Archive for the ‘art fair’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: Prescott Rodeo Days Arts & Crafts Fair 2020   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

The long darkness lifted a bit.

I went to an event. I sold stuff. It was almost normal. Except, you know, for the masks & health checks & threats & such.

This was my 4th trip to Prescott, AZ, and I was going for their big 4th of July celebration that centers around the World’s Oldest Rodeo. The Rodeo happened … limited to 25% capacity. The Arts & Crafts Fair happened … with all of the booths socially distanced. The very popular parade … canceled.

But I was back in business, if only for a moment. I had to leave California & drive 400+ miles each way, but I had an event!

New Ideas

  • Geez, it was all new. I hadn’t had an event in 5 months. I hadn’t set up this canopy in 6 months.
  • New products, made during the pandemic:
    • 2x sizes of Dip Servers
    • Magic Bottle Openers returned from a 2 year hiatus, both wall & fridge mount
    • Cutting Board selection was deep, with highlights to include several charcuterie boards like a live edge Black Walnut board (sold), a Dough Board with Hooks, and many traditional boards.
    • Also returning from being sold out previously: Hearts, Coasters, Ampersand Boards, Cracker Things, California Bears, 5 Section Servers & a wide array of Handled Boards on a new display stand.
  • The Mowry Cookbook made a rare appearance for sale, as I had the space.
  • Mrs M stepped up and made “Keep ‘Em Clean,” a Waterless Hand Cleanser. This new alcohol-based product was offered for free so everyone could clean their hands before/after entering the booth, or even just as they wandered by. Everyone appreciated that.

