crafts

Demo Your Craft to Establish Yourself as the Expert

The best way  to market your craft is to find every opportunity to get your work in front of an audience. This seems obvious, but so often artists hide out in their studio. Some of us shy away from the spotlight.  But, to succeed, it isn’t enough to have your work on a good website. You need to make an effort to do some in person appearances as well.

How do you go about getting your name and face out there as well as your work? (remember, part of the appeal of handmade is knowing the human behind the work. ) Demonstrating every chance you have will begin to establish you as the expert in your medium. Craft supply stores, galleries, workshops and trade shows are all opportunities to demonstrate your craft. Approach the manufacturers of the materials you use, either in person or by sending them a nice professional looking portfolio with examples of  different techniques for using their products. Offer to make appearances in stores that carry their products, showing both the staff and customers the benefits of using their  products,  and at craft trade shows demonstrating to retailers. Not only will this give you Continue reading

Why Crafters Should Visit Wholesale Gift Shows

January is the start of  winter trade show season. As a maker,  you should plan to walk at least one show. Whether you sell directly to the public or you’re considering selling to retail shops and galleries.  If you can only attend one, I  recommend you make it a general gift show rather than craft show. I know that sounds like a contradiction since you are in the business of crafts but you need to know what’s going on in the general gift wholesale trade for a number of reasons.

What should you be looking for as you walk the aisles?

  • Trends: Even if you do vintage crafts or very traditional work, it’s still important to keep up with the trends.
  • Notice themes.  Are particular patterns, symbols or icons showing up across many lines? Sometimes a certain flower or animal print is popular. Remember when everything from clothing to home decor featured palm trees, owls or sunflowers? Last year, vintage trailers were the trend on fabrics like sheets and pajamas.
  • Colors and fabrics. You should be aware of the current color palette so that your work will coorinate and compliment.  Who knew chenille would ever make a comeback?
  • Copy Cats: You also need to know if someone is knocking off your work, having it produced overseas and selling it for a fraction of what you sell it for. The likelihood of of getting the copycat to cease making it is questionable and you obviously aren’t going to lower your prices to compete but you should know that customers are seeing similar work at import prices.  You may be able to tweak your line just enough to make it more apparent that it is  handmade and you definitely will want to have other additional lines that aren’t being seen in mainstream shops.

If you’re considering wholesaling your work, try to visit several different trade shows. As you walk the aisles, notice which booths are busy.  Who is writing orders?  What do the artists who are writing the most orders have in common?   Continue reading

Are you supporting the stores that are going to put you or your friends out of business?

Last week, I attended a first birthday party.  I went to a local store that often carries all lot of fair trade items in search of a handmade gift . I found some puzzles perfect for a one year old boy but when I checked the labels, they were made in China. I went home to search online for handmade wooden puzzles. The ones I found were significantly more expensive. I know I could have found something larger and just as cute at Toys R Us or Target for a fraction of the price and the baby sure wouldn’t know the difference.  BUT I WOULD. I wanted to support indie craftspeople so I ordered the puzzles from a couple who make them in their shop in Oregon.

I know that the socks you hand-knit and the jewelry or lotions or candles you lovingly make take more time and are better quality than a seemingly similar item made on a machine in China so of course you have to charge more for your hand crafted products than the big box stores do.

I also know you’re a sensitive, empathetic person so let’s turn the tables and as you’re holiday shopping this month, think about this:

If you want consumers to support you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made because if you are are buying from Walmart or other discount shops, you’re supporting companies that will eventually put YOU and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, you want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize about buying imports because they are cheaper.

Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs.   If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.

Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade because you have the choice.

Should you grow your handmade business by exhibiting at trade shows?

Are you wondering if it’s time to begin exhibiting your work at trade shows in order to get your art into more shops and galleries?  I think it comes down to asking yourself a few simple questions.

Does each of your pieces require significant hands-on time and do they have to be your own two hands or  can you get help with some of the process? For example, you design and create all the components for your line of jewelry but you pay someone to do your soldering.

Do you handcraft the original and then make reproductions such as art prints or metal casting?

Are you ready to seriously gear up your production when you receive a lot of orders?

How quickly can you fill those orders?

Do you have access to someone to handle the administrative tasks such as billing, shipping, receivables, ordering supplies and tracking inventory?

