What to Do and Not Do at a Craft Festival

I’m no longer a craft show virgin.  I did my first show last weekend in Nashville.  Most of this week has been recuperative.  There is a lot of physical work involved in doing a show.  Everything has to be priced and labeled and packed up, then brought to the festival, unpacked, and displayed.  Then there’s the money thing – you must have money to make change and you must have money to each crappy festival food because you forgot to pack something healthy. 

It was freezing cold and rainy on Saturday and hardly anyone showed for the festival.  We vendors – troopers that we are — trolled each other’s booths in between rain showers and complained about how our hands were too cold to work properly.  Sunday was better, but by then we were all worn out from Saturday.

For all those festival goers out there, I have a few tips for booth etiquette:

*Never look over an artist’s wares and state, “You have too much time on your hands.”

*Never tell a collage artist that you and your mother used to decopauge stuff when you were a kid.

*Never congratulate an artist for having figured out a useful purpose for Guatamalan Worry Dolls (or any other small and colorful item the artist scoured the internet and flea markets to find.)

 *When examining carefully altered tins, never say, “Are these Altoids tins?”

*Never tell an artist who was proud of finding a lot of genuine cigar boxes for a really good price that you recall with you could get cigar boxes for free.

*Never ask an artist if she can re-cut a picture frame to make a light switch plate.


Lest I give the impression that the festival was not a positive experience, here is some advice about what to do at a festival:

*Do ask the artist if there’s a story behind a piece.

*Do tell an artist that her art is like a treasure hunt because you’re always finding something new hidden in a piece.

*If you’re a kid, do ask an artist if you could do art like that.  They will love giving you hints and incouragement.

*Do engage the artist in conversations about the artistic and creative process.  Get their card. E-mail them or call them after the festival and make a new friend.

*If you are another vendor, do quietly offer the newbie advice about interacting with potential customers.

*Do tell an artist she does great work, even if you’re not going to buy a thing.  It’s amazing how much compliments are valued by artists!

So, as all you artists get ready for the holiday season – and the endless parade of craft and arts festivals that go with it – may your weather be fair and your customers polite!


2 thoughts on “What to Do and Not Do at a Craft Festival

  1. But you didn’t tell how to reply to those tacky comments. That is what always stumps me.
    “Is that an altoid tin?” I wanna say, “I’m not gonna answer your rude question.” Years ago I had someone ask me how I did something. I told them I would tell them if they bought it. They refused but came back 3 times during the day to ask again. I never did tell them.

    • That’s hilarious, Elizabeth. I thought I was just being cranky. I’ll start right now coming up with zingers for my next show. Perhaps in response to the Altoid thing I’ll respond, “Actually, that’s the tin in which I kept my dead Mother’s ashes until I could spread her where she wanted.” Maybe that’s way too tacky!

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