Show Business

I have been participating in craft shows for so many years and feel like I have seen the Rise and Fall of the Craft Show Concept (also the Studio Tour Gambit, but that is another story). Here are some ideas around the Craft Show experience and some archival photos I discovered when I was packing for my move to my new house and studio.

My first craft show was in London Ontario in 1972, when I was pregnant with my first child. London proved to be a very good market for me, I attended the Home County Folk Festival over many hot summer days, punctuated by terrifying thunderstorms. My display evolved from a few racks out in the open with a pup tent nearby to put the stock in during the rainy times. The next step was to rent a very strong tent from a professional tent provider. One year they were out of the regular size due to demand, and put up the most enormous tent for me.  I always seem to have so much stock, and that time I was able to display it with the luxury of space. It was like a department store! My friends and clients were quite impressed.

BTW, outdoor Craft Shows are not for the faint of heart. Wind, (tents blowing away dragging stock in their wake, is not uncommon), rain,  strong sun, heat, humidity, cold, you name it, every  extreme weather condition known to Canada has occurred during  one show or another.  When the weather is on our side,  nothing could be more perfect than to be outdoors, preferably during a music festival. I love the way my work looks in natural light and love that singer/song writer vibe. That seems to be a good market place for me among that clientele, and it can be so enjoyable. John and I take turns to listen to the music and man the booth. There is a fair bit of negotiation with the musical choices. I have been thrilled to sell my work on site to musicians, me being the original fan girl. Loreena McKennit, Susan Aglukark, Little Miss Higgins, Ken Whitely, Katlyn Hanford, Laura Smith, Suzi Vinnick, etc.,

We have acquired a strong tent of our own over the years and lots of other necessary equipment.

We even bought a trailer to transport the stuff, but I was disappointed to find that a trailer can be so much trouble. The rear lights have to be working and do not always want to cooperate. Towing a trailer can be nerve wracking with regards to visibility,  turning around, backing up, etc. At the Mariposa Festival one year, some teenage boys were helping with the unpacking, etc., and we were amazed at how they could get that trailer where it had to go, farm kids with lots of experience. John has become so good at it, me, not very. 

Helpers! So wonderful to get help.

Arriving at the show, unpacking, setting up the tent, setting up the display, putting up the lights (very important, ignoring  lighting creates a big disadvantage for your display), displaying the stock is a very trying process. It has become more routine, but nothing ever seems easy. John and I used to always have a big fight during set up. We are more sanguine these days. It takes time and method and organization. So much to bring including “artistic” clothing and jewelry for me. Then there is conducting business in a space the size of a bathroom, and trying to maintain a positive  atmosphere for the duration. There are so many unknowns starting with the unpredictable selection process to get into the show in the first place.  How profitable the show will be is not always clear, even as we pack to go home. Sometimes clients contact us after, or purchase during the next show. For sure, just staying home is not a good way to show off my weaving. Although e-business is seeming pretty attractive as a concept. ((After powering through my new website (with a lot of help), how can Etsy be too difficult to navigate.) It does seem to me that there are too many craft shows now, not enough jurying, too many people treating their craft hobby as a business,  not charging realistic prices to include a fair wage.  This latter issue adversely impacts the artists and artisans who are attempting to earn a living from their work




I have attended One of a Kind, Signatures, as well as small shows that you have never heard of and everything in between. These days I prefer the Fiber Festivals and Music Festivals.  I have cut back to 4 shows due to family circumstance this particular year. Next year I hope to expand the number again. I feel like I have accumulated a lot of expertise and a great deal of equipment. Now, what I would like is a strong , young helper to work with me, I am  hoping for a partnership that would be to both of our advantage. Please contact me if you would be interested in some kind of partnership. It is hard to imagine giving up on this gypsy  lifestyle, and it would be wonderful to have some new blood on the team.

I’d Rather be Weaving

Kathy and me, hard at it
Why Does It Have To Be So Hard?  could be an alternative title for this post.
For months I have been trying to learn how to create, manage and update my own website.
My original website was made for me in exchange for some handwoven products many many years ago.  And then, for many years, a good friend, and very talented photographer and writer, Richard Hinchcliff took care of  it for me. I appreciated his help, input and expertise so much. The site was all in code and was making any changes on it, totally beyond me. I loved that site!  I was so proud of how it looked and how it presented my work and my abilities. But times change and it was time to change the format and enter the world where so many people access information by their phone with its teeny screen and its limitations. I  also needed something I could update and add to when I wanted to.
I had started my business Facebook page, with help from my sister, Judy Hudson and daughter, Kaija Whittam,  and was amazed how easy it was and how much response I had received. That made me a little confident that I could learn to manage a simple Web Site.
Try WordPress they told me. You can do  it. I was totally unsure that was true. Looking at WordPress examples, I usually picked the ones (like Finland’s travel site)  with content that appealed to me. I could not imagine my own site in any of the provided formats. At first I just wanted to move most of the old site over.
Next step was to realize it was Time To Change.  Time to “Let Go”. And then, that I had to move beyond denial,  insecurity,  feelings of inadequacy, and just DO IT.
It has never been “fun” as I was told it would be.  Partially, because of course, I am just not a fun person.  It’s been a steep learning curve, with always a stubborn digital monkey wrench popping up in the most awkward places. “Plant a cabbage, get a cabbage, not a brussel sprout. That’s why I like gardening, you know what you’re about” to quote the song from the Fantastics.  That’s why I do like gardening, very hands on, very direct results and problem solving. To do anything on a web site, I learned, you have to figure out what it will let you do, where and when.  Why does not seem to enter into the equation. It doesn’t  feel  very creative for me,  its like negotiating a day with an ornery 3 year old some how,  limiting, frustrating,  in oh so  many ways. There are things I cannot change about the format that I am using, like the skimpy print size on the headings. Another example,  I would like a different photo slice as a header on each page.  Impossible.  Why? Its often like wrestling with an uncooperative remote control.  Etc. etc. But I have given in, abandoned a lot of my wish list, did what I could, and hope the finished project (it will never be complete) is a good reflection of my work and abilities (teacher, weaver, basket maker, etc.).
Many people have made this launch possible. More than feeling pride in my accomplishments, I am so very grateful to my helpers whom I think of as The Big Three. Judy Kavanagh who started me off, gave me very practical assistance  and advice and was always a very sweet cheerleader.  She was right behind me every step of the way. My sister Judy Hudson, who helped a lot in the early stages and kept trying to show me how easy it was.  She has a lot of misguided faith in me. I still marvel at her idea we could do it on Skype, her on Vancouver Island, me in Alabama.  Lastly,  kudos to Katherine McCarron, currently my BFF who firmly got me on the right path, did a lot of the heavy lifting and has remained my go to helper by phone and email, whatever else she is trying to do in her life.
So now, I find the photo I want for this post, move it into the Website Images file, and then into my Media Library and then on to the blog post.  Then move the photo to a centre of page alignment so that the pesky print does not snake around it. I am impressed that I can now do all these steps.  I do feel proud! Then I press Update.
Finally the new website for Handweaving by Janet Whittam is almost ready to go.  After settling what Scans that I need and when, it will be launched.  (What Scans and Why, my fevered brain considers. ) To Be Continued.