Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Craft Show Lessons Learned, Part Two


It's a craft fair tradition to get a pic of Ellie reading at our tables! :)
We did our second craft fair of the season Sunday, and like all our craft fairs, there were some lessons to learn from it!

It Ain't Over Until It's Over: A lackluster show can turn in an instant because all it takes is one perfect customer. Okay, so we didn't get a perfect  customer, who would have bought one of Scott's segmented wood vessel, we did get a customer who bought a marblewood bowl just 20 minutes before the show ended. It was just enough to put us in the black, if you don't count the holiday gift shopping we did. Meanwhile, Ellie continues to win the top award for sales volume.

Good Neighbors: We were sandwiched between two jewelry makers who were awesome. It does help make the long day a little more enjoyable if you have someone else to chat with between browsers. And to top it off, one of our neighbors was super kind and introduced me to something called "cubicle clips" and loaned me a few to attach our sign to the table. Definitely going to be picking some up before our next show! Way better than using my usual packing tape! :)

The Grass Always Looks Greener: I volunteered on the committee for this craft show, so I had some pull on where we got placed. I was worried about the vendors at the opposite end of the room because at a show I'd attended in that room previously, it looked like most shoppers were bypassing that part of the room. So I suggested that the room be set up so there wasn't a real convenient path to the door without walking into that area's vendor tables, and it appeared to be successful! It seemed like that end of the room always had more customers milling about than my end. But when I chatted with a vendor from that end of the room, he said he kept looking toward my end and thinking that was where the people all were.

Do It Right, Not Just Fast: When we did our first show last December, we packed up afterward pretty willy-nilly. It was fast, but then of course I couldn't find anything when we got home. We've gotten far more organized in how we pack our stuff, which means that while we're not one of the first vendors out the door at the end of the day, we have very little re-packing that needs to be done between shows. It's so much better to take the time to do it properly, even if it takes 45-60 minutes at the end of the long day, rather than having several hours of work later.

How Do They Do It?: Many artisans are doing holiday shows multiple days per week during this time of year. Not sure I can imagine us doing that. We got home about 6pm, and I went to bed shortly after my 8-year-old daughter did at 8pm. Exhausting! I think I'm actually grateful that we weren't accepted into a juried show I applied for that would be next week.

People Say The Darnedest Things: We are not high-pressure salespeople, so why do people think they need to make excuses when they don't buy something? They're often kind of funny or make us roll our eyes. So when a woman admired Scott's work and then asked if he were Jewish before explaining that she couldn't use his bowl since he's not, we assumed it was just another excuse. I'm Jewish, but since I've never lived in a kosher home, I had no idea that very religious Jews apparently dunk their brand new utensils (including bowls) in a religious bath called a mikvah keilim. I've done a ton of googling about the custom, and although everything I've found says that wood items, even those made by non-Jews, don't have to go through the mikvah keilim to be used in a kosher home, I assume that woman follows a stricter set of rules than the ones I'm reading.

Next up on our fair schedule is the Artists Creating A Better World Holiday Craft Show, 10a-6p on Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Lakewood Center For the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego, OR. If you're in the neighborhood, I hope you'll come say hello!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 Craft Show Lessons Learned, Part One

We found some awesome cardboard risers that knock down flat and, when covered with fabric, look pretty darn nice for showing off Scott's work. :-)

We had our first craft show of the season last weekend, and while it wasn't a financial success, it was a good educational experience.

The booth sizes were a little odd, 6 feet by 11 feet, with 8-foot tables. So while I knew we needed more space than a single booth, I wasn't sure how we'd fill two. Turned out, we did pretty well, I thought. Although if we'd been mobbed by buyers, we didn't have a lot more to put out to fill in the empty spaces ... but that wasn't a problem.

Turned out I probably should have done some market research into the demographics of the middle school where the show was held and its surrounding neighborhood. It wasn't a "bad" neighborhood, but is wasn't an upscale neighborhood either.

As always, Ellie was an excellent saleswoman.

Our goods are kind of high end, especially Scott's woodworking pieces, which range in price from $25 to $750. So we really need to stick to shows that draw customers who can afford our products.

