In the last 20 years I have been involved with a wide variety of craft shows such as the Chelsea Crafts Show organised by the UK Crafts Council and Made London, and I have helped 100s of new and more established makers getting ready for shows through providing workshops and online training.
Every time I have been involved with organising a craft fair there are makers who will forget something crucial during the set up, or worry in advance about what to bring to a craft fair, and what to leave home.
So this post is for all of you who want to have less stress to get ready for your craft fair.
Print this post off and just use it as a handy ticking-off list when you are ready to pack your bags for your craft show, so that you have everything you need to bring to a craft fair.
And there is a lot more to think about. From marketing and social media, to planning your stand, to what stock to take … You can read here my 13 last minute marketing tips to promote your event, 8 creative ways to promote your craft fair with Twitter, and how much stock to take to your craft fair here.
What to bring to a craft fair during setting up
Of course: your products are the first thing you need to bring to a craft fair!
But think about it for a minute: What will you really be exhibiting, promoting and selling?
Your products, your services and skills, or your brand?
Can you create collections of your products that work well together?
If you don’t know how much stock to take click here.
How will you be attracting potential clients to your stand?
What is the first impression you want to give? Will your stand look like a white, minimal gallery space with title labels? Or more like a bohemian shop full of colourful products? An attractive visual display will make all the difference at a very busy show. Make sure that your display reflects your brand values, and add some personality to standout.
Add a splash of colour. Wall paper, felt or a thin sheet of metal can often work well, as often you aren’t allowed to paint the exhibition shell scheme.
Will people be able to touch your work or does it need more protection? Think about professional plinths, showcases cabinets and shelves (Don’t forget the showcase keys … you won’t be the first jeweller who locks themselves out …).
Consider how an antique set of drawers, a blue hand-painted console or a white IKEA shelf add very different personalities to your brand.
Think about the measurements and weight of your display – vital to get the display into your car or van, but also to get them up many dark and small staircases in old Victorian venues!
Will you be able to re-use your display again?
Also think about how your display can help you to keep your stand looking tidy, by keeping any additional stock, promotional materials and your handbag out of the way.
Furniture to sit on
How will you be standing up all the time? Although I do think it looks much better if you are standing when visitors come to your stand, you might have health issues and standing on your feet for hours on end might not be what you are used to.
Are you able to lean against your display or a wall? Or would you be able to have a high stool? Or could you create a little sitting area for yourself and potential clients?
Can you add a bit more personality to your stand and create a space that you and your clients love to spend time in?
Can you use different senses? Think about a small plate of peppermints, a fresh cup of coffee with some amazingly decorated cupcakes, a vase with the right type of flowers for your brand and the season, or the mulled wine been given out at many Christmas Open Studio events (the latter not a big hit for me personally!).
Adding (large) images of your work to your craft fair stand can remind potential clients of your brand and styling. Especially if you have used these same (style of) images in your promotional material or on your online shop.
If you are a jeweller with very small work then large images can attract people to your stand.
Stylish images can also show your craft products in use and add a lot more ‘emotion’ and feeling to your work and stand e.g. think about scarves or bags being worn, or ceramic or wooden bowls or platters with a wonderful display of food.
Images of your studio or work environment can also add a lot more connection to your brand and display.
Often signage is provided but you might want to stand out with your logo on a colourful background.
You can use a banner, but more stylish options are logos in wood or acrylic that you can re-use or get a vinyl sticker made. Or integrate it into your display, like Jess Hogarth did.
Paperwork to get you in
Most shows have specific times for setting up and often you will need to show exhibitor identification to be allowed to park or to get into the venue. Bring your exhibitor & helper passes, and vehicle displays to the setting up day to ensure that you can get in to your craft fair without any problems.
How will you get your work and display to your stand? Often there is limited parking space available, so make sure that you have got a trolley or something similar to help you. Check in advance if there are additional helpers at hand to get your products and display in to the venue as soon as possible.
Check in advance with your craft fair organisers to see what is allowed in terms of drilling, painting etc.
Don’t forget to bring your electric screwdriver (plus batteries), extra electricity sockets and extension leads, nails and screws, S-hooks etc. Potentially bring a ladder too. Also think about any potential emergencies, and bring Blue Tack, heavy duty double sticky tape, and safety pins.
