Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Word About Arts & Crafts Vendors

Participating as an arts & crafts vendor is alot of work. If the event is outdoors, a tent is not only preferred, but pretty much necessary. Then there's tables and their coverings, displays, packaging, chairs, signage, credit card processing equipment, sufficient change for cash transactions, business cards, lighting, pen and paper for on-the-spot custom orders and recording sales and, of course, the items you have for sale. Setting up for an event usually takes me about an hour to get everything just right. I sell a number of different items so I'm constantly rearranging pieces to ensure a top notch, eye catching display. I attempt to draw visitors into my booth as soon as I see them approaching by saying hello, asking them how they're doing, and then quickly launching into a discussion of the items I'm offering for sale with the hopes that they're intrigued enough to check out all the goods. As with any vendor at the event, I'm there to sell, to make money. But I always make a point of telling prospective customers that all the items they see in my booth are handmade. By me. Each bead on every piece of jewelry is hand strung. Each stitch on every hat, scarf, belt, or purse is crocheted by hand. Each of my soy wax melts are hand poured into the mold. Each bar of soap is part of a batch that was made in my kitchen and cut by hand. Each and every item I offer for sale contains a little piece of me. I put my heart and soul into each of those items as well as alot of love, care, and attention to detail. I take great pride in knowing that the items I'm offering are of high quality. Personally, I'd prefer handmade items over machine made, mass produced goods any day. Apparently, not everyone thinks that way.

I recently participated in an arts and crafts event and watched with utter disgust as visitors oohed and aahed over cheesy plastic jewelry, designer knockoff handbags, and dollar store toys. I watched as parents happily handed over $10 for a light-up bubble blower because their little tyke kept screaming "I want one!" People whipping out their credit cards for a $30 spinning lawn ornament thingamajig. Clueless teenagers plunking down $20 for what they honestly believed was a real "designer" wallet. Ladies drooling over necklace and earring sets made from cheap plastic beads. I watched, and I cried. Not just because it wasn't my items they were buying, but because there was so little appreciation for good, quality merchandise. Garishness and the promise of a "real good deal" won out over simple quality. I wasn't the only one at this event feeling the sting; other vendors offering quality products were also overlooked. I cried for them, too.

I am very proud to be a part of the handmade movement. I wish folks out there would open their eyes and take notice of all the indie artisans who produce such beautiful, unique handcrafted items. You can't help but appreciate the time and effort put into their creations. There is an immense pool of talent in the indie community that continuously inspires me. The next time you're at an arts & crafts exhibit, ask the vendor if their items are handmade. If not, I hope you'll move on.


  1. I am so sorry your event didnt go as well as planned :( Unfortunately you are correct though .. I have done several events where people would buy really cheaply made candles - though handmade they were horrible - and balk at the cost of a high quality candle! I try and just tell myself I dont want them for a customer anyway because they would prob try to get something free everytime they contacted me! But lord knows I would have loved the additional sales! I hope the next one is much much better!

  2. So sorry. That really stinks. I have to agree, though, you probably wouldn't want them as a customer.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your experience. It is too bad that this is happening more and more. The handcraft community is so large and vibrant, but people outside the movement just do not understand the time and effort put into things. Handcrafted does seem to not hold any lure for the customer anymore, which is a true shame.
    I hope your next event is better, even just a little bit.
    And just remember, people who are willing to buy cheapo, mass produced things are not worthy of your wonderful, beautiful artistic pieces that are truly of heirloom quality.