Recently, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time. I was a vendor at a craft fair. The fair was sponsored by the Hampden Garden Club at Harmony Hall on Kennebec Road — same organization, same place, that sponsored farmers markets this fall. The craft fair, organizers said, was a natural outgrowth of the farmers markets because some of those vendors also are artists with a talent for handcraft.
Approximately a dozen vendors made for an intimate setting, low on clamor, but high on sociability.
Here’s what I learned from the experience:
• Be organized. I thought I was — I packed a stack of crocheted tote bags, tea wallets, wall hangings, several scarves, a knitted mohair hat and a pair of mittens, and several fabric bags into three boxes I had saved from the days when my mother was an Avon lady, boxes in which products were shipped to her. I love these boxes because they are sturdy and have a cover instead of flaps. For years, whenever my mother and sister visited me, they arrived with Avon boxes packed with homemade cookies, apple pie, date squares, my sister’s knitting, jars of pickles and home-canned string beans. My mother gave me empty Avon boxes so that when I visited her or my sister, I had a handy receptacle for toting pans of peanut butter brownies, homemade raspberry jam, pecan pie, chocolate fudge and my current craft project.
I also packed a tablecoth, price tags and pencil, a tin filled with bills of various denominations for making change, a bottle of water and a lunch. But I forgot bags.
• Price everything before you go.
• Write prices on the tags with a black marker instead of a pencil. The tags will be easier for shoppers to read.
• Think vertical. My display would have been more appealing and easier to see if I had brought apple crates, or even Avon boxes, to create a bit of elevation to make my goods easier to see.
• Be prepared to buy items from other vendors.
One of the things I really liked about the craft fair was talking with my tablemates, artist Jan Kaufman-Anderson, who offered notecards created from images of her original watercolor paintings, and Verla Lucas, who used a computer to transform images of her original paintings into calendars, refrigerator magnets and notecards. These ladies kindly produced bags when I had none, chatted about art and life during lulls and kept watch over my spot while I toured the other vendors’ offerings.
I was quite taken by the cleverness of vendor Karen Whitmore’s husband who fashioned from black PVC pipe a magnificent rack where his wife hangs the array of tote bags large and small she sews from cotton fabrics at her home in Carmel. The rack is designed to sit atop a table — getting that all important vertical element into play — putting the bags at eye-level for customers. Whitmore’s grand display of bags brought a bold note of color into the hall.
Other vendors at the event offered etched slate tiles; handmade wooden puzzles including an intricate lobster; pottery and tiny clay figures; wooden toys, boxes and other items; fine craft including stained glass, fiber art and jewelry; and reuseable grocery bags embellished with images painted by a Hampden artist — plus the goodies sold by members of the Hampden Garden Club.
For me, the fair was special because it was so local, its scale determined by the number of tables Harmony Hall could hold comfortably. It was fun seeing people I hadn’t seen in years, including Chad’s mom, whom I used to see in those long ago years when our sons were students and drummers at Hampden Academy.
What sold best at my table was the tea wallets. I sold the mohair hat to one woman and the mohair scarf to another, which they put on and wore the rest of the day. It was fun to see them moving about the hall wearing clothing I had created.
So if you’ve been thinking about selling handcrafts at a local fair, go for it. It’s a lot of fun. You’ll meet interesting and talented people, and get to reminisce with people who remember you when.
And even if you don’t sell a thing, it’s worth it because the table rental fee aids the sponsoring organization.
The Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Auxiliary will host the annual Charlotte Craft Fair 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Charlotte Elementary School gym, Ayers Junction Road. The fair will benefit the Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. The event will include raffles, a bake sale, lunches, quilts and other handcrafted items.
The Verona Women’s Club will hold its 27th annual Christmas Craft Fair Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Verona Town Hall. The event includes a bake sale, fuel oil raffles and other prizes, soup or hot dogs luncheon and a door prize. Raffle tickets are 6 for $5.
Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.