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Hero Booths: Fantastic Toys

Posted on: March 20th, 2011 by admin No Comments

I am so impressed with this crafter. He has some absolutely stunning, stuffed creatures. He has such a whimsical aesthetic too. I was luck enough to get a bit of his time, and learn a lot about his work and how he prepares for shows, both indoor and out. Once you see this bright, colorful setup, you will probably be re-thinking your whole display! I know I am :)

1.) Please tell us a bit about yourself:
Name/Company Name:
Timothy Haugen/Fantastic Toys
General Location:
Website or Contact Info:
His Flickr Site.
2.) What form of art/craft do you make?
I’m a toymaker. I design kawaii inspired paper printable toys and soft toys.

3.) When did you start vending at Craft Fairs? Were you successful at first?
Craftstravaganza 2007 was my first show. It was one of my most successful shows to date.

4.) What is/was your favorite Art/Craft Fair you have ever attended/vended at and why?
My first craft fair I vended at was my favorite. My head was spinning from all the nice comments and gifts I received from other vendors. I couldn’t sleep at all after the show. A representative from Etsy was there to film the event. I was filmed demonstrating a quick needle felting tutorial. The demo was later available on Etsy to watch which was really cool.

5.) What was your least favorite Fair to attend/vend at? Why?
My least favorite fairs are the ones where the feature the same artists year after year and none of them inspire me. If I can find one artist that I like, the fair was worth going to. The worst fair I vended at was the one I lost my tent to high winds. After that I decided no more outdoor shows. :(

6.) Who tends to be your target audience? What tends to be your best selling item(s)?
My best buyers are people who love and appreciate all things CUTE. Although after doing craft shows I found out that my toys appeal to a much broader demographic then I thought. Young children go bananas over my toys and grandparents often consider purchasing my soft toys as baby gifts.
Buyers have learned to spend less with the current economy. As a result I’ve developed a lot of items under $10.00. These items seem to sell better than the higher priced items.

7.) Do you ever do marketing for your upcoming shows, or do you leave it to the Show Coordinators? If you do promotions, how do you do them, and do they seem to work well? Do you ever do giveaways at shows? Give out lots of business cards, etc…
I’m pretty bad about promoting my shows. In the past I’ve posted photos on flickr and mentioned it on my blog. I’ve never had a giveaway at my shows. I prefer to do those on my blog. I usually have a giveaway for the holiday season to promote my Christmas Collection. I’ve given away thousands of business cards at shows and surprisingly I don’t get many sales because of it. For me online sales have always been better than local craft shows.

8.) Have you ever helped put a show together or run a show? Which one(s)?
I’ve thought about organizing a local plush show but I just don’t have the time to put into it.

9.) How have Flickr, Etsy, Facebook, etc helped you expand your crafty business?
Without Etsy I’m positive I wouldn’t have half of the sales I’ve made today. Etsy is truly the best thing ever to happen to crafters. Without it I wouldn’t have collectors from around the world. Both Flickr and Etsy have been great to expose my work to a much broader audience then I ever expected. In the past year I have put a lot of focus on my blog. Blogs are great because they’re easy to customize and add new info daily. I’ve added tutorials to my blog to gain exposure for crafting as well as my toys. I find Facebook and Twitter boring so I don’t spend that much time there.

10.) What do you think the difference is between an Art Show and a Craft Fair? If there is any difference…
I think there is a big difference. I’ve participated at both and I prefer the Indie Craft Fairs. The buyers at those shows seem to get my work and appreciate it more. The art shows tend to focus on the fine arts: painting, pottery and photography. None of which I have any interest in. I find the artists at indie shows to be more creative. The work at those shows are usually more fun and whimsical.

11.) Any words of advice for people who do not think their setup is as good as it could be? What is your most successful layout for a table or booth.

The best advice for setting up a booth is to go to a fair and look around at what others are doing and ask questions. I find that most artists are more than willing to give advice and help you out. I don’t think any layout is specifically better than the other. I used to think the U shaped layout was the best but at the last show I did I went with a V layout. Because I wanted to display less I found the V layout showed off my work a little better. No two booths are the same and different layouts work better for different items. You wouldn’t display pottery the same way you would paintings. Every artist displays and decorates their booth according to their personal preferences and personality. Your booth will not appeal to everyone that walks by. It really depends on weather or not they have the same aesthetic as you. Just be yourself.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Craft Friendly Southern Illinois and has been reprinted with permisison.

Inspiration: Visual Merchandising

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by admin No Comments

The Inspiration series of posts features display and marketing ideas to help you break out of your routine.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Craft Friendly Southern Illinois and has been reprinted with permisison.

Inspiration: Fun Packaging

Posted on: February 21st, 2011 by admin No Comments

The Inspiration series of posts features display and marketing ideas to help you break out of your routine.

I’m always looking for unique and fun ways to package my items. some of these items include onesies, baby booties, organic sachets, and other goodies. Most items can stand on their own, but it is sure fun to give certain things a greater purpose and therefore better saleability. Also, if packaging is eco-friendly, reusable, recyclable, and/or biodegradable, that is key!

