Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Here we go!!

Here we go!!
Originally uploaded by *TheMermaid*
Ha! I am right now blogging from my phone thanks to the genius of flickr.com. My first almost-tour post. Here is a pic from the waiting room of the car place yesterday... The AC is now ready for anything!

Yet another test!!

Yet another test!!
Originally uploaded by *TheMermaid*
Please save me, flickr...

It's all Tour updates from here...

Ok, here I am at T-48 hours and I'm still not in freakout mode. I think it must be some sort of defense mechanism... I'm way too calm. I suppose I do have a good handle on all my packing stuff, though there's still plenty to do. 

I'm pretty bummed that I can't get my mobile photo blog thingy to work. Well I can post photos to Facebook, but not my fan page. So my mom can see my pics, but not my customers. Argh. What I might do is have someone else post in my stead, via emails from me. Or I might see if I can post to Flickr and link to it. We'll see. I might also have access to a couple friends' compies on the road. 

Anyway, right now I'm taking my pile of half-crossed-off lists and forming a final list, or punch list as Stu would say. Today is mostly printing clothing and finishing up some flyers and brochures. Tomorrow will be gathering and van packing day. Somewhere along the line I have to get groceries too. 

 This first show in Eugene will be a bit grueling... it's a 3-dayer and goes until 8:30 every night. Our campground is over 30 minutes away, which means some late nights. Luckily, Stu will be joining me on his motorcycle and has volunteered to leave the show early each night in order to prepare dinner ahead of me. That will be nice. Although we won't be there much, the camp site is on a lake with showers and all. Should be pretty cool.

So far it just feels like I'm going to any other show, with more camping gear. I know it will sink in after the show when I don't have to drive home. Heehee, this is so much fun.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Message

You have a Picture Mail from xxxxxx@pm.sprint.com
Well, this stinks. Part of the whole reason for getting a shiny new phone was so I could blog a bit while traveling. I can send a photo, but here's how it looks. I had to edit it, cuz it shows my phone number and a big Sprint logo and all this other junk. So... if I'm unable to make it work, I can at least post text. Which is lame, but it's something. I CAN, however, post pics on facebook. At least to my own account, maybe not the Mermaid page. *Sigh* Crap.

View Entire Message

Send and receive Pictures and Videos through Picture MailSM. For more information go to www.sprint.com/picturemail.

Please be aware your friends can forward your picture, video, and album share invitations to others or post the unique Web link to your share invitation on any number of sources (e.g. blogs), through which others could also gain access to your online photos. If you have private or sensitive photos you are sharing, please share them only with those you trust.

© 2010 Sprint. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

And now?

How about now?

Testing 1-2

Trying again... Posting from my phone. Lookit me! How about a pic. Uh, nope.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

T-1 Week!

Oh my. It's coming up so fast... one week from today, I'll be packing up the van and checking my lists for departure on the Mermaid Tour 2010. I'm working hard not to have a freakout (like I often do when on my way out for a show trip). Doing my walks and taking care of bidness. But, each day my excitement level ratchets up a notch. I fear I'll be unbearable by next week. Anyway, I have all these travel details cluttering my brain. I figured I could bore you with them here... that's what blogs are for. Ha.

As I have been preparing for my 6+ week craft show/camping trip, I have formulated a basic living plan. During the shows, I will hide out in my van as I normally do... somewhere close to the show. This is easy, as the van is empty and I can park it anywhere and go unnoticed. I'm usually so worked and tired, all I do is eat and go to bed anyway.

Between shows, I'll camp in the beautiful forest lands. Tons of fabulous camping all along my route. I'll find a lake or river to camp near... if it's very hot, I'll opt for the coast when in OR & WA. 

Actually, for the first two shows, there are already exceptions. For the 4th of July show in Eugene, I reserved a nice campground on a lake south of town a bit. Stu is riding his motorcycle up with me, so I wanted a good hangout space for us. And showers, for a 3 day show, are very nice to have.  Then, the next show in McMinnville, I'll be parking at my Aunt & Uncle's place nearby. I'm very much looking forward to visiting with them... it's been many many years.  

Since I know I'll have showers and comfort those weekends, I can seek out more isolated camping  for the days between. I invested in my own little portapotty, quite a luxury! Hahaha. Sorry, but that is one of the hardest things to deal with when camping, esp in town. It will be nice to be able to camp wherever I wish, completely self contained.

My general plan is to bring home as much money as possible. This is not a cheap trip. I anticipate spending a couple thousand bucks on gas alone. I have no plans to get a hotel. I will probably eat out a few times with friends, but mostly I'll be eating out of the coolers and cooking over campfires. I don't mind that one bit...  I plan on hitting every fruit stand and farmer's market I come across.

