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Another craft fair coming up. Another exposure of my person (in the form of sock monkeys, zippered pouches, and the like) to an audience of strangers, begging for acceptance (and remuneration), validation for what I do.

I am not an artist. I do not think of myself as such. I’m much more of a crafter, a maker of things that may evoke emotion – sure – but are more likely to elevate something merely functional into something functional and cute. My ideas are not wholly original. The idea for potato-printing clothing and note cards came from Martha Stewart. Sock monkeys have been around since the dawn of crafting time. I used a tutorial for my zippered pouches, and a pattern for the baby clothing. My ideas come from books, from craft fairs, from craft forums and boutiques. I try to put my own spin on them (for instance, you’ll never see a Rockford Red Heel sock monkey), but at times I feel like a hack.

When I go to craft fairs, in addition to shopping for things I can’t live without, or couldn’t make myself, I observe trends in crafting, patterns in the wares. One year, everyone had apparently invested in screen-printing set-ups, for all the booths were peddling screen-printed T’s with various proprietary designs on them. Now, ironic taxidermy is hot. The themes that are in vogue right now are owls, squirrels, and other woodland creatures, playing, I guess, off the taxidermy theme. Anatomical hearts were all the rage a few years ago. Now Scrabble tiles and boards are being reused and evoked in myriad ways, from magnets and jewelry to throw pillows and spiral-bound books.

Don’t artists learn by imitating masters? Don’t they develop their own style by first practicing techniques, honing their skills, and emulating work they enjoy?

I took a low-tech printing class last year at the community art center, and my instructor told us explicitly to copy others’ work. She said we were changing it enough (through the reproduction process) to avoid overt copyright issues, and, what’s more – we were giving it our own spin. That felt reinforcing to hear her say, but I still doubt myself. I find myself wishing I could present something not only completely new, but completely me.

As I wait for Oriental Trading to send me those headband and bobby pin blanks so I can imitate the hair accessories I saw at the Art Star Craft Bazaar a few weeks ago, as I feverishly hope that the accessorizing-with-zippers trend is not past its prime, I wonder if I’ll hit my mark this time, or be relegated to the spot next to the face painters, to spend all day hidden behind a line of strollers and popsicle’d children.

This weekend, on Saturday night, I went to a coworker’s play.  It was “just” a community theatre production and she was “just” in the chorus, but she was excited, she had worked hard on the show, and she had brought fliers to work so we could read all about it. 

When we went up the stage after the show to greet the cast and offer our congratulations, she was stunned that I had come.  I guess if you believe no one will come, you’re set up for lower expectations, and won’t be as disappointed when no one does come.

Like my craft show the following day.  I’d been talking it up at work, somewhat shyly at first, as I like to keep work separate from home, and I don’t like to brag.  I, too, was excited, I, too, had worked hard for my show, and I, too, wanted to share it with my coworkers.  I sent out the mass e-mail to everyone in my building, I fielded questions about it all week.  And then Sunday came and went, and the only person who showed up was a colleague who literally lives 2 blocks away.  He bought a skull-appliquéd necktie, which he promptly announced he will never wear.  I had advertised the ties as being “for your inner hipster,” and he insisted he had no inner hipster to speak of. 

Aside from that lukewarm support, no one came.  I sent out a Facebook message to everyone on my so-called friend list who lives in SE Pennsylvania; it was about 73 people in total.  Three people bothered to tell me they wouldn’t be coming due to prior commitments, two put themselves down as “maybe” (ah, “maybe,” the bastion of false hopes), but no one, outside of my husband, RSVP’d that they’d be coming. 

It’s all well and good to hear people offer airy praise about my crafting, to ask if I sell on etsy.com, to pay lip service to boost my ego by complimenting the things I make, but if they don’t actually show up to offer real support, it’s almost meaningless.  It’s almost like a fib.

Granted, not everyone is into a craft show, a haymish little affair at my branch library where they serve homemade lemon squares and elderly Jewish spinsters.  Not everyone is into jewelry or ceramics or furniture, or baby gifts or knitted items.  But I thought they were at least into me.  Apparently my craft fair and I are too easy to ignore. 

