Allentown Fair- Day 1

Day one of the Fair was extremely uneventful. The first day the hours are short (pnly 4-10) and admission is free. This means that you get a very diverse crowd, most of which are just coming over to take a look and not to buy. I made a few sales, and B did better then she expected to, making ½ her sales in one shot right at the end of the night. I can only say I bow to her wisdom of only taking part in the show if we got a space in the Agri-plex. I actually had to put on my sweat shirt to keep warm, we are close to snacks and bathrooms, and after taking a little walk outside, the humidity last night was just killer. But I can't complain, our little remnants of Katrina are pale in comparison to the horrors taking place in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and many other states. As I listen and watch the news my stomach just turns, my heart goes out, and I am compelled to pray.

I am one of the guilty ones, I am going on with my life as if this tragedy hasn't happened just a few thousand miles away. But it amazes me the fact that it isn't even a major topic of conversation. I think we talked more about the Tsunami than Katrina in our social circle. I just can't help but think about how many people that not only lost everything, but lost the ability to fend for themselves too. I would like to think that if something like that happened here that C and I would go someplace else, look for jobs, and start over from scratch. But we are two people who have done that before, moved someplace with close to nothing and built up a life. But I'd loose my business, I'd have to start over, and we are lucky C is in a business where he has desirable skills and can pretty easily find a job anywhere. We are also lucky enough to have a nest egg that could sustain us through a tragedy for at least a little while. But I was reading yesterday an article in Forbes Small Business about a family of shrimpers in Mississippi on the coast. All I could think of is that they have most likely lost their home, their business, their boats, and they were already living, scraping by week to week, and many in the family lack job skills that could bring them to another geographic part of the country to start over even if they wanted to. There must be millions of people like that who have lived though this tragedy.

I'll admit, I didn't give a donation when it came to the Tsunami victims, but I sure am donating to help the victims of Katrina. Not only will I be donating to the Red Cross, but I will donate to CERF, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund in hope to help another crafter pick up the pieces after this tragedy.


Allentown Fair- Day 0- Set Up

I have to admit the set up for the fair was much easier than I expected. By the time we got over there in the late afternoon, mostly everyone else was set up (except our neighbors on both sides). It was actually scarier to watch our neighbors set up than for us to get ours right. When we were applying I thought it was strange that the insurance requirements for the show were so strict when it came to having a $0 deductible on the policy, but after watching things crash all around us for a few hours, I can see why it is needed. On one side, they were putting up a pipe cage to hang lights from to showcase their artwork, needless to say the cage fell apart a few times before they got it right. I think the lack of foresight to bring a few stepladders had much to do with their assembly problems. Luckily when things fell no one was hurt, and the only things damaged were things they owned, not us. On the other side we have a vacuum demonstrator that puts together this weird clear PVC maze and then sucks things through it to show the strength of the vacuum. Only one part of the PVC fell during assembly, and that missed us too. I am contemplating bringing hard hats for the disassembly.

I think the thing that burned me the most was our neighbor who was having all the trouble setting up their booth. We made sure that we gave them plenty of room while they struggled, and we made sure that we put our entrance aisle to behind our tables on their side. This gave them a little more than 2' more space to work with while assembling. Then they have the gall to ask if they can hang more artwork to face our side of the booth. Hey I paid for a 10'x20' foot space and am already only using 18' because you scare the heck out of me, and now you want me to let you hang your artwork where your customers will need to walk BEHIND my display to see your things up close? No way! You want to hang you artwork where it will distract from the items in my display? No way! Oh, and did I mention that the things displayed that B makes are GLASS! Imagine the lady (or gent) with the huge bag or umbrella trying to skinny themselves between the table and the wall to see some painting up close. I see a few plates crashing, don't you? I politely pointed out that our display is made up of glass plates, and I'd appreciate of they kept their artwork within the confines of their booth. I was pretty hungry and cranky by then, so I bet my old evil eye while smiling and sounding cute, got my point across just fine.


Week 34 Accomplishments

Monday I got to go and pick up my new car. It is a white Town and Country with stow n' go seats, a moon roof, and touch button doors and hatch. I can sit in my living room and open the doors on both sides and the hatch all from the key chain. It's pretty cool. I can't believe how much room is in it once the seats are folded down and how nice the van drives. It is easy to see out of and easy to steer and has cruise control as well. I'm just so excited!

Tuesday and Wednesday I got ready for the Folk Festival. I repacked the truck, placed some orders for some supplies I need, paid for some upcoming shows, and just did a general clean up of the house.

Thursday dad and I went down and set up for the show (see Day 0 post). I also got a call from a show that I really wanted to do, but was put on a waiting list. They had a cancellation and now I have a spot in the show. I'm really excited because it actually takes place on two weekends and I got a space for the better of the two weekends, so next year if I want I can do both, so that will take care of finding any shows in October of next year if this one works out.

Fri-Sun Philadelphia Folk Festival (see other posts)

Philadelphia Folk Festival Recap

Soaps: Rejuvenation
Bath Salts: Rejuvenation
Bath Fizzys: Rejuvenation
Lotion Bars: Lavender
Lip Balms: Coconut Lemongrass

I think I see a theme here with these top sellers the last few shows. Looks like a rejuvenation summer.

Philadelphia Folk Festival- Day 3

Except that the small chance of rain that the weather station called for became almost a n all day affair, the day was most pleasant. Dad came with us and he really enjoyed himself. When we arrived we had breakfast- French toast- and then set up the booth. The rain from the night before had filled some tents tops with water but there was a craft angel going around with a bucket, emptying them before the crafters even arrived. We weathered the weather overnight just fine and except that a display finally tipped over, all went well. Sales were brisk, and if the rain had held off I really think I would have sold as much on Sunday as on Friday and Saturday combined. Even with the rain it was pretty close and overall I was quite happy with my sales. From what I gather from my customers, the last few years has brought them a few different soap makers and while they were very fond of one, the other left quite a bit to be desired. So I had a two-fold battle- converting some from the beloved soap maker to me, and getting those that hated the other to realize I was a different company. I think much of that was accomplished and I think that if I get to return next year I will do even better.

