Art and Craft fair sales.

This is what I bought at a recent art and craft fair I participated in. 2,500 yen for a wooden spatula.

I am fascinated by why I would buy this particular item out of the many thousands of things for sale. It is fair to cut out the sales pitch because there wasn’t one. At all. The display of the booth was not bad, not fantastic. I would put it at a 7 on a scale with 10 the best. It isn’t the price. 2,500 yen for a wooden spatula that is meant to be used is expensive if you ask me. I don’t care how much they spend in California; for the average family that will eventually break any item used in the kitchen it is expensive. The idea that people only buy from those they trust and/or know doesn’t hold up because I had never met the guy selling this item. It was the only spatula for sale, the only wooden one or one of any material in the almost 200 booths. That has to be the linchpin in the sale. I always buy something from someone at the art fairs I attend. My wife saw this spatula and so I went the next day and bought it when I had a few minutes break. I breezed in, picked it up, handed the money to the guy and kind of insisted he interrupt the sale he was wrapping since I didn’t need wrapping, only change. Something in the way I did it made the people waiting for their purchase go over to the area with other spatulas and take a closer look. They didn’t rush but it was faster than a mosy.

As I was looking from my booth and walking around I made a few notes on what matters in sales and what turns sales off in an art fair setting.

Worst practices by the person selling.


Sitting and looking like you don’t care.

Over zealousness

Giving up. This is seen in body language and facial expression.

Ignoring the customers.

Best practices.

Looking and being alert.


If you have to sit sit straight. I would say in a very low chair, like a kindergarten chair.

Eye contact. This is a little confusing to me.  I felt compelled to look in the booths where the person drew me in with eye contact.  The guy in the booth next to me would do something I would describe as making loving eye contact with his work if the customer was looking at the work, smiling in a friendly and non-obligation producing way otherwise.

Making some kind of conversation gambit, the best topic seemed to be about the work. This point is also a little confusing.

Someone is looking at a plate.

Do you say,

Looking for a plate?

Do you like plates?

Sounds a little stilted and unnatural to me. I think authenticity is important. Nothing will make me break into an audible burst of laughter faster than a comment that isn’t natural to me, to my ears, when it comes from my mouth.

The Japanese don’t go for the bonhomie of the Americans, of which I am. It has taken a lot of getting to know when to make conversation and when to stop or not make any comments. I am naturally friendly and tend toward making conversation freely.

The people coming to these kind of events seem to be break down into a number of blocks.

  1. The natural mothers. Natural fibers, comfortable shoes, earth colors. Lace is in.
  2. The natural families. The above extended to the children. The husband may or may not be dressed in all black.
  3. The older than 34 years old women alone. An interesting group that seems to overwhelmingly not like living in Japan even though they are Japanese.
  4. The young couples on a date. A variety of fashion modes.
  5. The middle aged men in some kind of  ‘gear’. Weekend _______ fill in the blank; motorcyclists, rastaman,  Burberry wool, etc. I would describe this type as cosplay if they were 16-22 year old people.
  6. Middle aged women, children have left home.
  7. Middle aged packs of women.  Rabid, dangerous.
  8. Designer dog toting couples, these folks come in all age ranges. I don’t sell water dishes so they don’t stop.
  9. Well coiffed couples, younger.
  10. Well coiffed couples, older.

There is a group of Japanese that is attracted to foreigners. A small but always present group.

My core audience comes from numbers 1, The natural mothers,  4, The young couples on a date, 6, Middle aged women who’s children have left home, and 9, Very well coiffed couples, older.

This isn’t to say I don’t sell things to the other groups. I do on a rare occasion but the bulk of the sales come from the above 4 areas.

So, how to attract and expand to fit this group in a way that is natural to me, or not so unnatural that I burst out in spontaneous laughter.

This time I tried an all white theme, conversation and pictures of my work in “use”, i.e., with food on it. My sales were enough to make me want to go next year, not enough to take a vacation in Bali. I thought I had an original and great idea in going all white until I started setting up. The booth caddy corner from me had all white too as did at least 2 other booths.

I am trending toward the obvious in selling. Each individual person requires sizing up. Some like talk about the work, some like talk about the person, some like silence. I am strongly trending towards it isn’t enough to bring work to these events, set up a display and expect people to buy. I have noticed how adjusting the antenna slightly will make good reception perfect. I started out many years ago doing performance art and in performance the slightest adjustment to a movement will make it believe-able or false.


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