I know social loafing is in effect.  I know mass e-mails are easy to ignore, and shameless self-promotion is all the rage.  I receive e-mails soliciting donations for charity walks, inviting me to alumni social events, and asking for money for every possible cause there is.  These appeals, by and large, come from “friends”.  I know the return rate on a blind appeal is something abysmal like 2%, but these are allegedly my “friends”.  These are colleagues with whom I spoke in person, individually.  I thought that made it harder to ignore.  I thought it made me harder to ignore.

When 4pm had come and gone, without any more familiar faces, I sank into a stupor.  I had netted about $204 from the show, probably my all-time high in the 3 years I’ve been doing the $25-$30 table fee craft fair circuit (If you can count 5 shows as a “circuit”). Yet I was depressed.  I was utterly crestfallen that no one had come.  I checked and rechecked my e-mail, looking for acceptable excuses, looking for a smattering of guilt that might have trickled in, some half-assed apology out of a sense of obligation, as to why they had missed the show.  I would have been mollified by a good excuse.

“So sorry we missed your show!  The dog had explosive diarrhea all over our front foyer and we physically couldn’t leave the house!”

“You won’t believe what happened!  We went to the movies last night and fell asleep.  They locked us in and we couldn’t get out until just now. So sorry we couldn’t be there.”

“My car died.  When I had it towed to the shop, they said squirrels had gnawed through my ignition wires, and, due to my phobia of germs and public transportation, I couldn’t take the bus to your show.”

“I have Legionnaire’s Disease, which is extremely contagious and I didn’t want to infect the old biddies at the library.  Fortunately, it has a short course, and I’ll see you at work on Monday.”

“On my way to your show, a freak hail storm blocked the road.  Though I finally made it through the storm, the road was barricaded.  I tried to get a National Guard escort to the craft show, but the troops were all tied up trying to restore power to the tri-state area.”

I might have even believed them.  Instead, I began to believe they were not truly “friends” as I had thought of them.  Friends are supposed to show up even if it’s not their cup of tea.  Friends are supposed to be there, to stop by, to support you in small ways. 

A few years ago, when Mr. Apron and I were married, I invited nearly all of my high school friends, even though I hadn’t seen most of them in years.  They were scattered from West Coast to East, from Washington State, to Florida, to D.C., to Connecticut and Minnesota.  And they came.  More high school friends, in fact, than college friends, attended my wedding.  They even brought guests who I hadn’t been as close to, including my Senior Homecoming date.  They bought plane tickets, stayed in hotels, and came to my wedding.  I felt privileged to have such dedicated friends. 

Until I noticed a friend’s last name had changed abruptly on Facebook, signifying that she had completed her engagement to her long-time beau by becoming his wife.  I was aware of her engagement, having congratulated her on her Facebook “wall”, the only socially appropriate thing to do.  Of course, there were photos online of the nuptials, including photos of many of the same folks who had been at my wedding.  That was probably the first significant event I felt truly excluded from by a group of girls I had thought were my friends.  Middle school is torturous for most, and I was no exception, but if I was tormented by trying to decipher the code to popularity, I was at least under no delusions that the popular girls were my friends. 

This weekend’s events only seemed to strengthen that feeling of being left out, abandoned, and forsaken.  I doubted my worth as a so-called friend, doubted the strength of any of my relationships, be they family, friend, or collegial.  I began to wonder if my continual reluctance to share anything emotional, personal, or upsetting with any of my friends had finally caught up to me.  Maybe, I thought, they don’t even know me, because I am too afraid to show any weakness, even with friends I have known for years.  None of them, save one, even knows about the miscarriage.  They don’t know me because I have not let them.

At work this week, there have been the usual pleasantries and polite exchanges about weekend goings-on.  Half a dozen coworkers have inquired, uttering bullshit excuses.  I just didn’t make it.  We got really busy.  We lost track of time assembling our Ikea TV stand (that one I believe).  Or not at all.  They ask how it went, and I say, “Great.”  After all, I did alright by the books.  There was plenty of traffic at the fair.  I received the usual compliments on my work (without accompanying purchases).  But it wasn’t great.  It should be reinforcing, but it’s not. 