I chatted with other vendors, some of whom I knew from Facebook or our previous shows, and it seemed almost universal that sales were minimal despite the fairly good traffic at the show. Our sales totaled nine notecards and two dragonfly magnets. I'm pretty sure it's not a coincidence that all the goods that sold were at the table manned by Ellie. It is really tough to say no to a cute, engaging 8-year-old. :)

(It may be that the engaging part is more important than the cute part or the age; one of our booth neighbors was a mom-daughter team and while the girl looked to be a couple years older than Ellie, what really stood out for me was that the girl never seemed to smile or say a word to anyone other than her mom. I also didn't seem them make any sales, although they had browsers and very affordable items.)

The apparent low sales pretty much across the board at the show made me wonder if the Nov. 2 show was just too early in the holiday season for people to really be thinking about buying gifts. I had printed up some postcards with photos of our work as well as our holiday show schedule and we passed them out as much as possible. I have hopes that maybe some of the people who admired but didn't buy our wares will either shop our Etsy store or come find us at one of the other shows we'll be doing.

This show also debuted our floor easels. I really liked being able to get the bow boards off the table and put them at eye level. But I think I need to fix the ribbons before our next show and put out more brooches at a time.
The show was also not exclusively handmade, which meant that my brooches -- with each petal individually cut and curled, assembled and handsewn -- were competing with a seller who bought ready-made imported flowers and simply glued them onto findings. She could sell them for $3 because they're cheap to buy and quick to assemble. Mine had a lot more time invested and were, I like to think, higher quality.

Handmade-only shows not only level the playing field on costs, but they attract the people who are willing to pay extra for an item that they know was made by the person selling it.

We also had a lot of people tell us that Scott's woodworking belongs in art galleries, and I think I now have him persuaded that we should explore that route. :)

Our next show is the MJCC/Hadassah Chanukah Gift Fair on Nov. 17, and I'm sure that will also be a learning experience (but we're also hoping for a more financially rewarding day!).

Meanwhile, if you are starting to think about your holiday shopping, please consider browsing Foster's Beauties to find something perfect for your friends and family!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Deadline Pressure: Come See Us At Holiday Fairs!


time bomb
Time Bomb by dkshots via Flickr


And the countdown to the holiday fair season begins! With it, of course, comes some pretty major deadline pressure.

I was mildly panicked when I realized last night that it was exactly three weeks until our first holiday fair. So much to do, so much to plan for!

One of the reasons I went into journalism was because I like working on deadline. So I shouldn't be all worried about whether we actually have enough product to sell for the three fairs I signed us up for, right?

Well, I am.

Luckily, we're not going crazy and doing weekly shows. So there will be (some) time to recover and crank out more product as necessary between our events. And my fingers are crossed that we're enough of a success that I need to do just that! :)

If you're going to be in Portland over the next couple months, please come visit our booths and say hello!

Here's our lineup so you can mark your calendars:
  • Mountain View Middle School Holiday Bazaar, 10a-5p on Saturday, Nov. 2. 17500 SW Farmington Rd., Aloha, OR.
  • MJCC/Hadassah Chanukah Fair, 10a-5p on Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Mittelman Jewish Community Center, 6651 SW Capital Hwy, Portland, OR.
  • Artists Creating A Better World Holiday Craft Show, 10a-6p on Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Lakewood Center For the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego, OR.
Meanwhile, I need to get busy on the making! And organizing! :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Meet the Maker: Introducing Ellianna



Ellie checks out the manta rays at the Albuquerque BioPark in July 2013.

Ellianna took her first art class at the ripe old age of 10 months old. It was a parent-and-child class called Art Babies offered through our local community center for kids ages 10-18 months old. She got to do things like finger painting and squishing colored shaving foam, all the kinds of messy projects I didn't want to do at home with her.

Ellie enjoyed those Art Babies classes so much, her first birthday party was a "messy art" party at the community center. Here, she and Scott were having fun with the colored shaving foam. Soooooooo messy, but so much fun!

Q: What's your current favorite thing to make?

