7 Reasons that Participating in Craft Shows Is Just Like Going to College


If you find yourself in the Boston area for the upcoming long weekend, I highly encourage you to check out the Boston Arts Festival. There will be dance and musical performances, a fireworks show Saturday night, and 60 juried artists from the Boston area, including yours truly! You can find there on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00-6:00 selling my jewelry. (By the way, this is my first two-day show!)

Several months ago I applied to this show, thinking there was no way that I would be accepted. It was the first show that I applied to that asked for a statement of my qualifications.

Uh, statement of qualifications? What does that even mean? Was I even qualified? Clearly I was out of my league.

I pondered the question for awhile, writing and rewriting my statement, much as I had my college essays eons earlier. Finally I decided to apply to the show, which seemed like a huge reach to me. I mean, the worst that would happen was I would get rejected, right?

So imagine my complete and utter shock when I received an e-mail in early June informing me that I had been accepted!

(With this show and others, I may have been just as excited as I was when I received my college acceptance letters.)

As I have gone through my first year of applying to and exhibiting my jewelry, I have come realize that this year I have been reexperiencing some of the very same motions and feelings that I had applying to and going to college. The nerves and excitement of the application process, the fear that you won’t get in, writing personal statements, the waiting. Today I share with you how participating in craft shows has been like reliving the college application process all over again.




1. You have to figure out what would be a good fit for you

Just as every college is not for every student, so every craft show is not for every artisan. There are so many things to consider: location, fee to participate, size, clientele. Some are a good fit, and some are just flat out not.

2. There is an application process, and you have to find a way to make yourself stand out

What makes you (or in this case, your product unique)? Why should you be accepted? With the competition high (especially, as I have found, as a jewelry artist) you have to try to stand out from the crowd while also showing why you would be a good fit.

3. Around the time responses are due out, you start obsessively checking your mail

I remember anxiously waiting for the mailman to arrive in April of 2000 to see what would arrive in the mail for me that day. Would it be a little envelope or a big, fat package? Now, I experience those same feelings checking my e-mail to see if there is any news of the latest show. And you like college admission letters, you can tell from the first line whether or not you were accepted.

Cue me hitting refresh on Gmail repeatedly and double-checking that the e-mail didn’t go to my Spam box


4. It seems to be a total crapshoot where you and your friends will get in and where you will be rejected

My high school guidance counselor told me some schools to which I applied would be a reach and others I would be more likely get into. Well let me tell you, there did seem to be any logic to which schools accepted me and which ones rejected me; same with my friends. Similarly, I have shows that I thought I had a better chance of being accepted into only to be rejected, and others that I did not expect would accepted me. I have watched my fellow crafter friends go through the same thing. (And some of those shows also have waitlists. Who knew?)

5. These things aint’s cheap!

OK, so participating in a craft show is considerably cheaper than getting a college education, but it can still be a pretty significant financial investment that definitely puts a dent in your wallet. Get used to writing those checks!

6. You have to somehow cram everything you will need into your car

I remember driving off to my first day of freshman year, with everything I would possibly need for nine months, seemingly defying all laws of matter. How the hell did my parents manage to get it all in my mom’s minivan and somehow have room for my parents, sister and I to drive off to school? Similarly, it takes a small miracle and some amazing maneuvering skills on Sam’s end to get everything I need for a craft show (including a 10 foot by 10 foot tent, three folding tables, two chairs, four bins full of jewelry packaging and display materials, not to mention my jewelry) arranged in my little Volkaswagen Jetta and still leave room for us (barely). We are definitely going to have to rethink things for next year once there is a baby in the picture.

Maybe it’s time to consider getting a bigger car?

7. There are first day jitters

Ok, maybe this is just me because I’m a huge nerd, but I get nervous on the first day of a show if it’s the first time I’m doing it. I worry about getting lost, getting there late, setting up, figuring out the lay of the land, wondering if I will like my neighbors and if anyone will talk to me, and fearing that I am out of my league and somebody made a mistake. Seriously, it’s just like I’m a little freshman all over again feeling out of my element on the first day at college, but soon those anxious feelings melt away.

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19 thoughts on “7 Reasons that Participating in Craft Shows Is Just Like Going to College”

  1. Oh man, do I know what you mean. My husband is an artist/photographer and he’s done a lot of art shows/fairs/markets. We’ve only done a multi-day event twice, since we don’t really have the capital yet to pay for them. But the nerves! The expectations! And he is seriously a whiz at packing the car- sometimes I feel like I’m just in the way because he has a system that magically works in our tiny hatchback.
    By the way, that; super awesome that you got accepted for this event! Especially since you assumed you weren’t qualified 🙂 Thank you for visiting my blog!

  2. My husband tells me to stand out of the way when he packs up the car…I have no idea how he does it, but he somehow manages to squeeze everything in there!

    Yeah, shows can be super pricey. Amazingly this show is about as much as a typical 1-day show, but I was having a hard time stomaching the price of the holiday shows, though I can imagine how much work it is on the producers’ end (but since I’m pregnant and due right at the start of the holiday season, won’t be doing any holiday shows this year unfortunately, so that wasn’t really an issue). Thanks for stopping by as well! 🙂

  3. Pretty awesome analogies and if I am in the Boston area over the weekend, I’d go! I’m in Cape Cod right now. What amazes me about the college process is that we did the whole thing without Internet. It existed already but I didn’t have it. No online info or emails to check. Just snail mail. You just reminded me how different it must be these days. And craft shows too, of course.

  4. Nicole Nenninger

    Congratulations! I love the sign for it (ahts)! They have a great craft show in Camden, Maine, right near the harbor every summer–have you been to that one–visited or displayed? I wish you good luck and good weather! Your pieces are beautiful–and so are you!

  5. The Dose of Reality

    Sounds amazing! I love the obsessive checking of the email, because that is so true! Good luck…you will rock! :)-Ashley

  6. It definitely is, and I think the competition has gotten a little stiffer in the Boston area recently (at least that’s the sense I have gotten from talking to fellow crafters).

  7. Hope you are having an incredible time on the Cape!

    I seriously don’t know how all these things happened before the days of internet. Everything I have found out about craft shows has been online. I mean, obviously people managed, but it’s hard to remember back to the dark ages 😉 Sometimes, though, I kinda miss normal mail…so much less stuff to read!

  8. I’ve heard about that show in Camden, I will have to check it out for next summer! Thanks for the well wishes and sweet comments, Nicole! 🙂

  9. Thanks, Ashley! It’s sad how often I check my e-mail, especially when I’m expecting something. Now I try to keep it closed to prevent me from getting so distracted!

  10. Thanks, Susannah!

    So that’s a bummer that I’m still showing up as a no-reply blogger (darn Google+). Had tried changing it yesterday, did it again, let’s hope it worked this time!

  11. I spent several years on the craft show circuit. What a ride! I loved all the eccentric people I met along the way and had a great time.

  12. It definitely is a ride, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Still have yet to meet some eccentric folks, but I’m sure with time it will happen!

  13. Thanks, Michelle! It definitely is a lot of work, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily more than anything else I’ve done before, just different. Even though a lot is out of my hands, it is a lot of fun for the most part.

  14. It really sounds like the whole thing is a learning process. I can imagine how hard it is to fill out all those applications and wait to be excepted. I think how quickly you were able to move into.that world is testimony of your skill.

  15. Thanks, Carla 🙂 Thankfully it’s generally less work than filling out a college application, but the waiting is just as nerve-wracking (at least for me)!

  16. Pingback: Five Things I Learned Selling at Craft Shows - Linkouture

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