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.

Craft Fair for Designers (SF)

If you’ve ever wanted to sell your wares at a craft-fair-type event, but you’re more of a designer than a crafter, this is the fair for you! The Capsule Design Fair is held semi-annually in the Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, and also sometimes at the 111 Minna gallery downtown. I’m ashamed to say this, but I live in Hayes Valley and have shopped at the Capsule fair for the last couple of years, but I never figured out who ran it or how to join it until now.

capsuleThe 2008 fairs are happening on May 25th and October 19th form 11-6. They are always outdoors, but I’ve never seen it rained out. One of the nice things about the Capsule fair is that is often coincides with the Hayes Valley Merchants’ Block Party, the Linden Street Fair, and other events that make the neighborhood a true destination on that date. Most times I’ve visited the fair, the surrounding residential blocks have also had giant communal yard sales — another draw for passersby.

You can register to be a designer at the Capsule web site (yes, crafters can participate, too). Once you’re approved, you can also reserve your booth right on the site. The fee for the day is $190 (a little steeper than usual) and gets you an 8x 10 booth (a little bigger than usual). I can personally vouch for the great attendance at this fair, and it’s an especially great place to show if you carry goods that typically price you out of the traditional craft market. There are lots of vendors with average price points of $100, for example, but be aware that customers willing to spend that much will want to be able to pay with a credit card.

Resident Tip: arrive really early — by 9am at the latest — to get first pick at the local yard sales and skip the huge line at Blue Bottle Coffee on Linden.