Mr. Apron related this to receiving praise from people who “don’t count”.  It’s one thing for him, an actor/singer/performer in all things Gilbert & Sullivan, to hear the shriveled old lady from the front row gush compliments and ask if his (real) teeth are “joke teeth”; it’s quite another entirely to hear an ardent G&S fan, or a respected actor commend him on his interpretation of the role.  So, too, does it “not count” as much when my parents or my husband tell me how great my work is, or how creative I am.  As parents, they have to say that.  And as for my husband, he remains the most supportive person I have ever known.  And because he’s in love with me, his opinions of my greatness are, at the least, biased, blinded, and horribly skewed.  He can’t help it. 

He would do anything in his power to make me feel supported and empowered and lauded, but he cannot substitute for friends and colleagues stopping by, getting to know one more piece of me through my extra-curricular activities. 

On Monday night, he and I traveled a short distance to a private high school auditorium, to hear an 11th grader perform a scene from “Proof”.   She is a student I have been tutoring in various subjects for almost 3 years.  We sat on choral risers propped on the stage, my ass going numb as we saw confident 11th graders say “fuck” and “cunt” in front of their parents.  The scenes were from real plays, good plays, and I enjoyed the shock value.  What I enjoyed even more was the e-mail she sent me later that night:

“Thanks so much to you for coming to see me in my drama performance. It really meant a lot to me. Thank you for always being there for me whether through tutoring, on stage, or just being a good friend.
p.s.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t get to go to the craft fair, but I’m sure you made some awesome stuff, and I hope you raised a lot of money :)”

I firmly believe half of any job, task or responsibility is just showing up. Showing up implies ready to work, ready to listen, or just here to say hello.  When you get hired to your first fast-food job, the most important thing you can do is show a basic level of responsibility by showing up.  When people sit shiva after a Jewish funeral, the point is just to be there, to sit with the family, to support them.  They may not remember what kind of desiccated fish they ate, or what you said, but they will remember that you were there.  Maybe that’s too high of an expectation for other people, but it’s still important to me.   I’ll keep showing up, and maybe one day, my friends will, too.

When I used to stay up late, in the days before the FCC jumped into the sack with the cable companies, and all my TV’s antenna could handle was the 3 big networks, PBS, Fox, and WB, my late-night programming was severely limited. After reruns at 11:30p of some awful sit-com, it was time for shows like “Blind Date”, “Cheaters”, or “Change of Heart”.  When I couldn’t sleep, “Change of Heart” had just enough appeal to either hold my attention, or put me to sleep.  It was a great show.  On weekends, the pickings were slimmer, as programming was worse.  All I had to choose from were sports games for teams I didn’t care about (who am I kidding?  I don’t care about any teams), Sunday morning talking heads, or infomercials. 

I have a soft-spot for infomercials.  I can do a great Ron Popeil Flavor Injector imitation, Jack Lalane’s virility scares me, and the variety of “fun” exercise equipment inventions is seemingly unending.  I continue to be amazed at the “But if you call right now, we’ll throw in a month’s supply of hemorrhoid cream” tactics and standard infomercial formula.  I am stunned firstly that it works, and secondly, that anyone can watch for more than 5 minutes without wanting to gouge their eyes out or buy up the entire stock. 

I was at an all-day craft fair on Saturday, as a vendor, and by the end, I felt ready to do the same. 

I was trapped in a small room at a community church from 8am to 4pm with two other vendors, a room usually reserved for Sunday school, but which, on Saturday, housed 3 8-foot-long tables, the accompanying vendors, and massive amounts of merchandise.  I was there selling my usual colorful toys, clothing, and bags.  I stayed up way too late Friday night maniacally sewing on sock monkey mouths, using Mr. Apron as slave labor to finish the eyes.  I had a sleepless night about not being prepared, and a rushed morning in which I lamented my lack of sanity no fewer than 37 times. 