My other plan is to make my trip as comfortable as possible. My big concern is dealing with heat. I am a wuss who overheats easily, so that's a big one. Here's a list of stuff I've been collection and preparing:

- Porta potty :-)
- Battery/plug powered fans (for van and booth)
- Additional small cooler with wheels (for booth toting)
- Bigger 'drinking ice only' cooler with spout
- Van back windows tinted
- Van AC fixed ($ouch$)
- Smaller 1-burner cook stove
- Extra tubs for storage
- New kickass phone like the rest of you have... for web updates and navigation
- Smaller fold-up dolly
- AAA card updated, maps, guidebooks
- Oil changed, general inspection of van
- New sandals
- Better first aid kit (more organized and complete)

Oh, and I'm also still making clothes for sale. This week, I'll finish up the last dye round, then print as many pieces as I'm able. Next week will start the final van packing and list checking.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mateel Arts & Music Report

Success! A good time was had by all, and sales couldn't have been much better. Woot! I can always count on my SoHum peoples to come through. Really fun to see everyone... thanks to everybody who visited my little booth over the weekend!

The weather turned out great, even too hot for me. A tiny bit of drizzle, but mostly it was sticky humid. The sun did come out here and there, so we were able to achieve that good summer festival feeling. I was about as close to the stage as one could get. I love being by the stage, but being SO close it was pretty loud even for me. Especially at breakdown time when the metal band played. Kinda hurt my head.

I had a few hiccups with my girl party/helper plan. Sigh. But hey, I gave it a shot. Anyway... I did have some friends hang out for a bit, had enough help to do some shopping on Sunday which was a luxury. I was on my own for setup and tear down and that was a little rough. But the crazy sales, cool neighbors and friendly customers kept my attitude in check. 

I also scored some sweet Mermaid booty... in the form of a handmade bead necklace from my neighbors, and the coveted Carnival Girl pendant. Woohoo! A few years back I got a couple of her pendants for my two best friends and regretted not getting one for myself. So now I have one and the world is right again.  I also picked up a few items for a certain bff who is turning 40 tomorrow, but they're top secret. OH and the pan flute with Andean music CD was left in my booth by a customer. So, I'm thinking of making a 'pile of stuff left in my booth' raffle prize for the wedding. I already have a Gold Beach wine glass, who knows what else I can score by then?

So now I am recovering and making to-do lists for the Tour. Also, I suddenly have a bunch of inquiries for orders... I think a day spent updating my web site could be a good way to go. Onward!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

5 Essential Tips for Craft Fair Selling

I think I started doing this a couple years ago, listing tips for craft selling... then felt a little weird about it for some reason.  A bit know-it-all-ish, I guess. This past weekend though, I found myself surrounded by new sellers and pouring my wisdom all over the place. People were taking notes! haha. It occurred to me that this is my 10th year of selling at festivals, and maybe it's ok to know some stuff. Since I really do enjoy sharing what I've learned over the years, and possibly helping someone out on their path, I thought I'd post here. 

So, here are my 5 essential tips for selling at craft fairs. There are plenty more where this came from...but these are the biggies in my book:

1. Stay Positive.  I think if I hear one more discussion about these 'tough economic times' I might lose it. As craft vendors, we know every show is different. It's always something... gas prices, the weather, the promoter, the advertising, the location, the local population. Argh. Get used it and give me a break.

Personally, I believe you create your own reality in many respects. I met a vendor recently who was KILLing me with her constant talk of how hard things are. She can't find a good show, can't get a part time job anywhere, can't get orders online... blah blah blah. Guess how much fun I had talking to her?? Not only that, she spewed it out to her customers too. Do you think that's good for business? No. It's exhausting and boring. Generally, customers feel better buying from a successful vendor. Fake it 'til you make it.

So, how do you stay positive when you just spent 3 weeks and all your cash to make stuff that only 4 people have bought so far? Think about the next show, draw in your sketch book, dance around to the band playing, get a glass of wine, chat with your neighbors about what other shows are coming up. Smile. It's a festival, have a little fun.

Craft shows are a gamble, but there's always another one. Faith in yourself, your product and your customer is essential if you are going to do this type of business. I do this because it's fun and I love it... please allow me to enjoy.

2. Be a Good Neighbor. #1 is a good start here, but there are many facets to being a good booth neighbor. A huge part of what I love about doing festivals, is meeting other vendors. Where else do you meet your peers, folks who do exactly what you do for similar reasons? Artists, travelers, small business folk... so much to learn and gain from these friendships! 

