One of the top questions I see getting asked by crafters first looking to delve into the world of selling their handmade goods is “Where do I find good craft shows to sell my work at?” I’ve covered the importance of using local events to promote your business here before, plus my tips for hosting a successful handmade craft shopping party. I’ve also posted some of my favorite Tips & Tricks for Selling at Craft Shows! While I certainly encourage you to organize your own events whenever possible, you’ll still want to participate in events hosted by others, especially when you’re just starting out.
Craft shows and other events where you can sell your handmade goods come in all shapes and sizes. There are a variety of small-scale local events, like school and church bazaars, as well as long-running festivals and art markets that you can do.
Craftlister, Indie Craft Shows and ZAPPlication are all great places to start your search. Craftlister features a variety of events, big & small, and many long-running events include reviews written by previous vendors. Some listings are more complete than others, as some are pulled from various online sources such as newspapers and other event listing sites, and some events are user submitted. A free account on Craftlister lets you see only a certain amount of upcoming listings, but you can donate money to receive a full membership, or you can also add your own reviews and event listings to get a temporary membership upgrade, which will allow you to see everything.
Indie Craft Shows recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. The site was created by Kelly Farrell of Everything Tiny and Dawn from Pop Culture Rehab, and the site features user submitted information on various craft shows around the world. It also includes a great blog with craft show tips & tricks.
ZAPPlication.org is “a one-stop universal online application system that allows artists to submit and manage applications for participating art shows, festivals and fairs.” From what I’ve found here, ZAPP seems to be for bigger, more established shows, often the kind with more expensive booth and application fees. These types of shows are typically juried, which means that a panel of judges will view all of the applications they receive and vote on which artists are right for that show. You often have to submit detailed information about your work, and usually need to include photographs of your previous booth displays from other events.
Beyond these three resources, your local newspapers, as well as Craigslist, are also great places to start your search. Some newspapers will release listings of the year’s regular festivals, which may help you determine which upcoming shows might be a good fit for you. Small local shows, including school and church bazaars, will often post on Craigslist seeking vendors. The “community – general” and “community – artists” sections seem to be the most popular areas of Craigslist for this type of post.
An absolutely invaluable resource in terms of finding good shows is your fellow crafter. This is part of the reason why we started the New Orleans Craft Mafia in 2005 – to share resources and information. There are Craft Mafias all over the world for you to connect with, and Etsy teams are another great place to connect with local artists. (Handmade Louisiana is another good one if you’re in Louisiana.)
Crafters often enjoy swapping info about past and upcoming shows during their current events. While you’re setting up or breaking down your display during your next show, try chatting up your neighbors about their opinions on different local events and see if they have recommendations. Many crafters also list their upcoming, and sometimes past, events on their websites. (I post my events here.) You can use this as a tool in your search as well.
Some of the most popular large indie craft shows include Renegade Craft Fair, which puts on shows in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin and now London, and Bazaar Bizarre, which organizes events in Boston, Cleveland and San Francisco. There is also Art Star Craft Bazaar in Philadelphia, Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta, Stitch Rock in Delray Beach Florida, Art vs. Craft in Milwaukee, Strange Folk Festival in St. Louis / O’Fallon, Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, and Crafty Wonderland in Portland, among many others.
Don’t limit yourself to just shows called “craft fairs” though. Only you will know what markets will be a good fit for your work, but depending on what you make and your personal art style, you might also consider science fiction & fantasy conventions, Renaissance fairs, music festivals, expos geared at moms, home & garden shows, fashion shows and more.
Sometimes you might have to dig around a bit to find vendor applications or organizer contact info. Don’t get discouraged though! It’s a learning process, and once you get started, you’ll find it gets easier over time, just like anything else.
Shows can cost anywhere from $10 – $1,000+ to participate in. Some expensive shows won’t be worth the money, and some will pay for themselves many times over in terms of sales. Be smart about your craft show choices and try to learn as much as you can about a show’s history, expected attendance and how they advertise their show before you plop down any big bucks. That said, don’t rule anything out if you think it will be a good fit for your merchandise! I’ve spent the past year and a half experimenting and doing just about any event I think has a good chance at being profitable! A couple have been flops, but many have been unexpectedly good!
Experienced crafters: do you have any craft show tips & tricks to add?
On a somewhat related side note – yesterday I also compiled & posted a list of art & craft supply stores, plus art & craft classes in the New Orleans area. You can check it out here at the New Orleans Craft Mafia website if you’re interested.