I was also invited to start selling my stuff at a place in Delaware. I still have a little negotiating to take care of, but once that is all finalized I'll post that great information as well. That really means that in the last month I have potentially added three new stores to carry my stuff. I'm really excited about this because the idea of expanding into wholesale and into other markets was a goal for this year and I feel like its really working out.

Clean up at the end was a pain though. You can't bring your car in until everything is clear, and with the rain, and the hill the crafters are on, getting in would be difficult, but getting out would be harder. Dad and C used the rolling cart and pushed and pulled through the field to the parking lot and then loaded the truck. I got the easy job of packing up and keeping watch over the booth. But even with all that work, it only took about an hour to pack, getting us home at a decent hour with the real possibility of catching up on some much needed sleep.

One of my favorite aspects was the fact that a real person came around to ask some survey questions. I often get asked to fill out a written survey, only to return the next year and feel that nothing had been addressed, much less actually read. Sending a real human being around to ask three or four simple questions gave me the ability to speak my mind, but also to feel like someone was actually listening. There is one thing I can say about this show as a crafter I felt loved, and wanted. They want good crafters, they want good people crafting, they want to expand the craft area and expand the experience they give to the festival attendees. I can really tell that these are things they want, that they are striving for, they are not just striving for a new way to make some cash. I'm sure if you polled, not everyone was has happy as me, but you can't make everyone happy all of the time.


Philadelphia Folk Festival- Day 2

I'm tired, I'm oh, oh so tired…The last two days have been long, the sleep short and (whoops, feel asleep typing) I just can't say all the things in my head about the day. Looks like I'll be adding to this post later. Hope I get to sleep in the car on the way down.

No sleep on the way there, but here is the scoop from day 2:

Every show has a glitch and this one finally had its glitch. When we arrived on Thursday we followed a set of directions provided to us, we followed those same directions on Friday morning. On Saturday we learned that the road we had been using, had been changed to a one-way road (in the opposite direction from that which we wished to travel). So instead of allowing us to travel the 500 feet up the road in the wrong direction, we were turned back, and made to travel a 15-minute loop around to our parking lot entrance. Now that in itself didn't really bother me. It was a pain, but thems the rules. It was learning that our parking lot was closed when we arrived that got C a tad bit angry. It was closed because of a parking debacle that needed to be fixed with a few tow trucks and they needed lots of maneuvering room for said trucks. The kicker was, that we were forced to park, 500 or so feet down the road- where we were just turned back from essentially. We also learned that evening that there was a short cut through the woods that would bring us to the field we parked in, but when we had asked the attendants that morning if such a short cut existed, no one knew of one, so we had to take the long way around and up over a bridge to get to our parking lot, and then to our booth.

But the day itself went extremely well. There were some showers on and off, but no lightning, wind, or thunder. Sales were brisk and at the end of the day I was quite happy. I had been told a few times that sales were best on Sunday, with often ½ the shows total sales occurring on Sunday. So I have a lot to look forward to. I also negotiated a few trades with some other vendors for some jewelry and some t-shirts, this along with Fridays trade for some pottery means I'll be making out quite well in the barter department.


Philadelphia Folk Festival- Day 1

I think that I have died and gone to crafter heaven. This show really not only treats crafters how they should be treated, but it treats everyone with respect and caring. First, I have to say how amazed I am with the size and dedication of the volunteer staff that this organization has in place. From those who are quite noticeably pregnant and still volunteering, to the 90 year old who hasn't missed a festival in 44 years, the scope of what they do, the length of time they do it (many start the week before the festival and camp the entire time at the site), and the fun they have (you should see the costumes!) doing it, just puts all other shows that I have done that have a volunteer labor force to shame. Volunteering at the Folk Festival isn't just something to do, it is a way of life, a way the parents hand down to their children, a way that marriages bring families together into the fold, a way the friends only being their most cherished friends into the family that they have made here before.

Then the way they take care if you! We started with breakfast in the morning, French toast with butter, syrup, fruit, and juice. It was as good as 90% of any of the family diners I've ever stopped at for breakfast. Then once we got back to the booth, volunteers consistently come though with coolers to refill your water bottles, water buckets, or whatever else you use to hold clean, cold water. Later they come by and fill your cooler with ice, keeping that food and water cold as can be (they do this several times a day). Twice roving volunteers swing by and surprise you with orange Popsicles, the cream sickle variety; a girl could get fat doing this show. Lunch was a Cesar salad, chicken, corn, potato salad, a drink, a fruit, and a few cookies. Late at night one volunteer comes by and will bring you change if you need it. A great way to save some time (especially if you are camping there) rather than running to the bank.

Now sales did not meet my projections. But it was easy to see why. So many camp and stay the weekend, its just better for them to make their purchases on Sunday right before they go home. I think if we can afford it, next year we will camp. Although I was a little shy of sales, the people I met more than made up for the difference, and if only ½ the people who said they'd return, actually return, I think the show will be successful overall.


Philadelphia Folk Festival- Day 0- Set Up

This morning dad and I went and set up the booth at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. All I can say is that if the rest of the show goes as well as set up, it will be a dream. We went down early, because the paperwork suggested it and were quite pleased with the EXTREAMLY accurate directions to the show location. When the directions said 2.1 miles, they meant 2.1 miles. Once we were there we were not sure where to set up, or to park. The very helpful volunteers (who weren’t sure either) explained to us where to park and who to talk to in order to get our questions answered. In just minutes we learned where to park, where our space was, where to unload, and where to get out badges. We had plenty of room to park in front of our spacious space and met what appears to be a set of very fine and hospitable neighbors.

