Review of May Events: Capsule Design Festival

I have attended two previous Capsule events as a shopper, but this was my first time as a vendor.  All in all it was worth it (I made about twice the cost of my booth) but it wasn’t an investment with major returns.

The event happened on Sunday, May 25th, from 11-6, on several blocks surrounding Patricia’s Green in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The booth fee is a fairly steep $190, considering you are not provided with shelter, parking or furniture of any kind.  We all got nervous when it rained the day before, and a chance of rain was predicted for the day of the festival as well.  Luckily, things stayed dry.  If nice weather had been assured, the turnout may have been better, but nonetheless there was a pretty steady stream of customers throughout the day.  I was set up on Linden Street, however, and a fellow vendor told me that his table on Octavia Street between Hayes and Grove was only receiving about half the traffic — a good thing to know considering you get to choose your own table location.

Compared to other craft/handmade events, the Capsule Festival has a reputation for being a little too cool for school.  It’s definitely hip and on the high end price-wise, but it seems like a good venue for artists whose goods are too time-intensive and costly for the average craft fair.  At Capsule, there are plenty of buyers who are prepared to spend over $100 on a well-made item, provided you accept plastic.

Scattered thinly amongst the uber-hip artisans were a few typical “street fair wear” booths.  Their goods may have been technically handmade, but not by anyone in the U.S.  I heard complaints from some artists who were placed next to such ventures, since their prices were glaringly cheaper, and a few customers were so relieved to finally find a “bargain” that they failed to realize that they came out to Capsule just to shop at H&M.  I know that Capsule juries it’s applications, and I know that they walk the fair themselves, so I can’t imagine they allow such vendors to return in the future.  It used to say specifically on their website that Capsule is not a venue for mass-produced discount merchandise, but I can’t find that statement anymore.  Maybe the definition of “independent design” has changed?

Depending on my schedule and how busy I am in general, I may sign up for the October Capsule Festival.  It’s right in my neighborhood so it’s ridiculously convenient.  It’s also nice to have an event earlier in the holiday season.  You can do some first-hand market research before the big rush and adjust your inventory accordingly.

Tip: Sunscreen the [email protected]$T out of yourself before any seven-hour outdoor event.  I had such a wicked raccoon tan I couldn’t take my sunglasses off in public for a week.

2 Comments

  1. They’ve always had those imported “handmade” sellers at Capsule. I’m pretty sure they have to pay a much higher fee to get in, and can’t participate in any of the advertizing, but I could be wrong.

    I’ve only been to the first Capsule, and I actually bought something from one of said sellers, because I erroneously assumed that everyone there was selling their own handmade items. I thought I’d just scored a good deal!

    I personally think it’s very misleading of Capsule to allow those people to be somewhat randomly inserted between the more genuine crafters/artists. It makes everyone else look expensive by comparison. Although, I’m not really sure what would be better, other than just not allowing them at all — which might cause booth prices to be raised for everyone else.

  2. Hayes Valley and Capsule in general is not one of the events in San Francisco that caters well to medium-high demographic vendors. If you have a niche that attracts the more art conneuseur crowd and less of a warehouse mentailty, have a looked into the Fillmore Festival or even the north Beach festival both in beautiful San Francisco, They were a blast! (Both occured a few weeks ago.) The larger crowd and more touristy location would most likely resuly in higher revenue.

    A great place to get advice as to what to expect from events as well as how to be a profitable vendor is http://www.fairsandfestivals.net. They have detailed event listings and articles and it’s been a great online resource for me.

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