Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just Us...Squids? Kitties? Pigs?

Last year at the craft fair I sold at every month, this one month in the space next to me, instead of the hippie couple who sold hand-painted light switches, a couple of grumpy elderly ladies set up a little round table with an umbrella on top. I call them grumpy because pretty much the only interaction I had with them was when they stopped the director in charge of the craft fair to complain about the ladders I use to display my T-shirt quilts (to the right in the photo). I'm totally on top of the fact that it's not the most professional looking display, and I plan to look much more put together at my comic book convention table in a couple of weeks, but still.

So call it sour grapes that I am still so completely messed up by their success. I am messed up not so much that they had crowds three deep around their little table calling out orders while I had my usual trail of nice people who admire my stuff but do not so much of the "buy." Nor am I really that messed up that they sold completely out of their stuff by 11:00 am, clearing at least a thousand dollars, and then didn't stick around in the hot sun like they're supposed to so that the fair doesn't have holes in its display and look crappy, but called one of their middle-aged sons to come and get them and take them home. No, what I am really messed up about is the fact that they did all this, had all this success, were the hit of the fair that day, by selling...little stuffed chickens. Two colors of fabric, stitched in a triangle with a little beak and comb stitched on. Stuffed chickens!

It made me doubt my place in my local craft community--I spend quite a lot of my free time making funky, ironic, kitschy jewelry and household goods, with very modest success, but these ladies, Just Us Chickens (of course), had people absolutely hysterical over them. One grandma wouldn't let her two grandsons have any of my marble-ized reclaimed crayon hearts at $1 each, snapping at them to put them down, but next door at the chicken table she bought them each a $7.50 stuffed chicken and had them pick out one for their mother. Another older woman, out with her daughter, refused to pay $7.50 for a stuffed chicken with a strawberry-printed fabric, but as she and her daughter walked away, the older woman saying, "Maybe I'll come back later and buy it," the middle-aged daughter responded, "If it's still there," and the woman stopped right in front of my booth, actually blocking access to it, pulled out a ten-dollar bill, and instructed her daughter, "Go buy me that strawberry chicken." While the daughter did so the woman stayed right there, blocking my booth, staring vaguely off into the distance.

And the chickens brought people such happiness! Sometimes somebody gets really tickled at my stuff, like if they find a record bowl made out of their favorite record, or when they see a cool T-shirt quilt, or a bumblebee necklace, but it always seems really personal when they do, as if I've made something just exactly for them. But everybody loves chickens, it seems. One woman delightedly announced (I'm a shameless eavesdropper) that she'd set the chicken on her computer monitor at work, and every time she looked at it she'd smile. Another woman said that she'd give the chicken to her mother to put on the table next to her recliner, and every time her mother looked at it she bet she would just chuckle. I'm telling you, this chicken business was off the hook, and I had just no idea.

So I'm toying with the idea--this coming craft season, should I have my own stuffed animal? Made with recycled T-shirts or felted wool sweaters, of course. And what animal? These ladies used a pretty common pattern for theirs (sour grapes requires me to inform you that creating an object from a pattern you did not create is technically not allowed at many craft fairs), but to spend the time to create a pattern, I'd need to be pretty passionate about the animal in question. But if selling is the goal, perhaps I shouldn't trust my own pretty "unique" tastes.

Here's what other people have. has these gorgeous reclaimed sweater owls, selling for $22 each. So that idea is taken. But aren't they beautiful, and so well put together? has these elephants and lions for $26--a little too elaborate for me, and I'm not in love with the realistic coloring. But that's two other animals out.
Hmm. Willow and Sydney are both big into dinosaurs, and Willow is a big fan of buying a toy dino at Goodwill, taking it home, poring over her research tomes to match a picture with the toy, and then spelling out the name for me to label the bottom of her toy dinosaur with its actual real dino name--ah, we love learnin' around here. Stuffed dinosaurs might be pretty sweet. A diplodocus first, then maybe a triceratops, and perhaps a saltasaurus--if I can get some rhinestones...


Lisa said...

Wow, I feel your frustration and am quite boggled about it. I could give you the craft show stereotype that is in my mind, but might offend those attendees.

I have found a successful booth project that generated a profit every year....My sis and I did a butterfly festival every summer for about 3 years. We cut out big foam butterfly wings, children would color them their own way with artist's chalk. We always sold out the first day...but the whole experience was just plan annoying! Parents paid $5 for the wings, the children colored them, the parents complained about the messy chalk, suggested we include wet wipes to clean up their messy kids after the project (geez, just walk to the bathroom), we haisprayed the wings to set the chalk, and tied the wings onto the messy kids. It was a lovely project, but the drama involved became exhausting! I'm just not much of people crowd person; especially of the greedy parent crowd that want super clean and "perfect" looking children.

The beanbag booth at the festival was very popular, beanbag animals similar to the chickens you just mentioned. No artistry involved in these things just beans and fabric. They sold like hotcakes!

So anyway, I agree with your etsy take!

Lisa :)

julie said...

Butterfly wings? Awesome! And parents? Yeah.

Have you ever been to an indie craft fair, like Renegade or something? Now THERE are people who appreciate themselves some handmade. I've never been talented enough to get in as a vendor yet, but I've gone as a shopper, and it's just an indie handmade love fest--people admire, people BUY, people are excited to be there and see the creativity.

I think that's my ideal when I sell at a regular craft fair, and usually it's just not like that. I seriously need a product gimmick. This weird beanbag game, Cornhole, is big around here, especially with the students, so I'm contemplating making regulation Cornhole beanbags at my next local fair? I guess the girls could use another set of beanbags, too...


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