By Hand: Want to sell your creations on the craft circuit?

Posted July 29, 2008, at 12 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

Sooner or later, those who make arts and crafts want to earn money creating handmade items. But how does one go about doing that?

Deb Niles of Holden, who makes hand-painted jewelry and items from polymer clay, and Heather Leclerc of Eddington, who makes beaded jewelry, shared some tips for getting started selling arts and crafts.

“Visit craft shows before you take part in one to get display ideas,” Niles said. She has been a vendor at craft shows and fairs for eight years. “Crafters are a wonderful group of people who are willing to share their experiences. But be aware that what works for one may not work for another.”

Niles also offered this advice:

  • Expect uneven results from show to show. Some shows will yield a surplus of the buying public and other shows won’ t.
  • Get a Web site. Niles suggests that would-be craft vendors visit www.mainecraftah.com for information on how to get started.
  • Some craft items will sell well in the winter months, but not in summer and vice versa.
  • If you intend to give up your day job to sell crafts, enroll in the Incubator Without Walls program at Penquis in Bangor, or take one of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’ s new business training classes to learn about pricing, taxes, reporting of earnings, etc. Visit www.penquis.org or www.umext.maine.edu to obtain more information.

“The rule I don’ t follow,” Niles said, “is ‘ know your market.’ ” However, she said, knowing who potential customers are is an important factor in determining what your niche market may be.

Craft fairs Niles enjoys attending as a vendor are the Zonta Club fair in Bangor, the blueberry festival in Machias, the Bangor Sidewalk Art Festival, the Fly Buy in Greenville, the Christmas Fair at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor and the annual fair held by the Greyhound Placement Service in Augusta where Niles donates a portion of her craft sales to the greyhound dog rescue organization.

Niles said one of the drawbacks of selling crafts is the need to be constantly in production. “But it keeps me motivated,” she said, “because this is my love.”

Heather Leclerc suggests that crafters who want to sell their wares choose a craft they love and be creative with it. “Don’ t do what everyone else is doing. Create a niche of your own.” One of those niches, she said, because people are spending more time at home in the wake of rising gasoline prices, is decorative or useful items for the home.

Leclerc also offered these tips:

  • Keep a detailed log of expenses and of your income for accounting purposes.
  • Display your items in an attractive, professional manner.
  • Find a partner to share a craft table and the expense involved in obtaining the space.
  • Find a venue that works for your craft. Don’ t go back to old venues if they did not work before.
  • Visit www.entrepreneur.com for 10 tips for craft-selling success, including the advice to start small, get a credit card machine, and build a mailing list.
  • Also visit www.ehow.com to find the article “How to Make Money Teaching Arts and Crafts.” Those who prefer to sell crafts online, Niles said, should visit www.etsy.com.

Snippets

  • The Art Quilts Maine chapter of the Pine Tree Quilters Guild will present “A Sense of Place” Aug. 1-28 at the Thomas College Art Gallery, 180 West River Road, in Waterville. An opening reception will be held 5-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, at the gallery. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call the gallery at 859-1104.
  • The 33rd annual Directions Fine Crafts Show will be held 5-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2-3, at Mount Desert Island High School, Route 233. More than 60 professional craft designers will be on hand featuring work that ranges from gold jewelry to felted slippers. For more information, visit www.MaineCraftGuild.com/mdi.htm.
  • Rug weaver Sara Hotchkiss will hold her annual studio open house noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2-3, 28 Pitcher Road in Waldoboro.
  • Like baseball? Like to knit, stitch or crochet? Visit www.stitchnpitch.com to learn more about how to combine these two great American traditions.
  • “Phyllis Harper Loney: Dye Paintings” is the current exhibit at Maine Fiberarts, 13 Main St., Topsham. The exhibit is on display 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday through Aug. 29. Visit www.mainefiberarts.org or call 721-0878 for more information.

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