, the line extended down the parking lot. Take that, family! Regardless, we got there early enough to secure our swag bags. Phew!

The venue was awesome. Might I say: Super Awesome. I might and I shall. I did. Super Awesome.

The one potential downside with a spot like that is that the vendors were split up into three areas: Upstairs where you first enter, downstairs and outside by the waterfront. I don't think it was an issue for this show at all. There we were big signs directing people to go downstairs and the volunteers greeting people at the door made sure to tell everyone to go downstairs to see the rest of the show. I had no problem at all finding everything. Twice.

The downstairs vendors had a great view of the water and the outdoor vendors were right on the water front with another stunning view. A view so stunning that I probably should have thought to take a picture of it. I didn't. Live in wonder, people.

The vendor selection was varied.  The only areas that I thought were over-saturated were cotton a-line skirts and - the ever present in the over-saturated category - jewelry.

The pricing was crazy.
I'm from Seattle so I admit that I don't have a clue when it comes to the Madison, WI handmade market and what kind of prices it can support. I admit that. But some of the items were priced so inexpensively that I know the vendors can't possibly be paying themselves for their time and effort. Raise your prices Madison. Especially if you're selling online -- double your prices. Do it now.

The swag bags were pretty darn good. 
I didn't look at my swag bag until later in the day, and on a scale of 1-10 I would give them a 6. The contents were pretty good and the bags themselves were awesome. They seemed pretty heavy on business cards and promotional cards. I did get a full-size homemade caramel apple and a back issue of a crafty magazine along with a few pinback buttons and other tiny samples. The swag bags themselves were awesome and screen printed with the logo of the show on the front. It was honestly worth getting there a little early just for the bag itself.

In my humble opinion, it is much better to even have cheesy pens or magnets with your business name on them than to just include a business card or coupon. At my house, the business cards go in a box until enough time has passed and I no longer feel guilty about getting rid of them. Most people probably trash them right when they get home.

Coupons are really hard to use because, like I said, I didn't open this bag until I had left the show and I'm less likely to look up each shop online because the stuff you make isn't sitting right in front of me - tempting me. If the coupon is for use during the show people will have a hard time finding your booth. Or they will be too lazy. Or they will buy something from you and only realize after they get home that they could have saved money. None of those are good options.

Best case scenario, you'll have to tell each customer that there is a coupon in the bag and then watch them dig it out. It DOES give you a great opener to start a conversation with someone who walks into your booth so in that respect it's great. For example, Lulu reeled me in by striking up that very conversation. She said that some swag bags had a coupon in them for a free surprise. I dug around in mine and produced the official document to get my free dealie.

The pros: 
  • We had something to talk about. 
  • I got to choose from 3 different things so I got what I wanted instead of just a random swag surprise. (I got a needle felted mushroom pin. Awesome!)
  • Because she gave me something, my animal brain told me that I owed her. I decided to buy a little felted hedgehog that I had been eyeing but probably would have talked myself out of (how many needle felted hedgehogs does one girl need? Answer: more than two). My animal brain probably would not have had that reaction if I had just found the mushroom pin in my swag bag.
The cons:
  • The same thing could have totally been accomplished by setting a rule that the first 20 people to come in your booth get a treat. Then you still get all of the good stuff but without all of the digging through bags.

Something else I should mention here. This was a good sized, very nicely made felted hedgehog. I assumed it would be around $50 but I soon learned that it was $12. It's not enough. Raise your prices. For reals.

I got to meet OrangyPorangy in person, too. I've been an admirer for quite some time and own a few of her pieces. I found her originally from an ad in Bust Magazine. I was hoping to be able to make it to her new shop: Zip Dang in Madison - but I had some flight delays that shortened the length of my trip a bit. Rats!

The Purchases: 

I ran into one of my favorite artists at the show which was a happy accident since she is from Chicago: Laura George. I have a couple of her prints. One that I have hanging up at work instructs you on how to enjoy a banana. It gets many comments from co-workers. And another I gave my husband says, "Take your pants off." I have seen her work on Etsy and also in the coolest toy/plush store about a block from my house: Schmancy.

