Gourds by Laurie Banner

How do I find the Shows?
Finding craft shows to participate in is not difficult at all! Check with your local newspaper first. The Chronicle in Houston (where I live) puts out a complete listing each year during the summer of all the upcoming shows thru December. There are many good sources on-line now too. Just do a search for your "city name" and the word "Craft Show" or "Craft Shows". Many of the cheapest craft shows will be at local church bazaars or schools. Don't forget to check with your states "Gourd Society" they usually hold a show each year. Another opportunity for selling your gourds would be at a flea market. Tables or booths can often be purchased for as low as $10.00 at some of them. However, you probably won't do too well with the higher priced pieces at flea markets.

How much will a booth cost?
As for the average prices for getting booths at most craft shows&ldots;&ldots;&ldots;They can range from $10.00 to $200.00 for a 10x10 area. The more popular the show is and where it's located will determine this. Most of the time you will also be expected to donate 1 or 2 items from your table for raffling or auction.

How do I decide which show to be in and how do I decide where I want to be located within the show?
Be sure to check out what shows will be competing against each other that weekend and find out what table locations are available at the ones you are considering. (A table in the back of a show sometimes has a lack of traffic!)
I have found I do best outside the entrance of the building or near the center where they are holding the raffling. Corner tables are also better because you have two different directions for your customers to view your table and you can also set up a better presentation.

Be sure to take with you:
Towels to wipe your gourds (The ground may be dusty and foot traffic will stir it up, also a lot of people will be touching them)
Extra price tags
Plenty of change so you don't loose any sales (everyone will have 20 dollar bills ;)

Waterproof pen (People may ask you to sign the gourds)
Cash box or fanny pack
Tissue paper and bags for wrapping and packing
Comfortable chair
Flyers (Include your website, e-mail address, phone #, a paragraph about the history and facts about gourds, and perhaps a picture of one of yours. People like these to give to the person they are giving your gourd to when they buy them as gifts. They also serve as advertising for your website)

How should I price and tag my gourds and what type of work sells good at craft shows?
OK. As for prices.... That's a hard one!! I started out with rules for myself such as, the max for a birdhouse was $28.00. It worked well and I would suggest doing that at first to gain clientele. Decide what you think the reasonable person would pay for that item (no matter how it's decorated) and then devise a price range. i.e. all my bowls will cost from $15.00 to $100.00 or all birdhouses will cost $10.00 thru $100.00. You have to figure in how many uses there are for that item! Don't pyroengrave a birdhouse with an elaborate scene that takes you 80 hours until your work is well known, if you expect to sell it! You will only disappoint yourself. I do very well with $40.00 birdhouses. They sell faster than I can make them. The biggest sellers are the smaller ornaments. I sell them for $10.00 - $20.00 (hardly worth the time they take) but, large quantities can be made rather quickly for a show. I would highly suggest offering something like this! Again, They are only big money makers in the fact that you can make many of them in a short amount of time. But, they draw people to your table. You can also offer personalization for a low price. This serves a greater purpose in that people will come to your table just to see you work!
I also tag each gourd with a description, the # of the gourd and a list which includes; any colors used in the design, what type of finish I used, materials such as, bone beads, feathers, sinew, etc., and I also tell whether or not the item contains any toxic materials.

Most importantly.........I would advise never trying to sell a gourd that you don't have complete confidence in! Often flaws such as bug holes add to the uniqueness of a pyroengraved piece or it is possible to fill in a crack before painting a birdhouse if done well. But, if a gourd is weak and it wants to cave in while your cleaning it or if the gourd has a crack along it's entire length then toss it! You will have a lot of return customers next year if the pieces they own last! I mention this only because I have had several people tell me "I was at a craft show last year and bought a snowman gourd from someone and it was rotted when I pulled it out this year" There are many gourd crafters that think they can skimp on basecoats and no one will know............ That really matters if you plan on selling gourds to the same people next year! I like the fact that I can assure people that they will enjoy my gourds for many many years! I also offer an unconditional money back guarantee (and so far have not had to honor it but gladly would!) I think the confidence you have when selling them knowing this helps too! Almost all of my work is pyroengraved and I like pointing out the fact that I used a natural hole in the gourd to make a knot in a tree. But, if I can't tell them about the flaw then it's not good enough to sell. That's my rule and I have never had any complaints from my long time customers so it must be working! Believe me, I am glad I started out with that standard, because I had been crafting all my life and had no idea I had finally found the craft I would stick with! When I started out doing craft shows I was in the military and I would go to the local woodworking school where they threw out their scrap wood every night and I made country signs or whatever else I could think to make from it. Honestly, I am sure that most of those aren't around anymore.

