and so it goes

[settle in, Folks]

Last Monday, I participated in a small craft show hosted by my church.  It was untraditional for several reasons: little advertising, program in the middle on preparing your heart for the holidays, free recipes, and no table fee.  You heard me.   It’s a brilliant idea: the church supporting members who have at-home businesses while providing a time for reflection and community before the Holiday Season (and let’s be honest, your family) rips your heart out and stomps on it.  It’s a great way to start fresh and clear-headed.

I spent 2 weeks sewing at night after the kids were sleeping… finishing hats, a few half-aprons, some wine-bottle sleeves, and some garland.  Pillows and Banners were there as an example of what can be custom ordered.  I’ve mentioned before, I do love sitting at shows and sales.  People-watching with a fountain coke and Jimmy Johns?  Yes, please. I was excited to go.  Hopeful, even.  Know what?  I sold two things.  Now, I don’t think anyone that night had a fantastic evening.  I really don’t.  But, I found myself disappointed at the end of the night.  Feeling like I’d worked really hard and people didn’t like me.  Ridiculous, I know… but as an artist (?) crafter (?) homemade maiden (?), your personality and work are in every stitch, photograph, and fiber.  When you don’t sell, you take it personally.

Now, 2 sold-items plus one sold-item 2 years ago and 3 shows total = me having zero business offering advice, but I’m a-gonna anyway 🙂 Some things to keep in mind as you’re perusing the crocheted toilet-paper covers, personalized ornaments, and soup mixes looking for gifts:    

Generally, tables cost $25 to $100 at a show.  You pay to be present and then you keep your profits.  Those sellers have invested time, thought, and physical effort (let’s not talk about how many trips to the car it takes to set up) to be ready at opening.  They aren’t there because this is an easy way to kill a Saturday and rake in $400.

If you feel that you could make something you see yourself at home… kudos.  We’re happy to be an inspiration.  But, please do not say that loudly to your companion as you walk by NOR ask the seller how she did this or where she bought that fabric.  No.

It’s not a garage sale.  Bargaining on a single item is a faux-pas, Folks.  I will not sell you that bib for $5 instead of $10.  I MAY, however, make you a deal on five of them.  But not one. It’s an awkward conversation.  Please don’t do that in front of people.

If you like the display, say so.  Presentation is huge!  It’s likely that the seller put a lot of thought into what to bring and how to make it stand out.  If you like it, say so.  It’s a huge compliment. 

I did a few things right for this last show:

My items are really decent.  Well-made, functional, definitely ‘Katie’.  God bless all you family and roommates who’ve lived through Handmade Christmas Presents Past with me.  Your loyalty knows no bounds.  Good Lord… the bookmarks.  I am so sorry. 

I set my prices ahead of time, so I would not be tempted to change them when I arrived and saw the other items.  I priced according to what I felt they were worth.

I decorated well.  I grabbed frames and blankets and crates as I ran out the door to use for decoration and elevation.  My table, if I may be so bold, rocked.  I do so love styling an event.  Or, as it were, an 8-foot table.

I used my recycled (cereal boxes), distinctive tags that Ry helped me stamp.  They were a big hit with everyone.  This saves me on buying ‘business’ cards and allows me to keep my logo consitent on different papers and fabric.

I brought knitting and my niece with me, so I wasn’t staring down browsers willing them to find me worthy of a purchase.  I was doing something appropriate for the setting (knitting another market bag) and I was spending fun-time with my family.  We had a great time together.  I looked cute.  I did.  It was a great excuse to put on boots, the skirt, the necklace… ok, basically the same outfit the Asheville people saw a couple weeks ago.  S’ok.  It was new here. I felt good, and I think that shows.   

The bottom line:  I sell enough online to keep sewing without going to these goofy craft shows. Enough to keep me busy but not enough to make it a part-time job.  No more sewing like crazy for two weeks just to watch Granny sell doilies all day long.  Nope.  I’ll stick to my happy, word-of-mouth, I’m looking for exactly what you’re making kind of sales. 