While Laura and I were talking, I noticed that she had a few original pieces with her for the show and decided that I had to have one. I was deeply saddened to find out that she doesn't take credit cards. There was an ATM on the premises (a huge plus for a craft show!) but I had just transferred to a new bank account and wasn't sure if I could remember my pin number. I decided to take it as a sign: if I remembered my pin, I would buy the painting. If I couldn't I wouldn't. I did remember my pin, but my transaction either would have run the machine out if money- or something else went wrong and I could not get cash out of the ATM. Laura and I agreed to do the transaction later over Paypal and she agreed to ship me the painting.

It does go to show that if someone really wants to buy something from you, they'll find a way to do it even if you don't take credit cards. But you really do miss out on all the people who are making a spur of the moment purchase. Vendors across the land: do yourself a favor and sign up for credit card processing today. When I made the leap with Shower Art, my sales at shows tripled immediately. I promise - it will pay for itself. Sign up with Propay. They are by far the cheapest and easiest and just charge you a yearly fee and a % of your transactions.

I also met Shawn from Bonny Goods who was kind enough to help me find a place in the area to have lunch with my dad: Michael's Frozen Custard. Here she is with Day enjoying their kozies. Yay!

Walking through the booths outside, I stumbled across Beth at Green Cricket Salvage.

One of her paintings caught my eye. It was probably the glitter and tiny astronauts that did it. I ogled it from afar and then from right up close and then I looked at the price: $25. Say what?

I snapped it up and would have happily paid twice that without blinking an eye. It's called "I don't know Bob, This looks a hell of a lot like Wyoming." I love it. (picture courtesy of Beth's blog post: cafe collection.)

I was amassing quite a collecting of finds and needed a new bag to put them all in - a bag that I could use as my second carry on at the airport (This is how I rationalized it to myself at the time). That's when I spotted Jim at Jimbot.

He sells really cool screen printed tote bags with his original artwork appropriately priced at $35. He doesn't take credit cards, but by some miracle, I scraped together enough to buy a bag with the number 3 and a robot on it. It reminded me of my husband, Mr. Gale because number 3 is his favorite number. James: Sign up for Propay. Now! Now! Now!

In conclusion: I had a great time. I bought too much stuff. I loved it. The end.


Tina Jett said...

I had that very discussion with a vendor at our Second Saturday art walk this weekend. The woman works with her aunt, who makes these crazy-but-awesome-looking ceramic animals. We were trying to tell her that she could easily charge twice what she was (and I heard random comments along those same lines). The niece totally agreed, but it was ultimately the aunt's decision. The aunt was aware of it, too, but she was so worried about not making sales and used the recession as an excuse. At her current price point, she practically sells out every month... which I said would probably guarantee that even a 50% increase would work. I also tried to argue the concept of devaluing her work at those rates. The niece told us on the side that she was determined to get her to budge by the new year.

Also - For those rocking the iPhone/iPad, Square is about to take the credit card world by the stones. They're new and still working out some kinks, but they provide a free device that allows you to swipe cards and have gotten great reviews. I think they're cheaper than ProPay, too, though I'd still have ProPay on hand in case phone reception was an issue. I'm hoping to get on it soon. https://squareup.com/

Unknown said...

Yes, I am eagerly awaiting Square too. I even have my little swipey device that I got at the Summit of Awesome in Portland earlier this year. Now...just waiting for it to work and stuffs. Can't wait!

Kim said...

Wish I could have been there but enjoyed the show through you. Beth is awesome one of my favorite crafty peeps.

Clay Images said...

What a wonderful write up! I was one of the vendors. I had not done a craft show in over 20 years, and that was back in Europe when I was young and hip (now I'm only slightly less hip and much younger) - this was a truly fun experience. I could not believe the lines either. A great shout out to Naomi! Note to self: must look into the Propay thing.

PersimonDreams said...

What a great write up! I was one of the vendors and I hope you enjoyed the caramel apple in your goodie bag (from our orchard). This is fantastic how you went through things and commented on things. I'm glad you had a good time and hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip to Madison!