The warm, friendly local craft fair where I had my first stall a year ago has really lost its way. An event that would normally be a magnet for families, young mums, and ladies of a certain age, turned its back on its core present-buying demographic in a cacophony of drums, crude language and general lack of common sense. And yes, there really was a pole dancer. So please excuse me whilst I have a mini-rant about this disastrous Christmas fair, and then I will move on to sharing some advice that will (hopefully!) help you avoid your own craft fair from hell!
It was billed as a “Christmas Extravaganza!” combining elements of a previous Steampunk event, (with its questionable choice of entertainment), and their usual craft fair. I rashly decided to risk it, belly dancers, pole dancer, the twenty strong group of drummers and all. Besides, I like Steampunk! Some of my favourite cosplay designs at events like LFCC are the exquisite Steampunk costumes, and I love the way they blend Victorian poise and elegance with classic science fiction themes. It can be a beautiful and exciting style but… the local interpretation lacked the finesse and attention to detail of the London Steampunk scene. As for the Christmas part, aside from one sad, barely decorated tree, there was nothing. I guess Santa knew to give this particular church hall a miss this year.
My stall was badly positioned and completely inaccessible during the entertainment, and even the audience had nowhere to stand and watch. Mr BAM fetched me some earplugs so I wasn’t totally deafened by the drummers, but there was little I could do about the jiggling midriffs of the belly dancers at eye level, or the crude language of the men elbowing their way behind my stall to get a closer look. By comparison they were almost well behaved when the pole dancer was performing, although they may have been distracted by how precarious the wobbling pole (and dancer) seemed to be.
When people could reach my stall my sales were actually pretty good, and had my pitch not been so ridiculously impractical I might have fewer complaints about the event. I took my chances knowing about the questionable entertainment, but would I do it again? No, definitely not. The Steampunk crowd were more enthusiastic about dressing up than spending money on crafts, and were rowdy to the point that some had to be asked to leave. I should have listened to my gut feeling! Pole dancing and craft fairs do not mix well!
(Apologies for the poor quality photos – they were all taken on my phone. All pictures are of my stall and my stock because it seemed unkind to use pictures of other people in this less than favourable write up.)
So, rant over, here are some things to consider before booking a stall at a craft fair:
Research the event before booking a stall
If possible visit it or speak to people who have. If its a regular event, find out if stallholders keep coming back. If people only ever do an event once it may be an indication that it won’t be worth your time and effort.
Check what entertainment or background music will be used
Music can help create a welcoming atmosphere, but you may want tear your hair out if you have to listen to the same CD on repeat for five hours. Check if any musical performances are going to be acoustic. You do not want a pitch next to an amp or a speaker, and any kind of performance will require both a stage area and a place for the audience to watch and listen. Personally I’m not that bothered by what else is going on as long as it’s not too loud and it doesn’t interfere with my stall.
Check out the parking situation
Plenty of parking close to the venue is obviously good both for the stallholders and the customers.
Take a packed lunch and something to drink
Refreshments can be very hit and miss at craft fairs. Sometimes you’re spoilt for choice and there’s free tea and coffee for stallholders, and other times there’s no food at all and you’re charged £1 for a tiny cup of instant coffee! Take sandwiches rather than anything that needs a fork or spoon. There’s less mess, and less chance that you’ll get caught with it smeared all over your face/clothes/stock/customers!
Don’t forget your float and somewhere portable to keep your takings
Sod’s law dictates that your first sale of the day will be someone with a ten or twenty pound note, so make sure you have enough change (you can’t have too many pound coins!). It may be tempting to put your takings in a lockable cash box but these are more trouble than they are worth. They are too bulky and conspicuous to take to the loo with you without making it look like you think everyone is a thieving b*****d, and if they are all thieving b*****ds they’d only grab your cash box and run anyway! It’s much better just to have a purse or small bag that you can keep with you at all times.
Talk to everyone! And take business cards or flyers
Other stall holders are by far the best source of information about craft fairs. Usually they are a friendly bunch and you never know what creative opportunities will arise from making a new friend or swapping business cards.
There are no guarantees when it comes to craft fairs. They are a complete gamble; sometimes they pay off but more often than not they don’t, at least financially. But as a way of becoming part of a local crafting community, they have been invaluable to me, and it’s always good to step outside and see what people think of the projects I have so much fun making!
Have you ever done a craft fair? I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences, good and bad. Have you got a horror story to share?