And I’ll be giving away a lot more.  Curt said something to me that night that really hit home.  In the midst of my snot and tears he said, “Kate… give it away.  Make what you love, sell what you can, and give the rest away.”  And I said, “But it’s worth something!  It’s really good stuff!  I paid for that fabric!  I stole time from you and my kids for that pillow!”  And he said, “Yep.  But the money doesn’t make it worth it.  It’s their reaction to the gift and the effort that you really love.  So, sell what you can to buy supplies and give the rest away.”

*epiphany*

He’s exactly right.

I love that man.

You all win. All of you.  All of you from last week win.  Give me a little time, and you’ll get a little surprise in the mail to keep or give away.  Numbers 10, 11, and 16– my favorites that made me absolutely laugh out loud, you get to pick: hat or knit market bag.  The rest of you will get hats.  Cute, happy hats that need a loving home.  Make sure I have your mailing address, ok?

Happy Thanksgiving.

I am so very thankful for you.

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About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

37 responses to “and so it goes

  • Cathy

    Oh Katie, I am so sorry it didn’t work out as well as you wanted. Face it, people are “strange”. My cousin and I have been pedaling cookbooks for bc awareness and let me just say, we’ve gotten quite an education and a learning experience. Some of the comments, yes, keep it to yourself.

    I’ve set up at yard sales and flea markets after doing major housecleaning, bargaining and wanting it for practically nothing. Yep, people are “strange” all right.

    • Katie

      Aw, thanks Cathy. There are some goofy people out there, but there are some really decent people out there, too. I don’t think a lot of people know what goes into preparing for a show… and why would they?

      Even garage sales, where you want everything to go… folks are always looking for a deal. It’s in our nature.

  • Jessica

    Curt is Awesome!!! What a great husband you have and what a great Artist you are. Your work is priceless!!!

  • Cortney

    Oh, bless your heart. I hate “hearing” myself be judged. And, as an attendee of countless shows, nothing upsets me more than when a companion says, “Cort, you could do THAT!”. Yes, perhaps I could, but I didn’t, and that nice lady/gentleman there DID, so SHUT UP.

    I may have to print this post out and hang it on my wall, for a little perspective. I’m about to start trying to sell my art/crafts full time (or, at least until the money situation demands I return to work, at least part time, or, the dream job comes along, or whatever…) and while it’s exciting, it’s also completely terrifying. It might be awhile before I get the big girl panties on and sit at a show 😉

    • Katie

      The difference here, Cort, is that it will be your job. You will market and promote and do all sorts of things that I don’t simply because you are doing it TO ADD INCOME to your life.

      I’m the one who makes cute stuff but doesn’t do the extras to make it a viable part-time career. Which, as family demands right now, is not possible anyway. I keep having to learn this lesson over and over again 🙂

      I saw a great sign at a show once. It said, “Yep. You could make this. But, will you?”

  • Kelly Bates

    Katie, What a bummer to sell only 2 items. I know how much time and effort goes into a show like that. People are constantly asking me why I don’t sell the stuff I knit and crochet. I tell them, “people aren’t willing to pay even what I spent in materials. I’d rather give it away.” So, I knit ALOT (sanity). I give away ALOT. And, I feel good about it. If you, or your friends are looking for a GREAT charity, check out KapsforKendall.org My friends set up this great organization after their sister lost her hair to chemo. Kendall and her brother Taylor have since passed away, but their sisters continue their mission. Check it out, maybe send a few hats, get your friends involved…. it’s a great cause.

    • Katie

      Oh man, knitting is the WORST. There is no way a sale covers your time and supplies. But it is so incredibly nice to make hats during tv at night and give them away, you’re right.

      Quilting is pretty ridiculous, too. Time and materials, a quilt is worth a thousand dollars. It’s hard for most to imagine that if you’ve never sewn before.

