Monday, February 9, 2015

Craft Show FAIL

So this past weekend I did a craft show at a Victorian Tea in Michigan. I attended in my 19th century gear, the set up preparing for the Kalamazoo living history show that I have been accepted to as a vendor. I knew this would be a learning experience. After all, I would not be selling to reenactors. Boy was I right!
Pictured: A life lesson

Let me begin with my sickness. Thursday morning I went to work, normal. Students had cabin fever, weather was icky. By late afternoon I developed a throbbing headache, and needless to say...I had a fever of my own. I took Friday off work and hobbled around the house, attempting to finishing pricing or loading. The fever broke Friday; Saturday I did not feel sick, only very very tired.
And for some reason, very hungry...

Getting ready was a chore. I generally have my routine down to about 30 minutes of hair and dressing. Since my arms were so limp, that took more time. I ended up leaving later than I wanted to, but with over an hour of setup for my table. We'll get to that in a second.

When I arrived, I noted that my table was *smaller* than I thought it would be. I was told 36 inches and...nope. That's ok! I did some finagling. My fellow booth members were fun, and I noted that most people had a partner to help with setup. And me? I made sure to sit down plenty. (In the meantime, I found out that I had accidentally wrinkled my sign). My last finishing touches went up as the first customers started streaming in. I had a few sales in the beginning! All was well!

And then all wasn't well. The host organization had promised "savory" vendors, and all they had were cookies/chips. My idiot self didn't pack anything. I would have started crying at that point, but I didn't want to muss up my pretty face. If you are someone who knows me personally, you would know how central food is to my being. It's the headache, blood sugar...
Hence the many pictures of me eating

So I went on speaking with the wonderful customers and vendors on a steady diet of chips and cookies, the first real food I'd had in two days. Feeling better still, just tired. People liked my setup, adored my little historical tidbits, and raved about my dress. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's teaching! Hours went by, and I saw less people than I expected to see shopping around.

Suddenly I look up...and it's over. I talked to maybe a few dozen people with few sales. It was certainly a learning experience, as my shop has been getting quite a bit of attention from reenactors. It felt like a step back from my current path, as if the universe was telling me to stop. These thoughts bothered me throughout tear down, as well as the drive home. Here are a few of my conclusions:

1.  A coral cross/earring set might be *perfect* for reenactors, but my modern crowd probably doesn't understand the research put into finding that historically accurate piece. So I did not pick a particularly good place to sell my wares. I knew this going into it.

2. Food. Dear goodness that was awful.

3. Setup price-too high for such a short time and small space. Cramped!

4. I think less people attended this year than last. I didn't see anywhere near 450 people walking around throughout the entire day.

5. Recovering from an illness while doing a craft show is terrible even if one looks fabulous.

Learning Tools
1. I learned EVERYTHING about how to pack things well into one tupperware bin. I now have a system for the Kalamazoo show next month. Kristen has just unlocked the tetris level!

2. It takes about an hour and a half for a setup. That information alone was worth the experience.

3. Also, ALWAYS pack snacks. Even if they say they're going to have food.

4. Wear sensible shoes. I wore my orthopedic work shoes that are a simple pair of black flats. Not the most period accurate, but goodness my back did not ache.

5. I met so many amazing people! They were kind and thoughtful. I helped one man fix his phone's credit card app. One woman offered me carrots and crackers amidst my suffering. Such amazing moments with complete strangers. I also displayed my antique clothing dating skills to Leah of Leah's Closet in Royal Oak. She had a fabulous wrapper for sale, and it took everything in me not to buy it!

6. Really get to know the audience. People didn't really look at my jewelry; they were fascinated by my Lincoln mourning ribbons. If I were to do this again, I would include more items of commonly known historical significance.

7. The lack of sales don't reflect a lack of effort/good stuff on my part. From what I see, craft shows are sort of a gamble. However, from this point on I may just stick to reenactments/historical events.

I debated whether or not to share this experience with the world. Throughout the day I had family and friends calling, and I was hesitant to share my lack of success. Like I had committed some terrible offense by not being awesome at this thing the first time I did it. There's that type A in me again!

That is perhaps my biggest lesson to myself and everyone with this post. Even the most experienced people make mistakes. It's like the third dress that you made that still doesn't have the sleeves set right (guilty). Or that time you forgot your hoop and had to drive home to fetch it (guilty). Your significant other might even remind you of the time you accidentally left a few pins in his pair of pants (soooo guilty). To err is human.

Learning is a lifelong thing. I am as proud of these mistakes as I am of the lessons they gave me. And sharing them is important too; please try things, and don't be discouraged by setbacks. Sometimes great things come from seemingly pointless endeavors.

I certainly had moments of doubt, calling my father to ask for his opinion. He said it best as I lay writhing in bed, contemplating whether I would have enough strength to do my show:
You're the only person who can get your s*** done.
Thanks Dad. Another lesson in my toolbox!



  1. I'm sorry, but your misery is so entertaining!
    Love the post!

  2. What a mess. Control the things that you can control.

    1. I agree! My control extends to my perspective of things. If I take the position that this was a learning experience, it is less a mess and more of a humorous endeavor!



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