Sunday, August 9, 2015

Craft Fair Review

I did my second craft fair today and I feel like it went really well. I brought about forty five dolls and sold about 27, passed out over 200 business cards, and took several custom orders.
This is a big improvement over my first fair where I only sold one doll. I feel like I learned a few things and made some tough decisions that paid off, so here's my tips for other dolliers who are looking to try craft fairs without the learning curve that I had to deal with. Here are my top tips using what I learned from my two experiences.

1. Pay for a table not a booth. The more "full" your display looks, the more people will be drawn in, just to try and see what it is they're looking at. As you can see from this photo, my display was packed. It was visually captivating, and even people who weren't interested in dolls were drawn in just to see what was going on with my multi-tiered showcase, and many ended up impulse buying for relatives or friends' children. My first show I had a booth space, and only had enough to put stuff in two sides of it. A lot of people walked past without stopping, I think because it looked a little sad and unprofessional.

2. Height matters. I grabbed a bench and shelf and stacked my table up high. Then I put a display ladder and tree stump on top of the shelf so that it would be even higher. People notice what's at eye height, so the taller you can build it up the better. And again, if you can capture people's notice and peak their curiosity they're more likely to come over and chat, even if they don't plan on buying.

3. SIGNAGE MATTERS: It's important to let people know what you're selling up front. If you have to talk to someone to explain what it is they're seeing, you've already lost them. Not only did I have my business name in the banner on the front of the table, I tried to put a few simple explanations up telling what my dolls were to casual passersby. People like the idea of what we're doing, but if they don't know the process, you're just selling "another doll" in an already oversaturated market. They most effective signs I put up were "Hand Painted" and "Recycled, Rescued, Upcycled." I heard a lot of little girls yell "Hand Painted" behind themselves to their moms as they ran across the lawn to my table. I heard a lot of moms turn to dads and say "Recycled, Rescued, Upcycled." Those are key terms that grab customer's attention and appeal to responsible consumerism. I lacked these simple explanations the first show I did, and I could really tell the difference this time. People really enjoyed explaining to each other what it is that I do, and frankly it was nice to not have to do all the work.

4. Let your dolls do the talking. I tried to keep my display and signage neutral so that the dolls were pops of light and color against that backdrop. My first show I think I overdid it with decor and the dolls kind of got lost in the flair. I really like the way my table looked this time, and I think it looked a lot more professional. Plus the dolls looked extra shiny and bright against that canvas.

5. Have some "before" dolls out. The nastier the better. Before and after photos are a great thing, but there's nothing like picking up a doll with snarled hair and marker scribbles and then holding up a clean, styled, repainted dolls and really FEELING the difference.

6. Keep your mouth shut when people come up. Aside from a general "Hello" most North American consumers don't want to feel pressured or harassed by sales people. They like to browse without vendors hovering. My general approach (after a few blown sales) was to say "Hi," smile, and make good eye contact. Then, I gave them a second to look around, before saying something like "let me know if you have any questions." If they started talking about my process or looking more closely, there was kind of a more natural invitation to my sales pitch or my process. But if you jump right in with the whole sales pitch a lot of time people get frightened or feel pressured and walk away.

7. Related to Number 5: have a chair, and sit down. If you're standing up, it makes you look more aggressive or hovering. A lot more people started lingering once I lightened up the atmosphere by kicking back with my crochet.

8. Work on something doll related. I crocheted and sewed buttons and snaps unless I was attending to a sale. A lot of people told me that they'd have never guessed I was the artist because I am younger (33), and I guess I don't look artisty (I have boring hair?  no facial piercings? I was wearing jeans and a striped t shirt? I don't know). Once I put the message out loud and clear that I was the maker, people were way more excited about talking, and most of the time talking equalled sales or great networking.

9. Have really nice business cards and bring A LOT. My cards weren't expensive. In fact, I printed them myself, but I spent a lot of time on them and made sure they really represented my brand. I used brown paper card stock for printing, which is different and cool, and which stood out on the table. I had a huge stack out, and since they were cute people knew exactly what and where they were. A lot of people grabbed several to pass to friends on their own. I thought 200 would be too many, but I actually ran out before the end of the day. 250 or 300 would have been better.

