Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bizarre Bazaar: volunteering, learning, shopping!

I had a blast volunteering at Bizarre Bazaar SF arts and crafts fair yesterday at Fort Mason (they even had the Chairman Bao food truck!).  Got covered in sap setting up the xmas trees, and smelled like a combination of pine and a day at the gym.  Bought a lot of stuff (including a tie designed by Cody Vrosh called "Dressed for the Apocalypse" that I can't wait to wear.) 

It was fun getting to meet other artists, and some members of the SF Etsy Street Team. . . not to play favorites, but I freaking loved getting to see more of "Bugs Under Glass." Before my wife could get there he'd already sold the piece I wanted her to see (and maybe let me buy) but hey, it was exciting to see someone's shop doing so well!

I'd love to have a booth at a craft festival in the near future, but there's a couple things keeping that from happening so far.  Mainly, it's been a matter of inventory.  My process is slow, and I've sold a fair amount of stuff here and there.  The other thing is rounding out what I do with a specific niche or two of lower priced, more easily produced pieces.  And I'd like to do that without the "lower priced stuff" looking shoddy and poorly made (which is a problem, because "small" doesn't always mean quicker and easier with needle felting, depending on what it is.)

Pricing is something that is also really interesting to consider, because I have a hard time pricing my own work.  There was a fair amount of  felting/soft sculpture here and there--including a couple places specifically devoted to nothing else, but compared to the amount of jewelry, clothes and other more established, popular forms it still seemed pretty niche--there's so much more that can still be done in the medium of wool sculpture without aesthetic overlap.  But the prices seemed really arbitrary in relation to quality.  I enjoyed work from all the fiber artists there and I don't want to say anything critical, but I have to admit I was a little dismayed to see such high prices on a number of fairly shoddy, loose, little pieces (which is a disservice to the medium), and yet see relatively low prices on other items with more impressive aesthetic design and craftsmanship.

Also, I spent some time watching customers react to needle felting in particular, and I noticed some people expressing shock at prices (away from vendors ears)--and I mean on items that were totally reasonably priced in terms of their workmanship, artistry, and materials.  I think needle felting and soft sculpture are poorly understood and it seems of vital importance to engage customers and educate them that these aren't just stuffed plush items or quick, easy to make toys.  It seemed like, across the board in all mediums though, those doing best had good marketing materials and a true drive to engage with people passing by.

So those are some thoughts and lessons I feel like I learned about needle felting and the art of selling it (there certainly seemed no science, rhyme or reason to it), and I'm excited about finding more opportunities to work with the arts and crafts community (even if, like yesterday, it's just volunteering to help others who are further along their business path) and not spend so much time doing this work alone!

Again, it was a great fair, and I had a blast helping, as well as shopping--clothes, greeting cards, a painting, a print, jewelry, and, surprise surprise, a big bag of some really cool different colors of uncarded wool locks (from Pans Garden.)

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