Craft fair article number 2

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Chippygeoff

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CRAFT FAIR ARTICLE 2
Having re-read what I wrote I realised I had left a few bits out so I hope you find the following useful and entertaining. I could write pages on customers and the things that have happened over the years but I will keep my comments to just a few. A lot of customers are absolutely clueless and have no idea of what’s involved in making their order. Many times people come up to my stall and order a sign and say they will be back in an hour to pick it up. I explain that the 14 machines and power tools I use to make my things with I have left at home. One young lady with her dog came up to the stall and asked if I could photograph her and the dog and engrave it onto a piece of wood and she would call back later.
Another time a lady came to my stall with a couple of her friends and I came to the conclusion she was trying to impress her friends with her knowledge of wood but her knowledge was very minable and after about five minutes the conversation got quite heated and she stormed off. I said to the lady on the next stall, “That was hard work,” and the lady with her friends heard what I had said and came back for another ear bashing.
I run the stall on my own, one day I hope to have an assistant. Being on my own I have to be careful. Sometimes I get an old boy come in and he wants to spend the day with me and talk wood and I have not the time or the patience as it happens all the time. The problem with talking to someone is that there is often another customer waiting to be served so I end up having to be diplomatic in many cases, as I don’t want to miss a sale.
You will find that almost every time you make a sale it will be to a lady, I would say that out of 20 sales I only sell something to one man, and usually it’s for a name sign for his wife’s birthday or anniversary. I get a lot of men come to the stall but in the main they are just looking and pass comments. Talking of comments, you will get a lot of those; they will tell you how clever you are. The ladies are funny with their comments, again, most are clueless and they refer to scroll saw work as carvings, wood engraving, even a wood turner.
Some ladies are just plain stupid. One asked me how I made the wood. I explained that I buy it in liquid form and pour it into moulds and she believed me. Another asked me how I got the little bits out from inside the wood. I said that I trained woodpeckers to do that.
I meant to have included this in the first article and it concerns types of wood. In the main I use European oak, sapele. Iroko. Beech, walnut, maple and now and again I get an odd species. You will find that certain items need a certain type of wood; you may think this statement a bit odd so I will explain. I came up with a new design one day that I thought was a cracker, it was a plaque and the wording on it was this. Born to fish, forced to work. I made a few in European oak and they sold immediately so I made a lot more but this time I chose to make them from a plank of sapele that had been hanging around in the shop for ages. When I put them out on display they did not sell, they got lots of good comments and it took months for me to sell them all. I then made another batch in light oak and once again they sold straight away.
In the main it is light coloured woods that sell the most. When my stalls are set up and the customers come in they are attracted to the various name signs I have on display and these are made from several different hardwoods. When the customer places an order I ask what wood they would like it made from and explain what the different woods are. Almost every time they go for the oak. What does sell well in the darker hardwoods is my double hearts. Its two hearts intertwined and I put a ribbon on these. I have several different ribbons and I have two wedding ribbons, both are made from white silk, on one there are gold hearts and on the other is gold writing with the words, to have and to hold from this day forward. The hearts are a very good seller and people by them for weddings, engagements and anniversaries. If you want to make these hearts I would advise against tying the ends of the ribbon in a knot, use copydex, overlap the end of the ribbon by about ¾ of an inch, apply the copydex to both ends and leave for 15 minutes and then trim any frayed ends.
As I mentioned in the first article, key racks are a very good seller and I would say I sell some at every craft fair. I do some with cats and some with dogs. The UK is a nation of animal lovers and most people really love their pets. I use 25mm brass cup hooks and I buy these in bulk from e-bay. Other things I buy in bulk, often by the 1000 is picture hangers to go on the backs of plaques.
Another good seller and one that is brilliant for using up all those small off cuts is a base with a hole in the middle with a glass test tube glued in. It’s a vase for a single rose or maybe a small bunch of flowers. The ladies love them. What also works well is to get a fruit tree branch. About 3 inches in diameter. Slice it up making each slice round about half an inch or maybe a bit over but cut the slices at about a 15 degree angle. I then set the drill press stop so when I drill the hole it comes within a few mm of the bottom. I sand them smooth on the belt/disc sander and then dip them in teak oil to bring out the grain and when dry polish just the face side. You can make loads of these in a very short time and get the tubes from e-bay. I use the 5 inch ones and glue them into the wood with araldite epoxy clear. You can have one or two on display but have a sign by them stating that they don’t come with flowers. You can sell these for £7-95.
