Making: Thought on Shows

Hey there and Happy New Year! Quite frankly, I’m still giving 2015 the side eye but I’m sure I’ll get back in the studio and have some new work to share soon.

For now I wanted to share some thoughts that I shared with The Academy of Handmade over the holidays. Sharon, the co-founder of The Academy of Handmade and I often chat at shows, she’s a great supporter and a friend.  Between busy shows this past holiday season some of my thoughts on shows and selling came up and she asked me to share them via the Academy of Handmade blog. Broken into the 3 posts titled “Are you killing your craft show vibe” here’s what I shared about how I get ready for shows, how I take care of myself and how I stay in an awesome frame of mind during the show!

Check out the Academy of Handmade – they have a great blog with lots of great info shows, business tips and are a great community of makers!

I have a few things that help me to have a good show and stay in a good frame of mind! None of this has to do with stock or merchandise, which is a whole other set of planning. Shows are HARD. Loading your car full of tables and merchandise and then hauling it into a different show each time is HARD. For an artist that may spend most of their time holed up in the studio making things to go to talking to strangers all day is HARD. Smiling all day is HARD work. 😉


Usually when the show sends out their vendor kit or show details I review the layout, where my booth is and where useful stuff like bathrooms and the DJ are. This is usually when I make a plan for my booth– design the layout and make a plan for any changes or booth supplies I might need.

Sadly, no two shows seem to be the same, so I always try to review this stuff as soon as I can. I also try to imagine how much help I might need and make a plan for that as well, I try to do shows by myself but sometimes I’ll need help– like setting up a pop-up tent or driving out of town.

The week of the show I make a list of things that need to be packed and make sure my plan from above is still working out or if I need to make modifications. I put my merch, my supplies, my booth set up and my lunch on the list. Once I’m loaded in and all set up in my booth or space I review a list of day-of to-do’s to make sure I’m still on target. This way I haven’t forgotten to put something out or forgotten signage. All of the details are important and it helps me to not forget things if I rely on lists.


The night before every show I buy or fill up two big water bottles to drink for each day of a show. And I make sure I drink them. This sounds simple but as much as sales are important, it’s wayyyyy more important that I take care of myself and stay hydrated.

I also always pack a lunch or snacks. I never wing this anymore. I don’t rely on food trucks or vendors onsite. I pack a lunch 🙂

I also wear something comfy and pack a hat if it’s outside or a sweater if it might be chilly. I’m getting old (yup) so standing all day is a bit rough, I bring tall stools so that I’m sitting at the same height as people that are standing. That way if I do need a break, I can take one without disappearing behind a table or looking like I don’t want to be there.


I don’t keep track of how much I’m making in sales during a show. I don’t count the money I’m making or keep track of the inventory I’m selling as I sell it. For me, knowing how much I am or am not selling directly shifts my ability to interact with customers. It’s more important to me that I’m friendly with people and open with them about what I’m selling and answer any questions they might have than looking down at a pile of money or checking the tally on my phone.

A lot of people ask “How is it going for you” and my general response is “Great” because it is. Even if it’s hot or people are being jerks.  I’m there to share my products–if they buy something that’s awesome! If not and they like my work then I make sure they have a business card to take with them. Who knows when they might need what I’m making.

Keeping track of how much money I am making or how many things I am selling shifts me out of being present at the show. When I put my brain in that direction I sometimes start comparing the show to others or I start comparing myself to other vendors. None of that is helpful for me so I just don’t go down the path. All the money gets put away and all of the charges are processed and I don’t look at the end of day totals.

If it’s a two-day show I also don’t tally up the money each night. That night between shows is for me– for getting a good dinner, some down time and bit of rest. I go back again the next day with another packed lunch and fresh water.

On every Monday morning I already do a accounting review that includes various accounting like payroll and incoming/outgoing money. This is when I tally up the money and enter the extra costs like parking into a spread sheet. Only then do I know how well I really did at a show. By that point I can think clearly about what worked out at that show and where I might want to improve, but I’m not at the show doing that. I’m sitting at my desk usually making a list for the next show to refer to.

So there you have it–a few tips beyond the typical “don’t look at your phone” or “bring more than you’ll sell” (both of which are also awesome rules to go by).  For me, these things work and are really helpful. They separate the money away from the interactions and physical work that a handmade show can be. They mean I can really focus on the customers *and* making sure I stay healthy.

I have a really busy life, I run a full-time business that I own with my husband and I spend the rest of my time making art and various products to sell at shows and through stores. I’ve been selling at handmade shows since 2002 with my first few shows in San Francisco and Oakland and then since 2006 here in Southern California. I’ve sold at a lot of shows–from tiny little shows in peoples’ backyards to bigger two-day handmade or art focused shows. For me, these are just a few of the things that help me to stay focused at shows and have a good time and more importantly make sure I’m still in good shape to get more done on Monday morning and that I’ve taken care of myself.

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