This Easter weekend I decided to go back to my roots in my business. I thought it would be kind of nice to participate in a local craft show. When I first started making my julz in 1992 I would exhibit in about 25 craft shows a year. It was a great way to get my name out there. Since unique hand-made items were not available on line, there was no Etsy or even Internet, it was the place to be on the weekend! People would come out in droves and admire all of the items that artisans worked so hard to create. I would exhibit in Burlington one weekend and London the next and sometimes see the same people shopping at both shows. I’m telling you, it really was a “thing”. Most weekends all of us crafters would walk away with a couple of thousand dollars in sales. I knew so many crafters who were able to make this their living. They’d work hard all week building inventory and do a different craft show every weekend.
When I told the story of these glory days of the 90’s to three young artisans who were my neighbours at the show, they were in shock. The competition is tough out there now, they said. Most weekends we are happy if we can make back our booth fee. Attendance to shows is way down these days. This news saddened me. All that work and they only cover their booth fees. I know firsthand how long it takes to build a dedicated consumer fan base and I feel so lucky that I was able to build mine over those years when I actually met people in person and built relationships that were meaningful. So many of my customers, like the ones who came to support me at the show this weekend, are dear friends.
The girls wanted more perspective from me on the “craft show scene” and how to run a profitable business. I felt humbled to have them asking me for my advice. As I answered all of their questions I had a flashback to when I was their age and at the same stage in my business. I realized that the great advice I was giving them wasn’t all from personal experience. A lot of it was advice that people had given me, way back when. I could see the passion in their eyes and also their apprehension as they listened to some of the ideas I was giving them. I was the same back then. I didn’t always take good advice from others, most times I thought I was right and did it my way. Of course, I was stubborn and fell on my butt a few times, regretting some of it. This is not all bad.
I think that the passion and the stubborn mind were there because I always believed in myself, just like these three amazing women I met on the weekend. A big part of being a creator is taking risks and possibly regretting them later. This is how new ideas are born.
As leadership expert John C. Maxwell said, “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.”
I think in this business we try and fail over and over again. It’s hard not to take it personally because everything we have created comes from us. I might design a necklace that is on a plain chain with a big rock on the bottom and think, it’s my greatest creation and no one buys it. Does that mean I have failed? No, it’s just time to create something else because I need to make a living from it.
I love meeting artisans and hearing their stories. It’s fascinating to me how they create something beautiful and unique that I may have never seen before. The magic comes from their life experiences and the way they see the world.
Artists need your support, they need people to come out to craft shows and hear their stories and buy things from them in person. 1000 likes on Instagram and encouraging comments on Facebook will never replace the love we feel when someone wakes up in the morning, gathers up their friends or family and gets in their car to intentionally comes to a craft show to meet us and take an interest in our creations.
Now that’s community! Wouldn’t you agree?
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