Once we set up, we wandered to the line where we waited to get our vendor badges. These give us access to almost all areas of the event, including the volunteer/vendor food tent, the air conditioned porta-pots, and the vast and extremely packed camping area. So did I mention the food? They feed us can you believe it? Two meals a day, two hot meals, two meals that include dessert… I could go on and on. I figured just the meals alone save about $90 in food for the three of us for three days of the show. And if we had gotten wind of it earlier, we could have eaten breakfast there today too!!

Once we received our vendor badges we wandered the show site, hoping to get our bearings. I can't believe how big this place is. There is one main stage, and what seems like a dozen smaller stages (although I think its more like 6). There is a great site map available here, which is so not to scale. Once we got hot enough we decided to call it a day. We stopped for lunch, at Costco to pick up paper bags, and the bank for change. At home we packed a few special bail jars full of bath fizzys I want to try and sell, some bath salts I was low on, and made some bath salts I am out of. Just need to print flyers and make up some signs and then I'll be done for the night.


Week 33 Accomplishments

On Monday I brought dad to the doctor for the follow up on his surgery. Doc gave him the thumbs up to start exercising and driving and all of that general good stuff. He's been feeling great and it doesn't even hurt when he sneezes anymore. He's got another follow up in a few weeks, where they should give him permission to return to work.

Tuesday I went to the UWBW meeting. With Musikfest in the middle it really felt as though I hadn't had time to prepare anything for the meeting. But it was still nice to get together my the ladies and make a plan for the next few weeks. Tuesday night dad and I went and set up the booth at the Mulhenberg Summer Festival.

Wednesday I spent the day trying to catch up on paperwork. I sent samplers out to four different stores that had inquired about wholesale purchases during Musikfest. I heard back from one who for now shall remain nameless, but they said they'd be placing an order in September. Once they purchase I'll be adding them to the list and promoting them like crazy since they're real close to my house. Another needs to meet with me because it is a museum and I need to change some packaging to fit their needs at the museum gift shops. I think I can handle their needs, so I hope that one turns out as well. I'm not sure about the other two, but we'll see. Went to the festival at night (day 1)

Thursday I shopped for cars… yep a car. C and dad had been talking about how I am in the need of a bigger vehicle that is easier for me to load and unload. Right now I have to duck walk into the back of the pickup and I bang either my head or my back every time. I looked at Town and Country's with the stow-and-go seats. That way I have the maximum amount of room in the back, and I can store stuff for long periods without ruining the seats by having all that weight on them. Went to the festival at night (day 2)

Friday more catch up here at the house. Festival at night (day 3). C came home from his business trip.

Saturday was Festival day 4. C and dad went to the local car dealership and picked out a car. Its white, with the stow-and-go seats, the doors are all automatic, and it has an awesome moon roof. Have to go pick it up on Monday.

Sunday was detox day. I had been taking Advil Allergy and Sinus relentlessly since the beginning of Musikfest. I felt as though my body had turned into a raisin. So Sunday was left to drink lost of water, let my body sneeze all it wanted to, and nap through the NASCAR race, only to go to bed early anyway. In between I finished off a pint of Ben and Jerry's and thoroughly enjoyed myself doing it.

Mulhenberg Summer Festival Recap

Mulhenberg Recap:

Best Sellers:
Soap: Rejuvenation
Bath Salts: Rejuvenation
Bath Fizzys: Lavender
Lotion Bars: Lavender
Lip Balms (tie): Butter Crème & Chai Tea

Looks like people at this show either needed to wake up (rejuvenation) or go to sleep (lavender).


Mulhenberg Summer Festival- Day 4

Sales were down 18% overall from last year. But given how some of my past shows have gone, I think this one turned out OK. I won't be returning next year though. First of all, I believe the Philly Folk Fest has changed the weekend it's taking place on next year. So if all goes well next weekend and I return next year to the Folk Fest, it will be taking place the same time as the Mulhenberg Festival. I don't make enough at the festival to pay for hiring someone to do the show for me.

What stuck me last night is the large amount of product loss that is inherent in the retail market. I'm not just talking the "five finger discount" that we all know happens, but the blatant destruction of property. This year I've had to change my whole display. I used to leave lip balms out in a basket, displayed in neat little rows. Now I have them in a set of drawers, organized by flavor. This was to lessen the stealing and the fact that so many people let their little kids play in the basket. I was constantly trying to arrange its contents that had been put into disarray. I next found a set of drawers for my lotion bars. I leave testers out on the table (2 of each fragrance) and put the rest in drawers. These drawers are accessible from both sides of the display, and they all have lids. Most people get the hint and ask for the lotion bar they want. Yesterday someone decided they were too good to try a tester, pulled out the drawer, opened the lid, took out a lotion bar, and broke the safety seal, and just left it on the table. These are the people that walk through Wal-Mart drinking unpaid for soda and leave the bottles everywhere. These are the people that try foods in the middle of the grocery store. They are the reason I inspect everything I purchase before I put it in my cart, because I am tired to getting home and finding the package of cookies has been opened, eaten from, and re-closed in a way that it is almost impossible to notice the intrusion. With all I do to prevent this, in my little 10x10 world, the loss still cost me almost 1% of sales. Not a lot, but enough to add up. The big retailers raise their cost to cover such things; we are all paying for other people's lack of couth.


Week 30-31-32 Accomplishments

Well it seems like I am catching up on these...

Week 30:
Work, work, work. Since I am trying to catch up, I can't even remember what I did. I know I made a bunch of bath fizzys, some soap, and brought dad to his doctor's appointment. But that is all I can recollect.

Week 31:
On Monday I rested. I did a few things I had to do in the shop, like cutting up some soap, and just general cleaning and straightening.

On Tuesday of this week dad has his surgery for his hernia.

One Wednesday I had a UWBW meeting. Our little grass roots effort will soon be growing. A blog will be started with posts that concern home based business owners. We are also starting a web site that will include a bulletin board. Our meetings will be growing too. We are looking for a place to start to hold monthly talks on important business subjects in conjunction with our small lunch meetings (which are less structured). We may even podcast these if we can get a handle on the technology. It will be a few more months while we plan but we hope by early 2006 things will be up and running smoothly.

