Monday, December 27, 2010

Are You Ready for the 2011 Craft Show Season?

With the holidays now over and 2011 only a few days away, I'm working on my craft show schedule for next year. You think it's too early? Not really. Last year I applied to a show in Virginia and the application deadline was Jan. 2.
I learned to start early a couple of years ago. I had heard good things about the Mattoon St. Festival in Springfield which takes place in September. I looked for an application online but didn't find one. So around the end of January I emailed the contact on their website. The jewelry category was already full! As it turns out, Mattoon St. only juries you the first year. Once you're accepted you only need to send in the next application with the booth fee. And they send you that application 2 weeks after the show. If you sell jewelry you need to return it immediately or they quickly find people to fill your spot. So I have already sent in my check for the 2011 Mattoon St. show. Live and learn.

After 3 years of research and experience I now have a pretty good idea which shows I want to apply to. But if you're new to all this, here are a few things to think about when making your selections.

How do I find shows?
--Talk to friends and fellow artisans to get suggestions
--Go online and google "New England Craft Shows" or "Massachusetts Craft Shows" and you will often run across websites that list shows. Some want fees to give you more information. Instead, write down the show names in the list and then search for their websites or information about them in other places. If they don't have a website, there might be a phone number listed for information.
--Join a local artisan group. They share information.

How do I know if it's a good show?
Well, often you don't. But if you're unable to attend the show to check it out and don't know anyone who has already sold there, you need to consider your product and your expected customers when you're making your best guess.
--If you're selling inexpensive, fun items that appeal to children or teenagers, you need to find a show that attracts them. Perhaps a fair or music festival. Will your product also appeal to mothers and grandmothers buying for children? Then maybe a church fair or high school craft show is a good choice .
--If you're selling higher end products like gold jewelry, quilts, or handmade clothing then you need to find shows that attract professional women who like to dress well and decorate their homes--and can afford to do so. Shows in or near major cities would be my pick. Or shows in wealthier neighborhoods.
--And with fine art, you might want to consider "art shows" rather than craft shows as they will attract customers who are looking specifically for paintings and sculpture.
--Are you creating for a niche market? Steampunk art and jewelry is one example. And while that would sell best at a steampunk show, I have found through experience that my steampunk jewelry also sells well anywhere there is a young crowd or tourists.
--Stay away from economically depressed areas where factories have closed or people are still struggling the make ends meet. And while I admit that this is true almost everywhere, some towns are doing much better than others.
--Some products just sell well almost anywhere. Canvas bags, silk screened t-shirts, fabric purses, and hand painted, holiday inspired, wooden home decor seem to do well at many of the shows I attend.
--And the fall (September & October) seems to be the best time to do craft shows, at least here in New England. People have started buying for Christmas, they have their Christmas Club checks, and they're not yet fully involved in the holiday party/family dinners chaos.

For lists of shows in Mass. & Conn., check out the websites below frequently as they update often.


  1. WOW! So much good information! Thank you! Now, if I decide to send some of my items to a craft show I'll know how to do it!! :-]