I set up, propping my items precariously on an assortment of Clementine crates, baskets, scraps of fabric, and pinned to the corkboard strip on the wall.  I glanced around the room at my “competition”.  To my left was a young mother of two (children to arrive later), selling hand-made cards, decoupaged picture frames, cutesy hair-bows, and mod-podged magnets.  Cute stuff, and different enough from my own that I didn’t feel threatened.  She was relaxed enough that I didn’t feel inadequate or unprofessional, either.  To my right, however, was Mr. Utilikilt and his rainbow aluminum chain maille. 

I watched him all day long, hawking his wares to all who would listen.  I watched him demonstrate his products by wearing them, inflicting them on his girlfriend, and showing off their myriad features.  I heard him talk about his process, his product, his inspiration, his consummation, his 34 different earring designs, his neckties (yes, chain maille neckties – look this guy up!  But don’t tell him I sent you. Seriously.), his custom-orders, his mom, his career history and future aspirations.  I could give the FBI everything they need were they to come looking.  I heard this over and over again, each time someone new would dare to enter our cave of kitsch.  I heard him wheeling and dealing and upselling and discounting.  I saw his product demonstration no fewer than 34 different times.  I heard his explanation of the “Jacob’s ladder effect” of his “optical illusion” 34 times.  I heard his audience’s gasps and coos as they became enlightened.  Thirty-four times.  I heard his promotions and his explications and his offers of custom-designs. 

And, if you could look past the Utilikilt (shock value, of course; he commented on how he’d received no remarks from others about it yet that day) and the greasy long curly hair, what was apparent was that I was trapped in a day-long infomercial.  I felt like one of those people promised “free” cruises, if you can sit through a time-share pitch.  Except that my reward, after 8 hours, was just to leave. 

After watching a standard infomercial, I must say I’ve noted there are several stages in the viewer’s acceptance of the product.  At first, there is Denial – the product can’t work, it’s bunk, this is quackery, a ruse, a joke.  Then, as you sit through 5 different presentations of the same demonstration, you become annoyed, incensed, bored.  This is Anger.  Slowly, you begin to come around, thinking it can’t be all that bad, maybe if you just tried it, it might actually work. This is the beginning of the Buy-In, but you’re still on the fence.  Here’s where the special, limited-time offers come into play.  Buy one, get 16 free; return it if you don’t love it after 30 days (less S&H); if you act now you get a free nose hair trimmer; they’ll even make one payment for you! And now you’re putty in their hands.  Assuming the product does half the thing it claims to, you are officially now a Representative.  You’ll sell this product for them.  You’ll recommend it to friends and family and praise it as the new Gadget Almighty. 

Or you turn off the TV and move on with your life, which is what I usually do before I am completely sold.  On Saturday, however, I couldn’t turn it off.  Mr. Utilikilt kept talking, and kept being there, and kept offering discounts, and kept demonstrating his jewelry.  We all broke down.  First, it was the other vendor in the room and her friend.  They crossed the invisible divide, professing they had to see what all the fuss was about.  Later, as Mr. Utilikilt and his girlfriend went to get some food, I left my post to investigate.  I picked up the bracelet, I tried the “magic,” and I’ll admit – it was cool. 

As my chair gently molded into the shape of my butt, and my eyes glazed over with boredom at the lack of customers, I began to lose my sense of purpose.  Why had Isigned up for this nonsense?  What was I doing in this church, competing with stuffed Christmas trees and paper towel holders (with pockets for hand sanitizer and change, for the car)?  Why was no one buying my irresistible products?  I wasn’t sure of anything, except for one thing:

Mr. Utilikilt is either a fool, or a blasted genius.  His chain maille jewelry is either tacky useless drek, or the next fashion must-have to hit Southeast Pennsylvania.  I hope I don’t miss the trend.  Watch out Silly bandz, your days are numbered. 

Remember, folks, you heard it here first.

