How to Shop Craft Fairs
I know many of you are familiar with local markets and craft fairs featuring artisan goods that are generally made locally. For those of you who aren't I'm here to tell you the ins and outs of them from literally the inside out! Being a vendor, you might be thinking that I am biased and can not give you the truthful view of the subject. Well, I assure you, as a professional vendor, I have also become the best craft fair shopper. I LOVE handmade, I LOVE unique things for my home and I don't see other vendors as competition, I see them as my community. Recently my husband and I have committed to collecting things for our home and personal accessories that we love, not things that are on sale at the discount retailer but things that bring meaning to our home and lives. This being said, it is not always easy to do unless you really have a plan, or possibly a list of things you need. I love buying cute t-shirts for the kids, tote bags, ceramics, and things that I'll use. The best thing about these markets is that you can count on them to happen twice a year. You can plan and even have a little budget for them. You can look at their websites for vendors you'll see and head to them ready to shop.
Renegade Craft Fair: This is one of the bigger national craft fairs. I started showing at Renegade back in 2009 with my kids books in Chicago, where the fair first began. From there I have shown at many, many renegades since in Austin, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle. Renegade was the first marketplace that I became aware of that was really promoting the handmade revolution. Their fairs tend to have a good mix of vendors but the Chicago show is probably still the best and biggest. Renegade is a large fair but I have also shown at smaller more curated fairs which I love including: Dose Market (Chicago), Origin Design Market (Austin), and some that I have not but have heard great things about including: West Coast Craft & Urban Craft Uprising.
- In order to get the most out of shopping the fair, I recommend going later in the day. Many of the vendors will be more relaxed and it won't be so crowded that it kills your spirit for supporting the makers. Look for makers who seem nice and are ready to talk about their wares.
- I always do a quick lap in the middle of the aisle so I don't seem too interested in something if I am not (once you express interest, we are going to give you our pitch) so to stay safe, take a walk in the middle and look at booths you like.
- Once you dive in you can totally negotiate with the vendor, I ALWAYS give discounts and love the back and forth with customers.
- I think of the market as a fun, festive event. Hang out, have a drink, grab some lunch and make a day of it.
- Expect to pay more than your local discount store knowing that you are supporting people who do this for a living and also expect much better quality goods.
- Remember, you can't always find everything from the fair online so I suggest buying at the fair. If you wait to buy it online it is likely that the vendor doesn't even have everything up on a site because it was probably one of a kind.
- Try to stock up on gifts you'll need, what does your sister LOVE that you can stash away until her birthday?
- Before you go, actually have a plan. You may searching for a set of bowls for your home that are special. If you are plan to buy a set, so you don't end up with one random beautiful bowl. If you are ready to buy, you'll likely get a deal for buying more.
- Don't think of the things you buy as "special" and for only special occasions. If you do then you will never commit. Use everything you buy and ask the vendor for special care instructions. I believe you should love the things you use everyday so if that is the case, buy it and LOVE IT!
- Follow your favorite vendors on instagram, we all post stuff there, like specials, sales and next events. You don't have to love or even like every post, but maybe you will see something you can grab later. It will also keep you in touch without email.
- Budget for the fair. Keep a little bit of money so you can really have fun and get some great stuff too.
Alright, I think that does it! Get out there, shop local and support your makers. Without you, we are just making stuff, we'd rather make it for you!