So, be a friendly neighbor. Offer to watch the booth of a solo vendor so they can grab a break. Don't just stand by as someone's tent is collapsed by wind. Move your vehicle asap so others can load/unload too. Do NOT encroach in any way on your neighbor's booth space or the path to it (or get their permission first). Be aware. We are a community and these are your peoples! 

Talk to other vendors and you will be AMAZED by what you can learn. I still am every time. For example, last weekend I was at a very slow and tiny show in Oregon. I made a point of talking to most of the other vendors to find out what shows are actually really GOOD in OR.... since I have never found one. I learned of 3 shows I hadn't heard of, got the scoop on a show I'm doing for the first time next month, and input on a show I didn't want to try again but now maybe I will. I also met a vendor who has done shows in Montana, where I'll be passing through on my tour. I had no idea there were any shows at all in MT, and now I have 3 to choose from! I'm just scratching the surface here... I have made lifelong friends doing this, been offered showers and places to stay, bartered for some wonderful handmade goodies, shared stories and dinners, found wholesale accounts and material suppliers. 

Communicate, connect. That's how magic happens.

3. Use Your Space. Recently I was setting up my booth at an indoor show. I was along a wall with about 5 other vendors... most of whom had one table sitting in the middle of their 10ft x 10ft space and that was it. While my booth looked like a beast in comparison. Well, at least I was visible. Most of these folks were new to selling, so they didn't have much inventory. Still, you are paying for the space, why not use it and spread out a bit?? 

Now for me, it's easy to spread out in all directions because I use 6ft panels. Everything is vertical. For the table user, I have this advice: figure out a way to use your vertical space! Think about the customer walking by in a crowd... they should be able to see what you sell as they pass, or they might not stop for a closer look. Make a banner with your name/tag line or giant photos of your work and hang them up. For SURE find a way to add levels to your table display. I have seen some sad little table booths out there. Use boxes under tablecloths to add levels, hang lattice on the side of your booth for easy wall displays, keep your eyes open for interesting racks and baskets that fit with your work. 

Refer to #2, visit your neighbors for great display ideas and resources. 

4. Price Fairly.  Jeesh. I can really go off on this one... first of all, I guess my first tip for craft selling should be to get a good book. I have a couple and I read them cover to cover many times before I started my business. Go buy anything by Barbara Brabec. One thing I learned from her is the importance of fair pricing. Fair means fair to YOU. 

My biggest pet peeve with new sellers are their low low prices. This is not a flea market. Yes, some people are only looking for bargains, but that's not your best customer... people who appreciate quality handmade goods ARE. Please trust me on this. Low low prices often just make a thing look cheap. Some might say 'what a deal!', but many will think 'what's wrong with this?' Think about it. The consumer mentality says, better things cost more. 

The best way to make sure you are covering all of your costs, is to use a formula. Generally, it goes something like this: (Materials + Labor) + Profit = Wholesale Price. Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price. At an art fair you are selling retail, so the mark-up is meant to cover your retail costs (booth fees, gas, time selling, booth structure, credit card fees, food, etc). You should also be able to cut your price in half (or close) to sell to a shop wholesale. You MUST charge for you labor!! Pay yourself at least $10/hr. You have skills and abilities that others don't have. That is worth plenty.

Now the other side of low low pricing is (read carefully please) that it HURTS your neighbors and the crafting community at large. Underpricing your hard work just makes mine look outrageous by comparison. It brings down the worth of the whole show, really. Have some dignity and pride about what we do. It is valuable. 

One last word about pricing... higher prices mean you can sell fewer items and make more money. The dinky show I did recently only yielded about 10 sales, but that was over $400. The guy next to me selling $10 candles did about the same but had to sell 40 of them. Just ponder that for a while...

Printed Rayon Poncho and Organic Bamboo Wrap (both $45)

5. Quality is Key.  When I FIRST first started out selling crafts (circa 1993), I crocheted. But, crochet is labor intensive for the amount people are willing to pay for it. What I did figure out quickly is that takes just as long to make a hat out of wool as it does acrylic. And I can get much more for the wool hat. 

Now as a dyer and printer of clothing,  I still use the same principles in my work as far as materials. I mean... I could do Tshirts and shorts for the masses, like many tie dye folks (who sell much more in quantity than I do!). But I focus on women and get the best quality fabrics and nicest styles I can find. That helps set me apart from other dyers. People comment all the time 'ooooh this is the good stuff!'. That's what you want. 

Spend a bit more on materials and price accordingly. Your best customers expect quality. Give it to them... don't waste your talents on crappy materials.