After a miserably disappointing trip to Northern Liberties last weekend to not find the Philadelphia Independent Craft Market’s show (seriously — the address that was given led us to a padlocked theatre building with no signs of life anywhere), we tried again to have success this weekend.  Last time we went to the Art Star Craft Bazaar it was a much smaller affair on a blocked off coupla blocks in Northern Liberties, an up-and-coming hipster neighborhood that’s seeing a lot of changes.  This year it was down at Penn’s Landing, an admittedly more “legitimate” venue for a craft fair.  It.  Was.  Huge.  And also, I think, catered to a larger segment of the populati0n.  Not only tattooed hipsters with their babies dressed in goth onesies, but straight-edge looking people as well.  Parking last time cost nothing, and was just on a sidestreet.  Parking this time costs  flat rate of $13 or $17, depending on which lot you wanted to rape you.  We were trapped.  Penn’s Landing is a generic name for a number of waterfront sites.  Not knowing which one it was, we couldn’t park across the I-95 bridge (it cuts right near I-95) and park in the neighborhoods of Philly.  The waterfront area is full of pay parking lots, expensive restaurants, and old boats, some of which are expensive restaurants.  You get raped for parking no matter what.  So Mr. Apron convinced me to suck it up and just pay to park.  Actually, since he was driving, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Oh, and we brought the dog. 

This thing was huge!  I can’t even know for sure how many vendors, but I’d say 150 – 200, easily.  It was a bring-your-own-tent event for the vendors.  Each display looked like it belonged in the windowfront of an Anthropologie store.  Coordinating tablecloths, customized hang tags and labels, people processing credit cards — these were legitimate businesses.  Compared to my library craft fair, this was the big time.  It made me feel small and amateurish.  Like maybe why am I even bothering to try to do another craft fair when my booth won’t measure up?  I don’t have an EZ-up tent, I don’t have 25lb concrete weights to hold the tent down.  I don’t have labels or a sign with my as-yet-undetermined business name.  I wouldn’t know how to go about learning to process credit cards.  My displays rely heavily on luck and safety pins.  And my tables would be borrowed from my current crafting area. 

We sat down in a piece of shade so the dog, who had heretofore been lying down in the  middle of vendors’ tents to grab some rest, wouldn’t pass out.  And so we wouldn’t get heatstroke.  Mr. Apron and I talked about how I was feeling.  He said I could choose to make this about comparing myself and my crafts and my abilities and where I am in selling my wares, or I could relax and enjoy it as a consumer.  Or I could do both.  Everything we do that ties into my interests (early music, crafting, dogs, architecture, Balinese gamelan, clothing design) doesn’t have to be about unrequited dreams and abilities, about things I could do if I spent more time, money, energy, education on them.  I do get sad when we go to a music or theatre performance.  They remind me of how little I’m doing those things in my life.  When I was in college, music took up easily three evenings a week (9 hours) and at least as many hours of classtime, plus any practicing I deigned to do.  In high school, I was in maybe 2 plays a year as well as a pit orchestra or some other special activity (examples include performing Mozart’s Requiem with the local Mormon church, and playing with the Mayo Clinic orchestra).  And now?  I maybe sing a little Gilbert & Sullivan with Mr. Apron when I’m helping him rehearse for one of the 5 plays he’s done in as many years, and I listen to him playing banjo.  My bassoon sits in the basement, my clarinets next to me in a milk crate, plaguing me with familial guilt, as I come from a very musical family.  I used to recall with glee all the instruments I was proficient on — clarinet, bassoon, piano, recorder, (early music instruments:) dulcian, viola da gamba, krumhorn — or could play passingly — bari saxophone, folk harp.  Now I’m embarrassed at how low my skill level has fallen.  I’m overwhelmed at how much work it would take me to play well again. 

I guess the craft fair stirred up those feelings in a less-extreme way today.  I know I’m never going to be a professional craft artisan, making a living off of my etsy shop and schlepping to craft fairs up and down the eastern seabord.  I don’t want to, either.  I want to do enough crafting that I still enjoy it, not so much that I think of it as a business.  I don’t want to think of my art pieces as commodities.  So when Mr. Apron said I could do both — look at it with lessons to learn as well as fun for shopping — I needed to hear it. 