The idea of picking up several new accounts and writing huge orders may sound appealing but you have to be ready to gear up your business rapidly. The costs involved in exhibiting at a major trade show are significant and you have to sell several times the amount of your expenses and be ready to rapidly transition from cottage craft business to serious enterprise.

Many craftspeople dream of getting picked up by Sundance Catalog or Nordstrom. It’s an exciting prospect but be careful what you wish for. In order to fulfill mega orders and satisfy your new big customers, you are going to have to purchase supplies in much larger quantities and hire staff or outsource some of the administrative tasks and assembly. Do you have the cash flow to purchase those supplies and hire the helpers you will need? Or will you be floating on credit cards and soliciting labor from friends and family in the early stages? Will you require a larger workspace?

I’m not trying to frighten or discourage you from branching out to wholesale trade shows. I’m just letting you know that along with the notoriety and big bucks comes some big stress and financial risk.  If you’re not sure you’re up for it yet, there’s nothing wrong with  the slow and steady growth model. You can thrive by building your business a few loyal accounts at a time. When you are ready to take the leap, go with Godspeed.

Are you looking for more ways to get exposure and sales for your handmade jewelry and craft?

How can your work translate into something that you and/or  your friends can showcase in the workplace? Even if you don’t work outside the home, here are some tips for getting more people to see and buy your craft.
If you or your friends work in a hospital, bank or institution that requires employees to wear a badge, you have a great opportunity to get your handmade jewelry or other craft noticed. Particularly if you make beaded jewelry, you can add a badge holder attachment to any of your necklaces. Invite your friends or co-workers to wear them and make sure they have your card or contact info. Then when patients, clients or other employees compliment the badge holder, you or your friends can let them know you make these and can make them as necklaces or eyeglass holders as well.
If you are a metalsmith, you can also make a version of badge or eyeglass holder as a pin with a loop to hold the badge or glasses.
Whatever your medium, be creative about making pieces that people can see in the workplace and spread the word about your work. If, for example, you work in ceramic,  polymer clay or even fused glass,  consider making a business card holder that you and your friends can put on their desk where others will see and comment on them. You can also make picture frames that you keep on your desk and when people will comment on them, let them know about all the other work you do.
Even if you create high end pieces, putting more moderate work out where people can see it will interest them in your art and give you an opportunity to introduce them to the rest of your line.
Think about what other objects can can you add to your line that will showcase your art in the work arena.
The whole idea is, get it out there because you aren’t going to sell it if it’s sitting in your studio unseen.

Discovering the hidden cash in your crafts

Is selling your handmade work providing you with enough income or would you like to find additional income streams without having to produce and sell more pieces? If you’re like other crafts people I know, you probably would love to find some hidden cash to provide what my friend Barbara Winter calls “multiple profit centers”.
Regardless of what type of crafts you make, there’s easy profit hiding right under your nose (or in your studio.) These methods apply to almost any creative art form but let’s use jewelry as an example since many of you create hand made jewelry. You probably experience busy seasons in your business like Christmas, Valentines Day and Mother’s Day when you can barely keep up with demand for your jewelry. But what about summer when, unless you are in a tourist area, things probably slow down? Do you feel a cash crunch come July? How would you like to have a steady stream of income flowing in year round? It’s not only possible but super do-able.
Let’s say you do beadwork. What other ways can you turn your craft into cash besides selling your jewelry? Here are a few examples:
-Write down and diagram instructions for a piece or technique that’s unique to you or has been a hot-seller.
-Video-tape yourself creating the piece.
-Make up kits with all the supplies and components to make that piece.
-Bundle the instructions, video and supplies into a kit that you sell on your website. You might even create a kit-of-the-month club. Members can sign up to receive a new design with instructions and supplies each month.
-Ask your friends to host a make-and-take party where rather than selling your jewelry, attendees can make a piece of jewelry. They purchase the supplies and instructions from you. The party can also be a fundraiser for a charity, church or school group. Of course take the opportunity to promote your “membership” club and let the attendees know that you are available to do parties for them too.
-Have VIP days for someone who might want to have one-to-one time with you for private tutorials.
These are just a few examples of how you can leverage your knowledge to create additional income from your art. Check the blog often for more tips on finding the hidden cash in your craft.

