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advice for applying to indie craft shows

If you’re planning to apply for our indie craft show, we’ve got some guidelines to help you prepare. Start out by reading the important details for applicants in our crafter FAQ. In the online application, you’ll be asked to upload up to five images in JPG, GIF or PNG format. (The images should be at least 400×600 pixels but no bigger than 1 MB in size each.) Please name your files in this format: BusinessName1.jpgBusinessName2.jpg, and so on.

If you’re interested in applying for our show or any other craft shows, here’s some more good advice:

Applying to Craft Shows

Most of the big craft shows are juried, which means the organizers decide who makes the cut based on an application. The competition is stiff — some shows have acceptance rates rivaling those of Ivy League colleges.

Application

Organizers have a lot of things to consider when choosing who sells at their fair. Is there a good balance of different kinds of crafts? (Jewelry is notoriously over-represented in most application pools, for example.) Is a crafter doing something really unique? Some shows set aside a certain number of tables for newbies each year. Others really love focusing on local talent, like Chicago’s DIY Trunk Show, run by the Chicago Craft Mafia. Poise.cc’s Cinnamon Cooper, one of the judges, says they don’t accept anyone farther than five hours away from Chicago, and about 80 percent of their sellers are in Chicago or its suburbs. “Part of it’s logistical,” she says. With Chicago’s wonderful winter weather, “people coming in from Ohio and Kentucky have had problems and bailed out of the one-day show.” Cooper says they also try to keep about 10 to 15 percent of their tables open for newbies.

If you’re new to the craft show scene, consider sharing a table with a friend. It can boost your chances of getting in because it’s less of a risk for organizers to have two new crafters share a table than to give an entire space to someone who’s never sold at a show before. Plus, it boosts the overall diversity of the show. Remember how I said there’s always an overflow of jewelry peddlers? If you sell Shrinky-Dink earrings and your friend sells wallets woven from grocery bags, go in on an application together!

Liz Rosino, who started Craftin’ Outlaws in Columbus, Ohio, has developed a precise process for selecting crafters. “After the deadline, all the complete applications are sorted into categories, such as jewelry, handbags and paper goods,” she says. “It’s really important to me to have a large variety of types of items — there are only so many booths for jewelry or bags. Those are probably the most popular categories, so they’re the hardest to get a spot in. We even divide it down to people who make beaded jewelry, silver jewelry and so on, to make sure we have no duplicates.”

Cooper says she looks for people using unique materials with a special focus on sustainability — economic as well as ecological. “We give extra points to recycled or fair trade items, and look for people who are being paid fair wages,” she says.

If you really want to get into a show, the most important thing is to follow application instructions to a T, be on time and use photos that really do justice to your work.

Rejection

Got turned down by your dream show? Don’t get discouraged. Some big shows get up to four times the number of applications they can accept. That means the judging committee has to reject some damn good crafters. Kristen Rask, who runs the sweet store Schmancy in Seattle and works with the Urban Craft Uprising show there, has one common explanation for rejections: “People don’t follow directions!” she says. “If you have 500 applicants or more, organizers get nitpicky.”

So if the show organizers ask for attached photos, don’t send a link. If you have to pay the table fee when you apply, don’t let yourself forget! (Table fees are generally returned to non-accepted crafters after the decisions have been made public. Whether there’s a nonrefundable application fee varies from show to show.)

If you do get the dreaded “thanks but no thanks” e-mail, be gracious. Rask has received some awkward post-rejection messages. “Sometimes people send e-mails saying, ‘I’m really disap- pointed. This is the second year I’ve been rejected.’ I feel bad, but that’s no way to make me want to take you as a vendor!”

Read more in Crafty Superstar, available in many libraries!

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