Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Snow, Craft Fair, Flood...

Can plague & pestilence be far behind? As luck would have it, the fair I'd been most optimistic about, the 1st ever Redmond, WA Holiday Arts Fair, was a 1.5 day event, and to greet the big event was a forecast for the Seattle area's first real snow of the winter. Panic! Raised in New Orleans, I do floods; I don't do snow, even after 34 years here!!

I'd been gearing up for my 2 back-to-back juried craft shows (Renton & Redmond, WA), working hard each night with little sleep. The Renton Hassle Free Fair in mid-November (see blog 11/19/07) missed all the crazy weather. Rain, drizzle, showers, rain, rain, and drizzle we can handle. The very next weekend was the Redmond Fair. Day 1 was a Friday night from 5pm-9pm, & the weather was typical-Seattle winter stuff -- cool with showers -- no problem. Except that after 7pm the only folks still around were the vendors. Either any craft show on a Friday night should shut down by 7pm, or the customers had heard the warnings about snow -- warnings that were definite about its arrival, but vague about exactly when & exactly how much. Maybe Friday night, but definitely by sometime Saturday, maybe 1 inch, but possibly 3-4 inches. And sure enough, on the fair's big day (day 2) I awoke to see big fat snowflakes falling & sticking, with 1" already turning my car white. Could I drive through slick suburban streets safely? What if I risked life & limb & noone came? Or would we all arrive, but get stuck with our wheels spinning in the fair's parking lot after hours of the big, fat snow?

To my great relief, I didn't kill anyone during the drive & customers did show up! Even before the snow disappeared & the sun came out awhile. And a few dear friends braved the snow & came for moral support. Plus my friend & jewelry-phile Linda arrived to help me, as promised! What a joy to have their support and good company. Despite the fact that 3 of us jewelry vendors were located right next to each other & a few other minor glitches, whenever customers show up with wallets, it's a good show.

Monique donned 4 looks during the show, which was fun.
Friday night she started out wearing a black silky scarf knotted on the side. Saturday she wore a white faux-fur band around her head in the spirit of the holiday. When someone jokingly commented about her bald head (I prefer to think that her baldness was edgy), I covered her head with my Mom's sheared black turban hat, circa 1970. Finally, a neighboring vendor (Silk from the Hartz) who makes gorgeous hand painted silk scarves, practiced tying one on Monique's head to find new looks for women undergoing chemotherapy. It was easy to agree to this experiment for such a cause during the show, especially since these scarves were gorgeous. I ended up buying Monique (and me) this striking red/pink one, which I do believe helped draw folks to the table.

From the Redmond experience I hope to discover how much table decor is enough to attract customers without overwhelming the jewelry, which must be the focus. Maybe you can help me by voting in TWO POLLS on the right. I do enjoy introducing potential customers to "my new employee, Monique," which serves as an easy ice-breaker to build rapport. So Monique is a keeper, but how much Monique is too much? Please feel free to Comment. I need feedback.

Another problem I'd like to solve is how to re-do my jewelry set up so that it's quickly displayed & quickly removed. The neighboring vendor sold very nice earrings... only earrings. Each pair was mounted to attractive card stock printed with her logo & contact into. The earrings & attached cards filled each velvet compartment in trays removed from her product case. She laid out the pre-filled trays in 2 neat rows across her table that was covered with attractive cloth. With minimal other display apparatus added to the layout, she could pack up everything on her table and head for the door easily within 20-30 min. Meanwhile I was still removing & packing Monique's arms!! I hadn't even started on the jewelry yet.

One obvious difference between our needs is that I sell necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, requiring different kinds of displays. I have a product case similar to my neighbor's, & I display some necklaces & some earrings in its velvet-lined trays.
I hang other earrings around the lip of a tall glass goblet. Some necklaces hang from Monique's arms. I drape others over a 3-tiered velvet-lined display racks, and I arrange crystal necklaces flat on a 12" glass tile on the table. If I'm alone it takes me 80-90 minutes to set up & 80-90 minutes to remove! Too complex & perhaps too distracting for the customer.
What I do know is that my arrangement looks much better in a 10'x10' booth, where I can place 2 tables in an L configuration. Butting the length of 1 table into the side of the other increases the rectangular space I want from 6'x2.5' to 8.5'x2.5'. I believe that additional 2.5' of length removes any sense of clutter. At the Renton fair, a very sophisticated younger woman who frequents these fairs really liked my table's look with the L configuration. However, the Redmond booth space was only 6'x10'. No room at all for an L, and barely enough room for Linda & me to sit behind my 1 table.

I also learned that 2 small lights focused on the jewelry draw customers. Venues large enough for a craft fair usually have inadequate lighting because it's too far away from the jewelry. Somewhere on the small table I must position 2 clamp-on lights with daylight bulbs. At the very least, it adds warmth & makes the table look more welcoming. Most importantly it brings out the beauty in the gemstones & precious metals of my jewelry.

Despite the technical issues I'd like to resolve, this fair produced more sales than any other for me. Furthermore, I learned that when shoppers are beginning to panic about Christmas, they will brave snow, but they won't stay out late. I'm hoping that next year I can try Redmond again in just the boring old rainy stuff, and that I've got my set up issues resolved.

Epilogue: 3 days after the snow came The Great Flood That Closed I-5. Luckily we were soaking up the sun in Cabo & catching marlin. (See post 12/11/07) Dumb luck is appreciated & always welcomed.

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