Okay you guys, I wanted to share with you something that was kind of eye opening when I recently juried the SF Etsy Holiday Emporium. I know there are million articles about getting into shows and what they want, but actually being in the position to go through all of those applications gives a different perspective.
The show had about 350 applications and we were told to give a "yes", "no" or "maybe." The criteria of the show is much like any other: It's mostly handmade with a few exceptions for local designers. It's a holiday show so gifting items are important. And because it's by a cruise terminal there's a good mix of tourists, as well. Other than that, we were just looking to put together a show that had quality vendors that were selling a mix of items.
What You Make Should Be Really, Really Clear
Not until I started to get a bit deep into the jurying process did I realize that when I came to an Etsy shop or other product page and what the person made was all over the map, it was really hard to give them a "yes" even if the stuff looked quality. That's because a) I don't know which items you will bring and if the show might already have those, b) I don't know which items you'll bring and if they'll resonate with customers, and c) I would imagine if your Etsy shop were a booth, people walking by would find it hard to be drawn in the way I find it hard to be drawn into your shop to explore.
CHECK YOUR LINKS!!!!
It was kind of crazy to me how many broken links there were. I would guess like 10% of the applications. When you are filling out an application online this is like the #1 thing that has to work for people. That's because if a link is broken you just simply do not have the time to try to figure out where the person's shop is actually at. Also, don't send someone to a page where it's private and they actually need a password to access it. That also happened more times than you'd think!
Don't Make Things Hard for People
There are so many applications that if you make me guess what you mean and don't spell things out completely, then you are making it harder on the person jurying.
One thing that the application asked for was a link to their portfolio. Most people just gave a link to their Etsy or website. This really isn't a portfolio. I know that not all craft shows ask for this as explicitly, but I would HIGHLY encourage you have a Pinterest board with just the best of your product and/or Facebook album with it. This will allow you to have a very narrow showcase of your work that includes things that might not currently be in your shop because you are out. If a lot of your product is on the one-of-a-kind side, then this gives a better back catalog of your range.
Packaging Matters More for Some Items
So, for things like jewelry, art, stationery, or accessories you can tell by looking at (for the most part) if the item is good. But I have no idea if your candle smells good or your soaps feel nice. I can only guess by looking at it. So packaging becomes HUGE for these when judging.
Along with packaging, your photos matter a lot too. And I think that for these, not only seeing the end product, but the ingredients and process also helped me feel like "Oh, hey, this person is taking the time to make this stuff." I can't say if that's my bias or not, but it's something to think about.
Jewelry is Judged More Harshly (Sorry!)
I think you guys probably already know this, but because you see so much more jewelry, you have to judge it more harshly than you would other stuff. And so, I am not sure how much you can do about this in terms of product. Because maybe that product is really working for you somewhere else. I think it's silly to change it for a show because they don't need more of the same product there.
HOWEVER, I think this does mean if you do jewelry and you know that it's jewelry that a fair amount of other people do similarly (hey! that's totally okay and not diss... so be objective with yourself), you have to really bump up your photography, website, social and merchandising game. Those things will set you apart from the jewelry pack and will let the person running the show think "Oh, well, I trust this person will probably show up and be a professional more over this person who doesn't look like they are trying."
Along with jewelry, bath and body was the next category that probably had the most entries, so see above. :)
Sometimes Super Awesome and Unique Trumps It All
There was the occasional submission that included something poorly presented with a dark photo, but was SO COOL. And you knew that other people at the show would be all about it too.
But why be that business? Why hope you get lucky? Better to to do a really good job putting your best foot forward: nail your photography, nail your packaging, make your website amazing, follow directions and give the correct links.
If Your Stuff Doesn't Get In, That Doesn't Mean It's Crap
Think of it kind of like college applications. If you are applying to a very selective university and they deny you, that doesn't mean you're dumb or even have a poor portfolio. There were just stronger applications or people they thought would do better at the school or it could mean you didn't have have the grades or test scores. I think craft shows are kind of similar. There are so many reasons why you might not get in. And when you consider they have hundreds, if not thousands, of applications to wade through then you make decisions for them becomes REALLY hard.
Also, when you consider that shows that have been doing this awhile really have a good idea of who shops their shows and what does well there, it's easy to understand that they can spot a vendor who will have a hard time at their show. Honestly, this is kind of a gift to you because then you don't have to pay money to sit somewhere all day and not make any money.
That means, you probably should really be objective with the show and consider if it's a good fit for you too. Walk shows before you apply and see if your customer is there. If it's new, ask the producers who they are trying to target. If they either say people who you know aren't your target OR don't have good answers for you, then I think you should really think hard if it's good for you.
Sharon Fain is the director of Academy of Handmade (AHAS), a membership organization which supports, celebrates and connects makers. They have chapters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, Austin, Seattle and San Diego. Membership opens four times a year and will open again April 28-May 11, 2016. Get more details here.
