following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the
November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please
understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not
gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try
to give all of the material posted on this site.
always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout
this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct
problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the
spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very
informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more
than 50,000 words by the end of November.
~ ~ ~
far, the fall craft season of 2013 has been one of the busiest
ever for ComplemenTerry
Designs. And some of the biggest elements
in keeping us moving have been several incredible things that
we have experienced.
and foremost… ComplemenTerry Designs.
than 15 years ago, Terry and I were discussing her talents and
craft efforts. She had an extensive background, including amazing
experience in floral arrangements and design. (We make no attempt
to disguise it, while I am involved, there is a reason “Terry”
is in the ComplemenTerry Designs name.) We decided to
begin some operations under the new name… and ended up taking
have regularly participated in only a handful… if that many… events
annually. The grand total has been at least one each year since
the beginning, but really never more than two or three and possibly
a special project added in.
amazing set of circumstances and coincidences allowed us some
flexibility in our schedules, and we decided to load up on craft
and vendor fairs. The month of November alone has featured five
events… a booking on every weekend and taking place over six days.
this time, we have met some incredible people and learned an amazing
amount about the secret world of craft and vendor fairs. Some
things we already had a feel for and opinions about… and some
were lessons to us that you really only learn by doing multiple
events, in a variety of settings, while working with different
people. And I thought I’d take a few moments to share some of
the secrets with you…
a close group… surprisingly close and supportive.
I just mentioned that you need to work with different people to
really get a grasp of things… such as the highs and lows… it is
by working with the same people, and establishing relationships
and friendships, that the true magic develops.
buy items from each other.
discuss upcoming events, make recommendations, and share information
about as well as networking could ever be done.
remember about 20 years ago, Terry and I went to a local renaissance
fair. Inside, there was a guy that made dragons out of wax. He
also offered creations like mushrooms, wizards and other creatures.
(In speaking with him, he also did lots of other sculpting efforts
as well. Anyway… dragons…) He put some on driftwood. A few had
pieces of castle wall incorporated. They were candles. All this
time later, I still have his name… Michael Mills.
used to buy at least one piece from his stand each time we visited
the fair. As Terry put it, she believed in supporting artists,
encouraging talent… especially for people doing quality work that
deserved appreciation and recognition.
keep that story in mind, along with the theme of supporting quality
artists. Because that is exactly what these craft fairs can be
like. It’s a group that wants to support good people that are
doing good work.
amazing… like there is some unacknowledged signal beeping away,
drawing the best people together. And they start talking. Exchanging
details and histories. Making connections. And by the end of a
single day you have phone numbers and e-mail addresses and Facebook
the risk of being somewhat biased since we have found ourselves
included in these groups, it generally seems to be the people
that are the most friendly, and almost always offering tremendous
items for consideration, that become part of these groups.
it goes beyond making friends and chatting.
exchange information about other events… and often send along
contacts. This year alone, Terry and I attended two fairs we didn’t
even know existed until someone told us about them. We got to
talking to people, they took a look at some of our items and then
said: “You guys would do wonderfully at such-and-such.” Expecting
nothing in return, they provided details and information that
allowed us to find and register for these events.
quite often we shared places we were planning to be as well.
offer encouragement. They offer experience and advice. They are
truly ambassadors of the community.
also networking on a simply unreal level.
be surprised what you learn… especially about doing business.
the run up to our very first craft fair with ComplemenTerry
Designs, Terry decided she wanted to expand her selection.
Actually, she decided she needed to expand her selection. Up until
that point, she mainly had wreaths and some traditional arrangements
(such as holiday centerpieces) as the primary creations in her
wanted more. She wanted a few smaller items… where things being
sold for a couple of dollars, even ones that weren’t complicated
to make (but also weren’t expensive to make), and eventually those
dollars could add up. She also wanted some items to catch eyes
and attention, maybe spark conversation, and potentially get people
to spend more time around her table.
of the items she came up with that first year was a doorstop.
