Will the Economic Downturn Negatively Affect Indie Craft Fairs?

Gift Tags at Luna FestMy first craft fair of the season was this weekend, and it suuuuuuucked. Well, partly sucked. Most of the stuff that I really like about craft fairs was still there–checking out the other vendors, gossiping with customers, my daughter drawing with permanent markers on brown paper bags at my feet.

There was really only one thing that didn’t happen: the buying.

There was looking, mind you, from the fewer than normal customers who attended the craft fair. There was admiring. There even was buying, of some of my items in the $1-$5 range. Overall, though, it was slow, slow, slow.

It was a pretty conventional craft fair, with a few fair trade craft  or indie craft vendors like myself. And it left me wondering–is this whole craft fair season going to suck?

Traditionally, the crafts industry has been thought to be pretty stable (if not totally hot) during times of economic downturn. The theory goes that the more people struggle economically, the more interested they become in handmade.

And businesses seem to trust in this logic. The publishing industry, in particular, has been noticeably turning to the publishing of crafts and other how-to books, and some crafters like The Crafty Chica and Amy Butler have been establishing themselves in numerous markets.

The thing, is, though, that while this likely reflects an increase in the average person’s interest in making, say, a Mother’s Day present, or a few picture frames, it may not at all reflect any interest she might have in buying any of the stuff that I’VE made. Especially if I charge what I believe they’re worth.

I’m afraid that indie craft fairs, in particular, being a niche market in the already-niche craft fair industry, will suffer even more than more conventional craft fairs.

Or not? Most of my sparse sales at Sunday’s Luna Fest came from members of the all-girl roller derby teams that were handing out flyers for their season–they appreciated themselves some comic book pinback buttons and kitchy record bowls enough to shell out their hard-earned cash, and to do it with appreciation for my work and excitement about their new cool stuff.

Could I make a living wage setting up a merch table at roller derby games?

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

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