"I really like making friendship bracelets. They're interesting because you have to learn how to make them and there's so many different ways to learn. Right now, I'm working on one that I just learned. At first, I didn't get it because whenever I try to separate my strings, they get tangled. But my friend Emily taught me."

Q: Favorite colors to work with?

"Blues, greens and pinks. But sometimes I just work with what I have."

Ellie made this stepstool in woodworking at Oregon College of Art & Craft's art camp last summer.


Q: Your art notecards are very popular at craft shows. How do you decide what to draw?

"I just figure it out as I go. If I'm in the mood for something, I just start drawing it. I like drawing fairies because they're easy for me. I have a lot of books with fairies in them so I have a good idea what fairies look like and what kinds of things they like to do."

Artist at work!
Q: Why did you want your work to be part of Foster's Beauties?

"It's a family business, and I'm part of the family! I like making things too, and I thought maybe someone would want to buy some of them. ... I like it when people tell me they like my art."

(Note: This post is part of an occasional series about the makers behind Foster's Beauties' artwork.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Diving Into The Deep End: Learning With Artist Patty Gray

Scott is "raking" molten glass under the watchful eye of the glass artist Patty Gray.

Scott had an adventure in September: He took a five-day workshop with the amazing glass artist Patty Gray held at Fusion Headquarters in Newburg, OR.

Over those five jampacked days, Scott did everything from pattern bars to frit casting to mosaics. The work he brought home was just amazing!

That's Scott's ladybug in the back.

Isn't this cool? That argyle pattern was made by doing a sheet of blue squares and clear squares, a sheet of red squares and clear squares, and some clear sheets. The overlapping but offset squares of color make it look like there was a lot more cutting involved than there was!

This was a "painting with frit" project. Patty demonstrated her technique making red poppies, and Scott decided to make sunflowers for his version. Came out amazing, like an impressionist painting. 

The whole class' raking projects turned out amazing! Scott's is inside the kiln in the bottom left corner. Oddly, although he only had a little bit of purple in his setup, it all seemed to come to the top during the raking or the fusing that followed.


A closer view of Scott's project. Those things sticking out the sides are stainless steel pins used to hold ceramic fiber paper around the pieces.
Scott made the heart in the center, as well as the river in back row on the right.

 

The heart is really cool -- it was made using Flexi-Glass, which is this stuff you mix with crushed glass into what looks like fruit leather and then you can cut it with scissors into whatever shape you want. Wow!  

Pretty, isn't it?


Scott's pattern bars, after they were sliced apart and set into clear glass. I find it a very tribal looking piece, but pretty.

 

Isn't this amazing? Look how much gorgeous artwork seven students created over five short days! On the last day of class, Patty and the students gathered around the table and she critiqued each and every piece. Wow!

Another view of that very, very full table!

I don't know about you, but I can hardly wait to see what Scott makes next! :)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Public Service Announcement: Chanukah Is Just Around The Corner

Chanukah bugs make the perfect gift! 
I know no one is ready to start thinking about December holidays yet, but see, that's the thing -- one of the "December holidays" is starting in November this year: The first night of Chanukah is November 27.

Go look at your calendar and check it out -- I'll wait here.

See? I'm 46, and I don't remember ever having Chanukah start  before Thanksgiving. Crazy, isn't it?

So make sure you start your planning early, especially if you plan to make your own gifts or need to ship them!

Want some Chanukah Bugs of your very own? Or to give as a gift? You can find them and many other wonderful handmade gifts to fit any budget at our Foster's Beauties shop on Etsy.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Old Hobbies



Cute baby makes a quilt even prettier!

A blog post by Diane Gilleland, one of my favorite bloggers, got me thinking about my quilting days and the joys of gifting my labors of love. I was never a very fast quilter, so even a simple pattern like the above photo took me weeks to finish.

The reminiscing sent me in search of our very, very old hobby pages that were last updated in late 2004.

So want to see what Scott and I were up to creatively before Ellianna was born? Check out his woodworking from his furniture making days. And you can see many of the quilts that I made too!


The last quilt I made, a high school graduation gift for my niece in 2007. I forgot how wonderfully colorful those butterflies were!