Thursday I set up for Muskifest. B and I planned on getting there at the same time so we could help each others set up. It was nice to have a second set of hands.

Friday-Sunday. Show days 1-3 Look for the posts concerning these.

Week 32:
Musikfest days 4-10. Please see other posts.

Mulhenberg Summer Festival- Day 3

Well it looks like that this show will be still lower in sales than last year. It would almost take a miracle day today to catch up with last year. Its still not a bad take for just a 25-hour show, but seeing show sales plummet for just about every crafter I know is just depressing. I was commenting yesterday that there is a little part of me that likes the slump, it gets rid of people trying to craft for a quick buck. These usually are people who buy their "craft" and just resell it, or change one tiny little thing (like adding a scarf to a teddy bear) and calling it "handcrafted". It also gets rid of many of the bad craft shows. It seems like it is the in thing now to raise money with a show: every church, firehouse, and elementary school is putting one on. But this dilutes the pool. Its hard to find good crafters for all these shows, so showgowers go and see a lot of bad crafts, and then don't return the next year. Word gets around that the show is bad, and then fewer and fewer crafters apply, until the show needs to be cancelled. With fewer crafters due to the economy, filling all these shows is impossible, thus culling the herd of craft shows for the rest of us.

One exciting thing is that I was given some really great huge bail jars. I'm not quite sure yet what I am going to do with them but I have lots of ideas. I thought I could fill them with bath fizzys and sell them as a large gift idea, or fill them with popular bath salts and sell a big bulk jar (not sure if it could be picked up when full), or fill them with herbs and use them either here at the house for storage or at the booth for a pretty display. The possibilities are just endless.

B and I decided a few days ago to split a booth at the Allentown Fair. We'll be located in the Agri-Plex (formerly AgHall). The nice thing is that it is air conditioned, so I hope that the days are hot so lots of people come through to cool off and then make purchases. Lots of people come in when it rains too, so a few quick thunderstorms would be nice too. This may be one of the only times I think I've ever wanted it to rain (just a little) at a show (other than last week to end the oppressive heat at Musikfest).


Mulhenberg Summer Festival- Day 2

The second night was much slower in sales than the first. But the weather was beautiful and the music was polka. This means the crowd wants to be outside, riding rides, playing bingo, and listening to music. Quite a few people came through the craft tents, but not many bought. In general it was the night for oddball questions. Like picking up a bar of soap and asking me what to do with it. When I responded "you bathe with it", she looked at me and said "So this is real soap?!". Hmmm… no its plastic and you just put it out in your soap dish in your bathroom, like people put out wax fruit, or the plastic sushi in the restaurant window… sometimes I wonder what people are thinking…

B came by because we are sharing a booth at the Allentown Fair and she is worried about answering people's questions. I am typing out a bunch of cue cards that she can look though and find answers to most of the questions that pop up. But really, 99% of the people who ask, really don't care about the answer, they just want to see if you sound like you know what you are talking about. If you do, they buy, if you don't, they don't, but very few know the right answer to the questions they are asking anyway. And probably 50% of people, who think they know the answer, are wrong anyway, and no amount of information spouting from my mouth will change their minds.
One of my favorites are those who think there is a thing such as lye-free soap (btw, ALL soap is made with lye, and ALL soap is lye free if it is made properly because the lye is converted in the chemical process to soap and glycerin) but they believe that you can make soap without lye. No amount of sending them to the FDA web site will change their minds about that one either. But my most favorites is "hypoallergenic". People come in and ask if my soaps are hypoallergenic, to which I reply "yes, but that is not a 100% guarantee that it won't bother you". Some appreciate my honesty, some tell me outright "than its not hypoallergenic". Here's a little info from the FDA:

"Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that manufacturers claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. Consumers with hypersensitive skin, and even those with "normal" skin, may be led to believe that these products will be gentler to their skin than non-hypoallergenic cosmetics. There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term "hypoallergenic." The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA. The term "hypoallergenic" may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning."

I could print this out and hand it to them, but it still wouldn't change their minds. It means that they've been lied to by whatever brand they are using now and are loyal to, and no one wants to admit they have been lied to by someone or something they love and believe in.


Mulhenberg Summer Festival- Day 1

The first day of the Mulhenberg Summer Festival was busier than I remembered it being in quite a long time. This show had been steadily going down hill for me over the past three years and B even stopped exhibiting there because it just wasn't worth it to her anymore. Although sales had decreased over the past few years, it still has proved profitable enough for me to come, and now that I'm local, its even better since I spend way less in gas and time getting there and back.

I sold quite a bit last night and saw many who came by at Musikfest and told me they'd be back at this show to make their purchases. It also seems to have many, many new vendors- some of a very high quality. There is still some made in China junk, and some stuff made here in the US, just not by the person selling it. That's what's commonly referred to as buy-sell in the industry. Really only other crafters and really savvy festivalgoers can tell the difference anymore. Its not the quality that makes buy-sell stand out, its the price. If something seems too reasonably priced (like a 12" tall handcrafted plush Christmas decoration for only $7.50) than most likely it is a buy-sell item. It could be hand crafted by a hobbyist crafter, who is just trying to get the cost of their materials back so they can craft again next year, but anyone trying to make a living at crafting has to take their considerable time into pricing the object. The old adage never changes "you get what you pay for" and if you want handcrafted by a true artisan, you'll pay for it.


Musikfest Recap

Best Sellers:
Soap: Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey
Bath Salts: Rejuvenation
Bath Fizzys: Lavender
Lotion Bars: Patchouli
Lip Balm: Chai Tea & Watermelon

Overall sales were down by almost ½ of last year. The heat was a big contributor, but in general I think the economy is the biggest culprit. This isn't my first show that’s been down and it won't be my last. I just think of the new shows that I've done this year that have exceeded my expectations, those will be killer shows when people have more money to burn.