It was quite a project. Basically she took a precast patio brick,
painted it white, and then used a few pieces of felt and a pipe
cleaner to turn it into a snowman. Because of the efforts involved
just in painting the bricks, it turned into an all-hands-involved
affair, with Justin, Jay and I all taking turns and getting involved.
were they hard to make? No. Not really. Were the expensive to
make? Not at all.
were a tough sell.
mean… really… why? They were cute, priced right, and frankly,
appeared to be a steal. People stopped specifically to look at
them. They were everything Terry had hoped to bring to her area
of the craft fair… something different and relatively inexpensive
that was going to get people talking.
they did talk about these snowmen, in glowing terms.
we hadn’t figured on was how heavy they were.
we knew they were heavy. We each moved dozens of them.
what we learned… what we hadn’t anticipated… was that people couldn’t
comfortably carry them. At that year’s particular craft fair,
the set up wasn’t one where after a visit to the vendors a return
to the car was planned for the near future (or even easy to make).
these lessons are all over the place.
a good one… a very meaningful one on several levels… and I’ll
toss it in as a gift to you. Always plan on kids being around.
there are obvious items that go along with this idea. The hands
of children do not often mix well with fragile displays. But those
items aren’t the concept I want to share.
are the enemy of laid back, slow moving, careful consideration
and browsing to be done shopping trips. They want to go, go, go…
and often the parents have to go, go, go just to keep those hands
from getting too busy exploring breakable items. And that means
those parents will move along after spending only a handful of
seconds… and likely after making no purchases… at your table.
do you have anything in your area to attract the kids, make a
group with kids stop, and encourage a purchase?
it’s bad, it’s bad… I probably shouldn’t admit this,
but here goes…
know those wooden popsicle sticks? The ones you could use to build
a model log cabin? The ones you could set up to be a great art
project with some yarn? Those popsicle sticks.
many craft fairs have loud voices in the ranks. And, often these
voices are used during times of frustration. For example, when
sales aren’t as good as had been hoped.
times. Many… many… many times… the people behind these voices
are selling items that look like they were made out of used --
and never washed after use -- popsicle sticks.
that’s a joke.
meant to be funny.
meant to be offer an example that’s easy to appreciate, while
honestly describing a situation so extreme that you couldn’t possibly
believe that it’s real.
honest moment… yeah, I have met a couple of people that were misguided
enough that, even though they didn’t, I actually could see them
using used popsicle sticks. But this is not the norm. Instead,
poor sales aren’t normally because of poor work quality. Most
often it’s because of a poor inventory. Or…
to the point, the items being offered for sales aren’t connecting
with the customers that are looking around.
my point about that being bad (and, for some of the vendors, a
reason to get noisy) is that unfortunately, sometimes people approach
craft and vendor fairs with unreasonable expectations. They seem
to view it as some sort of golden ticket lottery…
the investment of $40 to $50 for supplies… and a few minutes working
on projects during commercials instead of fast-forwarding through
them… is going to generate thousands of dollars from customers.
a creative and even well-designed product not selling is viewed
as the fault of event organizers.
accountability. No responsibility. Instead a viewpoint from entitlement.
PLEASE… go back and see what I said about the craft community.
When it’s good, it is beyond incredibly good.
the people that are really good don’t treat crafts purely as a
hobby. They are treating crafts with the respect, effort and focus
of a professional. They not only want their work to be as good
as it can be, and a positive reflection of their talents… they
also want to be surrounded by people that feel the same way….
they also want their work to be enjoyed.
because you like something -- or think an idea is genius -- does
not mean someone else wants to spend $20 for it.
unfortunately, the loudest complaints seem to come from the tables
offering goods you don’t want to spend any money on.
of the people are unbelievable… with most being unbelievably
goes for other vendors… and it goes for customers.
have been blessed with people that have literally shown up this
year at multiple events to find us in three different states.
someone comes back for more… when someone tells you that a piece
you made for them has become virtually a family tradition for
holiday decoration… when someone explains how they love the way
you brought a unique or unexpected twist to a design…
fairs are wonderful things.