Bazaar Bizarre Maker Faire Applications Now Open!

Time to apply for the Bazaar Bizarre Maker Faire 2010!  Now accepting applications through March 16th 2010.

Maker Faire is a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and love to make things. From a vendor standpoint, this fair is AMAZING.  I make more sales at the Maker Faire than at any other fair ever.  Period.  Also, on load-in day there’s free dinner and a chance to visit everything and meet everyone without the huge crowds.  This is a huge bonus because the exhibits (and rides!) at the Maker Faire are hands-down the coolest you’ll ever see.  Of course, this also makes getting a booth at the Baz Biz Maker Faire extremely competitive, so bring your A-game to this application, folks!

Maker Faire Madness

It’s been a crazy week.  After getting back from New York late Monday night it was a mad dash to finish two days worth of contract work and everything I needed to do for the Bazaar Bizarre and When Creativity Knocks (both at this past weekend’s Maker Faire).  I only slept 5 hours each night, during which time I had several stress dreams, including having to perform a trapeze act in front of thousands of people with only ten minutes training by a hairy, naked French woman.  I ditched the circus as soon as I realized my face wasn’t on the poster and the audience wasn’t expecting me anyway.

There were a few snags, like having to leave Eleanor on her own to finish the last hour of mock-ups, and not being able to find the catnip, bells and beans I needed for the WCF steak cat toy demo, but everything got done in the end and the results were fair to good.  The Bazaar Bizarre raffle looked fantastic (thank you volunteers and friends/family of Jamie!), the demo went smoothly (though I had to omit the filling step), and the Sweet Meats sold really well.  In fact, all the vendors did really well.  Everyone kept remarking on how the recession didn’t seem to exist inside the Maker Faire.  Maybe the attendees save so much money by growing their own food and building their own vehicles that they have plenty left over to spend on plush meats and robot soap dispensers.

I love that the Maker Faire Bazaar Bizarre helps me pay my June rent, but I get a little sad that I can’t attend it anymore.  I got to go the first year, which was awesome, but it’s so much bigger than it used to be and all of the new stuff is so tempting.  I want so badly to ride the two-person ferris wheel, but my short lunch break doesn’t allow time to wait on the long line.  This year many of the exhibits were open on load-in day (Friday), so I got to see a few things after setting up that night, but I had to work all that day, so my participation there was limited to about half an hour.  Next year I’m going to load-in first thing on Friday so I can spend the rest of the day exploring the exhibits.  Not everything will be up, but I’m sure it will still fill the day.  One highlight of the Faire was getting an Editor’s Choice ribbon from Becky Stern at Craftzine.  I’ve been secretly coveting one of these for years (I’m a HUGE fan of Craft) and it gave me a nice “mission accomplished” feeling at the end of an insane week.

maker faire editors choice

The day after the Maker Faire was my birthday, so I did a little shopping for myself on Sunday.  I got an awesome tool apron from Polly Danger (I made her assistant take off the one he was wearing and hand it over), a sweet little wrist wallet from eleen, and the most awesome snail mail stationery set from Jill K. in L.A.  My friend Lydia moved across the country to Pittsburgh so I am currently writing her real letters on ugly stationery I bought in high school with lots of cross outs.  She types on lovely onion skin paper using an antique typewriter.  I think the snails will help bring me a step up.  When I first saw the stationery in L.A. I was determined to buy a set even though it seemed expensive to spend $5 for one letter’s worth of paper and envelopes.  Then I heard a man at another booth explain to his wife that of course he was going to buy this $6 card, because he couldn’t think of anything better to spend his money on than a way to meaningfully communicate with his friends.  I couldn’t agree more.

tool apronwrist walletsnail mail stationery set

Three More Days to Apply for Bazaar Bizarre

This Wednesday, April 1st, is the deadline to apply for the May Bazaar Bizarre, which takes place during the Maker Faire in San Mateo on May 30-31st.  If you make your own wares, and you only have the time/budget to do one craft fair this year, apply for the Bazaar Bizarre.  Not only is it by FAR the least expensive to participate in ($130 for the entire weekend!), they really take care of you, providing dollies, load-in help, and free food and drinks all day long.  They even have volunteers to man your booth while you take a bathroom break or go get lunch!

The spring Bazaar Bizarre is always extremely well-attended.  60,000 people went to last year’s Maker Faire, and I think most of them came through the Bazaar.  Most of the time it was so packed I couldn’t even see the booth across from mine.  Last year it took the organizers a full hour after closing time to get customers to stop shopping and leave.  Having learned from experience, this year’s Bazaar will run two hours longer.

There are only 70 booths available for the Bazaar Bizarre, so competition is pretty stiff — usually two to three vendors vying for each spot.  But the organizers are committed to always reserving a certain percentage of booths for new crafters, so even if you haven’t been accepted before, keep applying.

Review of May Events: Bazaar Bizarre @ Maker Faire

(May 3-4th) This was the third annual spring Bazaar Bizarre held in conjunction with Make magazine’sMaker Faire.” I love participating in this event but it has changed drastically from year to year, so you never really know what it’s going to be like.

At the first Maker Faire, the Bazaar Bizarre was pretty small, and held outdoors. I didn’t vend that year, I only visited, so I don’t know much else about it. The second year, the Baz Biz moved indoors to a huge hangar-like pavilion. There were hundreds of vendors, and we shared the space with the main stage and dozens of workshops, demonstrations and displays. Many customers complained that they felt confused and overwhelmed by the barrage of multi-sensory stimuli, so the Bazaar switched gears again. This year’s event was held indoors, in a comparatively small and carpeted room. There were fewer than half as many vendors as last year, and the overall atmosphere was much quieter and calmer. Even the knitting drummer was deemed too disruptive and made to move outside. Had she not been a vendor, I think the postcard “machine” may have been next.

