Arts and Craft Show Reviews--2012 August- Sept.

Stockbridge Arts and Crafts Show-- Stockbridge, MA
Mattoon Street Festival -- Springfield, MA
stART on the Street--Worcester, MA
Apple Harvest Festival--Amherst Town Common

Stockbridge Arts and Crafts Show

I was in Lilac Park a couple weeks ago for the Church on the Hill show and this past weekend I set up in Stockbridge, not very far away.  While both shows should get similar traffic, it was interesting how different these shows were.

Weather is big when you're running an outdoor show.  This is the second year we had rain in Lenox.  What began as a day of heavy traffic and great sales quickly turned into a soggy mass of tents with few people.  Sales have decreased each year for us and it was hard to know if we've outstayed our welcome or if it's just the weather.

Well this weekend in Stockbridge answered our question.  With clear skies and warm weather traffic at the show was terrific.  Lots of tourists arrived with credit cards in hand.  FYI--spotty cell service means you need to bring your knucklebuster.  And if you sell items over $20, you really should take credit cards.

The Chamber of Commerce has been doing this show for years so they're very organized.  You get information a week or more before the show and there's a registration area when you arrive. The show takes place in a treed park next to the police station.  Parking is behind the police station only a short walk to your booth.  The ground is uneven in some areas and sloping along the street side of the tennis courts.

There's a food court with offerings from the Red Lion Inn.  There are also restaurants in town only a short walk from the show.

Loading in is from the street and no booth is terribly far from the street.  Setting up on Friday night is definitely advantageous as not all spaces are marked on Saturday and non-vendors park in them.  Loading out is problematic for the same reason.  Visitors in town are parked in spaces vendors would like to use at 4pm on Sunday.  As the show sponsors weren't willing to do anything about that, we took it upon ourselves to fill spaces as they opened up with orange cones and move our cars asap.  It was much easier than the Church on the Hill load out.

Like many other shows in the last couple of years, this one had some questionable vendors.  Billed as a handmade show, it included the "garlic girl" and her ceramic graters, a double tent of decoupaged items that were pretty much assembled home decor, and a reseller of amber jewelry.  I don't know if it's just difficult to tell from applications that these items are not truly handmade or if show promoters, like those in Old Deerfield, are desperate to fill the space.

This show costs $200.  It is so far my best show this year.  And I will most likely try to get in again next year.

Mattoon Street Festival--Art among the Brownstones

What more can I say about Mattoon Street?  Once again we had an easy and successful show.  This one takes place right on historic Mattoon Street with vendors set up on the bricked sidewalks and traffic able to utilize the entire street.  Despite the rain on Saturday we did a brisk business even selling a bit more than last year.  On Sunday, with much better weather, traffic about doubled.

This is a pleasant event with vendors meeting in the street to chat in between customers.  People come back yearly so faces and even a few names have become familiar.  Bob McCarroll and his crew of volunteers are present if you need any help or have questions.  They stopped by my booth a few times to check if I needed a booth sitter.  And on Saturday Bob himself strolled the street with regular weather reports as there was a tornado warning in the Berkshires.

Once you've been juried into Mattoon you just need to send in a deposit to be included next year.  I ask for the same space each year so customers can find me.  And I've gotten to know my regular neighbors--Fran & Susan of Valley Vogue Collections.  And there's always another member of AWM with in shouting distance.  Hi, Aviva!

Friday night set up makes the whole weekend easier.  And Sunday load out was not as chaotic as in the past.  Not sure why but I had no trouble parking right in front of my space to load up my car.

This show is $125 and I've already sent word that I will be there next year.  New vendors being accepted is dependent upon how many artisans are already included in your category and if there is room or someone has opted out.

stART on the Street --10th Anniversary Edition

stART on the Street was a changed show this year.  So successful in the last 9 years, they decided to celebrate by allowing an additional 100 vendors to set up shop at this already huge event.  Not only did they fill Park Ave. center with 10 x 10 booths but allowed a number of vendors to set up tables on sidewalks on both sides of the street--360 vendors in all.

Briefly, stART is different from other craft shows in that it is semi-juried.  They accept artisans on a first come basis until a category is filled.  And I still don't know what that means in numbers as it always seems that every other booth is jewelry.  They only ask that everything sold is handmade by you. 

They also don't pre-assign booth spaces.  You are assigned a time to arrive so load in is staggered, you get in line, and take the next available spot.  This sometimes means that you are next to or even surrounded by people with similar products.

The show is very well organized and has a load of volunteers and police to control traffic.

That said, in the 2 years I did this show I had great sales--10X the booth fee or more--selling both steampunk jewelry and high end silver.  So I was disappointed this year making less than half that and wondered if it was just me or the jewelry category that was affected.  As several members of the Artisans of Western Mass. were in attendance I asked them to respond to a few questions.  Below are some the answers I received.