10. Put the least valuable merchandise on the bottom and don't be squeamish about kids touching them. If they can't hold up to gentle touching, they're not ready for sale anyway. Kids LOVED picking them up, looking at their clothes, and inspecting their hair. A lot of moms and dads ended up impulse buying because their daughter had discovered a special "friend" that they WOULD NOT go home without. Most of them wouldn't even let me put the doll in a bag because they wanted to carry their friend with them.

11. Be flexible, and be willing to make a deal. If someone wants to buy three dolls, give them a discount or throw in a free outfit. If a girl loves a doll but wants an outfit on another doll, be willing to switch. Have extra clothes on hand to restyle a doll in case you DO have to switch. People LOVE feeling like they're getting "special treatment" or "discounts," and once you sweeten a deal, people will often buy more than they originally planned. Then when you're bagging up the purchase, throw in a few business cards. If you're good to your customers, they will remember you and pass the info along.

12: Have a variety of merchandise at a variety of price points. People generally fall into two categories: those who love to feel like they're A: getting the best deal or B: getting the highest quality item. Online, they can make those distinctions by swapping in between vendors, but in person you're likely going to be the only dollier in the show and you've got to give them the full shopping experience by having a few high ticket items, a few regularly priced items, and a few discounted items. I brought along the dolls I'd had listed on Etsy the longest and sold them ALL for 50% off. I also sold a "special edition" doll for double my regular price. Also probably 90% of the people I spoke with mentioned that they loved that I had everything from Skaters to Farmers to Girlie Girls to Punk and Vintage, etc. Girls were excited to find dolls that fit their interests and personal style, and most of them went out of their way to say so!

13. Pick the right shows: Look for events that are featuring hand crafted, local artists, or one of a kind items. My first show was a boutique sale, and shoppers were coming looking for department store type products from small distributors.  My second show was a DIY festival whose mission was feature local artists making one of a kind products. The shoppers at the first event wanted uniformity, glossy packaging, and discounted prices. The shoppers at the second event wanted quirky, socially conscious, and individual. I made $40 at the first show. I made several hundreds of dollars at the second. The $25 table fee at the first event seemed like a bargain, but I barely covered my costs in sales. The $125 fee for the second event seemed steep, but I made it up in the first few hours and then several times over.

All in all it was a great experience. I hope that my failures and successes can help you succeed at your next event, too!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

T-Shirt Hack: Machine Sewing Tutorial

One of the most frustrating parts of making doll clothes is that even experienced seamstresses find that the rules of good garment construction don't always work out on 1:6 or 1:8 scale.
Necklines prove especially difficult, and on stretchy material such as sweaters and t-shirts it's darn near impossible to get a quality finish unless you have a few tricks up your sleeve.

So here is my ultra-quick, ultra-easy cheater method for getting smooth necklines without all the frustration. It works on *doll scale because you don't actually pull the t-shirt over the doll's head.

Fair warning: I don't have a camera-person so I have to prop my iPad up on it's side to get the shot so the video is oriented the wrong direction. My sincere apologies.

There you go! By using a **stabilizer and turning the neckline before finishing it off you get a pretty clean looking garment without the all of the frustration.
If you found this tutorial useful, I'd love it if you share photos of your finished t-shirts and sweaters on my Facebook page:

*This method won't work for children's clothing because it doesn't allow for enough stretch to get a kid's head through.

**You can also use interfacing, dryer sheets, paper towel, or a stiff piece of lining material instead of TP to stabilize your fabric.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hot Glue Shoes Part 3: Prep, Paint, and Seal Your Shoes

Sorry for the short hiatus folks. I was hoping to get this published before the weekend, but... Easter.

If you've missed videos #1 and #2, please go back and visit my other tutorials and materials lists here:

So to wrap up our series on hot glue shoes, here you go. I hope that I've cleared things up for you, and that you now have the info that you need to go forth and create. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please feel free to message me on Facebook or leave me a comment right here!

If you'd like to purchase molds or pre-cast feet for your dolls and skip right ahead to the painting fun, please feel free to visit my Etsy shop.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tutorial #2: Casting Your Hot Glue Shoes... aka the REALLY exciting part!

Are you pumped!? I am! Today we're going to use our pretty oogoo molds from video #1 to make

Let's let that sink in for a moment. Breathe deeply and imagine a world free of eBay auctions, silicone tubes, cornstarch snowstorms, and expensive craft specialty products....

Can you feel it? It's electric.