  • Amy L

    Hey Kate – oh the days of craft shows. My mom spent her time creating all kinds of goodies to sell at these places and I have great memories of craft sales. But I’m sure her memory may be a bit more tainted. I’m sorry the sale was a bust…

    And yeah to the man who can keep in simple. Words to live by

    • Katie

      It was a bust sales wise, but honestly. Hailey and I had a blast. I got to be the cool aunt and she got to get out of the house on a school night- it was pretty rad 🙂

  • beckyswann

    Yes! #16, I was going for the laugh glad I got it!!!
    It’s hard to put yourself out there and sell things you made! I try to not take people’s stupidity personally, because afterall their stupidty has nothing to do with my creative genius:)

    Glad you are creating keep it up!

    • Katie

      Oh, Becky… it was so funny. SO. FUNNY.

      It IS hard to put yourself out there- I know you get that. Your field as a painter is even harder, I think, because you’re painting your feelings or an idea and hoping someone connects with it. I’m so glad you’re getting your work out there for people to see! Way to go, Mamma!

  • Bonnie

    Yay! I would LOVE a hat!

  • fridaynightgirl

    oh katie, I’m sorry your sale wasn’t what you’d hoped it would be. I love buying little handmade things for Emory and Madison; knowing I probably could figure out how to make it myself but thankful for creative mavens who have already done it.

    I’m sorry we, as shoppers, sometimes say thoughtless things. I’m so glad to hear you say that, as the vendor, you appreciate when shoppers complement the display. I see LOTS of cute stuff at shows but, if I bought something from every booth, I’d be broke and Matt would kill me. Consequently, I do a LOT of browsing and select based on what I think they will actually wear, what looks like it won’t be destroyed the first time in the washer and what I can actually afford ($25 for a decorated onesie is out of my budget – I don’t care how cute it is). Then, I look at the display and the little details the seller puts in to his/her booth.

    All that to say, I bet your table was darling and I wish we were closer so I could shop! 🙂

    • texasnorth

      Now, there is a fine line between what something is worth and what someone will pay for it. SOME would say the two are the same. But, the reality is, with hand made items, the personal effort often gets short-changed. It’s a fine balancing act. You can hand-paint 30 onsies and sell them for $50. It’s just ridiculous.

  • Mandi

    I appreciate this post SO much! I have been there, have heard that stuff, and have felt those feelings. Curt’s perspective is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing your heart and your crafty self with us on this blog, and thanks for all the love you put into every single thing you do! You are awesome!

  • LoLo

    just so you know, i have never. not. even. once. gone to the store when someone hasn’t commented on the awesomeness of my handmade katiekate market bag. i am glad to be the proud purchaser of my made with love market bag!

  • Jessica

    What an awesome post and your husband is so right! I think you just inspired me to do something with my talents!

  • Amy B

    So, in wake of purging after our big move this year, I decided to do a couple of things I don’t usually do – host a garage sale and consign some clothes that are few years (and a few sizes) too old for me. The results? $40 on the garage sale and $19 on the 25+ consigned items (which, if you subtract the $10 I paid to consign the items and the $15 I paid for a skirt at the presale, puts me $5 in the hole on the whole endeavor). I will just stick with giving away my stuff, too, I think.

    Thanks to Curt for my knit hat – I’m looking forward to it with bated breath.

  • steph

    i still cherish all my homemade gifts and will proudly display them in my new home. 🙂 it’s you, and that’s what i love. i also love Curt for reminding you of the reason whey you do it all in the first place. in college, you didn’t make stuff to sell, you made it all to bless our hearts and give us a reminder that you katie loves me. they still remind me to this day. hugs!

    • texasnorth

      You’re right. I didn’t. THis may go deeper into the “I’m at home trying to be a valid contributor to the world” category in a lot of senses. And Curt’s point is MONEY does not always make you valid.

      Katie does love you.
      Very much.

  • Kim Aguilar

    You know, I’ve thought about this topic a lot lately, mostly because I’ve been sewing more this year. As an artist/crafter I am wondering if it’s even worth it to try to sell anything I make; especially quilts…oh my word. What’s the point in being paid pennies compared to what went into it? This is why artists starve. So I really love Curt’s advice.

    But on the other hand, I am that shopper that runs around trying to figure out how to do stuff myself. I watch tutorials on YouTube for just about everything. I know I’m guilty of several of these charges, although I can honestly say I have the best of intentions. I just…I am just really stupidly insensitive sometimes. Thanks for your perspective. It has helped me to see something that I ought to change.

