So You Want to be a Crafter?

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One aspect of good marriage is that each spouse supports and encourages the other in their endeavors.  For the past 10(?) years or so, my wife has been making glass jewelry, primarily sold at "craft shows" in a town near you.

Encouraging someone to do something isn't that hard to do; it just requires an intentional effort and primarily involves words.  Supporting someone, however, requires action.  My wife does 6-9 craft shows each year around the Atlanta area, plus others elsewhere.  This weekend was the Inman Park Festival.  Inman Park is one of the older areas in Atlanta, close in to the city, with many beautiful homes and mature trees.

nice house

nice house1

I doubt many romanticize the world of craft shows, except possibly loving the idea of life away from the 8-5 grind, featuring such benefits as rush hour commutes, a boss, and corporate (insert aggravation of choice).

In fact, attending into a craft show is very much a pleasant way to spend some time, if one likes to see handcrafted arts, to push a stroller, or to enjoy some time outdoors, among many others.  Well, it's nice for a couple of hours, and then you head out to other diversions thinking, "Wow, I wish I was a crafter."  

The devil is in the details.

This weekend was typical for my wife.  Friday night, she was up to 1:30 a.m. (um,  yep, that's technically Saturday), finalizing some jewelry pieces.  As it happens, a gallery placed an order depleting her supply, plus she just finished another local show the previous weekend.  When it rains, it pours, as the saying goes.  (Takeaway lesson - no she doesn't work from 8-5; during show season she works from about 11 -11, excluding meals).

Where were we?  Oh yes, to bed at 1:30 a.m.

5:15 a.m. Alarm.  5:20 Alarm again.  5:30 - we're out of bed.  6:00 a.m. we're on the road and on our way for the Breakfast of Champions!  McDonald's.  If you imagine that there would be time for a full breakfast at Cracker Barrel for a full day ahead, you would be mistaken.

7:00 a.m.  We arrive at Inman Park.  To coordinate unloading, the event organizers have to manage the traffic so that vehicles can be efficiently unloaded and moved out of the way for others to do the same.  Translated: this can mean a delay of anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes, the latter of which is rather infuriating when reflecting upon the time when the alarm first rang.


Saturday was good - the five minute variety.  Next, we see what has ultimately become a jigsaw puzzle of packing the many items needed into our vehicle of choice.


As a local show, my wife didn't have to pack a suitcase for overnight travel, and she otherwise planned for a "lite" version of the setup.  She could have brought more, in other words.  Quick, unload the car, because other people want in:


It looks brighter outside than it is.  Note the headlights on the car.  Anyway, that's all of it unloaded, some of it very  heavy.  Some craft shows make you haul it in from a dedicated parking area, or, worse, from wherever you can find to park.  There may or may not be volunteers to help, either.

On the whole, this doesn't look like much.  But, there's other items for outdoor shows, different displays for indoors shows, and even more for wholesale shows.  It kind of grows on you.  And your garage.  And your house.

And, after saying all that, I can still say that experienced crafters learn to get by with less.  You might notice in the foreground a marking for booth #131.  We're 133!  Um, right where that car is parked, thank you very much.  At least it's another crafter's car. 

One cartowdisadvantage  of a neighborhood hosting a streetDSC_0084 festival is that cars must be moved.  Don't say you weren't warned.  In any case, we wait.  Dang, it's early.


very early street

There are a few basic styles of tents, varying from $200 to $2k.  Some are easy to erect, and some, like ours, require assembly.midbooth  The pipes on the ground are filled with concrete and hung from the tent frame.  If the wind should blow, these hopefully will keep the tent on terra firma.  Unfortunately, it's important, as weather can change quickly and wreck both the booth and the contents.  As it turns out, St. Macarius of Unzha was with us this weekend (Google informs the inquisitive that he is the patron saint of crafters), and the weather was beautiful. 

An hour and a half later or so, we're pretty much done.  We opted for one less sidewall as we weren't crammed against our neighbors, a rarity.

finished booth

Although there are bicyclists and joggers passing through, the show doesn't formally open until 11:00 a.m.   But gradually, tent city takes shape. 

early streets

Notably, we were not located next to a digerroo musician, an incense burner, or a soap seller.  These may be of interest to many, but over the full course of a weekend, these tend to encourage more people to quickly pass by than to leisurely check out each space. 

In fact, a main challenge is not actually the art, but the presentation.  A certain percentage of people will have no interest in what an artist makes.  It's not rejection, but in the absence of sales, it can feel that way. Artists have to keep the faith as people glance over and keep walking.  But the point is, at least they glanced, even whilst tending to a demanding child or chatting with their show buddy.  It's not just about the art.  If your booth isn't set up to entice someone to look, you lose.  And you thought this was easy... 

Inman Park is a relatively large festival for the Atlanta area.  It has several streets for juried, hand crafted arts (primarily paintings, jewelry, clay, woodworking).  Most shows have application fees plus booth fees (no refunds for inclement weather), so getting things sorted as early as possible often helps cover expenses from a passerby, usually another crafter or a festival volunteer.

As for me, my main supportive task done.  My wife is the one who is built to weather the crowd, the heat, and the duration.  Meanwhile, I'm off to take a spin around the festival.  I generally look for something that looks "different" as even to my untrained eyes the art may be fine quality, but too much of it is also too familiar. 

Unusual for most shows that feature handcrafted arts is a separate section of "buy/sell" - generally imported junk (as viewed by a crafter's spouse) that sells cheaply and competes for the available disposable income of those attending.  Not a good thing.  On the other hand, one never knows exactly what they'll find that they might like.

Australian hats

Say, that's just the thing for a receding hairline!

There's also other aspects of the Festival.  Beer taps, three concert stages, a children's activity area, food vendors located throughout, and a parade even, in this case.

Sometimes, other surprises await.  Food vendors generally look like this, though often festivals do not have covered seating.  These vendors work hard - and it's often hot work also.  However, most crafters bring their own food and's an expense thing.


But, constant change is here to stay, and here's a 21st century luxury option for food vendors:


Sure, why not cook in an RV?  It was customized on the inside, and I think the air-conditioning was running.

Otherwise, the early walk around was boredunremarkable, with this bored fellow a fair example of the calm before (optimistically) a shopping storm.  That said, there seems to be a direct correlation between sales efforts and sales revenues.  People will only buy items that they like, certainly, but as often, they want to like the artists that made them.  Being accessible and friendly is also a requirement, and the majority of my wife's customers would tell you that they don't just buy jewelry, they buy from Nancy. 

My quick route completed, it's my turn to watch the booth for a few moments.  (Note the fashionable Australian hat if you can make it out).


Meanwhile, my wife is off to meet with a few of her crafting buddies down the street and visit what might be considered an indicator of the expected crowd size.


As for me, I surprised my wife with a return trip late Sunday afternoon to assist the process in reverse.  I'm supportive, after all.

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