Musikfest Day 10

The rain that I had been praying for the last few days finally came, at the worst time. About 9:30 it started and because of the heat, it has been those last few precious hours that have actually been the most profitable. Instead I sat there watching the rain, hoping that someone would come by and officially let us pack up and go home. Instead I watched many of the other vendors walk their wares to their cars as they packed up anyway. Instead, when I did pack up I still had to wait until after 11 pm to being my vehicle in to load, for safety reasons, although all it would have taken is one police officer and a few volunteers to clear out a path for us all, because it was so empty of festival goers. Instead when I did pull my car in, the load out was still a mess because there is no one directing traffic and people decided to pull in their big trailers and block the way for everyone else. Side note: they should ask what people drive, and if it is a trailer they should be situated in a place where it is much easier to get in and out of, instead if the cul-de-sac at the end of the platz

We got home about midnight (which is much earlier than pervious years because of the rain), and I got a few hours sleep before bringing C to the airport, then I came back home and slept some more. I have a huge list of things to do today, as I have another show to set up for on Tuesday. And I just want to go back to sleep…


Musikfest Day 9

10 days is hard on the human body. Add the heat, and it's brutal. ArtsQuest set up a water station for the artists today because of the heat. I nice office type water cooler, and a few five gallon containers to keep us in fresh, cold water and to keep us from passing out in our booths, many of which had become tiny greenhouses. I've very lucky to have my "ocean view", a spot by the creek that gives me shade and a little respite from the oppressive heat. If I didn't have that the lip balms and lotion bars would have been liquid and impossible to use or sell. Dad and C learned that if you set the fan up to blow upward into the top of the tent, it actually helps keep the heat from building up and you can actually feel the air move on the other side of the tent. Many commented that they could feel the breeze as they looked at the soaps.

I finally got to meet Josh, the events coordinator for the artists. He seems like a nice guy and seems pretty competent. I hope he stays in the position., Unfortunately the position seems like a revolving door, I think I've seen like 4 or 5 people in the position since I started doing this festival 3 years ago. Continuity makes for a better festival for the artists because we know who to go to, we make a connection with them, and they understand who are the complainers and who aren't. For example, I very rarely complain, so when I do need something, they know I really need it. If the coordinator changes every 6 months, its hard to build this type of trust and understanding between the artists and show promoter.

Once complaint: Parking is a joke. C parked yesterday and his car was at the end of the lot where we are supposed to park, permit in the window, and he got a ticket, while the lot was full of at least a ½ dozen cars, permit-less, with no tickets. It seems the Bethlehem Police don't seem to enforce the ArtsQuest lot signage. What good is that? I pay $600+ for a booth fee and then have to pay extra for parking just because they don't enforce the rules? Those non- permitted cars should not only be ticketed, but they should be towed. And when the lot is full of people who don't belong there, we are told that the closest place to park is no where near within a comfortable walking distance, making it impossible to keep stock in the car, or to carry stock into the festival without a dolly or cart. And then I have to leave the festival, at night, walking all that way, with a wad of cash with me. Not safe at all. I have a feeling that if ArtsQuest ran this by their insurance company they'd have an aneurysm; it has to be a big opening for a lawsuit if an artist gets mugged on the way to their car because they can't provide safe and adequate parking. I've never sued in my life, but I know if that happened to me, I'd certainly give it a try.


Dad Update- 13

Its been a while since I updated about dad. He is doing well now. The first few days after the surgery he was in quite a bit of pain, as you would imagine but the last few days he's been feeling great. Last night he came down to Musikfest and walked around a little and came and sat in the booth for a bit. He says he is a little sore today, but not too bad. On Monday he gets his staples removed and should get a thumbs up by the Doc to start doing exercises and building his leg and abdominal strength back up to where he will be able to shift the truck so he can return to work. He plans of coming back down today for a bit, and has tickets to a concert tonight. Like me his allergies are killing him.

Musikfest Day 8

The hot humid weather is just oppressive. People walk by the booth almost like zombies, sweat pouring down their faces, and a glazed look in their eye. When you do make verbal contact with them, many give a little jump, the heat has sent them into a mental parallel universe, where they are daydreaming of air conditioning or at least a cool tropical breeze, and you have ruined the imagery by bringing them back to the real world. No one is making decisions, they stand there and say "I want something, but I don't know what", and all your suggestions do is confuse them more. Vendors hide in their booths by their fans, dreading the time when they need to get up for a purchasing customer. It is a bittersweet thing, making money to pay the rent, but having to leave your cool special place to do it. No one wants to carry anything so they say they'll be back, but you know they'll get too hot and tired to make the return trip later in the day.

I did have my third wholesale inquiry of the show. It is one of the things I love, when a shop owner comes by and is impressed enough to see if I sell wholesale. It really makes me smile because they have dozens, if not hundreds of places to choose from, they go to whole shows dedicated to artists who sell wholesale, but they like my stuff enough to ask me if I do. This was my third of the show and I really hope that something comes of the three. They are in varied geographic locations, one near Philly, one near me, and one out in Pittsburgh. After the show I'll send out my samples and my price list and then I'll wait and see.


Musikfest Day 7

All I can say is that I am getting just plain tired. It's really a long show and having to get there around 11 am to set up and leave at 11 pm makes for some long days. Add laundry and other household chores as well as other things that need to get done, like packing more inventory, doing some bookkeeping, and keeping up with mail and internet orders that come in, and this show just wipes me out. I wish my allergies would quit it too. Its really dusty down by my booth and hot, running a fan just stirs up all the dust and I spend the day sneezing and wheezing, unless I take allergy medicine, that makes me thirsty, and then I drink lots of water, and then I need to use the facilities…. it’s a Catch 22.

One of my favorite things about this show is the fact that vendors get to use the indoor facilities. Its so nice not to have to use portables and have a real place to wash your hands and face. I do notice the line is longer now. Club Musikfesters, volunteers, and some others get to use the same facilities and I think with the fact that the air conditioned potties aren't available this year, everyone heads down to the indoor ones near me instead of using the dreaded portables. I also wonder why the close at 9 pm and not lets say 10:30. I have to time my last trip to be sure that they're not closed.