In all the years I have been scroll sawing and attending craft fairs I have never had a single negative comment. Maybe I am a perfectionist but when I make something I do so to the best of my ability and if it’s not perfect it does not go on the table. Now and again when I am making an item it can go wrong, you can get an awkward bit of grain or a knot where the blade just does not want to go and the piece is ruined. I find it heart breaking when this happens, as it’s a nice piece of wood that is quite expensive. One of the things that sometimes happens when you are making an internal cut, especially if it is a narrow piece like part of a letter is that when you come back on the other side a piece of the cut wood can break away and get trapped in the tables entry slot and then as it comes up to the edge of the slot the work piece skews to one side and cuts off the line. If it’s a word you are working on the piece will be ruined and you have to start all over again.
I have business cards I put out on the tables and on these along with other information are my e-mail address and my phone number. Almost every week I get phone calls or e-mails from customers I have posted thing to saying how pleased they are with what they ordered. Its nice to get good comments like this, it’s like a pat on the back for doing a good job. It boost your moral and you are chuffed to bits.
I never advertise, wood sells itself and advertising is very expensive. They say the best form of advertising is by word of mouth. One of my regular customers had picked up their order and went home, they had just made a cup of tea when a friend called, she saw the items my customer had ordered and asked all about it and where could she get some of the same, they told her I was at the town hall and she rushed over and gave me a very nice order, when she get her order she in turn showed her friends and family and more orders came in. Another time I made a sign for a couple, they had an allotment and had just had a new shed delivered to it, they came to the craft fair and asked if they could have a door plaque with Kate’s place on it. I made it and straight away they put it on the door of their shed and the very next craft fair I had a queue of people come in from the same allotments wanting door plaques.
During the summer we get tourist from all over the world come in to the craft fair venues and I get piles of orders and as a result a lot of my stuff is in America, Canada, New Zealand, Africa, Scandinavia and all over Europe. I have even sent things to Saudi Arabia. I often have to cut out words in a foreign language and if you get this always get the customer to write them down for you, that way there will be no mistakes.
When posting orders I use jiffy bags, padded envelopes and I always wrap the order in bubble wrap before putting it in the bag. During the time its in the hands of the post office it can come under a lot of abuse and even with the measures I take now and again an order gets broken in transit. For a single item I charge £3 and I can sometimes squeeze two items in for the same price. If the order is for several items I make a parcel but do not use the post office. I went to the post office once with a parcel containing six items and they wanted £18. I used a courier and it cost be £4 but I always charge £10 if there are more than 2 items and this covers the cost of buying the boxes, which I tend to buy from the pound shops. You can get bubble wrap free from Tesco’s, a lot of the fruit comes in bubble wrap and you can take it out of the boxes and just put it in your trolley. I did ask a manager the first time and she said it was okay.
A final work about the other stall holders. We are all very good friends and have known each other a very long time and we will always help each other out, especially if we have to leave our stalls for one reason or another. Most stalls are run by ladies and sadly a lot of them are lucky to cover their expenses, some come to the craft fairs because they like the atmosphere and the friendship. I have a friend who sells photographic prints and he and I always take the most money, we are consistent in always doing well. They call me moneybags and if another stall holder needs change they always come to me. I feel for those who don’t do so well and often give them tips to increase sales. Some don’t take advice on board. We had a lady turn up one day who had just one type of T shirt she was selling, she had lots of them in various sizes but it was just the one design, she did not sell any. I am always seeing new people turn up for their first craft fairs and when they have set up I know they will be lucky to cover their table cost. At one venue I attend we have about 20 stall holders, it’s the best venue on the circuit. I had a retired gent come to my stall as he had seen all the wood. He explained that he was a wood turner and would like to have a stall. I introduced him to the organiser and she said she would add him to the waiting list and he would be number 18. He has no hope whatsoever of getting a stall. The only way a stall spot will become available is if someone dies or moves to another area.
 

Baldhead

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Again another interesting read. Thanks chippygeoff.

A friend of my brothers in Devon was making boomerangs, he couldn't sell to save his life but another friend of his could, he made a lot of money just selling boomerangs, nothing else, although he was a very good cabinet maker! One day the local school where his children attended had an Australian teacher working on an exchange visit, as Neil made 'one off' boomerangs (he was also an accomplished artist) she asked for several with different names and designs to take back home, a bit like 'coals to Newcastle', the local TV picked up on it so he got on tea time TV, what an advert, his friend Pete who was selling these at craft fairs was in the back ground throwing the boomerang while Neil was getting interviewed, anyway the boomerang was working brilliantly, to brilliantly as it hit Pete in the back of the head! that is the only time the local TV news had to use there 'bleeper' to cover Pete's swear word.

Baldhead
 

delboy

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Thanks chippygeoff for all the info on craft fairs very interesting.

Regards Derek.
 

nadnerb

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Nice article Geoff, great to get more info.
Baldhead, I made and sold a few boomerangs, but the customers kept coming back..... BOOM BOOM!!!!
Regards
Brendan
 
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