Thursday, March 25, 2010

Craft Fair Extraordinaire Feature Interview #12 (The Mouse Market)

Today I am featuring someone who has a really good attention for details!! I have no idea how in the world she makes things so small, but she can manipulate clay into looking like ti is fit to eat! She makes foods and pastries in 1/12 scale, which is the size needed to make your dollhouses really come to life! I know that recently on Etsy, many many people are now starting to collect these types of goodies! Dolls and Dollhouse miniatures are really starting to make a comeback in a big way.
Please read below to see how this creative mind thinks and learn more about her thoughts related to craft shows!

1) Mo Tipton/The Mouse Market
Columbia, MO (USA)

2) I create unique polymer clay food and floral jewelry and 1/12 scale dollhouse miniatures.

3) My first craft show was the Beaux Arts Bizarre in Columbia, MO, in November of 2009, and I was pleased with both my sales and customer feedback from that show. It was so much fun to interact with buyers face-to-face and hear about their polymer clay crafting experiences, dollhouse stories, etc.--things that I don't often hear from people buying through my Etsy shop.

4) So far, my favorite craft show was the Indie Craft Revolution in St. Louis, MO, hosted by the St. Louis Craft Mafia. They did such a great job of publicizing the event, so there was a steady stream of shoppers both days, and the mix of artists was phenomenal. It was really fun to be a part of such a talented group of people!

5) If I had to choose a least favorite, I would probably say the Beaux Arts Bizarre, mainly because it seemed that there would have been a much higher shopper turnout if they had arranged other activities, such as live music or a wine bar, and I don't feel that they used the space as well as they could have. I know that there were a handful of rather disappointed vendors who had hoped that a pre-holiday sale would have enjoyed a better turnout.

6) My food jewelry pieces seem to attract girls and women between the ages of 10 and 30, and the dollhouse miniatures appeal to collectors of all ages. As for my most popular pieces, I suppose my pretzel earrings and cupcake accessories have both been hot sellers, but the trends seem to change constantly, and the most popular item in my shop is rarely the same item at a show, and it varies from one week to the next.

7) I have always tried to promote my upcoming shows as much as possible by emailing everyone I know, blogging about it, putting up flyers, Twittering, etc., and while I'm at the show, I always give out plenty of business cards. If the show coordinators have put together a goodie bag, I also try to contribute something to that, and I've started giving out coupons for my Etsy shop to show customers.

8) I have not had the opportunity to put together a show yet.

9) Etsy has been a great way for me to get my work out there, although it has taken quite a bit of effort to make sure that my shop doesn't get lost in the sea of fantastic sellers, and I'm still figuring out new ways to promote my work. Listing new items regularly and Twittering about those items seems to draw a lot of visitors to my shop, and my Flickr galleries have turned out to be one of the best marketing tools available. My stats show a number of visitors coming either to my website or my Etsy shop from Flickr, so I always make a point to post new items in my galleries.

So far, I haven't taken the Facebook plunge, and I'll likely hold out as long as possible. I spend so much time online as it is, listing new items, uploading photos to Flickr, blogging, etc., which, while these things are important, they also represent time that I'm not making new pieces, and I can't imagine adding one more online thing that I have to attend to regularly. All the promotion in the world isn't going to help me if I don't have new pieces to sell, so I have to draw the line somewhere.

I have also experimented with paid advertising on blogs, and the cheaper ads available through Project Wonderful have generated a good amount of visits, but I'm not sure that I will be paying for more expensive ad space on popular blogs in the near future. While those ads have drawn a decent amount of visitors to my shop, it wasn't an overwhelming number, so I might be better off spending less money on a greater diversity of Project Wonderful ads.

10) It seems that many of the craft shows offer more reasonable booth fees, and their application process is a little less stringent than the art shows, which is not to say that they don't attract top quality artists, but they seem to be a little more flexible. I've certainly been discouraged to apply to a few art shows by their incredibly steep fees and the lengthy, overly specific application requirements, which, while I'm sure they have good reasons, sometimes seem a little silly (i.e. sending an application in a padded envelope with precise dimensions--is that really necessary?).