I did look at the other people selling baby onesies and compare prices.  I charge $10 or 2/$18 for potato-stamped onesies.  People today were selling them for as much as $25 and $30.  Granted these were appliquéd, so they took more hand-work, but even the screen-printed ($$ for start-up, but cheap per-piece costs) ones were$20.  The jumpers I sell (well, hope to sell) for $22 and $25 were going for $35 today, for an almost identical product.  I guess this is what you can get, or have to charge, in the “big time” of craft vending.  Maybe those prices would be way out of line for an elementary school or library craft fair, where you’ll see more crocheted doilies and plastic canvas angels than screenprinted tees with skull-octopuses and art prints of a very sinister-looking little red riding hood. 

On the whole, people loved Finley.  They pet him, commented on his unusual “beauty”, and even crawled under tables to get to pet him (adults did this).  He got some sample doggie cookies, and one man even gave us his tupperware from his fruit salad (dumping his fruit into a ziploc bag) so Finley could have a drink of water.  Someone asked us about our grooming choices for him (laughable right now with his full “mop” ‘do), and only one person was afraid enough to shriek and back away hysterically.  ‘Cuz he’s really intimidating.  Yup.  I bought something, too.  Not something like what I make.  I make a point of only buying things from craft fairs that I could not make.  It’s a head-band with a huge felt 3-D flower placed jauntily, so as to resemble nothing so much as a 1940s hat.  I chose the yellow one, as it seemed more vintage.  Mr. Apron bought something, too.  It’s that little red riding hood print I mentioned.  It’s pretty dark, probably more similar to an original illustration from Grimm Brothers than a modern Disney-fied cartoon.  But it’s awesome.  Just enough whimsey and fun.  In the end, I’m glad we went, even if we paid $13 to park, even if we were roasting in open sun for 2 hours, and even if our purchases were pretty pricey.  We supported independent artists, and bought things you can’t find at Costco or the GAP, no matter what you pay for them.

I wrote yesterday about the Craft Fair, and how many adult-like people asked me “What are they?” about the I Spy bags.  Aside from having no signage and having one woman repeat after me, “Ice Pie?  You mean you put it in the freezer?”, it occured to me that my readers (are there 2 of you yet?) might not know either. 

I shall elucidate.  The classic I Spy game is based on one person naming an object in clue form, “I spy with my little eye, something luminescent, radiant, and electric” to which the other person, upon scanning the room, says, “Is it a lightbulb?”  Kids probably say, “I spy…something blue” and then stare directly at it, waiting for you to name the dog’s water dish, while you give chase, naming all the other minutia in the room that is blue.  An I Spy bag is also a hide and seek game. 

I fill a 9″x9″ pouch with doll beads (PVC pellets) and 40-someodd small dollar-store toys (baby shower supplies are choice, small plastic animals, GI Joe figurines, party favors, hair clips) and junk-drawer mess (paper clips, bread tags, binder clips, foreign coins, buttons, puzzle pieces, bottle caps).  Then I seal it up and attach a tag listing the contents.  Here’s what my bags look like:

An I Spy bag

An I Spy bag

You can see I attached a laminated tag with a picture of all the contents.  My contents tags have a word list on one side, and a picture map on the other side.  I love the pictures because pre-literate kids can match what they find to the pictures, or go looking for an item on the card without needing a grown up to read it to them.  “Mom what’s this?  What’s it say?  Mom, what should I find next?  Mom?  Mom!”  Here’s what a picture map looks like:

I Spy bag contents

I Spy bag contents

The grid is an added “feature”.  Kids can challenge themselves or others to find all the items in box 7.  They’re grouped in some sort of order, by farm animals, round objects, vehicles, buttons, or beads. 

Here is the value:

Waiting in a doctor’s office, sitting quietly in church, riding in a shopping cart, enduring an endless car ride, children can entertain themselves quietly, with no lost pieces, no noisy buttons, and no need for adult support, even for young kids. 

