Monday, February 8, 2010

Craft Fair Extraordinaire Feature Interview #1

I believe it is super important to learn from the pros when it deals with craft fairs, so I am instilling some help! Today, I am featuring Thomas Park Gifts, a wonderful woman who sews beautiful things for women and children. Her color palette is light and airy, with a bit of feminine whimsy.

Here is her interview:

1.) Name:Andrea Thomas-Lambe, Owner Thomas Park Gifts
South Boston, Massachusetts

2.) What form of art/craft do you make?
I design and sew children & women's clothing and accessories.

3.) When did you start vending at Craft Fairs? Were you successful at first?
I originally owned a brick & mortar shop so I was limited to doing shows but closed my shop two years ago and have since participated in weekly shows. All in all, my first was probably 3 years ago which is when I started to sew.

4.) What is/was your favorite Art/Craft Fair you have ever attended/vended at and why?
I would have to say that my favorite would have to be my weekly shows. I have a "VIP" pass which lets me participate in three shows which run from May through October (with a few breaks here and there). The South End Open Market is my main market and I like it the best because of all the friendships I have made over the years and my regular customers. The promoter of this show works very hard on promoting it and it is now in it's 7th year. I also was fortunate enough to be selected for last years Holiday Event and that was great fun!

5.) What was your least favorite Fair to attend/vend at? Why?
My least favorite was an event that included a lot of random businesses and not just handcrafted items. In general, I try to keep my prices fair but since there is a lot of time that goes into my product, it is hard to compete with mass-produced items.

6.) What tends to be your target audience?
In the Spring and Summer my target audience is young mothers/fathers that are looking for unique clothing for their children. My reversible dresses fly of the rack and it keeps me pretty busy.

7.) Do you ever do marketing for your upcoming shows, or do you leave it to the Show Coordinators? If you do promotions, how do you do them, and do they seem to work well? Do you ever do giveaways at shows? Give out lots of business cards, etc...
The only real promoting that I do is listing my events on my websites & sending out the occasional newsletter . I recently joined Facebook and have my fan page HERE so I will regularly list events and promotions there. I did offer a coupon on the back of my business cards but honestly did not get the results I anticipated. I may try again this year with a few give-away type promotions.

8.) Have you ever helped put a show together or run a show? Which one(s)?
I am very active in helping with my weekly shows (South End Open Market, Mashpee Open Market, Providence Open Market & SOWA Holiday Market). It gives you a whole new understanding of what goes into an event! Everyone has a special request and it is just impossible to please them all. I have run shows on my own and co-managed. I really enjoy it but it is a lot of hard work.

9.) How have Flickr, Etsy, Facebook, etc helped you expand your crafty business?
I have not had luck with Etsy but love sharing on Flickr and Facebook. Since Facebook is brand new for me, we shall see...

10.) What do you think the difference is between an Art Show and a Craft Fair? If there is any difference...
An Art Show to me would probably be more "Fine" art and less craft. I don't really like the word "Fair", prefer open market or festival. I think a lot of people get the wrong impression from Fair.

11.) If you wish, please list your upcoming shows for 2010 and beyond.
I will be participating in numerous shows this season. The first being the 37th Annual Heritage Craft Fair in Framingham, Massachusetts. I have many applications out but most shows are juried and decisions have not been finalized. I will definitely be at The South End Open Market on Sundays beginning Opening Weekend, May 15th & 16th and runs through October (excluding holiday weekends). I regularly update my Events section on my website!

12.) Any words of advice for people who do not think their setup is as good as it could be? What is your most successful layout for a table or booth. Be as general or specific as you want.
As I used to own a brick & mortar store, merchandising was an ongoing process. My goal with my booth is to make it as inviting as possible. You have to draw the buyer in. Bright colors, neatness and uniqueness are key elements. PLEASE take the time to iron your tablecloths and have them completely cover your tables. Clear signage is important too. I try to change my set up from year to year and of course seasonally as well. I constantly look on flickr and get feedback from other crafters on what works for them. I like to think a little outside the box on displays. Try to make it flow and relate to the product you are selling.

13.) Any closing remarks?Markets, festivals & fairs can be a great way to make money but they are also wonderful ways to learn too. I have had some terrible shows financially but have walked away with great tips, new friends and fantastic ideas on ways to improve. Network, observe and remember to always be positive. No one wants to be around a negative vendor!

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