As usual, Jaime and her family were on-hand to make sure everyone was fed, happy and provided for. This year they also started a raffle to help offset the cost of running the event, to which I happily donated a Family Size Hambone. Anything that helps keep the Baz Biz the best deal in town ($120 for the whole weekend!) is something I will fully support.

The only area which could have been improved was parking. It was a bit confusing getting to the lot, and also figuring out at which gate to park once you were inside. I had to move my car twice. There also seemed to be some confusion about whether or not vendors had to pay for parking. I was told, for example, that parking would be free in the following instances: if I left the lot immediately after loading in; if I moved my car to the far end of the lot, where I would not be competing with paying customers; if I arrived prior to 8am. All of these statements were either false or not communicated properly to the booth attendants, because we had to pay the full parking price both days. It wasn’t really a big deal, but it would have been nice to have definite information about everything in advance.

All in all, the Baz Biz was totally worth it (and always is). I cashed in about 50% more than last year and even got a couple of return customers this weekend at the Capsule Festival. As an added bonus, on my way to get lunch I saw a wedding at the life-sized Mouse Trap game! The giant weight at the end crushed a white wedding cake, which was a little sad but also kind of awesome.

Baz Biz Maker Faire 2008

baz biz header

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. The Maker Faire is coming up and the Bazaar Bizarre is accepting applications for this much-anticipated springtime event. The Faire is happening Saturday and Sunday, May 3rd and 4th at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in San Mateo, CA.  Visit this page for more specific info about the craft fair.

I can’t recommend the Bazaar Bizarre highly enough (see my review of the Holiday Baz Biz here). It is run like a well-oiled machine that hands out milk and cookies and it gives you incredible bang for your buck. Here are some of great benefits of participating:

  • The booth fee is only $110 for the entire weekend. I’ve always grossed at least ten times that, so it’s definitely worth it.
  • You get into the Maker Faire for free. Bring a couple of friends to work the table with you and you can take turns going to awesome free workshops and demos all weekend.
  • Jamie Chan is not only extremely nice, she’s totally on top of her shit. I’ve never had to go looking for chairs or parking and she always provides snacks, drinks, and craft fair survival kits (courtesy of the Sampler) to the vendors.
  • There’s always lots of local press roaming around.
  • No matter who they are, your booth neighbors will be awesome.
  • Post-show trading! You can do your gift shopping early and barter for all of it.

I know there’s more, but I just can’t think of it right now. People come from all over the country to sell at this event, so this is not just a posting for local folks. Especially if you’re within driving distance, it’s worth it in my opinion to apply.

Craft Fair Report: Bazaar Bizarre San Francisco

Yesterday I participated in the San Francisco Bazaar Bizarre, a large holiday craft fair (~100 vendors), that was held this year in the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. The Bazaar Bizarre is organized mainly by Jamie Chan of Mary Jane’s Attic, along with help from her family and friends. I honestly don’t know how she does it all — heading up the Bazaar Bizarre, teaching Science, running her own fiber arts business, organizing events for the San Francisco Craft Mafia, and writing for blogs like CraftGossip’s Indie Craft Blog — but this woman is my hero. Jamie is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and never seems to break a sweat. She even has time to shop at her own events! Jamie is now the owner of some Sweet Meats, and I have added her needle felting kit to my Christmas list.

The first Bazaar Bizarre in which I participated was part of the Maker Faire earlier this year. It went extremely well from both a sales and marketing perspective but I think yesterday’s Baz Biz went even better. The publicity for the fair was excellent and the place was packed from opening to closing. Jamie made sure everything ran smoothly, from parking spots for load-in, to wheeling around the dolly when we all broke our tables down. There were food and drinks for vendors, Craft Fair Survival Kits from the folks at The Sampler, and stickers courtesy of Mrs. Grossman’s, one of the fair’s sponsors. Everyone seemed to do a brisk business and the building was warm and well-lighted.

As usual, I was not totally prepared for this event. I had all of my display stuff together, most of which was still packed up from the Baz Biz in May, but I was sadly lacking in inventory. In the rush of online holiday orders, I’ve been having trouble keeping up. I was still sending out packages on Thursday. I had about a dozen meats and a few t-shirts left over, and I made another dozen or so meats on Friday. I rationalized that since it was exactly the amount of goods I sold in one day at the last fair, I would be fine. But holiday fairs are a separate beast from spring fairs. People are shopping especially for gift items and they spend their cash much less critically. Yesterday’s Bazaar Bizarre ran from 11-6 but by 3:30 I was sold out of everything other than a few pairs of earrings. I received a lot of congratulations from shops and other vendors who saw my “Sorry, Sold Out” sign, but the truth is, I just wasn’t adequately organized.

You see, I’ve always been somewhat of a slave to the “tyranny of the urgent.” I tend to put the retail sales of plush meats above everything else. Especially in December, this is my primary source of income, so even though it keeps my business from moving forward in a timely fashion, it becomes my top priority. Orders also realistically need to get out within a week of their receipt, so despite not being the most important item on my business plan, it’s the item that usually needs to happen the fastest. In the end, this just pushes back the even more important stuff until it, too, becomes time critical. But you don’t want to have to rush things like new product development, publication design and trade show presentations.

Now that the fair is over and I have the slimmest of financial cushions, I’m trying to get back to what’s important rather than what’s urgent. Luckily, I can rest easy knowing that I will never again have to sew a dozen plush meats the day before a holiday craft fair, because by the time the next one rolls around, I will have boxes of them already made. It makes me really look forward to the next Bazaar Bizarre. Who knows how much I might be able to sell when I don’t sell out?

Bazaar Bizarre SF 2007