Throughout my career I have been involved in the selection of various design and craft fairs. From the famous Chelsea Crafts Fair to One Year On at New Designers, and many new designers for group stands at international and UK trade fairs including 100% Design, Top Drawer, Decorex, Inhorgenta, International Contemporary Furniture Fair and others.
I have worked very closely with many of the organisers, and learnt some practical tips that might help you too.
Here are my 4 top tips to get selected for a design trade show or craft fair:
Tip 1: Read the application guidelines
This might sound obvious, but many people manage overlook this simple step!
Check exactly what the organisers are looking for in terms of products, type of companies etc.
Most applications are exactly the same: contact information, some background/CV or artist statement, and images or publicity material.
Make sure that you fill in all the questions, and sign and date the application form (again very often a big hurdle …)
If the organisers ask for 5 images, don’t send 10 JPEG’s or a link to your website.
Check out exactly how they want you to send your information, and what format. Make sure that you don’t block their inbox for days with a file that’s far too big (keep below 3meg) to send …
Popular show organisers often get 100’s of applications, so they will not spend extra time because you couldn’t be bothered. Make their life easy!
Tip 2: Show your work off with your best pictures
Your application will be much more likely to succeed if you provide great pictures, that show your work in the best possible way.
Many selling events will select mostly on the images provided, and less on the written information or your reputation or education.
Your pictures need to represent what you want to show or sell at the fair.
They need to show what your work is like through a variety of detail and overall image shots, and a variety of products.
Make sure that the selected images together form a consistent overview of what you do, but that there is some variety in what you offer.
Your photos must be high quality, and ideally taken by a professional photographer.
Make sure you show off your skills and the quality of your products with detailed shots.
You can use highly styled images within a context or lifestyle setting (but make sure that it is easy to spot what and where your product is!), or you can provide an image with a white background. It really helps if all your images have got a similar background (ideally just plain white) so that they can later be used for PR purposes.
You can show single products or create a collection.
Use natural indirect light.
Use props such as flowers to bring your vases alive.
Using models can be really great, but if not done well than it will look very amateurish. But always make sure that your work plays the main role in your images!
Show your packaging or label if relevant.
Even if you have been selected before, or are a bit of an established name, make sure that you get the best images in that show new work in the best possible way. Even after being selected successfully for a couple of years, you might be thrown out if you don’t provide high quality images.
Look at the selection of your images and see if this is a good representation of what you do. If you didn’t know your work, would you get a good idea of what it looked like?
The best thing is to research how other designers and crafts people take images, through researching online portfolios or directories, or check out the website of the shows you are applying for. A great place to start is checking out the Crafts Council Photostore online library.
Great images will not only get you selected for shows, but will also ensure you get into the press associated with the fair! Photographs really are an investment and not a cost in your business.
Label your images with your (business) name and short description e.g. John Smith blue vase, John Smith grey pot (instead of JPEG 1, JPEG2, …) . This will really help the organisers when sorting out images with the selection, and also later when looking for press images. Also label your disc – if you are sending one!
Make sure that you up date your website or other online portfolios with your new images too. Firstly that will keep them update too, but secondly very often smaller fairs will check you out a bit more and will look at your website too. If your work has dramatically changed from the images on your site, or it looks like you can’t be bothered to keep your promotional information up to date, then they will be less likely to select you.
If you want to learn how to create great pictures of your crafts & jewellery read this blog post, and if you would like to learn more and take your own pictures then check out this fabulous book.
Tip 3: Return the application in time
Again this might sound really stupid, but you will be surprised how many entries arrive late …
Check if there is a deadline for the shows that you are interested in. Many of the popular Christmas shows have deadlines in March or April, so make sure that you are in time.
Don’t leave it till the last moment, as you need to get ready with the right images.
Many of the most popular craft fairs have got deadlines, and only do one selection (often with external panelists). So if you send in your application too late, then you will be … too late!
Tip 4: Get feedback
So, then you get the anticipated email or letter from the organisers, and you will either be: selected, rejected or put on a waiting list.
If you have been rejected, then do take a moment to check what went wrong and what you could do better next time. Check if you can find out in the rejection letter or on the website how many people applied and how many got selected to give you an idea.
Many organisers will reject you mostly because they had too many applications and or your products didn’t fit in with their show (don’t apply for a contemporary show if you work is traditional) or because your images were not good or clear enough to explain what you do.
Many organisers really don’t mind if you contact them in a friendly manner (!) to ask for some feedback about your application.
Sometimes they are unable to do so, or they might need to check specific notes about your application.
Alternatively ask them for some tips how to improve your chances next time.
But above all … stay friendly and professional, and they will often try to help.
And you will never know … If you give the right professional impression and show that you really want to be part of their show then they might change their mind. Especially if you are on a ‘waiting list’ they might check you out and if you are known to the organisers then you might be one of the first to be allocated a place. I have seen this happen more than once!
If you want to learn how to get ready for a craft fair or trade show then check out this blog post.