Still 6 Days to Sell your Handmade Crafts for Mother’s Day

If you think you are too late to sell your hand made jewelry and gifts for Mother’s Day, check out the links below for easy-to-implement tips to sell your crafts at the last minute.

One super-simple thing that will increase your craft sales drastically.

Are you participating in craft fairs or any face-to-face shows this holiday season? How have your sales been?
Do you know there is one simple thing you should be doing that will increase your sales drastically and create loyal customers? One easy, obvious thing that you probably aren’t doing.

Place your work in their hands. That’s it. Easy peazy, right?
When I attend craft fairs, I notice artists only speaking to people who ask them questions and mostly just saying “hi, how are you?” or “thank you”. Or worse,
sitting in their booths texting, reading or looking bored.
People who shop in-person for crafts want to have face-time with the artists, to know the person who makes the art. To be able to tell the gift recipient or their friends who admire the piece they met the artist.  They want to touch and feel the work.

Try this next time you display your art: Greet every single person who walks by your booth. If they hesitate, they are interested in knowing more. Invite them into your space and tell them a little about your work. Talk about the process. If they are looking at a particular piece, put it in their hands and even invite them try it on if it’s wear-able.

I guarantee you will have a lot more sales and happy, return customers.
Let me know how it works for you.

Are you getting your work in front of discriminating buyers?

If you’re looking for more exposure for your work, how creative are you about where you sell you crafts? If you make items for dogs or their people, do you sell strictly to pet boutiques? Have you thought of approaching handcrafted galleries? Shoppers who value handmade will pay more if they see your work in a craft gallery rather than a pet boutique beside inexpensive imports. If you make baby gifts, don’t just sell them to children’s shops. Try to get them into shops with other hand made products. Why put your handcrafted pieces in a location where they are compared with manufactured goods? Get your work in front of buyers who are discriminating enough to appreciate handmade. What other locations can you think of where your work will get the attention and price it deserves?

Are you missing this HUGE segment of the RIGHT buyers for your crafts this season?

Are you counting strictly on Etsy, Artfire or other online platforms to sell your crafts for the holiday season? If so, you are missing a huge chunk of the market and a ton of revenue.  Here’s why:

There are a lot of web-savvy buyers who just don’t like to shop online. Even those of us who do purchase manufactured products, books or music  online, want to see and touch art in real-life. For many shoppers, meeting the craftsperson face-to-face is part of the attraction of buying hand made pieces.

It’s mid October and definitely time to be getting your work out there for early holiday shoppers. So, how can you get your work in front of the people who value made-by-hand? If you shy away from the large seasonal craft fairs like Harvest Festival, I don’t blame you. The booth fees are hefty and the whole experience is exhausting. Many artists who previously exhibited at the big festivals report more sales and a better bottom line when they exhibit at smaller venues such as school, church or community craft fairs. If there aren’t any small festivals in your area, you can approach schools, churches or clubs and offer to set up an exhibit of your work and give a percentage to the organization. (Think of it in place of a booth fee.)

House parties are another good way to sell your work. Ask friends, relatives or co-workers to host a party where you can display your work for their friends. Maybe partner with a caterer who is willing to make appetizers just for exposure to new clients.

Retirement homes are often happy to let you set up a display at no charge. It gives their residents an activity and chance to do their shopping independently. Look for upscale independent living communities, not nursing homes. Many of these residents have good disposable income, are educated in the arts and thrilled to have unique gift options without having to depend on anyone to take them shopping.

Corporations and hospitals are open to people setting up a lunch time or after work sale for their employees. It cuts down on personal days or “sick days” which are commonly used as shopping days around the holidays.

Ask gallery owners or boutique retailers to host a trunk show of your work for a percentage of the sales. Particularly if you make jewelry or smaller gift items, it benefits them as well. Galleries sell fewer large pieces of artwork before the holidays so this is a way for them to offer something to their clients that they may not show the rest of the year. If it ‘s a success and your pieces sell well for them, they may agree to carry your work year round.

For more ideas on how to sell your craft, download a free copy of “13 Easy Low-Cost or NO Cost Tips to Turn Your Crafts into CASH NOW” on the right side of this page.