Coffee Bags, a great idea!

Wood Excelsior, a great shred-fill alternative! I bet it has an amazing smell and texture too.
Acid-Free, Recycled Kraft Tissue Paper. It’s so nice to wrap your items in tissue and ribbon before you send them off to customers. A nice, elegant touch. Customize the colors to your own too!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Craft Friendly Southern Illinois and has been reprinted with permisison.

Pat Ryan, Fixture Designer

Posted on: February 7th, 2011 by admin No Comments

Pat Ryan’s Things – This designer builds fascinating interior displays for shops around the country. He is quite amazing! So, I asked him if I could feature his words and his work on the Craft Friendly Southern Illinois blog…

I have truly learned a lot of new concepts just from reading Pat’s answers. He has turned on that little light bulb in my head, making me further understand that your booth is not just a 10′ x 10′ space, it is actually a 10′ cube. Please read on to hear words of wisdom from a master artist, engineer, and designer. He builds a lot of custom display pieces, counter tops, desks, and other furniture for upscale buildings. I believe that building your own displays for craft shows is really a great option if you have the skill set. If you own a store front, it is incredibly important to have a some sort of counter that is interesting and functional. This way, you can have you register there, a work space, and a place to store packaging materials and other supplies without the customers seeing your mess.

1.) What is your name and occupation?

My name is Patrick Ryan but friends call me Pat or Patrick. I don’t have a preference about who I am name-wise. Patrick Ryan is a common name. Kind of boring really. I make my living using art, design, and engineering.

2.) Your website/business?

I have a lot of websites based on my ideas for that day, but my main website is probably

3.) How did you get into this line of work? Do you work for yourself?

I graduated from San Francisco Art Institute with a BFA in Fine Art. Then I got a BSEE in engineering from the University of Colorado. I didn’t really want to be just an artist or just an engineer so I found a happy world of “design” that fell right in the middle of those two fields. I have created my own career by bridging these worlds, and I have worked for myself since 1994.

4.) What types of things inspire you?

Interesting people who make objects – not necessarily the objects themselves, unique workspaces and studios, authenticity, natural materials, evidence of hard work, color used unexpectedly, complexity within simplicity

5.) Can you tell us a bit about Visual Merchandising?

Visual Merchandising is creating a feeling that the item on display is real. A successful display allows a customer to intrinsically understand that a product can somehow just work for them. Or fit within their personal needs and desires.

6.) Is it best to stick with one color scheme with our main displays, or should we use a mix of colors that work well together?

I like color that is naturally occurring. Using color to mask or detract from the obvious is not necessary and will create displays that cannot be easily changed or modified. This is not to say that color, if part of a brand strategy should be ignored. But consumers have also grown weary of brand thugs.

7.) How much of our display should be at eye level, bend-down-level, and reach-up level?

A good example of conventional, boring display can be seen in jewelery stores. Ninety percent of the product is presented in a flat case you lean over and look down into. But jewelry is actually dynamic and moves with the body in different ways. Lighting angle effects jewelry. Whoever creates a new way to display jewelery will create a whole new and effective way to sell it.

8.) Any major words of advice when setting up a craft booth in a space that is roughly 10′ x 10′?

A 10′x10′ booth actually contains around 800 cubic feet of potential 3D display space. This is very large in most circumstances. Customers only “see” about 3 to 4 feet into a booth as they walk by. A display should concentrate on the initial 320 cu. ft. of “active” display to engage and draw the customer in for a closer look. This includes the floor, walls, and even the perceived ceiling that makes up the cube. Rented, lightweight display fixtures that are cheap and wobbly should never be used at the front of the booth. Nor should there be a traditional-looking “check-out counter” look that sets up a boundary most customers won’t cross. Incredibly creative displays and booths are usually the ones built with the most limited budgets. Limited budgets are a blessing in disguise for display design.

Thanks for opening my eyes to some really important concepts Pat!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Craft Friendly Southern Illinois and has been reprinted with permisison.

Hero Booths: Cow Mountain Creations

Posted on: January 24th, 2011 by admin 1 Comment

Hero Booths is a series featuring booths we love and artists who have done something great with their craft show getup.

Wow! I am totally enamored by this awesome seametress. She and her husband are a team of crafters who really know how to set up a nice craft fair booth. It looks like she is always really stocked up, and has unique items that no one else has.
Her cute aprons and pajamas are surely crowd pleasers.
I saw her booth recently on Flickr, and have been thinking of it ever since.
It looks like they use a gridwall system as well as wooden walls to display this large amount of clothing. Clothes are so hard to display, and they really seem to have a clothing store inside their tent.
I would be at this booth for hours, looking at all of these nice items and displays.
It’s like stepping into a huge closet and never wanting to leave :)

Make sure to check out Cow Mountain Creations on FlickrHERE.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Craft Friendly Southern Illinois and has been reprinted with permisison.

How Sustainable is Free?