1.  Did you think that the show this year was too big?
      ♦Yes, way too many vendors...people who used to say they'd be coming back actually would after they'd looked at everything, but this time, understandably never found their way back.  I felt tired after this show too...dealing with so very many people that did not necessarily translate to sales.
      ♦Yes...Buyers told me they were overwhelmed.
      ♦Definitely affected my sales.  I think it was too big.   
      ♦ A man who knows the organizers told me that they were surprised at the number of applications this year and at how big StART has become. 
      ♦...I will say it was difficult navigating through the crowd so there were a lot of people meandering was reminiscent of a cattle call in some spots.
.     ♦I got a chance to walk around and found that eventually all the booths start to look alike and you don't really focus anywhere.  I started out stopping at interesting booths and ended up not being interested in any of them.

3.Do you feel you had good traffic in your booth?
     ♦ It would ebb and flow with the traffic walking by.  I'd say 60% of the time there was a full tent (of people) jammed in, not many buyers though, the other % was just watching a river of people walk by too overwhelmed to come in.  I would change up the front of the booth by putting red items and yellow items up front to try to grab their eyes.  Most of the people's faces I looked at had darting eyes that were all over the place and couldn't focus on one thing.  I was glad I had a dog water station to get people just to STOP for a second, long enough to look at my work.
    ♦Very slow.  lots of compliments, not many sales.  
     ♦ Traffic was slow at times and a rush at others. Overall, I thought traffic was good; people just were not buying.
     ♦I can't complain about the number of people in attendance but I had to put large impressive pieces out front to get their attention.  Booth traffic was decent though few purchased. 

2.Did you notice whether people were buying?
    ♦...It was too big for other spontaneous shoppers to land on something because they seemed overwhelmed.
    ♦ Choc covered frozen bananas (that vendor sold out).  Kettle corn.  Saw very few folks carrying art/craft purchases - a few 2D items.
    ♦... but the energy felt different.   Part of my problem is anyone can now go to Michael's and find a ridiculous selection of reproduced found objects, so they don't even have to find their own objects anymore.  I had lots of lookers that were obviously just getting ideas and talking about making their own jewelry and bottle cap stuff.  Can't blame them, there is a joy in making one's own jewelry and such, even if they're really not saving themselves any $$.
    ♦This was my first year, but I had high expectations based on things I'd heard from others. People were looking and I got lots of great comments, but terrible sales. People said stuff was too expensive

5.Was anyone around you doing particularly well?  What were they selling?
    ♦ Choc covered frozen bananas and kettle corn.  
     ♦ Dog leashes were at $1500 when I spoke with her.    Silver jewelry (W.Mass vendor not part of AWM) was doing solid sales, nothing spectacular, there was a coffeesack tote person (also not part of AWM) who wasn't selling at all.  All the vendors on the curb that I talked to were under $50 (in sales).
     ♦ My neighboring vendor who sold cake pops sold out and she started with 400 pops. My neighbors on either side seemed to be having a slow day. On one side was someone with wood furniture and walking sticks--he mostly seemed to sell the $15 walking sticks.
     ♦Person with stained glass light catchers in 2 sizes (colored bubbles in an organic design)--large at $68, smaller probably 1/2 that--sold 27 of her 35 pieces.
     ♦ I talked with folks around me, including some selling artwork and prints, and soaps. They did not do well and were pretty discouraged at the end of the day.

4.Were items over $50 selling?
     ♦ No.  one $45 item.  other items lower priced. 
     ♦ No.  I only sold a couple of totes at $48 and one $50 laptop bag.  I even resorted to my " All bags $5 off" thinking that would draw more sales but it didn't.  TONS of $12 and $14 wallets.  Tons of $6 earrings and $2 buttons.  
     ♦ The woman near me sold a large photograph printed on aluminum for like $350. She said had it not been for that sale, would have been a mediocre show for her.  Her items started at about $30 and she seemed to be having sporadic sales with lots of lookers.  
     ♦ ... lots of little sales like magnets and keychains.  A few $18-24 sales, but not like two years ago. Last year took in about 450, as I recall, so not a huge change monetarily.
    ♦Sold 12 pieces of jewelry, 1 was $50, rest under $40.
    ♦I didn't sell anything over $50--lots of small things like ornaments and tiles.
    ♦ No, but I was also pleasantly surprised to sell some of my higher priced items like dresses, adult leggings and scarves which tend to be in the $30-$50 range--there are days when I don't sell any of those.

5.Did you personally do well enough to go back next year, even if they still have over 300 vendors?