Therapeutically, I can see speech language pathologists using them to build vocabulary, practice articulation targets (imagine a bag filled with just /s/ words!), follow directions (“Find the pig, then the dragon.”), teach language concepts (“Where’s the big round bead?”), or use them as a reward for doing other work.  I also work with occupational therapists, so I now understand the value of an I Spy bag in this field as well.  First, they’re weighted.  They provide sensory feedback to kids who crave it.  They also require manual manipulation to move around the pellets.  You can use one hand to strengthen it, or both hands to learn coordination.  You can squeeze it, poke it, shake it, etc, trying to find the objects and you’re not even thinking about therapy.  I received an e-mail today from a woman on craftster.org who made one for her 4 year old who has vision challenges.  With her I Spy bag, she is working on tracking, visual discrimination, focusing, matching, and never realizing it’s therapy. 

Did I mention how awesome these things are?  I think they’re worth far more than the $18 I’m offering them for.  I just need to figure a way into the market.  I know it’s a great toy.  Kids do, too.  Their parents just need to realize it.  And then pay me money for my creations.  And then all will be well in the world.

Today was the 2nd annual Library Craft Fair.  Last year I went as a spectator, and said to myself (of the presenters), “I could do this!”  I nudged Mr. Apron and asked him to remind me about what I said at some later point in time.  He did, and I sewed my pants off these last few weeks, and lo and behold — I did it!  My first craft fair.

pennwynne11

Here (if I figured out how to imbed a picture in my blog — wordpress makes things complicated) is my setup. 

I offered”I spy” bags (pouches filled with tiny treasures to locate), zippered pouches (like a coin purse), potato-stamped onesies, retro purses, reversible tote bags, sock monkeys, and baby jumpers.  I actually sold 2 onesies, 2 sock monkeys, 3 zippered pouches, 1 I-spy bag (stock), and 1 I-spy custom order.  The funny thing is, my mother-in-law works at the library, and has a tote bag similar to the ones I brought with me.  My mother made it for her as a birthday gift, and she received so many compliments (and covets) that the Library Ladies begged me to make and sell some.  No one bought them.  Alas, I digress.

I had many positive interactions with adults and children, inviting the kids (who were constantly being told “Don’t Touch”) to come and play with the I Spy bags.  Teens were interested in the zippered pouches but spent an inordinate amount of time with the I Spy bags.  People in general gave me good feedback about my wares, lamenting they did not have babies to buy for.  (Though one grandma about to buy a jumper for her almost-3-year-old was told abruptly by her 5 year old grandson, “She never likes anything you pick out.”) They were impressed that I made everything myself and seemed to be drawn to the colorful (if a bit chaotic) table, even if they did not buy anything. 

I learned many things today. 

Here is a short list (oh, how I love lists!):

  • Cluster all baby items together.  I think many people thought all my stuff was for babies, so they didn’t even see all the lined tote bags.
  • Use more signage.  I got many “What is this?” questions about the I Spy bags.  Kids were quick to figure them out, but adults need help. Other things which did not scream, “I Am A Tote Bag!  Buy Me”! need signage, too. 
  • Play up the therapeutic angle of the I Spy bags.  My friend the fellow SLP bought one to use in therapy.  Adults remarked they’d be good for OT (yes, I agree).  Parents can often be Wolves (see post “Girl Crush”), and don’t see the inherent value of quiet self-entertaining play.  Next time I’ll emphasize the language and occupational therapy uses. 
  • Figure out how better to display the jumpers and onesies.  I like the clothesline idea, but it was shaky at best, and the jumpers were just pinned to the tablecloth, making them inaccessible for people to fondle. 
  • Make signage to make it clear I am not just making baby clothes.  really.  Make more adult clothes to emphasize this point.

All in all, it wasn’t a resounding success, but a good first try.  My friends came to support me.  Mr. Apron stood/sat by my side.  I sold some things.  I took a custom order for an I Spy bag.  I gave out many business cards, which will hopefully turn into business!  I may be so inspired as to give it another go at the upcoming Philadelphia Independent Craft Market fairs this spring/summer.

Have you done a craft fair?  What have you learned?  What would you buy?  What do you look for?