Monday, November 19, 2007

Assessment of a Sleep-Deprived Brainstormer

I admit to being passionate about EVERYTHING I adopt as a project, career, cause, or business in retirement. In fact friends might say I'm dogged. Because I don't know how to turn it off, brainstorms about my passions keep on coming -- some good, some not so good. (See post in October.)

The latest brainstorms focused on Renton, WA's Hassle Free Holiday Bazaar this past Friday & Saturday. The fair was VERY, VERY well run, and without doubt the best fair I've been in so far -- juried, the most vendors (~100), the most shoppers, ample carts to haul our setup around, girls pushing a goodie wagon past thirsty vendors both afternoons, abundant publicity in the newspapers & good signage throughout neighboring communities. Bravo & thanks to Shirley, the organizer of many years.

Having minimal prior experience selling at fairs, I'm determined to learn quickly from my mistakes. So here's what I learned at the Renton fair --

o Focus on one price point appropriate for that venue. I'll know next time that Renton's is about $25 on average for jewelry. Though my jewelry ranged from $10 earrings to $255 necklace/earring set, my average piece cost about $50. I had several items over $80 & 2 over $200. One woman fell in love with Serenity, but at $250 it was out of her reach.
However, she wanted my website name so she could view Serenity "whenever she needed to" :) Of course, the over-supply of jewelry crafters makes finding the right price point even more important.

o Ask if there are restrictions on booth side walls. A customer advised me that she couldn't see my booth until she'd almost passed it. Why? Because my neighbor ahead of me in the traffic flow had 10' high wire walls on 3 sides of her booth, completely covered with her attractive aprons. Since folks could not see through her covered wire walls, many buyers passed me by looking in the other direction. If 2 shoppers hadn't mentioned this issue, I never would have thought of it, & I'm sure the very nice vendor in question didn't either. Interestingly, my next venue prohibits displays that block the neighbor's visibility.

o Don't over-crowd the table. On day 2 I arrived with my own 6' table, butted its end perpendicular to the existing table to form an "L" & gained another 30" or so. Spreading out the jewelry another 30" really made each piece easier to see. Wish I had taken a picture of the expanded version.

o Plan the look of price tags for jewelry carefully. With only a 6' table & lots of jewelry on the first day, the tags I'd brainstormed that week working 2 full days & 1 overnight were a disaster! Especially the items with tags that I placed in the velvet-lined trays from my product case. Honestly, it was hard to find the earring hiding next to or under its pretty price tag! After watching droves of customers pass by in 2 hours barely glancing at my table, I madly began unknotting over 100 ties to remove my beautiful tags. What a difference that made. There really was some pretty jewelry under all that paper! At home Friday night I implemented a new price tag plan -- small, white, rectangular, peel-off labels folded around a clasp or earwire so that the sticky ends & edges could stick to each other. There was just enough room to write the price in ink -- not pretty, but neat & barely noticeable. Saturday my table looked fine, the price tags were unobtrusive, but easy to find, and there were no disasters :)

o Have a Plan B when (not if) a major brainstorm goes haywire. Fortunately I'd made an 8-page price list "just in case." After I had to remove all my price tags, that document saved the day!

o Bring a helper. I can't begin to thank Mary Lou & Joyce enough for their help. Beyond the moral support & watching over the booth, they gave me precious time each day to scout the competition & learn what I'm doing well & not so well.

o But here's the most important lesson for me: Seriously question any brainstorm devised when normal people are sleeping.

Despite the painful lessons learned, I'm making progress -- more sales to more customers & more confidence in my work & in the "look" of my table. I hope to do this show again next year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Before & After Miracle :)

For me the toughest part of selling my handcrafted jewelry online has been taking attractive pictures that appear only 1" square in our Etsy stores. Yesterday another local Etsy crafter gave me a gift that will significantly improve my photographs in those 1" squares! I took Marlo's hands-on class in Photographing Jewelry & Small Objects. We practiced 3 specific settings using our own cameras & jewelry under Marlo's guidance -- setting White Balance, Aperture, and Shutter Speed & learning how they work together to create clear, well lit pictures. She taught us how to shoot from almost eye level, giving pictures an interesting perspective. I wish I had time to re-shoot all the items in my store, but that won't happen with 2 craft fairs, a trip and the holidays galloping toward me. However, I did stay up all night re-shooting a few of the worst offenders. Besides, I wanted to play with my new skills! You'll see a few Before & After shots above & below this post, & I hope you can tell which is which! (If you can't tell the difference, should you tell me? Oh, okay! I really do want to get better, so feel free to Comment if you can't see improvement. And as a special Thank You to Marlo, I encourage you to shop her Etsy store, I Make Cute Stuff!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

UPDATES- Mystery Stones & Craft Fair

Oh my, it's been a busy time. Before I retired, I got a lot more done after working 10 hour days. Now I feel overworked & at day's end, I'm not quite sure what I accomplished!


since the last post, I have accomplished 2 things I can remember! Hoping to identify the mystery stones in the Oct. 13 post, I found a huge annual rock show barely 1 mile from my house! With necklace & an extra broken stone in hand, I faced the rock hounds behind their booths & wondered where to start. Fortunately for me most of them were eager to identify my olive green stones. Unfortunately all of their ideas were as varied as the previous best guesses. Clearly this was not the exact science I had hoped! Certainly not without a laboratory. Finally I found the grad student assigned the task of identifying mystery stones. She was equipped with a thick book on rocks & their specs, a fancy microscope, and a refractometer. But she was baffled until I mentioned the suggestion I received that it might be idocrase (aka vesuvianite). She looked it up in the fat book & with both of her instruments determined that the stones matched the specs in all regards. So hopefully the mystery is solved. IDOCRASE/VESUVIANITE!

My other accomplishment was applying for my first juried craft show & being accepted! So I'll be at the Renton, WA Hassle Free Holiday Fair in the Renton Community Center, Nov. 16 & 17. I hope all my local friends will "shop homemade" from the 100 vendors on site. It should be fun! So Monique & I will be busy :)