On Being a Maker, and Buying Handmade

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IMG_9977 copy

I'm going to be honest here, because this is not a space for artifice: I love to make stuff, but don't often sell any of it. I run an Etsy shop that gets maybe one sale a month, if that. I have my work in one gift shop in Austin, TX that will go months without selling any of my pieces. I can't seem to get responses from any other gift shops from which I inquire. I still have jewelry pieces from, I shit you not, probably about 10 years ago.

And craft fairs. I've done so many craft fairs in my time as a maker/super-small business owner, and so many of them, more often than not, are just one big disappointment. My problem is that I'm an eternal optimist. I would sign up for fair after fair with the hope that "maybe this one will be different." I keep a small table of my work next to my mom's baked goods at the Sayville Farmers Market, and sometimes I sell a piece here and there, but I don't consider that really a craft fair. Sometime during the winter, I had sworn myself off true craft fairs and festivals after one too many soul-crushing disappointments.

But I decided to share a booth with my mom at the Sayville Seafood Festival because a fellow vendor friend of ours raved that she never walks away from it without pulling in at least $1400. Let's be clear: I in no way thought I would make $1400. However, I did hope to sell more than $90 over the course of two days, a total of 16 hours spent in our booth. The only reason we made our table was because we were selling Hester & Pearl baked goods, which also didn't sell as fast as we had hoped.

After the disappointment of the weekend, I went home experiencing an all-out identity crisis because I was very ready to give up on all of this: I can't sell anything online, in a store, or at a fair. I have all this fabric and stock sitting in my room...what am I going to do with it if I just quit making things? Quit making things? If I quit making things, then who AM I?

What's very upsetting is that despite the apparent movement to buy handmade/local, the majority of people still aren't willing to shell out for it. I can't tell you how many times I sat in my craft fair booth and watched customers buy cheap, mass-produced catalog jewelry from the seller across the way. I met an artist at another local street festival this summer who said that she's seeing the same trend. Many people would rather buy crap.

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IMG_9976 copy

The artist's name is Michelle Brand, and above is a photo of the original piece I bought from her when I met her. I love buying handmade because I know what goes into making something, and I know what a thrill it gives the artist/seller when a customer says, "I'll take it." I hope the next time you're at a festival, you'll do the same.

(Oh, and I decided to not quit because that would be pretty lame on my part).