Photo credit: Sabrina Hill Photography
Join us for our Spring Indie Emporium, May 22, 11am to 5pm. We have a street permit secured to ensure even more space, as well as the delicious food and drink available for purchase at All Good Pizza!
Keep an eye out for a full list of vendors soon, and invite your friends via Facebook here.
Graphic via Fati at @seaponycouture
Vendor applications for the SF Etsy Spring Emporium are closed. Please stay tuned for new events.
Welcome to another edition of the Friday Feature. This week we are featuring MorninGloria's. Owner Gloria E. Rubio-Verduzco is an administrator for an arts non-profit during the day and devotes her evenings to her shop and business. She makes some amazing French Beaded Flower jewelry as part of her beaded jewelry line.
SFEtsy: Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?
Gloria: I make French Beaded Flowers. The reason they are called this is because the beading technique comes from the Victorian Era where peasants would use the leftover beads from the fabulous Victorian dresses, and string them onto wire to shape into flowers, which then they'd place on wreaths or other centerpieces for weddings, funerals, and other special events.
I fell in love with beaded flowers while stumbling upon one in a gift shop while on vacation. I used to dance ballet, and would often put silk flowers in my ballet bun, and when I happened upon this beaded flower, I was obsessed and began making them for dance classes and performances. When people saw me wearing them, they began asking me to make flowers for them...and so MorninGloria's began. :)
SFEtsy: What's your work schedule / routine like?
Gloria: By day, I work full-time as an administrator for an arts non-profit, and my schedule usually consists of coming home, having dinner, and working on my jewelry items or online work (updating listings, promoting, social media) for a few hours each night. This fluctuates on my mood, and sometimes I'll be on a creative bender and itching to make items, and sometimes I'll be creativity spent, and I focus my energy on the business side. No rest for the weary!
SFEtsy: Tell us about your work space - where do you create?
Gloria: I recently moved into a new home where I have a studio sized (if not bigger) bedroom, and my creative space is a large section where there are floor to ceiling bay windows. I moved there specifically for that so that I could have as much natural light as possible. I am still organizing the area, but it feels good to have a spacious area for making!
SFEtsy: What tools do you use that are absolutely essential and makes a huge difference in your day today process?
Gloria: I could not function without my jewelry pliers and bead spinner. If you don't know what a bead spinner is, it's a contraption that looks like a small bowl with a vertical stick in the center which is used to place my beads on the wire to make my beaded flowers. You put the beads inside the bowl, hold the end of a wire inside the bowl, and use the stick in the center to spin the bowl and the beads climb the wire. It looks like magic...but really it's physics!
SFEtsy: How did you get involved with Etsy?
Gloria: I've been on Etsy since 2009, right after it began. I began selling my beaded flowers to my dancer friends, and turned online because I've always had a dream to have my own business. I was immediately drawn to the fact that it promoted the handmade community, and created a network for artisans all over the world. It's been a big part of my identity as an artist!
SFEtsy: What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?
Gloria: Time. I have just enough time to create, but it takes 4 times more amount of time to photograph, edit, list, promote, (etc....etc...etc.), and I seem to never have enough hours of the day! We all dream that we could "quit our day job" and do Etsy full-time, but I have so much that I want to do in all facets of my creative and vocational self.
SFEtsy: What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?
Gloria: There are two events that come to mind. One was last Fall at the enormously attended Etsy Holiday Emporium at Pier 35. A pair of customers spent so much time at my booth ooing and ahhing over each of my items, telling me the sweetest compliments about my jewelry and hair accessories. They later came back and told me that my booth was their favorite of the show (which was a HUGE compliment given the caliber of artists that were present!), and they bought more items. I came home that night exhausted as can be to an email from one of them saying that they wanted to thank me for my work and for being so kind to them.
The second was very recent, as I had my first meeting with a store buyer, and they LOVED my items and wanted my pieces in their shop as soon as possible. This was equally special as this store was one that I was a constant shopper of and respected for their high end items, so it felt so validating that they felt my items fit in with their aesthetic.
SFEtsy: What are your favorite tools or apps that help you with your business?
Gloria: My favorite photo editing app is picsart on my cell phone to create memes or promotional images for instagram, and my favorite Etsy tool is Etsy Rank to let me know if my listings are completely filled with tags, and help me with keywords.
SFEtsy: Share with us one lesson you have learned as an online seller.
Gloria: I have learned to adapt my expectations! I sometimes will put a lot of time and effort into my Etsy store, and not necessarily get sales, and then I might leave my shop online, and get a flurry of sales...you just never know!
You can we find out more about MorninGloria's at the following sites:
Gloria is offering a 15% discount this month with the code APRILSHOWERS.
Friday Features are run by Raji of Red Kerria Designs. To see your own shop featured, please contact her.
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