Observations

  • I have no expectations for this weekend. None. I mean, how can you? Who knows who will show up, or if they will have money in their pocket?
  • I found this event because my original event for this weekend in Morro Bay, CA was canceled on June 1. I scrambled & followed my friend Delinda back to Prescott because Arizona is open. Delinda had been there for Memorial Day; I stayed home then. But, no more.
  • I was very fortunate that some good friends had recently moved to Prescott, and invited me into their home for the weekend. Not only was the lodging free, but they cooked for me, too. This was not only incredibly kind, but allowed me to do this event with much less financial risk.
  • Vendors were required to wear masks. Vendors had to pass a health check at set-up on Thursday, and had temps taken daily. We were warned that if we were non-compliant with the masks, we would be required to close our booth. We were told that if the event was found to be non-compliant, it would be closed by the county. We live in an era of threats.
  • My local friends connected me to a recent high school graduate to help with set up. He had a buddy … so I had a crew to set up. I love it when that happens.
  • In spite of the help, we didn’t get set up done on Thursday evening. A quirk of events on the courthouse square in Prescott (which is *lovely*) is that you can’t begin set up until the last judge leaves the courthouse. That was after 6p … we worked until dark, and then buttoned up. I had an early morning on Friday.
  • Friday, I couldn’t sleep so I got to the booth at 6a. Set up continued, with a brief pause at 7a for a mandatory vendor meeting where the threats were repeated. I continued with set up and was ready for customers at 9a.
  • Here’s a truth: dog walkers aren’t buyers of my product. They are out to get exercise, see the sights, and share with other dog owners. They never buy cutting boards (Oh, ok, there was this one lady … in six years.). Not my people.
  • One dog walker met another dog walker in front of my booth. The dogs were the same species. Or something. They chatted. They talked. One of the dogs pissed on my table cloth.
  • The dog owner, deep in conversation, barely turned her head for a pro forma “sorry” and kept talking. My table cloth now serving as a territorial marker for the rest of the weekend was unimportant to her.
  • Not. My. People.
  • It began to sprinkle about midday on Friday, and it eventually worked itself up to raining for 30 minutes. I had to tarp over my exterior displays and wait for the blue skies to return at 2p or so.
  • My biggest sale of the weekend was during the rain. I feel sorry for the vendors that close up when it gets wet outside. They just don’t get it.
  • Saturday was the 4th, and Prescott traditionally has a parade that’s a little slice of Americana in this rural town of 40,000+. The parade was canceled this year due to the virus, though, so no one knew how large crowds might be on this holiday weekend. They were good, but perhaps not great. There was a steady flow past my booth all weekend which had both locals and tourists.
  • The morning of the 4th saw some convoys of vehicles cruising through town with many American flags & much honking. The town leaders might have canceled the parade … but there was still a parade.
  • People carried flags around the square as well. It was very red, white & blue on the 4th. I appreciated that very much.
  • Masks are hot when you wear them for hours.
  • The vast majority of shoppers were masked. Some were not, certainly, but most people were following the directives that the governor of Arizona had given.
  • Did I mention masks are hot? I took to alternating between my various masks: I brought 5x styles with me. I preferred the gaiters, though the paper masks were good. I did discover that if I was setting up – working – I felt the mask limited my oxygen. I didn’t wear a mask when I was doing the physical labor required to do what I do.
  • New at this event were the Dip Servers, which were prominently displayed, front & center. I heard the Dad joke twice and was embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it myself. “Dip Servers … oh, this is for me?”
  • I did see a lot of hats & shirts promoting President Trump. Through the whole weekend, I only saw one Democratic sign. Truly, 99+% were pro-Trump. This is a conservative area, but I was still struck by the absence of visual Biden support.
  • Two ladies were wearing Q t-shirts, which caused a bit of a stir. People were asking to take pictures with them!
  • I can’t believe I saw more Q than Biden.
  • Please note: my selling of cutting boards is 100% non-political. So is this blog. I am reporting on what I saw, nothing more.
  • My handled cutting boards were again compared to paddles (sigh). I was asked if I had one engraved, “Make Kids Great Again.”
  • I do not.
  • I will not.
  • Definitely saw some price resistance this weekend, but, honestly, no more than I typically do. I wondered if there would be more due to the large unemployment numbers, virus damage to the economy, etc. Things seemed pretty OK for those that were shopping. And, I did sell the most expensive board in the booth, so there is that.
  • Saturday afternoon, I was processing a credit card transaction when out of NOWHERE, water started running down the roof onto my front table. Did somebody launch a water bottle onto my roof? Squirt gun war. HUH??? My table was soaked.
  • Come to find out, there was a pool of water trapped on the roof from yesterday’s rain. 24 hours later, the wind must have caught it just right, and I suddenly had an ill-positioned cascade. No boards were damaged, but it was freaky to have water just appear.
  • My worst day of the weekend was … Saturday, July 4th. That wasn’t typical of most other vendors according to my informal survey. My best day was Sunday. Weird.
  • But what would you expect from 2020?
  • Taking everything down was speedy, as I had 2 helpers + my hosts help me. I was more manager than worker, and we got everything back into the trailer well before dark.
  • On the drive home, I thought I would stop in Barstow at the Black Bear Diner … closed. Back to the reality of living in California.
  • In the end, I broke even on the weekend. The booth cost was relatively expensive. Event promoters are not giving a Covid-19 discount. The attendance was clearly lighter than prior years, I was told by many. There were fewer vendors, too … but sales didn’t rise as a result. But, I got out of the house, remembered how to set up the Trimline again, and went a-vendoring. I’ll take that as a win.
  • Request included a larger Cracker Thing, a Cheese Board/Cracker Thing combination, and a Cutting Board display stand (sigh). Maybe someday.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Pot Roast. Home cooking for the win.
  • Honorable Mention: Creamy Shrimpy stuff.
  • Worst Meal: Friday bagels that tried to get eaten after set up. They didn’t age well in my gear bag.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 882
  • Booth cost: $950
  • Total sales: $2,695
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 4
  • Friday alarm: 5:15a
  • # transactions: 35
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue, but I know at least 2 others were selling similar things. The guy selling cheap, shaped boards made from Corian was there, too.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 36:3
  • Returning next year? probably not, if California is open

Boards sold: 39

  • Signs: 8
  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Trivets: 4
  • Charcuterie Boards: 4
  • Dip Servers: 3
  • Cracker Thing: 3
  • Handled Boards: 3
  • Magic Bottle Openers: 2
  • Bread Saws: 2
  • Lazy Susans: 2
  • Garlic Dipping Board: 1
  • Surfboard: 1
  • Cheese Board: 1
  • Special Order: 1

The Board Chronicles: Art In The Park Fall 2019   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

** ** **

A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I still haven’t caught up.

I will, just not today. In the interim, here’s the latest installment of The Board Chronicles for all of you that have been missing my missives. After this one … just 2 more to go. And they are the big ones.

Enjoy, and thank you for your patience!

** ** **

Paso Robles is a lovely town near the central coast of California. It’s the home to several wineries, and it’s a nice distance for weekend getaways from the LA area.

If you’re into that kind of thing.