I also love the volunteers. Sometimes I think the poor volunteers are under appreciated. It’s a long show and they have lots of booths to sit and they can't be everywhere at once. Still I think that at certain times (like near when the potties close) having a few extras would help us out a lot. I love being able to take the time to get some lunch without having to bug a neighbor to watch my stuff, or having to worry about things being broken or stolen. So many sows I do have no volunteers or artist support. This is such along show and it is so much more enjoyable because of the volunteers.


Musikfest Day 6

I miss Polka. Really I do!. My booth is placed just over the water from FestPlatz, and in previous years I have been able to hear Polka all day, every day, for the entire festival. I have gotten quite adept at doing the Chicken Dance but I digress… Every year festivalgoers would comment on the music I was being subjected to, and I would comment that although I do not own any Polka, I prefer it over lets say, Urban Rap, any day. This would always get a chuckle and a nod of agreement. Well last night I was subjected to Electronica. I'll take my Polka back please. Now, very few of you would guess that I used to be a pink haired, nose-ringed college student. But I was. I listened to lots of Nine Inch Nails, Ministry with a large helping of Skinny Puppy on the side. I am not afraid of the noise, nor am I turned off by it, heck I still own some and am a big fan of listening on log road trips where I just need some loud, fast music to match my loud, fast driving. But the way it wafted over into Handwerksplatz was annoying. You could tell that festivalgoers were annoyed, other crafters were annoyed, and in general the mood darkened. I'd rather be laughed at for doing the chicken dance….please give me back my Polka!

Fragrance is the sense most tied to our memories and I had a wonderful day of past and future memories. I heard about soap at summer camp, soap at the club, and soap at grandmother's house. Customers who took the time to smell the soaps and share what the fragrances brought foremost in their minds brought about all these stories. Thanks for sharing. I also learned what Pop-Pop's favorite fragrance is (its Gardenia) and I hope the grandchildren with them remember this and forever think of their grandfather when they smell Gardenias. A little girl announced what her father's favorite fragrance is (chocolate) and once again, I hope to see her in my booth in 10 years, telling me stories about her dad and his chocolate ice cream. Today I hope I helped make memories.

Credit card minimums. Do you know that legally stores cannot enforce a minimum credit card purchase? I believe they can put up signs and ask that you please make a minimum purchase, but if they turn down your business you can report them to the credit card agency and they may loose their ability to take credit cards as a method of payment (if they get enough complaints). But so many people rely on plastic now, that I think its gotten ridiculous. (I do it too though, credit card for a $5 purchase, I'm guilty too!) I had a customer pay for a $3.75 lotion bar with a credit card. I then loose $0.45 and almost 3% to the processing company. Is it worth it for me to take credit cards? Sure is! Do we all need to use them more wisely (especially when dealing with small businesses and small purchases)? Most of us do. I do for sure. I will try to do better if you will, deal?

ADA Accessibility. Every day at least one person who comes by the booth that is physically challenged in some way. And I constantly feel bad that it is so difficult to access my goods. It is a small space I am allowed to get up in (10'x10') and a table to put things on and space for me to sit makes this smaller still. I looked up some information on wheelchairs and found this:
Wheelchair Space Allowances:
· Clear width - 36" continuously and 32" at a point (doorway, etc.)
· Width for passing - 60" minimum.
· Turning space - 60" diameter minimum.
· Clear floor space - 30" x 48" minimum for stationary wheelchair.
The fact that I use 2' wide tables in a "u" shape means that I have 72" available to enter and exit my booth. It also means that I think I meet the other basic requirements. But that doesn't help anyone who can't reach the back of the tables or the higher displays from the height of a chair. And so few other craft booths allow for any space for a wheelchair at all. Its just a little thing that crosses my mind each day and I am at a loss for ways to make it better.


Musikfest Day 5

Today I think that I have performance anxiety. A young woman came by the booth and told me that she had found my blog and that she was enjoying reading my stories. Now I sit here and hope that I can live up to her expectations, and what if I actually exceed expectations, is this something I can do again and again over the next few days. I keep thinking of situations in "terms of my blog" rather than just letting the situations happen and reflecting on them the next day and seeing what is noteworthy. I wonder if true journalists go through life with this third party view on experiences. It can make me feel quite detached.

There was little notable about the day. Sales were fine, not exceptional but fine. If I compare the first five days with this year, with the first five of last year, I am down close to 50%. I have taken an informal poll of some of the other repeat artists and I'm not the only one, this is defiantly a trend. I feel, and so do some of the others I've spoken to, that we are getting repeat business, but not much new blood. If people have bought from us before, and they like out product, they are coming by and buying again, but when new potential customers come into the stand, it is some of the hardest sales work I've had in a while to eek out a purchase from them.

I'm taking the time to catch up on some reading. Like I noted in another blog, I've been pouring though some Forbes Small Business and The Crafts Report amongst some other trade publications. Diligently reading and taking notes, and taking this quiet time to plan some future business thoughts, and research some things I have in the works. I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that people who produce arts and crafts are not business people, that we all do it for a hobby. I ready an article just yesterday that stated that only 29% of us consider this a hobby, but unfortunately so many us have a hard time making a living at out art that almost 50% have a second job on the side. And those who don't do anything else, on average only contribute 25% to the overall household income. Gives a whole new meaning to "starving artist".

I did read what I think is good news on the Mcall web site today: "Musikfest director Jeff Parks smiles as he sits in front of Americaplatz at Musikfest in Bethlehem on Monday. In a change of mind, Parks said the festival no longer wants to move to an 'arts park' on the South Side of Bethlehem that would charge admission. Parks said the Bethlehem Works project, which developer's hope will have a slots parlor, is not the place for the festival. He said Musikfest would remain a free street fair and, most likely, continue to break even or lose money." (sorry not an exact quote, I fixed the grammatical errors). I am really glad to hear this. I think one of the most beautiful things about Musikfest is that it engulfs the city, and that most of the city embraces it. You can really take some time to see the historic section and walk around the shops on Main and near Main street in between music. Do I think charging admission and cramming the whole thing into a park may increase my sales- yes, it might, but I just might not want to be an exhibitor at that sort of festival.