But before I begin, a few questions about the last video:

#1: What are the proportions of cornstarch/cornflour to silicone that you use?
I use approximately a 1:1 ratio. The less cornstarch you can use, the better, as we'll see in this video. Too little, however, and you just have an icky, sticky mess. I don't like to goof around with silicone very often because of the fumes, so I always mix up huge batches and work quickly. I prefer to eyeball around 1/4 cup of each. Sorry metric folks... I live in the back woods and we still use the English system. I thiiiiink that works out to be around 60 mL of silicone and the corresponding volume of cornstarch.

#2: Do you use any special brands of silicone/cornstarch/hot glue/petroleum jelly?
Nope. I'm on a budget, folks. Like a hey! Let's just skip lunch at work today, k? kind of budget. So I just use the cheapest stuff I can find. So far, it's working well for me.

#3: Is hot glue toxic? 
Everything I've seen says that it's not, including the package it comes in. I assume, however, that if ingested you should probably call a medical professional and ask for their opinion. I can assure you that it is for SURE better for you than oogoo, but beyond that, I'm no scientist.

#4: Ack! Burns! I can't use hot glue without frying myself. Can I use a low temp glue gun to reduce the damage?
I've never found one large enough to handle the volume of glue you need to make shoes successfully. My mini one cools off too quickly to pour an entire foot at once, and I end up with lots of lumps and bumps. If you can find a mega glue gun that works at a low temp setting, PLEEEEAAAASSSSE let me know where you found it, and if they have a sales coupon. I would love to experiment.

Now that I've addressed the most common questions I've been asked, let's get cracking. These shoes ain't going to make themselves.

Cooling times for shoes:
Thick shoes (Sketchers style sneakers, etc) & boots: 11-13 minutes
Converse, thinner shoes (loafers, Mary Janes, etc.): 9-11 minutes
Very thin shoes, flip flops, bare feet: 8 minutes

So there you go! It's as simple as that. I don't currently have any pre-cast feet for sale because I have sold out the little bit of surplus I did have, but if you would rather skip the frying your fingers part and just grab a pair of shoes from me, just hop on over to my Etsy shop and put in a custom order.

Please tune in tomorrow for Part 3: Painting and sealing your hot glue feet! And as always, if you like what you see, don't forget to pin and share! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tutorial #1: Making the Molds for your HOT GLUE Shoes!

HOT GLUE SHOES!!!!! Yes. This is really happening. Zero waste (once you have your molds set), non-toxic, removable shoes that you can make for about thirty cents a pair. 
Before beginning, please make sure to check out my materials list here. 
So here we go! If you like what you see, please remember to share & pin!
Also, if we could please pretend that I don't look like road kill, that would be super sweet.
(insert excuse about being a working mom... blah blah blah... I have a weird muppet voice...this video looks like a hot mess but I promise that it's all good information). 

If you've never made oogoo before, please reference this third party video. I did not make this video, nor am I affiliated with this individual, but it's a good basic primer on how to mix up oogoo from silicone caulk and corn starch/ corn flour.
*Update 4/30/15: Putting petroleum jelly on 
your hands before handling oogoo makes it less of a hideous mess. Also make sure to get silicone I, NOT low odor or silicone II caulk, which won't set.
If this seems a bit overwhelming, if you dont have any shoes to make molds of to begin with, or if you simply don't want to goof around with the oogoo, please feel free to swing by Etsy shop and check out my listing for the  oogoo molds pictured in this tutorial.

Materials List for Hot Glue Shoes

So here goes nothing. I was hoping to get my website looking a little more polished before I started posting tutorials, but since the hot glue shoe secret is out, you're going to need a few pointers to get it right (and not burn the heck out of your hands in the process). I'll be posting my tips and tricks over the next few days, starting with a Materials List today.

Here's what I use:
100% silicone caulk
corn starch
Bratz feet or shoes
HIGH TEMP hot glue gun (very important that it be high temp)
Multi-Temp or High Temp hot glue
Acrylic Paints
Mod Podge
Petroleum Jelly
Additional Embellishments

Check back tomorrow for a video tutorial on how to successfully make a the shoe molds. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

New Kids in Town

Well, I've restocked my shop, but it's selling out quickly. Here are the new faces on the block. You'll notice the addition of some young gentlemen to our group. 
If you see something you like, hop on over to and grab it before it's gone...

And as always, thanks for the love, folks!