Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Craft Sale O-mania!

I've just experienced my first craft show season and it was a crazy, hectic wonderful, stressful, learning experience. I thought that I was prepared; I had been stockpiling some things for months, and had quilts ready for sale. Here are my tips and thoughts:
  1. The organizer and previous participants are a treasure trove of information about the sale. Talk to them, if possible, about what things are likely to sell based on past sales. Talk to the organizer about what price range the biggest selling items fall into.
  2. Try to provide products that differentiate your brand from the rest; either something that is not typically sold, or some kind of signature to your brand..
  3. Think about the timing of the sale; if it is at Christmas, people are shopping for gifts for others more often than they are buying that splurge for themselves, especially in this economy.
  4. Walk the room; see what others are selling, and at what prices. Make sure you introduce yourself to everyone, and spend extra time with artists whose work you love. Network the room; get their cards, and give them yours.
  5. Make sure you save some of each item for each sale; even if it is only one or two pieces, at least you have a sample to show so people can order.
  6. Think about forming a cooperative with other crafters, where you can share sale duties and fees in exchange for selling each others' non-competitive craft.
  7. Have a variety of items at different price points.
  8. Make a few things each month, or make a single item production style; work on that item until you have a number of them produced (repetition will make you faster), then move onto another item. You may be willing to do this as part of your cooperative group.
  9. Keep an inventory of what you have produced. An Excel spreadsheet is great for this.
  10. Wear your goods if possible; if it looks good on you, people feel it will look good on them.
  11. Make sure you bring some work that can be done during the sale, even if it is just creating price tags for your goods, but preferably bring work that shows you making an item. I frequently use the time to bind or label my quilts. Seeing how much goes into making a piece helps to justify the quality and the price, and people frequently ask me what I am working on, a great conversation starter.
  12. Let people know that you notice them at your table by saying hello, and telling them if they have any questions, you'd be happy to answer them (rather than asking if they have questions).
  13. Immediately after the show, do a debriefing: What sold? What did not? What kept you from selling more--poor traffic? a bad location? timing? lack of goods, or goods priced too high? Did you get some non-monetary gain from the event, i.e., a referral to another event? Did you break even? What would you do differently? Write all these notes in a notebook, and use it as a reference tool.
  14. I try to send an email to people I met, building my network of crafter contacts. I also send a thank-you email to the organizer, regardless of how well I did.
  15. Invest in display items. These do not have to be bought items or expensive items, but again, take a look at other displays, and what you see in stores. I use a mixture of both. Presentation and merchandising are an art, too!
  16. Don't equate your worth as an artist with how you've done at a craft sale. There are too many unrelated variables to make that determination. If you've sold something, wonderful, but if you've learned something, you have gained something more valuable than a quick sale.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Giving back with the Girl Scouts

This week, I had an opportunity to get to spend some time with some young women at a Girl Scout Troop meeting in Newark. The young ladies were vibrant and mostly confident, but I was surprised. So many people speak of how self-absorbed and apathetic our young people are. I was prepared to meet young people who wouldn't pay attention to anything longer than a video, and who would find the art of quilting dull and uninteresting. They were respectful and polite, and asked questions our entire time together. I allowed each of them to create a block using crayons and their own art or rubbings, which they will use to create a charity quilt (or rather, I will use to create a charity quilt), and they both appreciated and absorbed the knowledge I was sharing. In return, I gave them a pack of sugarless gum at the end of our session. The other surprise was this: not one of them could thread a needle and knot the thread! I did not expect them to be able to sew, but they caught on quickly. Let me say that my mom did not sew, or participate in any crafts that I remember. Her mother, however, was a self-taught crafter. I wish I could have met her. My dad's mom was a quilter, and her gift of a quilt set me off on my fiberquest. It still keeps me warm on cold winter nights. Yet, when I was 14 or so, with the blessing (and funding) of my mother, and the support of my best friend, Jeanine, who's Mom is an awesome seamstress, I took classes at singer, and never looked back. I never made dresses for dolls, but did create dresses for friends and for my mom. I am still hoping to teach my niece some of my crafting skills. I hope my teasing lesson gets a few of those girls on the path to sewing, so that they will go back and ask their mom, or their aunt, or their grandmother to teach them how to sew. I know they will never regret learning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quilters of Color and quilters' generosity

One of the wonders of being a quilter is discovering how generous they are. I am currently serving as President of Quilters of Color, a guild which has members of all colors, though we are primarily African American. Last Saturday, we had a visit from Ms. Jolli Brown, who is on the staff of LIU. Jolli is working on a collaborative effort in which they train teachers to teach in urban areas, and as part of that program LIU is hosting a film in April, and is providing activities where young women, predominantly young women of color, can learn to quilt and get involved in some media production.
At one point, Jolli asked for suggestions about the program, and boy, did she get them! As quilters, we have a vested interest in "passing the thimble", as Alex Anderson likes to say, and specifically, quilters of color have an interest in building not only our quilting community, but our communities at large. The ideas came in fast and furious, and I am looking forward to our participation in this event.
I am being uber productive, and have hit an unforeseen snag. My machine picks its moments to act up, and I had to return it to my dealer, and get a loaner. This is one of the benefits of buying a machine from a dealer. Try getting a loaner from Walmart or Costco in a pinch. :-) I have attached photos of one of the Christmas stockings I've made. An all-nighter is looming!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back on the Block

Okay, I've been trifling. But I have been productive! Though I missed Houston this year, I am excited about a number of things these days. I have recently been juried into a local crafts show in South Orange, NJ Dec. 4-7. I have also submitted a list of classes that I'd like to teach, and have gotten interest in a Memory Quilt class. Like many people I am a procrastinator. But when I have to get things in for a deadline, I am focused. Lately, I've been dyeing and embellishing some silk pieces, and working on felted scarves and soap. I love fiber, and the exploration of many types of fiber is a critical part of my journey. I am posting some photos of my quilts, and have ideas for many more, including an Obama quilt, which I will begin working on right after I get going on my Mermaid quilts, which are due in January. I have used these past few months to finish a number of pieces, and (in addition to my job search) to focus on activities which restore my creative self. I am commiting to writing at least one blog entry a week, and posting as many photos as I can, one at a time. The quilt shown is titled Market Women, and used a batiked appliqué with a background that is a combination of cotton, and a sheer "party dress" fabric. I enjoyed doing this piece because it let me see what was possible and not just what is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!