Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Craft Fair vs. Swap Meet

When I was growing up my grandparents had a booth at the War Eagle Mill craft fair here in NW Arkansas. Grandpa was a cabinet maker and sold beautiful cedar chests, quilt racks, spice cabinets, rocking horses... to name a few. Grandma painted many of the things he made with her incredible tole painting. Both of them were primarily self-taught artists, but their talent was such that they shipped their items all over the world to people who bought them at the fair.

Lately, I've watched a trend that I'm not happy with at the craft shows I've attended. There are booths full of items that are NOT handmade, and sometimes, not even crafts or art of any kind. This was the case last weekend at the Spanker Creek Farms show that my sister, mom and I participated in as vendors.

I could probably count on one hand - MAYBE two - the number of vendors who actually made the items they were selling themselves. Now, granted, the application for this show did not require that the items be handmade. But they did say they didn't want the booths to look like flea market booths. So, that specification makes me wonder why there were vendors at the fair selling SUNGLASSES!!?? Or - my personal favorite - 400 count "Egyptian Cotton" sheet sets. In plastic zipper bags. What the....???

I mean, I've come to terms with the people who sell relishes and soup mixes, and the ones who buy canvas bags and tee shirts and use their pricey machines to sew monograms and cute little sayings on them... but sheets and sunglasses were pushing my buttons. There was a woman across from us who was hand-lettering wooden signs to be hung over your tiki bar or on the outhouse door, but at least she was putting paint on something, even if she didn't make the signs herself!

Needless to say, the crowd was horrible, and our sales followed... we won't go back there next year, even to shop. Am I wrong to fantasize about arts and crafts fairs that ARE what they SAY they are??? Come on! We have to get back to honoring the roots of our craft... pass these swap meets up and seek out the legitimate handmade fairs - it will be worth it.


casserole said...

Why does this happen? Cause the event planners get the same about of $$ per booth, regardless of whether people are selling art or are selling crap. More booths filled = more profitable event. And don't get me started on the people who get excited about a booth full of designer handback knockoffs made from cheap vinyl and thinly plated metal, but balk at paying incredibly fair prices for unique, one of a kind, handmade items. Rant over.

idyll hands said...


I could not have said it better. I'm really looking forward to the show in October for this very reason. NO COMMERCIAL ITEMS WILL BE TOLERATED and I couldn't be happier.

Julie Anne of Diamondmeenuh Creations said...

I love craft fairs, flea markets and junk shops. But, I 100% agree that craft fairs should be just that, 'crafts'. Handmade by you or a family memeber. But, in this day and age it is the all mighty dollar that runs things, not 'honesty in product'. Good post as I don't get the sunglasses and sheets either. Every other booth at Toad Suck also carried sunglasses--never seen so many sunglasses for sale in my life!

Denise Felton said...

I hear ya. If it's a flea market, then call it a flea market. If it's a craft fair, then qualify the vendors. Even if you don't "jury" them, make sure they're selling actual crafts. Gawd.

Ekio Locatiare said...

Thats the one thing that really irked me about a show that this year would have been my 6th year doing. Last year they allowed some sellers of items that were NOT handmade. I'm talking toe rings and obviously mass produced things. (No sunglasses thank goodness) Plus! They hired a musician.....who set up a stage in the swing set area *which meant parents spent less time out there with no place for the kids to play....* and who drowned out one of the other long time show participants. William had been playing his flute and drawing people over to his booth that way since the beginning. *Did I mention we'd been doing this show since it started?* I mean really.

Plus they keep upping their booth fee but not putting the money into advertising of the I didn't do it this year. I'll be down there to see who else of the long term set left this year but I'm not doing it until they realize its not a flea market.

So I'm with ya! Flea markets have their place and art/craft shows have theirs. Blech on the commercial junk!

Punkinhead said...

Yeah, just to clarify - the fair in question DID "jury" the booths. We had to send pictures and everything. Ridiculous. And I also LOOOOVE flea markets, just don't want to sell my handmade goodies at one.