The big park near the downtown area is perfect for strolling through an art fair. You get tourists, you get locals. I did this event with the same promoter in April, and now I’m back to see if October is as good as its reputation. The event was 10/19 & 20/2019.

New Ideas

  • I’ve got a woodworking buddy, Jeff Hewitt, that lives in town. He doesn’t do this event, but he showed up – uninvited! – to help me set up. That is above and beyond the call of duty, and his help was greatly appreciated. As you know, it’s usually just me. Jeff was a great help.
  • You can see Jeff’s work here. Enjoy!

Observations

  • I found a “Granny cottage” AirBnB about 4 blocks from downtown, and it was a perfect place for me. Well, nearly, anyway.
  • Suggested sign: “There are a thousand reasons not to drink, but I can’t think of one.” – Mark Twain. The only problem is, I couldn’t source the quote. I did find this quote from him: “There are a thousand excuses for failure, but never a good reason.” Alas, that’s not a foodie quote, so I won’t make that sign.
  • This, however, is one that will be appearing soon: “Never Delay Kissing A Pretty Girl, Or Opening A Bottle Of Whiskey.” – Ernest Hemingway
  • Reviewing the above quotes … I’m pretty sure that it’s true that writers drink. And I must admit I’m enjoying some bourbon as I write this. Hmmmm.
  • I’m a guy. Logically driven. I like my wood designs symmetrical. And, when I display my work, I line things up. Straight lines.
  • And then there’s Mrs M. She (though absent this weekend!) will walk up to my display and make everything crooked. No straight lines. And, for the record, she’s a Lady. I believe that’s how women’s minds work.
  • My retail consultant (!), Delinda from Sweet Spot Home Decor, is also a Lady. She also makes my displays crooked. See, it’s a woman thing.
  • I note that for this event, I endeavored to make crooked displays, channeling my left brain. My inner female, if you will. And, try though I might, my customers – most of whom are female – will straighten them out.
  • So, like men from the dawn of time, I’m confused. Ladies like crooked displays, but if I make them crooked, they straighten them out.
  • Men. Can’t. Win.
  • In my opinion.
  • Results for the weekend were pretty good, actually, but not outstanding. In 2020, I have another event in mind, so I’ll probably miss this one. Which, gastronomically, sounds like a horrible idea.

The Food

  • Best Meal: The Hatch is a true find. I bought Jeff and his lovely wife dinner at my favorite Paso restaurant (and he makes the serving boards that they use!). Worth the trip, highly recommended.
  • Honorable Mention: Leftovers in the AirBnB. Saves money!

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 372
  • Booth cost: $399
  • Food cost: $182
  • Travel cost: $382
  • Total sales: $1,939
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • # soap & lotion vendors: No clue
  • # woodworking vendors: At least 4 others
  • Returning next year? I don’t think so

Boards sold: 24

  • Serving Pieces: 1
  • CNC Signs: 5
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 7
  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Cribbage Boards: 2
  • Cheese Slicers: 3
  • Cheese Boards: 2

The Board Chronicles: Santa’s Art Shop 2018   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

** ** **

A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I still haven’t caught up.

I will, just not today. In the interim, here’s the latest installment of The Board Chronicles for all of you that have been missing my missives.

Enjoy, and thank you for your patience!

** ** **

OK, OK. I know. I’m behind … but this is ridiculous. The good news is that I’m almost caught up – really! I believe I have 3 more reviews after this one. And this one, well, keep reading.

This is our 5th year at Santa’s Art Shop. For each of the previous 4 years, this was our biggest event of the year. For each of the previous 4 years, this was our biggest event ever.

We like Santa’s Art Shop, in not so far away Ridgecrest, CA. It’s a good 2 hour drive, and Ridgecrest is on the edge of the Mojave. It’s just down the road from Inyokern, that proudly announces on a sign next to the highway, “100 miles from anywhere”.

So, Ridgecrest is not a garden spot. It’s not close to the bright city lights.

It’s my kind of town.

New Ideas

  • Not so much. We are again doing a triple booth, but this time it’s just Mrs M & I to get it up and running. The trailer was filled to capacity. And, probably, beyond.

