Organizing and promoting a craft show can be a pretty big affair. Events can range from small trunk shows with ten vendors to huge fairs like Renegade that have hundreds of booths. I’ve had some experience helping with various aspects of smaller shows – as one of the founding members of the New Orleans Craft Mafia, we’ve organized a series of regular markets here in town, plus I’ve also pitched in to help with the Trashion street team’s trunk show back in July at the Etsy Labs. Now I’m ready to tackle something more ambitious: an attempt to bring crafters & shoppers from all generations and styles together and get the word out about why buying handmade is the best — with Handmade Invasion!
You see, my mom owns a large outdoor flea market on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and for a long time I’ve wanted to find a way to use this venue to the crafter’s advantage. I’ve tried setting up there with my own work on a typical weekend, stuck in among all of the regular flea market offerings, which included everything from antiques to garage sale junk to new, imported goods. I’ve found that this isn’t exactly the ideal method for selling handmade work – one crafter among a great mix of vendors, in a sea of customers looking for a cheap deal. I wanted to create a new alternative – sort of in the same way that Etsy provides a breath of fresh air for artists accustomed to eBay.
My idea? Launch a craft area at the flea market to happen on announced weekends as a special event. All of the weekly flea market goodness (including food vendors and live entertainment) would still be there to help draw the regular customers, and the handmade only area, aka Handmade Invasion, will bring in new shoppers, and possibly enlighten some of the regulars about why handmade rocks. Plus, this way, artists will have a place where they don’t have to compete directly with the garage sale type items – united we stand, so to speak.
I knew I’d need to keep things simple in order to make this work. Artists will need to submit an application in order to set up in the specially designated “handmade only zone." This is primarily to insure the integrity of the event and make sure that this area is truly handmade. The best part for artists is that the fees to set up will be the same as for regular flea market vendors ($25 per day or $40 for a whole weekend…a steal compared to a lot of big craft shows).
I also wanted to insure that artists of all types would feel welcome. This is the South after all, and there are plenty of amazing artists of all types, who work in both very traditional craft media as well as a whole bevy of up and coming indie craft types. My dream is to see grandmothers selling their crocheted afghans next to their grandkids who use the same techniques to create skull and crossbone iPod cozies.
There are a lot of reasons why I’ve been wanting to make this happen. For one thing, it’s a bit of a trek from the Coast to make it to any major indie craft fairs. There’s the Indie Craft Experience (ICE) in Atlanta and Stitch in Austin, TX, plus markets in South Florida and Nashville, but nothing like what I’m envisioning close by.
I’ve also been anxious to get an event like this started to help with the continuing rebuilding process on the Coast. My mom’s flea market & RV park sustained some pretty heavy damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Most of the buildings were destroyed and she ended up offering temporary use of the land to FEMA, who utilized her nearly 50 acres of interstate front property for several months following the storm to distribute temporary housing trailers to families all along the Coast. Two years later, the flea market buildings have been rebuilt and it’s once again open for business every weekend, rain or shine. While things are certainly picking up, it isn’t like it used to be. Many of her previous customers and vendors came from the New Orleans area, and as most people know, the population in the city where I live is still only at about half of pre-Katrina levels. Plus people all along the Coast have had to spend so much time and money rebuilding that they just don’t have the funds or energy for shopping that they used to.
I’m hoping that in some small way I can be a part of changing that. I want to let people know how supporting home-based, independent businesses can keep money in the local economy and support the rebuilding process much more than shopping at the mega-stores can. I also want to create the kind of event that will draw both crafters and shoppers from other areas to the Coast, maybe to spend some time in our hotels, restaurants and casinos, or maybe even to do some volunteering while they’re here.
Will Handmade Invasion be the success I hope it to be? I’m going to do my best to insure that it is, of course. And if not? Well, chalk that one up to a learning experience, rethink things and try again. I just know that I’ll be sorry if I don’t at least try my hand at my own special way of helping to rebuild the Coast where I grew up.
All the details you need!
It’s off Interstate 10 at Exit 24, just 9 miles west of Gulfport, MS and an hour’s drive east of New Orleans.
1st weekend of November + every weekend between Thanksgiving & Christmas
November 3-4, November 24-25
December 1-2, December 8-9, December 15-16, and December 22-23
8am – 5pm, rain or shine
HOW MUCH: Admission & parking are free
What types of booths will be provided? Handmade Invasion will usually take place in a specially designated section of the covered (outdoor) pavilion area. Spaces are 10′ x 10′ and include 1 table (no chairs) & electricity. Extra tables are available for $5 per table. You can find more info here.
How much does it cost to vend? Pavilion spaces are $25 per day, per space or $40 per weekend, per space.
Application for the event
For any other questions, email email@example.com.