Biz Miss Workshop in San Francisco April 4th

Reading blogs is great, but sometimes you want more.  Sometimes you want to be able to ask questions in person, as they come up.  Sometimes you want to be around other people who are struggling to do the same things you are.  Sometimes you want to learn a little more interactively than you do by just reading.

That’s why on Saturday, April 4th, I will be co-teaching a crafty business workshop with Jamie Chan (Bazaar Bizarre, Mary Jane’s Attic, Urban Fauna Studio) at the California College of Arts.  From 10am until 4pm we’ll be covering everything from marketing to pricing to leasing retail space in an intimate, interactive format.  This is a Continuing Ed. workshop, so there’s no application necessary, but space is limited, so be sure to register early.  At $75 for the whole day, this workshop is already a bargain, but I guarantee it will pay for itself in less than a week.  Bring stories and questions to share, and we in turn will provide a cornucopia of resources for you to take with you.  See you there!

When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Closet

I was saddened to learn recently that San Francisco’s Stitch Lounge is closing its doors for good.  Though it will continue to operate as an online entity, offering tutorials and a blog, their fantastic, in-person classes are coming to an end on September 12th (click here to sign up for one last class).  Here is a snippet of the announcement the lovely Biz Misses of Stitch posted on their website:

Some 4 and a half years ago, three hopeful soon-to-be-Stitch-B*tches held hands and jumped and opened the first sewing lounge ever….We achieved so much more than we ever imagined and so it is with pride that we look to our next life chapter where we focus on our families and (non sewing) full-time careers. To make room for our new experiences, the time has come for us to close the San Francisco lounge (the brick and mortar portion of it, that is). While the physical studio will no longer be available, we will keep the virtual lounge alive and continue to post free downloadable tutorials and keep you up to date with the goings on in the sewing and fashion world and with the crazy B*tches!

But as they say, when God closes a door, he opens a closet, sometimes in the form of a tiny fiber arts studio.  On August 25th, Jamie Chan, the organizer of my favorite craft fair, Bazaar Bizarre, and the person who introduced me to needle felting (i.e. wool sculpture) announced the opening of Urban Fauna Studio, the brick-and-mortar entity of her business, Mary Jane’s Attic.  UFS is located at 1311 16th Avenue (between Irving and Judah) and has hours Friday - Monday 10-6:30 PM and by appointment.  Like the Stitch Lounge, Urban Fauna Studio is an open workshop that hosts classes, sells supplies and runs a consignment boutique.  But whereas Stitch emphasized sewing, Urban Fauna is all about everything fiber arts, from spinning to felting to weaving, and only carries eco-friendly, socially responsible products by independent designers, like Biz Miss favorite, Girl on the Rocks.  I am VERY excited to stop in this weekend.

Also on my list of must-see shops this weekend is WhizBang Fabrics, in the Mission/Potrero Hill neighborhood.  WhizBang also opened just this year and were responsible for this summer’s RockMake Street Festival, which combines my two most favorite things: rock and roll and crafting.  I couldn’t decide whether to apply as a maker or as a musician, but then I found out I’d be on my honeymoon then, so that settled that.  Located at 3150 18th Street, Suite 113 (on Treat @ 18th), WhizBang carries mostly printed cottons, both vintage and modern.  Though I have yet to visit, they carried many WhizBang fabrics at the Stitch Lounge and from what I’ve seen, the designs are really fantastic.

Though neither Urban Fauna Studio nor WhizBang are a substitute for the Stitch Lounge, they both give me something new to get excited about and it’s nice to still see Biz Misses blazing trails out there.  Rock on, ladies!

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.

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