Renegade L.A.

This past weekend I participated in the Renegade Craft Fair’s first ever Los Angeles show.  I’ve never done a Renegade show but I kept hearing form other vendors that the L.A. show was nowhere near as good as last year’s San Francisco show, which is coming up again next week.

Renegade L.A. was held in the California Market Center, the same venue where Unique L.A. is held.  It’s not my favorite space.  Firstly, it’s downtown, which is dead on the weekends, so there is no casual foot traffic, but I’m not sure there’s any place in L.A. that gets much random foot traffic full of eager craft buyers.  Secondly, it’s located on the 13th floor of the CMC, which can make loading in and out a nightmare.  This wasn’t as much of an issue with the Renegade Fair as with the Unique L.A. show because Renegade had fewer vendors.  Thirdly, the 13th floor is a labrynthine mess.  People can’t figure out where they are or what they’ve already seen.  This makes your success extremely dependent on your booth location.  If you’re near the elevators and bathrooms, you’re fine, but once you get into the deeper recesses of “the penthouse” traffic dwindles significantly.

I made a little more money at the Renegade fair than at Unique L.A., even though there were fewer shoppers, because Renegade skews more toward my usual demographic, which is less fashionable/trendy and more indie/crafty.  I don’t think I’ll be able to do any more L.A. fairs, though, because my sister is moving back to NYC.  That means no more helper and no more free room and board.

The best part of fairs like Renegade is the awesome people you get to hang out with.  I got to chat with Jenny Hart and Rob Mahar (each just shopping for a change), both of whom I never get to see because we all live in different cities.  I also exchanged hand signals with my L.A. “booth brother,” Adam from the Poster List.  We’ve been placed across from each other at every L.A. fair we’ve ever done, but he speaks quietly and I’m hard of hearing, so we communicate via sign language.  Adam is a real hardcore craft vendor.  He never leaves his booth during show hours (eight hours a day at Renegade!) and never starts packing up early.  I know he hides Starbucks lemon loaves under the table, but how does he pee?!

I also met a ton of fantastic new people this weekend, most of whom will be at Rengade SF this weekend, including my awesome neighbor, illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald.  How gorgeous is this painting?

I also got to know Robert Goodin, who traded me this jah-mazing refillable sketchbook (which I have been sorely needing) for a giant ham

woodsketchbook

…and all the ladies at Krank Press, where I bought the perfect little birthday calendar (which I have also been needing).  Each page is letterpressed in three colors and contains California planting and harvesting information for each month in addition to spaces for each date.  The whole calendar was only $15!  What are they, crazy?  I know underpricing is a craft-world epidemic, but how can you even survive on that?  Geez, when I think of the cost of paper, inks, binding, printing plates, AND the very skilled labor is takes to print 14 pages three times each, I’m a little astounded that Nor can eat three meals a day.

birthdaycalendar

I also got to chat a while with the gals at dust and co. and Porterness, where I scored this tote for a cycling friend who hates Prius drivers even more than he hates tomatoes.

fuckyourprius

Elijah at Figs and Ginger gave me a deal on these totally sweet earrings in exchange for some fashion advice…

…and Erin Dollar (also an underpricer in my opinion) wowed me with her varied crafty talents.

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Recession Guilt

On November 30th, I participated in the second annual San Francisco Holiday Bazaar Bizarre.  I asked many of my fellow vendors how they were doing and I got the same response from all of them: “It’s going well, but not as well as last year.”  Many of them acted apologetic for having said this, abruptly adding qualifiers like, “But last year was crazy,” as if they didn’t deserve such a singular event to repeat itself.

I admit, I felt similarly.  I felt guilty for the moderate success I was having during one of the worst holiday shopping seasons on record.  I felt guilty at the Mission Bazaar the following weekend, and guilty at the Unique Los Angeles fair the weekend after that.  Even if sales were slightly down from previous years, it didn’t seem right to be turning a healthy profit when other vendors were slashing their prices to wholesale or cost.  Three-color letterpress cards were 6 for $10 at at least two different stationery booths!  You can’t even buy cards at the drugstore that cheaply.

Now this may not be p.c., or even totally true, but I’m going to say it: I think we’re feeling undeserving because we’re women.  Generally speaking, I believe that a man would be more likely to attribute his success to talent and intelligence than to good fortune.  Why?  Because as women, we can’t abide the opposite.  I don’t want to believe that my fellow Biz Misses are having trouble because they are being naive, inert, or unsavvy.  They are my sisters-in-arms, and it seems mean to imply that they are responsible for their own troubles.  It’s much easier to attribute my success to random factors like booth location.

Of course, luck has something to do with the success or failure of every business, but I guess the lesson is to make your business hardy and flexible enough to withstand unanticipated events.  Start slowly, build slowly, and have a diverse set of products, markets or sources of incoWhen sales are slow, use the extra time to focus on marketing strategies, product development and setting up infrastructure, so that when the market turns around (and it always does), you’ll be ready to take off.