Monday, September 10, 2012

My First Craft Fair

I did manage to get 61 Lucky Cats made in time for the Have a Heart Bazaar.  My awesome planning and production skills did not account for my packing materials, so only 50 little cats and 4 paired cats (two cats on a bigger canvas) actually made it to the show.

When packing up, I remembered the advice on Craftster that having too much stock of too much variety could confuse and confound potential customers.  As I looked through my already made items, I decided that I had no idea what people might actually be interested in, so I might as well bring some lightweight items and put price tags on them.

I bought acrylic frames for my brand sign and a sign for the Lucky Cats.  I had wire shelves so the Lucky Cats sign and my framed cross stitch could sit a bit higher.  I didn't bring my camera since I didn't want to have to worry about that, but my set up looked great.  Lucky Cats in little protective sleeves (with a Jupiter Star Power label on the back) lined up on one side of the table, crochet and cross stitch items on the other, and a sign up sheet for custom items in the middle with my Jupiter Star Power sign.

Unfortunately, I was placed in the middle of resellers.  "Bazaar means glorified yard sale," I texted my sister.

"Yard sale?" Kristen texted back.  "Damn, there's all kinds of crap you could have sold."  I don't think she realized that even if it was junk from our grandparents' house, I couldn't just leave it in my parking spaces at the end of the day.

My two spaces were also in the middle of the sun.  Sitting down, the sun was directly in my eyes.  It wasn't much better standing.  Along with the true meaning of the word bazaar, I also learned that canopies weren't optional.

Yes, I knew I was going to a parking lot in Virginia in early September.  Yes, I knew smart people used canopies.  I also knew I could not afford to invest in a canopy for my first craft show.  I could always put my leftover minicards in sold Etsy orders and my acrylic sign frames were 60% off at A.C. Moore (since I was smart enough to recognize that Staples' pricey professional sign frames were really cheap craft store frames).  The rest of my set up was borrowed from my parents, and I might not have signed up at all if we hadn't had a folding table in the attic.  The chairs were on loan from Amy, my accountant and legal intern.  I don't actually know how much a canopy would cost, but I assume it's too much for someone dipping their toes in the land of craft fairs.  Also, once the wind started to really kick up, it probably would've blown away.

I didn't account for the wind.  I taped my sign up sheet down and gradually started taping down the little cross stitch pieces, but I don't know how we could have secured the increasingly cracked and chipped acrylic Lucky Cats sign.  By the fifth or sixth time it blew over, I was ready to throw it as hard as I could and swear loudly.

There were never very many people.  Several people walking by slowed down to look at the cats and say, "How cute!" or pick them up and look at the backs, but my explanation of the prices seemed to scare them away.  Two different Baptist churches came to scout for their craft fairs.  After giving me a flier, a large woman picked up one of the hats and fondled it while repeating how cute it was.  She ran her hands around the inside and tugged on it and put it back down before walking on to the next booth.  A well dressed woman from a different church took one of my cards and handed me a flier.

Julia came to visit.  She picked up one of the hats and immediately wanted one, "in my size.  Dark red.  Not bright red."  She tapped the frame of the Super Mushroom cross stitch.  "Not this."  I asked her to write it down on the custom order sign up sheet (earlier in the day I'd considered adding Marcela's rainbow scarf like putting a few coins in a donation jar to get people started).  We talked yarn choices.  We mostly talked about her new job and my now less new job.

A woman came through with two elderly women--Miss Maxine and an unnamed woman with a cane.  The younger of the three--though older than me--was either a nurse or a devoted family member.  Nurse or Devoted Relative looked at the cats and told one of her charges that she would like those.  Then they kept going to their real destination: the reseller next to me.

"These are the shoes I like," said Miss Maxine.

"What's your shoe size?" Nurse or Devoted Relative asked in the tone used for the mentally incompetent or the presumed mentally incompetent.  Miss Maxine was already taking off one of her own shoes and sliding her foot into one of the pink shoes.  She had enough balance to pull this off, but not enough to use her hands to help her try it on.

"You're an 8 and a half," said Nurse or Devoted Relative.  Miss Maxine had already moved her foot back and forth.  The shoe fit.  "How much?" asked Nurse or Devoted Relative.

"$3," said one of the people running the table.

"How about two?" asked Nurse or Devoted Relative.

The vendor paused.  I could practically hear her weighing her options.  Not many people had come through. It was already after 10, and no one in our corner of the lot had been selling well.  Her hesitation and her expression screamed that she wanted $3, but she was afraid that would mean the shoes wouldn't sell at all.  "Okay," she said.

Miss Maxine got her shoes in a plastic grocery bag.  She walked slowly off, holding the bag behind her back.

