Craft show virgin. It may as well be branded on your forehead. You’ve been to craft shows, maybe even purchased a few things. You’ve made your own crafts and had positive responses. It’s time to consider attending a craft show yourself, throwing your hat into the ring to challenge the teeming masses of artisans and creators. There’s money to be made, adulation and fame to be won, and a public with a sharp eye waiting for that perfect item that only you can provide.
That may be a little dramatic, but craft shows are exciting and intimidating to the inexperienced vendor. As a craft show attendee, you may not hear about a craft show until a week or two before the event; in reality, planning and registration for the shows starts months ahead of time. Popular shows fill up fast, with preferential treatment to return vendors. To book yourself into these shows, you have to spend time doing your research and finding the perfect show for you.
The first step to deflowering yourself with a craft show is finding the right one. Not unlike dating, there are plenty of opportunities out there but they’re hard to find and you never quite know which one will be Mr. Right. The best part about finding a craft show is also the worst part – there are tons of resources. None of them are definitive, so be prepared to spend a little time looking around and taking notes on the candidates.
Timing is everything. Summer craft shows will start looking for vendors in early spring – February and March, or even January for temperate climates. Fall and winter craft shows will start later in the year, generally around April or May. The big craft shows that are well-known around the area often have an even more prolonged planning period, requiring registration in March or April for winter shows.
Craigslist is a perennial favorite resource – not only are craft shows advertised on here, but many shows put out a call for vendors on the site as well. Search in the Community and Event categories for “craft show”, “craft fair” and even “vendors” (as in vendors needed). A search in my area turned up half a dozen upcoming craft shows looking for vendors.
Festival Network Online (FNO) has an extensive listing of craft shows for many states. Searching for shows is free, getting more information on them requires a membership. My suggestion is to find shows that sound interesting and then search for them on Google to find the website for the show without having to pay a membership fee. There’s a big section on every search for featured events, but the real meat is often down below in the non-featured section.
FairsAndFestivals.net has more advanced search options. Search within a radius of your zip code, by time of year and other event details. I recommend using the Advanced Search to specify “crafts” as the type of vendor allowed; this will cut down on the resulting events that are focused only on food, arts or music without a craft component. Like FNO, FairsAndFestivals.net offers paid subscriptions to get craft show details – but using the freely available information on the site and a search engine yields good results without dropping a dime.
The Indie Craft Show Directory doesn’t have search tools, but is a great resource that many vendors swear by to find independent shows targeted at a more eclectic audience. It’s also free and allows you to bookmark events so that your favorites show up in the Dashboard with upcoming dates and deadlines.
The Art Fair Source Book calls itself the definitive guide to juried craft shows (more on juried shows later). I’ve seen this website recommended by crafters, but very little is offered for free and the sticker shock has always driven me to the sites above for free information. I recommend keeping the site in mind down the road even though it is not friendly to craft show virgins.
The local Chamber of Commerce has an event calendar with upcoming shows as well and may even be sponsoring a few themselves. Search for “chamber of commerce <your city>” to find the website and contact information.
These resources will reveal a wealth of upcoming craft show possibilities. Once you’ve found a few that sound like a good fit, it’s time to start narrowing the choices down. This is part one of a series on attending craft shows from start to finish. In the next segment, I’ll show you what information about the craft show can help aid your decision to apply and the application process itself. Read on in Part 2, Vendor Virgin: Applying for Craft Shows.