      ♦ That's a tough one, but with such a cheap fee, I'll still do it.  I still know that I have people who look for me so I would miss out on them but I only made $400 this year.  I made well over $800 last year.  It's still 5X booth, I will do it because of the cheap fee for sure. I passed out a TON of cards and talked with a ton of new people, I feel like it was worth it.  I had to work really, really, hard to get noticed and engage with my customers.  I felt more tired than most shows because of this.  
    ♦No, sorry to type.  barely made the booth fee! - embarrassing - yikes!
    ♦I won't go back next year.
    ♦ As far as sales I was happy bringing in about 7x the vendor fee--I know there were at least 2 other tie dye exhibitors so  I'm sure customers shopped around. I didn't have a chance to walk around but given what I saw on the website, I think we did offer some different types of products and colorways. Yes, most folks who said they would be back didn't come back but I did see some folks walk by more than once. For sales I did have a range from those who bought the $5 pair of socks to those who outfitted several members of the family.  I had a good day and will apply again next year. 
     ♦I made this year just under 5x booth fee.  Also, going back through my sales data I noticed that in 2010 the fee was $70, it was $80 last year & $90 this year.  It looks like ...each year sales have decreased.  Not really what I was looking for and honestly if the fee goes up to $100 next year I doubt I'll do that point I'd maybe be more likely to split a booth with someone.  I had some customers gasp at the prices for some of my freeform pendants and I had one guy try to haggle me down from $36 to $30 for a SS and Kazuri bead bracelet.  The flipside of this is that it's a good marketing opportunity, I always get a few ETSY sales after stART and people pick up my card and I get applications for future shows, and I get to network with other crafters outside of AWM.  Not sure what I'll do next year...

6.Did you have any issues loading in or out due to the larger crowd?
    ♦ I loaded in at 8 am and it was a mess in the back.  the volunteers hadn't made it back there to the (booth numbers) 175s and so we were on our own.  That isn't a bad thing, I'm used to loading my stuff, except for it was a free for all so people were parked right in front of my spot and it sucked to schlep.
    ♦Glitches with load in, there was a backlog and not as much clear direction as previous years.  Despite requesting and following instructions to be next to Becky, we got separated between a big group crafting event and a space marked out for someone who never showed.  The crafters next to me were sharing a tent, but got assigned two separate spaces by accident!  The load crew seemed under a lot more stress, working hard as always, but not in a having-fun sort of way like they usually do.  One of them was kind of yelling at the volunteers to help vendors, as they were standing around looking confused. 
    ♦It was alright, not great. Unloading was better than packing up b/c parking was haphazard.   Vendors were courteous.
    ♦I had a 7 AM arrival time--and was a bit late arriving but was probably on the street by 7:30 and had lots of volunteers who quickly unloaded my car and had me on my way. On the way out, I'm always one of the last leaving so it was also not a problem. Even had one volunteer who helped me load and no problem driving out. So yes, it was a very long day and I am still exhausted but was a good experience for me.
    ♦The load in line was much longer and they staggered the number of cars they let through.  In the past I was in my space in about 10 minutes.  This year I was in line for 1/2 an hour.  Helpers were rushing and I had to be sure they didn't touch items I didn't want just dropped on the ground.  Loading up to leave was surprisingly fast and easy.
    ♦. Unloading was frustrating. We had a 7:45 check in and still ended up sitting in the van for about 45 minutes before finally getting to our spot. It was nice that they have so much help to unpack, but at the same time, so many people were grabbing stuff out of the van that I had to stop them and say that some things could not be turned at an angle, or put on top of other things etc. I know they were running behind and trying to hurry, but there were too many people trying to unload my van. It was kind of stressful. Loading back up at the end went fine. 

Miscellaneous aspects of the show--
    ♦I was too close to the stage with the rock bands.  While not all the music was awful, it was loud and made it difficult to talk to customers.
    ♦ The highlights for me were not related to sales (low), but personal:  I was near Jan, Donna, Crystal and chatted w. a local non-AWMer and Aria visited w. me a few times and (we) were serenaded in Spanish by a very nice older lady.  
    ♦Still attracted easily 20,000+ people--more than any other show.  But with too many choices people seemed to have trouble making decisions.  Impulse buying was down.  Or maybe the economy is still bad in the Worcester area and people saw this as an opportunity for entertainment only.

This is a wonderful show (where else do you get 20,000 people to come) and I want very badly for it to be successful.  But from this small unofficial survey it appears that we're all in agreement that stART on the Street needs to scale back to the usual 200+ vendors--both to make the organizer/volunteer jobs easier and potentially help vendor sales.