Musikfest Day 4

There isn't much to say about day four except, wow it rained a lot. I always consider myself almost luckily to sell any soap on rainy days. The glycerin in them attracts the humidity out of the air and they get slickery, almost like they just cam out of the shower. Not the texture that is most contusive to purchase for sure. I didn't sell much- heck, not that many people seemed to be there at all, but I sold more than some crafters there, so for that I'll consider myself blessed.

I had the chance to catch up on my huge backlog of magazines that I have to read and am down to just a few more days worth. The good news s that I learned a lot about the HSA medical savings plan that I can pair with my high deductible catastrophic health insurance. This will let me save money towards my huge deductible tax free, and if I never use the funds, I can withdraw them at 65 penalty free and have a little extra towards my retirement too.

Onto day 5..


Musikfest Day 3

I like Sunday's at Musikfest. Although the traffic still seems slow, and every other vender I talk to is down in sales too, Sundays bring a much more relaxed and calm crowd. Many of us have been remarking in just how rude the crowd has been the first few days, with many making openly nasty comments about our crafts, right in front of us. I won't share any of anyone else's, but C actually told a man to "go away" after he made a comment to his wife/girlfriend that the soap "stinks". This year I really have just gotten tired of being the human punching bag for people who feel as though they can verbally abuse the people behind the tables. Whether they are so used to purchasing in bog box stores and just don't connect with the fact that we actually MAKE what we sell, that we have a physical and emotional connection to our wares, may be a possibility. But I just think there is a large section of the population that has lost their common sense and just replaced it with common rudeness.

One of my soaps is called "wisdom". I've already heard hundreds of times a parent telling their child, a wife telling husband, a husband telling wife, etc. "here you need this". Wow, put-downs over the soap stand. Not only is it rude and humiliating to the person being told they are not wise (and often not smart at the same time), but to often make eye contact with me and expect me to join in on the fun is plain rude.

I know not all fragrances appeal to all people, and some people are just not interested in any fragrance, but yelling back a booth to your buddies that "it stinks" after they try just one fragrance is a joke. It annoys others I have in my booth, it makes them look stupid, and I just get tired of feeling like I need to defend myself and my product to people like that. It's emotionally draining.

And kids, why do parents let their kids run into the booth and place their hands and noses on every bar available. No some parents use it as a learning opportunity. "Miss, how do you make soap", and "This is what lilac smells like" and "Smell with your nose, not with your hands". Others stand 15 feet out of the booth and let the kids wander from booth to booth touching and doing whatever they like. I spend quite a bit of may day asking roving bands of young children where their parents are, and telling them that they need to be in here with their parents in order to smell the soap.

Well on to day 4….


Musikfest Day 2

Day 2's sales were down from last year (see my rant in another post) but were steady. The day was a big ego trip with complements like "you are a goddess" and " we are obsessed with your soap" being just a few mind warping comments that C got to overhear. So what I didn't make in money, I made in self-esteem, which sometimes is better.

Really the day went well. I kept being overwhelmed by my inability to understand women who come to the festival in heals where they spend a good deal amount of time walking on grass. And what is with these flip-flops with heals? Everyone looks like they are struggling just to keep them on their feet, and I witnessed a few potential ankle busting trips.

Like last year, I think that the traffic flow through Handwerksplatz leave something to be desired, and overall I saw few bags being carried, which shows the lack of purchases, anywhere. And why, when the jury and accept vendors in May, is it just a few days before the show starts before they list us on their web site. And why can't they put up link to our web sites like they do at Chriskindlemarkt? And what's with the parking situation? We have a permit for a lot, which is really just the shoulder of the road, that isn't monitored, so its always full of festival goers who shouldn't be parking there, instead of vendors with permits. Sure the city will make $25 a car because of the parking ticket, but how hard is it to put out a volunteer, or to find another lot, or to close the darn road and make it a parking lot.

Today it is raining…hmmmm….

Musikfest Day 2 - A Rant

I don't understand the local newspaper here. The Morning Call is one of the sponsor for Musikfest but then on the first full day of the festival it runs an article that does nothing short of shooting it in the foot. Although I just recently moved here into the Lehigh Valley, over the past few years I have often heard a vein of thought that questions how exactly the organization that runs Musikfest (and Chriskindlemarkt) uses the money that these festivals bring in. All this article does is to add to this negativity, and right at the beginning of the festival, all it accomplishes is impact the bottom lines of everyone involved.

Kathy Lauer-Williams of the Morning Call wrote "Many food vendors are raising their prices because Musikfest has increased the percentage of the take that must be paid to the festival — it's now 30 percent of gross proceeds, up from 26 percent last year.". And that most food vendors have raised their prices "to cover the 15 percent increase charged by Musikfest."

My first beef is with what I think is deceiving math. Yes, 30%-26% is 4%, and 4% is 15% of 26%, so therefore yes, the festival has increased their take by 15%, I agree. I just think that to the festivalgoer, this is confusing, they increased their commission by 4%, plain and simple, regardless of what they took in 2004, they take 4% more this year. Looking at it as a 15% increase may be to help justify the 50 cent increase (or more) in just about everything you eat or drink, or it may be a way of making Banana Factory (the show producer) look greedy and ultimately bad at handling their money.

The article goes on to quote a food vendor who usually grosses "around $50,000" at the event. Now a quick look at the web site shows about 64 food vendors scattered over the festival so at 50k each that is a take of 3.2 million in food, and 30% (960,000) goes to the show producer. Add in the fact that many acts and areas are sponsored (Handwerksplatz is sponsored by the Las Vegas Sands for 50k, plus we all pay $650 for our booth space on top of that) and the money starts to seem like it is endlessly pouring in. But regardless "the cost of everything else — from insurance to fuel — has gone up and last year Musikfest finished slightly in the red.". What? In the red? 25 years of this festival and they can't balance their budget? They need a better project manager.

