Sunday, March 16, 2008

Learning to go the distance

Up from the Ashes was the brain child of myself and my friend Julia. Back in 2004, I had just made some wings for a photography project in college and Julia and I and our friend Lorraine decided to go to the Spoutwood May Day/Fairy Festival in Glenrock, PA. They were huge and awkward, but we lost count of how many people told us how awesome they were.

Through a convoluted connection of friends, I was put in touch with the wonderful folks at Earth&State in Media, PA to see if my wings would sell on commission in their store. To my surprise, they were wildly popular-which may have had something to do with the 5' fairy sculpture I made for their front window. One day soon after Julia and I decided to start our own independent artisan company. So we filed the paper work and applied for the Maryland Fairy Festival in 2005. That was our first real show and boy were we in for a big surprise. We had a tiny little tent I and jerry-rigged a contraption to display my wings and hats. It was a very windy, chilly but sunny mid-May day. Despite the cold, we all forgot sunscreen and had horrible burns to show for it. And we had no idea that the melting temperature of Julia's soaps and candles were low enough to get soggy from the sunlight!

We have learned a bit since then. We have have been thrilled to go to the Maryland fairy festival every year since. The picture to the left is from 2006-we still had the little tent but I had a (slightly!) better set up for my wings-especially after learning how brutal the winds could be there. In 2007 we scored on one of those big ez-up white tents and that was a dream come true on how easy it was to use and how sturdy it is (sorry, I can't find my 2007 pictures!).
We remembered to bring sun screen and icy gel packs for Julia's soap! The fairy festival is such a blast because of all the awesome people from all over the place you get to meet. The local craft fairs can be fun, but I usually get a lot of really strange looks!
In October of 2007 we joined the big league at Faeriecon International at the Philadelphia Convention Center. That was an amazing experience, unfortunately not one we are going to repeat.
There were so many amazing artists and vendors, but not nearly enough people there to purchase things. Julia was a model in the Sunday fashion show (the picture on the left-outfit and hairfall by the amazing Marley of Darklocks) and my wings and mask made appearances on the runway on both Saturday and Sunday. We think we will go back this year as attendees-and maybe for the fashion show. :)

We are gearing up for the Maryland Fairy Festival this year-it is in the beginning of June this year-and I can't wait!

If I were to offer advice to crafters or artisans just starting out, I would say don't be afraid to go just for it. It can be nerve wracking, and disappointing, but the best way to find customers is to put yourself in a place where they will come to you!
Another important thing to think about is the market you are trying to reach-my wings can sell like hotcakes at a thematic fairy festival but I may only sell one or two at a local arts and craft fair. And there is nothing wrong with diversity; having a range of products enables you to reach a range of markets and customers.
Never be satisfied with your product-but be happy with your progress so far. You should always be working to improve your technique or presentation. I find myself randomly brainstorming about how I can improve my step for the next show. If you have the space at home, try doing a trial set-up of what you want your booth/table to look like-that will help you tremendously in setting up for the actual show, and give you time to work out any kinks.
Always bring extra water and snacks, sun screen, lots of business cards, hand sanatizer, wire and pliers!
Anyway, that is just a little bit of wisdom gained while we are learning to go the distance.


Athena's Armoury said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences and advice. I loved seeing your successes and pictures!

Cat (darklingwoods) said...

great tips and love to hear how it all began! Your work is amazing!