Observations

  • Friday set-up begins at 1p, and we were there with bells on. We. Were. Excited.
  • Shoppers come to this event. They usually inspect everything in both buildings (lots to see!), and then come back and buy what they want. It’s unusual to get many special orders: they know what they want, plus, there’s not much time before the holidays.
  • Oh. And I’m tired.
  • Suggested sign: “I Love You More Than Bacon.”
  • This event is a bit tricky to know when people are coming. Sundays can be bigger than Saturdays. Afternoons can be bigger than mornings. Some Saturdays, in the first couple of hours, sales actually fall because there are too many people and the aisles are just jammed.
  • Good problem, yes?
  • We had a good Saturday, but lower than last year.
  • I walked by the entrance just in time to hear a very excited little girl walk in and say, “It’s BEE YOU TI FUL.”
  • I love Ridgecrest.
  • Each year, we set a new record for sales at this event. And, each year, we agree we can’t do it again. We can’t keep going up, right?
  • Competition is steep at this event. I have 2 direct competitors, and both have a complete product line (though one has a lot of turned items, and the other has many crafty-style items … they both have many similar items to what I have, too. I need proprietary designs and unique pieces to compete, I believe.
  • In addition to those 2 woodworkers, there are 3 others that have a few items that are competitive, along with other items I don’t make that they focus on (jewelry boxes, furniture, etc).
  • So, a very robust environment for woodworkers. Can I stay strong?
  • Last year, the event organizer asked if she could buy a large group of items for a charity auction benefiting a local community autism organization. It was my pleasure to match her purchase, dollar for dollar. This year … she wants to do it again.
  • It’s my pleasure to match her, dollar for dollar.
  • Sunday afternoon started to heat up … and then it got hotter. I actually did 20% of our total sales in the last hour. That’s a big number … and we just made it.
  • We just made it. Fifth year in a row.

Best. Event. Ever.

  • Requests included items with a California Quail engraved, a moose and a dresser organizer.

The Food

  • Best Meal: We couldn’t get into our favorite French restaurant, Mon Reve. We settled for our favorite Mexican restaurant, Olvera’s.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 268
  • Booth cost: $758
  • Food cost: $247
  • Travel cost: $224
  • Total sales: $6,211
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • # transactions: busy, busy
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 4 others
  • # woodworking vendors: 5 others
  • Returning next year? Definitely

Boards sold: 59

  • Coaster Sets: 2
  • Hearts: 2
  • Custom Order: 3
  • Cutting Boards: 13
  • Cheese Boards: 7
  • Trivets: 8
  • Cribbage Boards: 2
  • Serving Pieces: 7
  • CNC Signs: 5
  • Chess Board: 2
  • Small Boards: 2
  • Clipboard: 1
  • MBOs: 3
  • Lazy Susans: 2

The Board Chronicles: Art In The Park Spring 2019   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

Behind. Yes, I’m behind. I’m working on it. So, from Paso Robles:

We love Paso Robles. It’s a great getaway destination, especially for wine drinkers (which I am not). Also great for olive oil lovers (check). There’s an event there in a lovely downtown park, all handmade … and it fits on the calendar.

You know it: I’m in.

New Ideas

  • First event in Paso, and it’s just for me. We booked the AirBnB, and Mrs M even agreed to accompany me as my designated wrapper.

Observations

  • This is a well juried handmade event. There were a couple of vendors I might quibble with the definition of “handmade,” but over all, this is a good one. Love Paso, too … lots of tourists. Lots of locals. Here to shop.
  • My people.
  • So much CNC & plasma cutter work being done these days. Everybody’s getting into the act. You better bring your “A” game.
  • Had a stalker show up who recognized my booth at first glance when he saw my trivets! Great chatting with him.

The Food

  • Best Meal: The Hatch. Oh my goodness. The Hatch. If you haven’t been, you must. 100%. You. Must. Meatloaf for the entree. Maitake mushroom appetizer. You can thank me later.
  • Honorable Mention: We rarely are social when we are working at an event, but we did accept an invitation to dinner from my stalker, and we had a fabulous time with his wife & family. Lovely. Oh, and I got to tour his shop. Bonus points!
  • Worst Meal: Given the above meals, we had a nice culinary glow all weekend. No losers here.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 382
  • Booth cost: $399
  • Food cost: We ate at The Hatch. I’m not counting the cost of that lovely meal.
  • Travel cost: $550
  • Total sales: $1,050
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): Loser, but the food was good.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • # transactions: 9
  • # woodworking vendors: there were several. 1 was a direct competitor, but several had competitive products.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 9:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe. This certainly wasn’t a barn burner, but I did have a good follow up order … and I’m going back in October for the “better” fall event. We shall see.