11) The most current listing of my upcoming shows can be found on my shop/shows page:

12) I am constantly tweaking my booth set up, and I learn something new at every show. I think one of the main pieces of advice that could be applied to most types of wares is to make sure that your booth layout makes it easy to pick up items for a closer look (unless your stuff is super expensive, in which case that might not be a good idea!). My first booth layout looked cute, but it was a pain for shoppers to remove the jewelry from the displays, especially if one hand was already laden with bags, so I keep modifying the set up to ensure that everything looks neat and tidy, but people can easily grab stuff to hold earrings up to their face, to try on a bracelet, etc. (Which reminds of another tip for clothing or accessory artists: Bring a mirror!)

I also think that it's important is to have your prices neatly and clearly displayed. When I'm shopping, I sometimes don't like to ask how much something is for fear that if it's too high for my budget and I don't buy it, the artist will think that I don't feel their stuff is worth the price. In a similar vein, having neatly printed, eye-catching signs that give less talkative customers information about your items can be helpful. The number one question I get at shows is, "Do you actually make these?" and when people find out that everything is handmade, not only are they more impressed, but they're more apt to buy.

Don't assume that your customers know anything about your work. Try to think about your pieces as you might if you were seeing them for the first time, and enlist the help of friends if necessary. Come up with a list of questions you would want to know about your work (i.e. what is it made out of, is it machine washable, etc.), and consider turning the most important questions into signs without cluttering up your booth with every possible question and answer. That way, if a buyer is shy, they're still getting the most pertinent details in order to make an informed purchase. At the very least, you should be ready to answer those questions should someone ask.

Last but not least, a tip from my friend Lisa of Pay attention to traffic flow! One of the biggest challenges I face with my booth set up, which is one single banquet table, is how to direct shoppers to different parts of the table so that more people can browse my booth simultaneously. It's not possible to solve this problem 100%, but if all of your items that require more time to take in, such as highly detailed pieces, things that require trying on, or your mailing list sign up, are focused in one area, you might see curious shoppers giving up and moving on if they can't find any elbow room. It will take experimentation, but play around with different layouts, try setting up satellite tables or displays, anything that will give shoppers more spots to spread out and browse.

13) It seems obvious, but judging by the number of artists who don't do this, perhaps it's not: Smile and look friendly! Say "hello" to people as they wander past your booth. You'd be surprised how many shoppers will stop and browse simply because you're the first or only person who has greeted them.

Don't hide behind your booth with a book, or worse, with a bored scowl on your face. People who go to craft shows with the intention of spending money often do so because they have an interest in supporting artists, because they like to know where their purchases are coming from, because they want a personalized shopping experience that big box stores can't provide--you get the idea. It seems that people are more apt to buy from someone whom they feel a connection with, however small, and if they enjoy talking with you, they're likely to spend more per sale. Striking a balance between being friendly/available and pushy/overbearing is important, and it sometimes helps to bring a friend along to give you constructive pointers on your selling technique.

Making yourself available to your customers also means that you get to supply them with personalized answers to the questions previously mentioned, answers that help your customers see how much time and talent goes into each piece and gives them more reasons to buy from you! It also helps to have little stories about your various pieces, perhaps what inspired you to make the piece, any specific techniques that you use, for whom it might make a good gift, etc.


Anonymous said...

Great advice from one of my favorite Etsy artists. :) (And thank you for the shout-out!) I agree, preparing for shows means constantly reinventing and rethinking the way we do them. It's a lot of work, but it's one of the most fascinating parts of the job. :)

Keith said...

Another good booth habit is to stop gabbing with your friend when a customer appears. Mo is really good at that (I'm who she stops gabbing with!). I'm immediately turned off when I'm closely inspecting a booth and the proprietor doesn't even look by way while conversing.