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Craft With Conscience

'Craft With Conscience' began in early 2016 as a weekly Instagram series dedicated to sharing the work of other creatives and as a platform to openly discuss certain aspects of ethical art-making and consuming in the age of the internet and social media.  

This series arose out of my own frustrations related to seeing my work constantly copied stitch-for-stitch, sold without permission, and credited to other people.  Rather than wallowing in unproductive negative emotions, I wanted to find a way to bring this common issue to light in a positive way.  My solution was to share the work of artists, crafters, designers, and makers who I greatly admire for their originality and dedication. Initially, I shared work similar in materials or subject matter to my own, having heard the argument, "There are only so many ways to stitch plants, I'm not copying you..." one too many times.  The truth is, no matter what the medium or subject, every artist from hobby crafter to professional painter has their own perspective and voice. It takes effort to develop one's visual vocabulary and it can be disheartening when your's is taken and misused by other individuals and sometimes larger companies.

All that being said, now is an incredible time for working artists because of the vast resources of the internet including sources of inspiration, the ability to reach a large and global audience, and as a community building tool. As you may know, I love sharing my work on Instagram and following other makers. It's a wonderful way to connect with other artists, be inspired, and feel supported, but we all need to be aware of how we use these resources and what effect it may have on others.

Since the start of 2016, 'Craft With Conscience' has grown and evolved just like any other creative pursuit and has recently expanded to include short interviews with featured artists. I've asked participating artists a series of questions about their studio process, sources of inspiration, and how image-sharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest influence and affect them. I hope you read on to see what they have to say!

Five Ways to Prepare for a Craft Fair

Sarah Benning

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Whether you are entering into your first market season as a budding creative business person or you are a seasoned craft fair pro, I want to share some of my personal strategies to staying sane while I prep for an event. I am currently in full swing getting ready for two upcoming markets just around the corner in June (The Broke Arts Fair, June 8th, Peterborough NH; and Renegade Craft Fair, June 22nd + 23rd, Brooklyn NY) and I thought there was no better time to share these tips with you than when I am in the midst of it.

This guide kicks in once you have been accepted to an event, though if you haven’t yet applied these things might still be worth thinking about ahead of time too! So here we go!

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Upon acceptance, most markets send out an email notifying you that you made it! You are in! At this point you should indulge in a little happy dance and celebrate your victory. Next, you should thoroughly read that acceptance email because it often contains vital information about next steps.

Maybe you need to confirm your participation. Or you need to pay a balance on a booth fee. Or secure rentals from the market like a table and chair or wifi access. Or maybe the event requests certain materials for publicity and marketing. All of these types of details matter and usually have deadlines attached, so make sure you pay attention!

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Now that you have read through all the important event details, it’s time to get organized! I like to create a calendar for myself and map out my working days from market acceptance to event date. This is the time to identify what tasks you need to complete before the craft fair—things like sales/inventory goals, marketing strategies, and display and packaging needs.

I’ve put together a free Market Organizer that you can access by hopping on my mailing list here to help you keep track of these details! If you are already receiving emails from me, you can find this resource in your inbox! Look for an email from info@sarahkbenning.com!

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Planning your inventory might be the most important step to preparing for a successful market. You want to make sure that you have created enough goods and products not only to turn a profit, but also to maintain a beautiful and stocked display. When you are figuring out your inventory goals, be sure to take into account the costs of participating in the event such as booth fee, material cost of raw goods and packaging, as well as your precious time. You want to have enough product on hand to first pay yourself back for these expenses and second to turn a profit. Having an idea of how much money you want to make at an event can also help you determine how much product you need to create.

And once you have set your goals, DO THE WORK!

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You’re in the event. You have an idea of and a plan for what to make. Now you need to get the word out! Use every avenue available to you to let your community know when and where you will be! Do you have an email list? (If you don’t, start one now!) Send an email! Do you use social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Tell your followers! Do you talk to people in real life? Tell them what’s up! Your community wants to know whats going on, so don’t be afraid of a little self promotion!

Many markets also provide resources and materials—graphics, event pages, links, etc.—to make spreading the word even easier, so take advantage!

The idea of marketing also covers efforts the day of the event. Make sure you are stocked up on things like business cards (or the more environmentally friendly alternative—a beautiful sign with all your info for shoppers to take a picture of!) and other handouts like postcards, buttons, or stickers (I love to hand these items out to kids because A. kids love takeaways and B. they walk around like little billboards).

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Last but not least, plan out your display! Start with the basics: Is the event indoor or outdoor? Do you need a tent? Does the event provide a table and chair? Do you need to rent a table and chair? Do you already have a table (or other fancier display system) and chair at home that you are ready to use?

Next, think about the details of your display: How are your products displayed? What does your signage look like? How can you create the best possible experience for your shoppers?

If you are sharing a space with another vendor, be sure to get in touch before the market and communicate your plans. It’s always a good idea to make an introduction and forge a connection before the chaos and potential stress of load-in!

So, if you—like me—are getting ready for market season, I hope you found some value here and good luck! And if you have friends that may benefit from this little guide, please feel free to spread the word!