Boards sold: 9

Cutting Board: 3

Coaster Set: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Charcuterie Board: 1

Cheese Slicer: 1

Cheese Board: 1

Clipboard: 1

 

Be Kind To Vendors   2 comments

Poppy Festival 01As we approach our first event in 2017, it’s time to share some thoughts about kindness. I know producers & customers alike are eagerly awaiting my opinions on this subject.

  1. Producers: if you give me 2 hours to set up, then please give me 2 hours to tear down. Putting more pressure on me doesn’t make it go back into the trailer any faster.
  2. Customers: if it’s raining, don’t let your rain gear sprinkle rain onto my glass-smooth wax finishes, or else they won’t be.
  3. Producers: I’ll arrive at the beginning time you set for vendors to arrive & set up. Please be ready for me.
  4. Customers: I’m always OK for you to take pictures of my work, but always appreciate it when you ask. I know some vendors are a bit more private (which strikes me as odd, but waddayagunnado?).
  5. Producers: I actually read everything you send me and will follow the rules as I understand them. If you don’t know what you sent me and don’t intend to follow your own rules, I will be frustrated. And I will tell you that, on the spot.
  6. Customers: don’t assume you’re the smartest one in the booth. You may not like the products offered; that’s fine. However, just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you can lecture the vendor on what they have done wrong (both Mrs M and I have received such lectures about our handmade products). (And the lectures were not from the smartest person in the booth – ed. note)
  7. claremont-band-criticProducers: please give me a street address to drive to your vendor entry/check-in location. Be GPS friendly. If I have never been to your event before, and I’m not local, then I don’t know where “Smith Park” is. And, if I’m not local, I don’t know from which direction to approach the gate/nice person with the clipboard in order to smoothly enter your event space.
  8. Customers: if you’re standing in my booth, or in front of my booth, or beside my booth … you should be looking at my merchandise and, hopefully, thinking about buying something. If you’re blocking access to my booth while loitering for an extended time, that’s rude. If you’re standing in the shade of my awning without allowing my customers to enjoy that shade, that’s a problem for me. If you’re a dog walker, who’s run into your good friend the dog walker, or you’ve got a baby stroller … then the blockade you’ve put in front of my booth might be several feet across. Please be considerate of your immense size in such circumstances.
  9. Producers: customers ask me all sorts of things, like where the bathrooms are, what the entertainment schedule is, and where they can find whatever they might be looking for. If you give me a map, list of events & vendors & such, I’ll help them. Otherwise, I’ll tell them that the producers kept that information secret from us. You choose which response you’d like.
  10. Customers: if we’re past closing time, I’m packing up. Many events promise fines – and banishment – if I sell you something after closing time. I’m definitely on a clock to pack up and get out so everyone can go home. Please accept my business card and visit my website, as I don’t have time to talk to you when I have to pack.
  11. Producers: you need to control the unloading and loading processes. Some producers are oh-so-controlling, and others are totally laissez-faire. What you should do is enforce the rules that you publish, and in all cases provide for public safety. When cars are driving in, baby strollers are pushing through and kids on skate boards are dodging around everything … well, my prayers may not be enough to save everyone from harm, I fear.
  12. Big Hat DaysCustomers: if you’re paying in cash (thank you!), please hand me flattened, relatively wrinkle-free bills. The women that hand me wadded up bills (and it has always been a woman that does this in my experience) are not my favorites. And yes, I will take the time to smooth out each bill to make sure I know what it is AND make sure it will go into the cash drawer before I will accept it.
  13. Producers: you are renting me space for a day or two, and I thank you for that. Your job is to make sure I stay within that space, and I respect that. Your job is also to make sure other vendors stay within their allotted space, and I will expect you to do that job as well. It’s why you get paid the big bucks. If your approach is to make me enforce your rules upon my neighbors, then many people will be frustrated by the experience. Including you.

Vendors: yes, you also need to follow the rules about how you set up, how much space you get, how you unload and load back up. Please be considerate: life is far too short to “accidentally” take advantage of others just so you can make a buck or get home a few minutes earlier.

Speaking for myself, I’m here for the joy of conversation, the pleasure of sharing my creations, and to spend a pleasant day or two outdoors. Most of the time, that’s exactly what I get, and I thank all of you for that!

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Belleville News Democrat: How Customers Should Treat Craft Fair Vendors

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