Posted on: January 11th, 2011 by admin No Comments

There’s a great post series and discussion happening over at CraftyPod about “free.” It’s something near and dear to my own heart, as Indie Craft Shows was created as a free resource. As I take some time off of my full time job to help nurture and grow the site, I have to keep a close eye on the sustainability of free. At the end of the day I still have hosting fees, domain fees, and content fees to cover, and that’s not even considering the cost of my time. So far the revenue from our fantastic sponsors has been enough to make ends meet, but it’s certainly something I’m aware of.

Parts 1 and 2 of the series are out, with more to come!

[source: CraftyPod]

Candy Giveaways at Shows

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by admin 1 Comment

I have been using dishes of candy to lure people into my booth for a while now, and it really works! I often use brightly colored candies in a cute vintage dish. I put a little pink serving spoon in the dish, and people come back repeatedly to visit for more. Whether they buy something or not, that’s fine – at least they are viewing my work for a second while they munch.

I wanted to feature some candy ideas for you to use, let me know if this works or you have an opinion on the matter :)

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Craft Friendly Southern Illinois and has been reprinted with permisison.

Ten Rules for Maker Businesses

Posted on: January 6th, 2011 by admin No Comments

While not all the rules apply directly to crafters, Ponoko has a great list of Ten Rules for Maker Businesses. Keep these in mind as you’re gearing up for the spring show season!

Accepting Credit Cards with Square

Posted on: January 3rd, 2011 by admin 4 Comments

The weekend before Christmas I brought Tinysaurs to a local Jersey City craft show. I vend at craft shows very rarely because they take an enormous amount of time/energy and can be a total crap shoot in terms of sales. I've been accepting credit cards at them for years, but for this show I tried out Square Payments.

Accept Credit Cards with Square Payments

First, a little background. The old school way of processing cards is to use a 'knucklebuster' imprinter to capture the card data. Then after the show you have the painstaking task of entering every transaction in manually. Worse, since you're not authorizing the cards at the point of sale there's always a chance if will be declined. Since the goods are already gone you're pretty much SOL.

Luckily, we live in the future. Prior to this show I've been using a magnetic strip reader coupled with my netbook and sometimes my cell phone for internet connectivity when there's no wireless internet available. It's a little clunky to set up, with wires running everywhere, but if I bring an extra laptop battery I can go an entire show without having to plug in. The cards are processed on-site, and everyone is mostly happy.

Square Payments provides a little widget to attach to your smartphone (currently only Android or iOS devices). You enter the amount to charge, swipe the card, and have the customer sign on the touchscreen with their finger.

It's amazing.

No really. It's the most pleasant, easy to use, and fastest way to accept cards I've experienced. I was afraid people might take issue with me running their card through my phone and asking them to sign with their finger, but no one batted an eye. A few customers were impressed with the ability to email them a receipt – one woman said "It's just like at the Apple store!"

Oh, and the hardware is free. And there's no monthly fees. Just a per-transaction fee which is on par with Paypal and no worse than my current merchant account once you account for gateway fees, monthly minimums, etc.

It's not a perfect solution yet. There doesn't seem to be a way to total up individual items, so I had to switch over to the calculator app a few times. There also isn't a good way to itemize the receipts, though I've heard the iPad app is a little better at this. People with long nails had trouble signing their name since you need to use the pad of your finger. If I did shows more often I'd probably invest in a touchscreen pen.

Still, it's the best option I've seen in a long time, and could be a total game changer, making credit cards standard at craft shows.

One important note is that initially your deposits are limited to $1000/week. You can accept as much as you want, but they'll only give it to you $1000 at a time. This limit can be lifted by contacting support, but it's not super obvious and may be an unpleasant surprise if you're not prepare.

I've put together a comparison chart of the methods I've used to accept cards at shows, and would love to hear others' experiences. The chart assumes you're using your swiper or knucklebuster with a merchant service such as ProPay, PayPal, First Data, or one set up through your bank.

  Square Payments Magnetic Swiper Knucklebuster
Swipe Hardware Free ~$100 $30
Processing Hardware Smartphone
$50 – $300+



Home computer
Monthly Connection Fees 3G Data plan
$15 +

Wireless or 3G plan

$15 +

Monthly Merchant Fee None Varies, ~$16


Transaction Fees 2.75% + 15¢ Varies wildly Varies Wildly

The free sign up and free hardware make Square a very low-risk service to try if you already have a smartphone. I couldn't be happier with it, and encourage other vendors to check it out!

Are Craft Shows Worth It?

Posted on: December 29th, 2010 by admin 6 Comments

There's no denying that selling at craft shows can take up a ton of time, and a fair amount of money too. Buying craft show gear can be a big investment, not to mention the cost for you to produce your wares. Recently we've seen a few folks asking "is it worth it?"

The answer to that quesiton varies wildly from person to person, but we'd love to hear what you think. What makes a craft show worth it to you? And when do you decide your time is better spent elsewhere?

You can leave your answer in a comment or send it to