Tips from my experience at craft shows&ldots;&ldots;.
I have been selling my gourds at craft shows for 7 years and (usually) completely sell out at every show. I have found that the key is to have a wide variety of gourds on your table! By "wide variety" I mean in style and price! Think about your own tastes.... For example, if you don't like oil paintings, then you're probably going to pass up a table that has nothing but oil paintings on it. Try to show a variety so that everyone will see something that will make them stop to see your work! I have found that the holiday gourds (snowmen, etc.) and the painted gourds are what draws people to my table and then it's up to me to tell them everything I can about the gourds until they are so amazed that I then get the opportunity to explain what it takes to make the ones that are more expensive (the artistic, rather than crafty) ones. The typical person at a craft show didn't come there intending to buy art. They are looking for deals on gifts or decorations for their own home. This is where the variety in prices on your gourds will come in. I attended a craft show last year and for the first time I decided to make Christmas decorations out of small egg gourds. I had purchased 50 of them and burned them "Texas" style with cactus, barbwire, boots, etc. and wrote "Merry Texmas 2002" on each one and hung them with a simple gold wire. I could not believe it&ldots;&ldots;&ldots;&ldots;they sold out the first day and they really brought a lot of attention to my table! It was a really crummy craft show and I don't think I would have sold much of anything if I had not had them! I had a ton of people coming back to the show the next day because they had decided they wanted more and left the show with orders that filled my time for the next couple of weeks!

I suggest getting into the 2-day shows because I promise you that if your presentation is good enough, people will come back and bring their friends just to see you! Gourds are so unique and they take a long time to make so don't sell yourself short. Expect the fact that many people are coming to craft shows to buy nothing over $2.00. They will lean over to their friend and make rude comments and sometimes they will even say things to you that make you just want to pack up your stuff and go home! However, I promise you that the ones that praise your gourds will make it all worthwhile!

I place a large gourd chart hanging on the front of my table and I also pass out copies of a newspaper article that was written about me in Japan. I also put many gourd-crafting books on the table. Press the fact that gourds are collectibles and last a very long time. You will find that many people just think you are some crazy person decorating fruit. The things I mentioned above will help to make them see that you are only carrying on a long lost tradition :)
Gourds really aren't the kind of craft that will sell themselves while you just sit back behind your table reading a magazine and It's up to you to explain why pyroengraved work or Indian pieces that contain expensive embellishments are worth more than a painted decoration that is the same size!
I can't stress enough that it takes a lot of talking to sell gourds. You have to be ready to explain yourselves. Know a bit of the history behind them and the scientific names for the types of gourds you're using. Personally, I make a lot more money selling gourds online or to shops but, I love the craft shows just because I get to meet the people I am selling to and to have people standing packed around your table to hear what your saying about the gourds is just so exciting! I now have to get someone to go with me to pack and take money because when I get a crowd going I loose sells if I have to stop talking. I am so shy, but when I go to these shows I just get really excited about the gourds and I tend to get others excited too. Sometimes I feel bad because the crafters around me will come and ask, "How do you get a crowd like that?" or tell me how they haven't sold very much.
The fact is that gourds are unique! Unless you are at a "Gourd" show you will probably be the only one there selling gourds. Remember that! Go prepared to tell people what they are all about and you are sure to be a hit.

If you have never been at a craft show before you will find there are some key "rules" to follow and some very common ideas to keep in mind for each show. Most of the people at craft shows spend an enormous amount of time (and money) getting ready for them. For this reason, you will run into some really stressed out people (hopefully, not in the booth next to yours!) On the upside, you will meet some very unique and nice people too. Just take it all in stride. You will most likely make some good friends and great contacts for future craft shows. You will also find that the same people go to the same craft shows every year so, it's best just to be nice to everyone! and don't break the cardinal rule......"IF YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE BLOCKING YOUR NEIGHBORS BOOTHS IN ANY WAY POLITELY ASK THEM TO MOVE AND EXPLAIN TO THEM THAT YOU ALL HAVE SUCH A SMALL AREA" This will please the person next to you and they will return the favor. It really bites when you aren't getting any customers just because the booth next to you isn't paying attention to the fact that no one can see you!!!!! A lot of people get so excited that they don't think about this. Watch for it constantly and keep in mind where your customers will be standing while setting up your table. It's a problem at almost every show I go to and every customer that passes counts at most shows!