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Looking for a Craft Fair?

By Karen Booy
 As published in  CRAFTLINK Newsletter


Tired of doing small shows to varying degrees of success, Leslie bailey decided to take control of hr craft business future and started producing the kind of show that she wanted to attend!  A bit of research showed Leslie that her Thunder Bay area, with a population of approximately 130,000 should be able to support a quality show.  Further research showed that most of the really talented artisans of the area were traveling outside the region to do quality shows.  Realizing that she had the artists and the customers to support a quality show --- Leslie got busy.

Seven years later, with the assistance of her husband, Leslie now produces one show per year, always the second weekend of November.   Leslie is quick to explain, "We are very proud of the fact that we have set a precedence with our shows and now many of the other local shows have emulated it.  However our show remains unique in many ways -- not only are the artisans juried for the quality and originality of their work but they are also juried on their display".

Held at a banquet facility, the whole building is utilized for the show.  Shopping is an experience of the senses at Leslie's show fittingly called -- "celebration exposition of the arts".  The carpeted rooms are festively lit by chandeliers and lovely instrumental Christmas music softly plays in the background.  Christmas shoppers feel as though they are going from one boutique to another. It radiates atmosphere.

A gourmet concession area provides shoppers with delectable samples of homemade pastries and fudge, or you can take a shopping break and enjoy flavored coffees and cappuccinos.  Adjacent to the concession area a small stage showcases a variety of entertainers.  Local talent such as barbershop quartets and string or vocal ensembles are just a few of the delights the audience enjoys.  Shoppers stop to enjoy the artist who sketches caricatures and then stroll on to see the many participating artisans demonstrating their craft at their booth.  At celebration there is always something just around the next corner!

In order to create a better event each year, Leslie explains, "We are always on the lookout for new exhibitors.  As an artisan myself I meet many at other shows that I participate in.  Many contact me, having heard of the show from others.  It is extremely important that the show have a fresh look every year.  That is not to say many of the same artisans don't participate year after year --- however new crafters with NEW IDEAS are always welcome!"

Booths at celebration range in price (depending on size) from $200 - $350 with outside corners being an additional $50. This includes electricity (if requested), chairs, curtained backdrops are supplied where necessary (i.e. middle aisle booths) and tables are rented for a minimal cost.  Sales vary of course depending on products, however it seems the average sales are approximately $5000. 

In order to promote her show, Leslie is big on advertising. "A huge advertising campaign is launched for every show.  TV commercials, radio, newspapers, a live radio remote on the Friday night as well as a radio contest where a lucky listener can win a shopping spree.  We advertise in all of the smaller communities as well as in the bordering US cities.

How does Leslie decide who will join her show? "To be juried an artisan must send in a minimum of five slides or photos of their work as well as a photo or a detailed diagram of their display.  Artisans are judged on quality and originality of their work first, and display second -- while trying to maintain a well rounded, and diverse show."

Leslie's motto is "If you go to one show this year make it a celebration".  This is one crafter who has followed her passion for crafts and when she couldn't find a show that suited her needs -- she created her own!

"The best way to predict the future is to create it". 
   Peter Drucker

Leslie's Advice for Craft Show Exhibitors:
Product quality is most important -- don't scrimp on materials as it is reflected in the final product.  Also the majority of your sales will eventually be from repeat customers who are familiar with your work. You do not want to have a reputation of having poor quality.  "Word of mouth can be your best and WORST advertising.'

Product Display:
Almost as important as your product quality is your display. It should be three dimensional, visually appealing and eye-catching.  You could have the best product in the world but if your booth isn't eye-catching customers can easily walk by.  I believe your display is 80% of your sales.  In fact a celebration, artisans are juried on how they display their product.  Exhibitors compete in a best booth contest and the crafter that has the most professional unique and interesting booth voted on by their peers will receive their booth at no charge the following year.

Salesmanship is probably the most difficult because we tend to be our own worst critic, but it is important to feel confident about your work and appear friendly and open at all times.

It is also important to have a good price range for all pocket books.  This is the time of year when people have gifts to buy for gift exchange at work, or for the teacher of the babysitter etc. and they usually have a dollar limit.  These sales can be your bread and butter.  Even at celebration where customers know it is a high-end show and come prepared to spend, they also know they can find items priced from one end of the scale to the other.  You don't want to develop a reputation of being high priced or you will limit your market.

celebration exposition of the arts
Leslie Baily
PO Box 28015, 136 Centennial Sq.
Thunder Bay ON P7E 6R5
email: ccbl@lakehead.net

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