I Joined An Art Market For The First Time and Here’s What I Learned
Jan 8, 2024   •   Andy Flores
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Jan 8, 2024   •   Andy Flores
I’ve always loved crafting. As a child, I enjoyed making small projects at home that involved cutting, painting, and assembling. In school, I was that student who enjoyed art and home economics classes a bit too much. And, as an adult, one of my earliest jobs was to make easy craft projects for a teen magazine to publish.
I lived and breathed crafting. And just like many other crafters out there, I’ve heard people tell me that I should sell the stuff I make as a source of extra income. I know they meant well. After all, my line of work isn’t exactly what you’d call “good-paying,” never mind “high-paying.”
But crafting, to me, is a creative outlet, and I always thought turning something I genuinely enjoy doing into a side hustle—a business, at that—would take the fun out of it. So, for the longest time, I’d been adamant about selling anything I make… until I entertained the idea of joining an art market.
“It’s going to be a one-time thing,” I said to myself. Seasonal, at most, if I enjoy the experience. It’s not like I’ll be regularly making stuff to sell on top of working eight-to-five, so it won’t be that stressful. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to put my work out there, right? Right?
Well, after my very first selling event, I can tell you now that: One, I loved the experience, and two, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Having said that, I also wouldn’t deny that joining a craft fair comes with its own challenges, especially for a newbie.
So if you are an avid crafter looking into the possibility of showcasing your work to a bigger audience (and in person, too) through an art market this 2024, here are some things I learned from my own experience that you might find helpful:
Once you’ve decided to join an art market and just before you sign up for anything, do your research! This step is crucial so you can, at least, get an idea of what to expect from your first craft show.
What I did was I asked those in my network who’ve already tried joining markets and conventions about their experience. Among the things I asked were about booth fees, the types of marketgoers, the turnout, and their best-selling items.
It is also a good idea to stop by some ongoing markets or craft events to get some booth setup inspo, see how other crafters price their products, and survey the crowd situation per area.
I decided to join Paskolta, an art market organized by the folks at HUB: Make Lab in the historic First United Building in Escolta, because of the positive and no-judgment atmosphere of the place that its resident artists and makers fostered over the years. Not to mention, I used to stop by the 98B market as a college student to buy small items from independent artists and small business owners.
The time between receiving approval from the market’s organizers and the event itself can be short, so if you’re like me who doesn’t have an extensive inventory of her products, start stocking up even before you apply for a spot at a market.
For my first event, I had just about a month to make stuff to sell. And since I crochet, one month is barely enough time to procure the materials I need and make a good quantity for each product I want to offer.
In the weeks leading to the event, I juggled the demands of my full-time job along with crocheting all sorts of items that got the most attention on my Instagram page. Looking back now, I’d say that this is the most nerve-wracking part of my whole experience.
When you’re so busy trying to meet a self-imposed deadline, it can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. Trust me, the last thing you’d want to happen is feeling burned out and getting sick, so be kind to yourself and take a few breaks here and there.
Catch an episode of a show you’re watching. Treat yourself to something you’ve been craving. Take a shower with your music player on full blast and sing your heart out if you will. Personally, I like pulling a card from my deck of oracle cards when I feel stuck or tired.
I also ~declared~ the day before my event a “no-crochet” day. Whatever I completed over the previous weeks—that’s it. That’s what I’ll sell. Along with this decision, I had to make peace with the fact that I couldn’t showcase everything I wanted in one event and that’s totally fine.
People with different interests and backgrounds will be stopping by your booth, so it would be wise to bring some variety to your lineup of products. That being said, make items you’re already good at or have already tried before because you might not have enough time for experimenting or trial-and-error.
As a crocheter, I really enjoy making hats and I’m pretty good at it, so I made a good number of those. But hats can be time-consuming, so I also added some smaller projects to my to-do list. These include scrunchies, keychains, and coin purses.
Moreover, it’s not just your products that should have variety. Consider offering your products at various price points, too, without compromising the integrity of your work. This gives your customers a wide range of options, whether they’re ready to shell out some good money or just want a small and affordable souvenir from the event.
Customers have different preferences when it comes to paying for their purchases, so give them options—they can either pay in cash or through their chosen cashless banking app.
Based on my personal experience, though, cash still seems to be most Filipinos’ preferred mode of payment. Although I prepared QR codes for cashless payment platforms, thinking customers would find that more convenient, about 90% of my customers paid in cash.
Also, many customers bring large bills. To avoid struggling to find loose change and smaller bills on the spot, have a certain amount broken down into coins, 20s, 50s, and 100s before your event.
Your booth is the face of your brand at an art market. You can’t just place your products on a table and call it a day.
This doesn’t mean you have to go all out and buy shelves, racks, mannequins, and other display fixtures that you won’t have any use for after the event, especially if you’re not keen on joining markets frequently. These are things you can invest in later if you decide to participate in craft fairs more often.
In the meantime, your goal is to set up an attractive booth in the most inexpensive way possible.
For my display, I layered canvas fabric and a burlap sack from a local coffee shop (the scent alone calls people—haha!) as my tablecloth. I used small chalkboard chips for price labels, a small easel stand for my socials, and put up a tiny Christmas tree on the side since my event was around the Christmas season and I also had some crocheted ornaments for sale.
Honestly, my display looked rather “flat” in comparison to those of other seasoned artists at the event, but it was decent and still got people coming over.
I can’t stress this enough. You might think you have everything under control, but get real—you can’t do this alone, and it’s okay to ask for help when needed.
You can get support from your family, friends, or network of artists. From brainstorming ideas and spreading the word about your upcoming event to transporting your stuff to the venue and setting up your booth, you’ll definitely need help to some extent to make your first art market experience a success.
I went as far as having my cousin—who has the golden gift of gab—help me man my booth since I’m nowhere close to being an effective sales talker. My social skills are close to 0. And, people have told me that their first impression of me is that I look too intimidating (their way of saying I don’t look friendly, I guess). An awful combination, you can tell! So yeah, do not hesitate to seek help whenever necessary.
Regardless of how your event turned out, one thing stays true: You did your best to put your work out there. That in itself is commendable! After all the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into your first selling event, celebrate your small win because you deserve it!
Is there anything you’d like to try doing this 2024? Sound off in the comments!
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