Apple Harvest and Craft Show

Just got home from what in my 5 years of doing craft shows is absolutely my worst show ever.  That isn't to say it was  a bad show.  It was just MY worst show ever.  As to why, well it could be any one of several reasons.
--drizzly weather first half of the day.
--bad economy
--my customers were at another show somewhere else.
--I've saturated my market in Amherst

In any event, here are the pros and cons.

The people organizing this show are not as organized as they should be.  I was sent emails that assigned me to 3 different spots.  Granted the last assignment was due to another artist wanting to be next to me so we could help each other.  It also appeared as though several vendors didn't show up.  I never found out if that was the case or if those spots just didn't get filled.  

On the plus side, there were lots of high school volunteers who helped me empty my car and load it back up.  They also came around to booth sit if you needed a break.  Nice kids with great attitudes.  Load in was easy as I got there early and found a parking space just above my spot.  Load out is always harder as all the spaces get filled and we had to hike a little with tent and tables.

There were LOTS of jewelers--one next to me, one in front of me, one each across the aisle on both the right and left just 2 booths down.  And that's not even the 5 or 6 in rows A and B.  I don't know if it just looked like too many jewelers because non-jewelers chose not to show up or if there were too many jewelers accepted because other genres didn't apply.

Four of us jewelers sold very little and 3 of us won't be returning.  Herbals did "ok".  One fine artists sold a couple of originals so she was happy.  Kaya's Kozies sells slippers and had a great day.  The honey people did really well.  

Traffic in the morning was very light as it drizzled til about 1.  After that traffic picked up.  I had lots of traffic in the tent, many people trying on jewelry and complimenting my work, but hardly anyone was buying.  Kinda like the stART show last weekend.

I'm not certain what this says if you're looking at this show as a possibility for next year.   If you sell something other than jewelry you might want to try it out.  After all, you don't know until you try.

The booth fee is $100 with a $10 application fee.


  1. Great information as always! thank you!

  2. StART was the first show I ever did. I sell jewelry. I shared a booth with a soaper friend. I didn't expect to walk away with tons of sales, since I was on a learning curve, but I was disappointed enough that I'll probably never do it again. I sold 7 items, and 2 of those were to my soaper friend. I didn't even sell $200 worth of goods. The gas alone to get to the show was $35. Then, there's the cost of all the props and decor. I'd love to say it was fun and worth it anyway, but I can't. It was fun, but alot of hard work, time away from my Etsy site that I do MUCH better with, and certainly not worth it all.

    Oddly enough, while I was at the show, selling only $175 worth of goods, I sold over $300 on Etsy. I could've stayed at home in my pajamas all day.

    The steak-on-a-stick was darn tasty though. ;)

  3. Thanks for the input, Heather. stART has been a really great show for a few of us in Western Mass.who have done it before. So sorry this rather disappointing year was your first. Don't give up on craft shows. I've done very well at several of them. Though I wish I were doing as well as you on Etsy. What's your secret?

  4. I had a similar experience to most of the previous comments. Definitely too big, and considering that everyone is placed randomly it makes it nearly impossible to anyone to find you if they are looking for you. Plus I feel like there was a lot of junk everywhere! I made about 7x my booth fee, but I shared a booth, so my booth fee was low. And 7x $45 is not enough to drive 3 hours and fend off shoplifters. There were tons of people walking around, but everyone was looking for super bargains, which makes for a depressing atmosphere when everyone is trying to haggle with you for your already discounted handmade jewelry! Definitely not going back next year.

  5. Thanks Rebecca. It's great to have input from another state. Sorry your long ride from Vermont wasn't more profitable.

  6. Thank you for the great review on the Apple Harvest Fair. So sorry that it wasn't a good day for you :(

    Always apprecaite all your wonderful insight!

  7. I am a different Rebecca than the one who posted above.
    The Apple Harvest festival was the same weekend as a festival in Deerfield wasn't it? I bring my daughter to this event every year for the kids games and stuff. I always forget how overpriced the kids games are but I tell myself it is for a good cause. Aside from the kids stuff and the food vendors, we spent $10 at a potter's booth and could have spent more. He was from Amherst and he seemed to have a few customers. The lady next to him who was selling some kind of customized glassware had no one though that I saw. I think from your comments I want to check out Mattoon street sometime. :-)

  8. Hi Rebecca--I don't know how big an event the festival was in Old Deerfield, but the Garlic Fest was last weekend as well. Not sure how that affected traffic in Amherst though.

  9. Ah yes I know both customers and vendors that were at the Garlic Festival. Also Conway Festival of the Hills was happening. Must have been a tough choice for some people to decide where to go. Maybe your steampunk would do well at the Garlic Fest.

  10. I think so too. But the Garlic Fest has new rules and they only allow people who live within a 15 mile radius. I live a bit father than that so I wasn't accepted.