A woman with younger children had come up to look with the shoes while Nurse or Devoted Relative was bargaining on Miss Maxine's behalf.  Young Mom picked up a pink high heel while her children ran around the parking lot shrieking and grabbing toys from a currently unguarded table.  "How much?"

"$2."  I wondered if this was because the woman had clearly heard Nurse or Devoted Relative's haggling.

"Would you take one?"

I stopped listening to turn to Amy and start judging.  We'd both been fervently eavesdropping since it was yet another slow time at Jupiter Star Power's temporary West End location.  We agreed that there was something petty and mean about haggling over a pair of $2 used shoes.  You either want it or you don't was my philosophy.  I find used shoes in my size so rarely that analyzing how I would behave in this situation was akin to deciding that I would never unethically use the ability to turn invisible.

"Yard sale people," Amy said.  "Even my dad wouldn't do that."

My signs and my price tags and my smiling face as I explained prices probably told people I was not willing to dicker.  Or maybe it was my scowl from squinting into the sun or my willingness to reapply sunscreen while sitting behind my table.

It never came up, but I don't think I would have been willing to accept an offer of a lower price.  As always, I'd calculated the cost of supplies and the time I'd put it.  I named prices to myself and decided if they sounded right.  I'd priced some things that morning, holding up an item and telling Amy a number.  She'd either say yes or tell me to go higher, and I that's what I wrote on the tag or sticker.  Even as the hours passed by and Kristen texted, "Sold anything?" I never felt that desperation to sell something at any price.  By 8:30 that morning I'd accepted that I might be out my table cost.  I didn't consider the loss of my supplies or marketing stuff to be a loss; I had it for next time, and I'd just take it with me when I left.

Around noon I noticed condensation inside some of my Lucky Cat packages.  The ones with black backgrounds were getting hot enough to sweat.  I quickly packed them up and hoped their coats of clear sealant would protect them.  I wondered if it was time to consider packing up and leaving.

Across from my table was a couple selling fake flowers arranged in vases and other containers.  It--like the beaded holiday decorations further down--was the sort of thing I might have considered browsing if we weren't trying so desperately to get rid of all the knick knacks and other junk in my grandparents' house.

The wind started to blow again.  Amy and I took up our positions, rising from our chairs to hover over the table in case we needed to grab Kindle kozies before they blew away (the loose cross stitch pieces in plastic sleeves had already been taped to the table).  Across from us, one of the flower arrangements fell.  The vase shattered as soon as it hit the asphalt.  Sympathetic sounds came from all the surrounding vendors.

I looked at my cell phone--12:48.  I looked at the beads of moisture starting to form inside more of my bags.  I saw the couple across from me starting to box up their surviving items, and I saw a lack of shoppers.

"Let's pack it up," I said.

I took the untouched cash box and my bag of supplies back to the car.  I drove it to the nearest possible space while Amy packed up the chairs.  We carried the unsold merchandise and the bundled chairs to the trunk before going back for the table.

Among the bazaar's failings were a parking lot that was too narrow.  I slowly, carefully backed out my father's Honda Accord with greater difficulty than I expected.  I was used to accommodating for his larger car when I drove it, but I think I still would have struggled if I'd been driving my Civic (assuming I could have actually fit both Amy and the table in my car).

Once I'd managed to get the car out and turned around, we faced the typical Richmond driver.  One person was waiting to pull in, possibly oblivious to the pick up truck struggling to back out.  The truck inched back, stopped, inched forward again, inched back.

"You can't drive!" Amy told them.

"Jump the curb," I said as if they could actually hear me.  "You're in a truck!"

We eventually escaped.  We complained about Richmond drivers and the typical yard sale crowd.  "That was like my own private 'Araby,'" I said as we drove down Gaskins.  I recognized Amy's silence.  "'Araby'? From The Dubliners?"


"There's this boy.  Like, 10, 11 years old.  And he's in love with this older girl.  So he wants to go to this bazaar called Araby so he can buy her a present because he thinks that'll make her fall in love with him.  And he thinks it's going to be amazing and exotic--because of the name--but then he gets there, and it's just cheap, tacky shit."


I couldn't tell if Amy considered this to be an apt literary metaphor or if she was questioning the life choices that had led her to associate with someone who unironically used the phrase "apt literary metaphor."

I dropped her off.  She invited me in.  I carried one of the chairs to her garage and realized I was too hot and tired and smelled too bad to interact with anyone.  I was going to go home and do nothing for the rest of the day.  She was going to go to a party in Fredericksburg.  I was invited.  I'd probably have fun.

Standing in the dim garage, I saw myself as a creature spending the rest of the day in my bathrobe.

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