So by complaint is that this article, that came out on the first full day, sent people in with a negative mind set. The fact that they'll be spending more, the question of where exactly is their money going… these keep them spending less, less in food, less in crafts, less on other things, possibly insuring that 2005 will be another year in the red. With sponsors like The Morning Call, who needs enemies?


Musikfest Day 1

Musikfest- Day 1

Last nights crowd was smaller and a lot less rowdy that I expected. Sales were slower than I remember from two years ago, but since I wasn't there for the first few days last year I don't have a solid recollection to go on. They moved many of the booths around and I have a few new neighbors, which is OK, its good to get to know some new faces. There are many more crafters there this year, a bunch of people I know from other shows that have never done this one. Overall I think the quality of workmanship is increased, some nice pottery, painted tiles, sculpture, painting and woodwork. I hope that they sell enough to come back next year. I think this show is defiantly its own animal, in the fact that people come for the free music and come though the crafts area as a second thought, so you get lots of people who say things like "I don't even know this was here" and stuff like that. And since the music is free (and the food/beer and crafts aren’t) you get lots of lookers, people who come for the free entertainment, maybe a few beers, but don't have the expendable income for a bunch of artwork. Personally, no matter how good of artists they get in, I think this show will always be best for vendors who sell low dollar items and have more of a "festival" than a "fine art" appeal. This may change if they ever charge an overall gate fee (like Mayfair) but I think that will spoil the feel of this show, its one of the most fun to sit and to people watch, it has an extremely varied demographic, and really represents the melting pot (or salad bowl if you prefer) of the area. 1 down, 9 to go.


Dad Update- 12

Much better today so far. Dad only woke up at night to take his meds and had no problems getting out of bed this morning, none of the dizziness and nausea of the other day. He's even up and about and playing some of his favorite video games. As long as he doesn't try and overdo it I think he will be feeling pretty good in just a few more days. He has 2 weeks of no driving, and no lifting anything, so he'll have to take it slow and steady, but I think he's going to be just fine. Bored, but just fine.


Dad Update- 11

I think the nights are the worst. Poor dad has always been one of those people who can't sit in one position for a long time without getting painfully stiff, painfully bored, and painfully cranky. Last night was a lot like the evening before the colonoscopy but without the passing out on the bathroom floor. Taking his meds without food brought on some nausea, and trying to get out of bed was so painful that in itself brought on some nausea. I was once again reminded exactly why I wish to be child-free- this getting up every two hours is for the birds. Laying there is bed he got stiff and sore, and then trying to get out of bed made him even more sore. After about 4 am we both finally got a few good hours of sleep and around 6 am got him out of bed and into a comfortable chair in the living room. I just couldn't sleep, I think it was the maternal, listening for sounds, for your name, or for that tell tale *thump* of passing out that keeps you suspended in a Zen like meditative trance rather than in a state of true deep sleep. There are portions of the evening that I know I only closed my eyes for 20-30 minutes, but I came to in a hyper awake, adrenaline filled state. This morning almost feels like a low. My eyes are sore, my body is tired, but my mind is awake and alert. Strange…


Dad Update- 10

Dad is home from his hernia surgery. The whole thing took about 5 hours from the time we arrived to the hospital to the time he was discharged to come home. Right now he's not in much pain, although that may have to do with the two Percocet he has been given. But the doctor said that the procedure went well, dad had no ill after effects from the anesthesia, and he's already had a bowl of soup since I got him home. He's not allowed to drive until the 15th and is supposed to keep the area iced (1/2 hour on and ½ hour off) during the day for the next week. Keeping the swelling down helps the healing from what I've been told, also, the least amount of swelling now in the first few days the less swelling and pain after he gets up on his feet again. We'll spend the rest of today watching DVD's- probably some CSI's and some of Ken Burn's Jazz documentary.


Week 29 Accomplishments

Well I finished almost all the soap I wanted to have made prior to my crazy August schedule. This week I made more Peppermint Foot Scrub, Into the Woods, Black Cherry Oatmeal, and Plumeria. I really just ended up about 200 bars short of my target, which isn't bad given all the time this past month that I haven't been able to get into the shop. I guestimated that I made about 4000 bars of soap in July. Along with 1200 lip balms, 500 lotion bars, 100 lip glosses, and about 50 bath salts…all I have left is bath fizzys to make this week.

I can really feel the stress getting to me this week. I am just not mentally ready for Musikfest. Part of it is Dad and knowing that I'll be at a show just a few days after his hernia surgery. I know he'll be fine at home for those few hours alone on Friday, and that if he is having any problems C will stay home with him over the weekend, but I'm really just a worrier about this kind of stuff. It's also coming up on the 1 year anniversary of my grandmothers death. I wish I could be with my mom during this time, but it just can't happen because of my schedule. Last year when we lost Nana, I had to have T cover my booth for a few days for the funeral, and I was lucky the show promoters had no problem with this. Some shows are really strict about having the artists present and that kind of stuff, and some don't care about family emergencies, they've heard it all before and always just think its an excuse.

This past week was just emotionally draining. I call it "close to the surface", like everything makes you cry, and you get all irrational about the smallest things, and you feel like you just got up on the wrong side of the bed, but you don't know how to fix it, and no amount of chocolate does it for you. I tend to get this way when work and life come together and get in the way of each other. I'm pretty good at dealing with one or the other, but both can be tough when you don't ever really leave the office, since the office is only your basement.

This week will be quiet. Just a few things to do each day to finish getting ready for my next few shows, I plan on lots of naps and helping dad as much as I can. I have lunch on Wed, and show set up on Thurs., and the show starting on Fri. I should have lots of updates this week.