Especially if you are showing glass, silver, mirrors and jewellery (especially in glass displays) then don’t forget to bring cleaning materials and a fresh cloth.
What to bring to a craft fair when it is open
Will you be handing out personally your post cards or business cards or leaving them out for visitors to take?
Display any press cuttings to show your credibility and to start a conversation.
It is also increasingly common to show your portfolio, video or website on a tablet or computer, which can start conversations about your work and practice.
It can also be useful to show previous projects and commissions you have worked on.
And if your potential client would like THAT piece, but in another colour or size then you can always show it to them on your online shop and get a sale that way!
Will you have a visual price list or individual prices on each craft product, or both? Find out here how to create a great visual price list or line sheet.
Don’t forget to bring red dot stickers to a craft fair to show that you have sold a craft piece (especially if pieces can’t be sold from the stand immediately).
Have a calculator handy too in case your client purchases more than one item.
Mailing list or comments book
If you create a simple mailing list signup sheet or comments book then you can boost your database with new contacts.
You also might like to provide a stapler for professional contacts to staple their business cards into your book.
Extra signs (for photography, social media & commissioning)
Do you hate it when people photograph your work? Worried that they might steal your ideas? Then display a sign with ‘Please ask before taking any pictures’. Increasingly visitors take pictures on their phones and spread them via social media, without naming you as the source. If you are worried about this or people stealing your ideas then consider becoming a member of ACID (Anti-Copying in Design) who provide a yellow sign to their members to display at (trade) events.
Or maybe you don’t mind people photographing your work, as long as they share your twitter handle or Instagram account? Then have a sign ready with your social media details.
And if you do provide commissions or are looking for agents, then do let visitors know about that too. You might be surprised that many craft fair visitors are not aware of this option!
How will you accept payment? It’s now very easy to get direct online payments with a credit card reader (talk to your bank or shop around, a lot has changed in this area in the last two years!). If you are selling with PayPal then you can check out their card reader here.
It is still important to have a cash box (or keep your money in a purse closer to you), but ensure that you have enough spare cash if you don’t want to miss out on any sales. You might also still take payment by cheques.
It is a legal requirement in the UK to ensure that you have individual receipts of any cash payments so make sure that you have a receipt book. If you have a duplicate book then you can give one copy to your client and keep the other one for your records. It is a great opportunity to ask your new client for their address or email then you can add them to your database too!
Taking it home safely (and beautifully)
Very often people buy gifts at craft fairs, so make sure that you have wrapping material available, including bubble wrap, a nice paper or branded bag or small (jewellery) packaging too.
If they are buying a present then they want to see how the packaging looks like too. Which can also be an additional way to show your brand again, like Lindsey Lang did very professionally.
Maybe have a label with your logo and contact details on too? Don’t forget to bring sticky tape and scissors to a craft fair!
Take advantage of this downtime to catch up with some creative work!
And often visitors love it when you are making at your stand, so it’s a great conversation starter too.
General stationery & beyond
Have some spare VIP tickets or invites available in case that important client or fabulous friend forgot theirs and is waiting outside.
Don’t forget to bring pens (to write down notes on the back of your new business cards or to write down the specific queries to follow up after the show), staples, paperclips, Blue Tack, red dots, and a calculator.
If you are selling jewellery or scarves to wear then bring a mirror too.
Don’t forget to bring your phone charger!
Your personal survival kit
Have a little box ready with your own emergency supplies of aspirin, lip balm, extra tights, plasters (for those irritating paper cuts and blisters!), hand cream, breath mints (!), perfume, hairspray and hairbrush.
Sometimes there are special award events so you might like to have some extra ‘dressing up’ clothes and make up available too (just in case you are a winner!).
Somehow many craft fairs are often either too hot or too cold … so bring layers of clothes with you and some extra shoes too.
If you are doing a craft fair outside then do prepare for the worse … rain, snow or the heat can all be conquered much easier if you are prepared with the right clothes and to protect your crafts, visitors and stand.
Bring some additional healthy snacks, fruit and drinks – as the queues might be very long and food can often be expensive at craft fairs. And if you are outside then do bring a thermos can of your favourite coffee too!
What would you bring to a craft fair? Have I forgotten anything? Do let us know in the comments box below.
A special thank you to photographer Yeshen Venema who gave us permission to use his images in this blog post.