    How about you send me YOUR address and I’ll make YOU something! Love you!

    • texasnorth

      Now, hear me on this: I seriously doubt with all my heart that you did what this woman and her gal-pal did to me with their drawing out of a pattern and writing down fabric shops right in front of me. If you did, well, Kim… you’re in time-out. But chatting it up witht he seller? Discussing thread preferences? Favorite websites? Favorite new projects? That’s how new ideas are born! You are NOT stupid or insensitive. Kim Bushamn is a kind woman 🙂 You are.

      Tutorials are there to use, absolutely. Be careful with copyright issues… you cannot mass produce anything from a public (McCalls, Simplicity, etc) for sale and most patterns you buy from independent folks say the items are for gifts only. And the quilts, of my word. You KNOW you’ll never pay for your time selling those. BUt if you love it, GO FOR IT.

      • Kim Aguilar

        Thanks for the heads up about the replies. I usually forget to check. And I’m totally serious. I was talking to this store owner about the velvet pumpkins (okay, they are to die for) she had, and I’m pretty sure I was talking about how awfully expensive they were (hello $52!) and how I made my own last year, but her semi-curt reply, “Well, she (the artist) hand-dyes the fabric” cut me short and I left as quickly as possible. So, it’s one thing to go home and copy someone else’s idea, but going back and telling them about it is a completely different story! Anyway, that’s just one example. I have several. And okay, I know I’m not a stupid or insensitive person (thank you for that, my friend), but I do seem prone to puttin my foot in my mouth more often than I’d like!

  • Carin

    Sweet! I never win giveaways–finally my wit won me something!
    I would be honored to wear your hat–or is it a child sized hat–in which case Anne would be honored to wear your hat.
    by the way, when is Curt starting the sleigh rides–because my sister and I will be in town soon…….

    • texasnorth

      Hey!!! Um, sleigh rides are questionable, but you’d be surprised how deep o’ stuff that tractor can get through. Get’cherself back out here!

      And, send me your address, world traveler. Ok. Canada and 28th Street.

  • Lorie

    Shows are hard! We have sweated (literally) through several and I hear you sister! You never know how it will turn out. Etsy is genius and gifting is always more appreciated and fulfilling! Julie bought me one of your aprons and just so that you know, it is always and will always be worn or hang proudly in my kitchen!

    • texasnorth

      Shows are hard. That’s the simple truth 🙂

      I made your aprons out of my VERY FAVORITE fabric. I remember that. Lorie- your sister and I chatted about your sweet wedding- I’m so glad it was such a beautiful day!

  • Margie

    Katie, I so get this. I do. I am insecure about my photos, my cards, am thinking of pulling them from the ONE store that carries them altogether. Am terribly insecure about my writing (although I so love your encouragement – it takes me so far, some days), and would totally have reacted like you did after the show. I don’t like to Put Myself Out There. So thanks for speaking to that side of me. And let me also say that you were gypped – you’ve got some of the best, most colorful, most creative items I’ve ever seen. And I still don’t know how you do it – it’s a gift God has given you (spoken by one not so endowed with the artsy-craftsy gene).

    My mom read this post before me and commented that it brought tears to her eyes when she read what Curt said. Just wanted you to know – she was moved by this one. And cheers you on.

    • texasnorth

      You’ve perhaps hit the nail onthe head. It’s laregly an insecurity issue… well, that and a $50 table fee issue. But, yes. There’s a place between brave and overwhelmed that I need to settle in in this selling-your-craft world.

      Thanks to your mom! Mom support is always welcome!

  • Grace

    Yeah for Curt! I get a hat! I’m not sure if you have my address or not, so if let me know if you don’t and I will get it to ya!

    I am sorry the sale was not all that you had hoped it would be. But as one that does NOT have the talent to make the things you make, I encourage you to keep on creating! It is a huge, humbling blessing to receive something made with love by hand. And if I were closer by, I TOTALLY would have shopped your booth.

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