Monday, July 31, 2017

Tales from the craft fair: selling at Bushwick Vendors Market

This year, I've done more vending at craft fairs than I have in all of my other years of making jewelry combined. Though I've mainly sold at Ridgewood Market's monthly event, I've been experimenting with different venues. This weekend, I sold at the Bushwick Vendors Market, which was an interesting experience, to say the least.

Bushwick, Brooklyn is about a mile up from Ridgewood, which is right on the Queens/BK border. Both neighborhoods have reputations for being funky and artsy, and are the perfect places for hosting craft fairs. I figured that the BVM would be a similar type of event to Ridgewood, where local artists showcase and sell their work. I was wrong.

The event was advertised as a night market which would feature music, art and crafts. I figured it would be a fair that included some live bands. Instead, it was an immersive music/art/jam session... that just happened to have a few vendors present. Though the host was Brooklyn VENDORS Market, the vendors seemed to be an afterthought.

I really liked the space where the event was held: The Silent Barn. It's an open hall, which has an area for bands or parties, and there's a bar and backyard garden. Since it was such a beautiful night, I set up my table outside -- and was surrounded by fun and colorful graffiti art.

At first, I thought I'd be the only vendor present, but eventually four other sellers arrived. One couple sold postcards, another T-shirts, and a couple of women sold home goods. Like I said, though, these booths were an afterthought. Instead, most of the participants came to paint, drink and hang out.

This particular crowd was very, VERY young; I'm guessing that most of the people there were in their early 20s -- just old enough to drink. I'm 43 and Jon is 45... and while I consider myself to be "young at heart," this crowd made me feel ancient, lol! Jon was very amused when the bartender carded him. I explained that he was probably told to card everyone... and just wasn't expecting a geezer to show up. I thought I was on top of pop culture trends, but I didn't recognize any of the music played and the fashions weren't any I'd seen before. Apparently, I'm quite out of the loop...

There was a group of actual kids who arrived, probably around age 11-12 or so. Maybe they were with a summer camp? I'm not sure. They came early and engaged in the free painting that was offered. They did notice my table, though, and crowded around to admire my jewelry. "Do we have to pay for these?" asked a boy. I explained that yes, they're for sale and a girl sighed loudly. "They're all so pretty. I wish they were free!" Sorry, kids! I'm happy they liked my work. They had a great time painting and I enjoyed watching them express themselves through their art.

As the night went on, more young adults arrived. Many stopped by to check out my work, but the problem with selling to a younger crowd is that many just don't have cash. I can certainly understand this. Chances are, they're paying off college loans or have just started renting a place, or are at a new job. At this point, I accepted that I wouldn't be making any sales, but still wanted to see what the evening had in store.

To my surprise, I actually made a few sales. One was to another jewelry vendor, who'd arrived late. She's a fellow cat lover and purchased one of my cat rings. She was very sweet and gave me a hug after buying her jewelry. Of course, we showed each other photos of our kitties.

Around 10 p.m., the event host announced that it was time for some entertainment. I expected to hear some live music, but instead, everyone engaged in an open mic session. The host encouraged people to express themselves through poetry, music, rap, etc. A few people took the mic and recited poems or sang songs. Meanwhile, others continued to paint and the space filled up with the art. The host explained that they'd succeeded in making the space a diverse and integrated one, welcoming people from all backgrounds and race. Indeed, it was a diverse crowd, which is one of the things I love about New York City.

I have to say that everyone was extremely polite and encouraging to those who went up to speak or sing. Some shared some very personal stories, but the crowd applauded loudly and cheered them on. I really enjoyed seeing the next generation engage in art, literature and music.

In the end, I took a loss since my sales didn't make up for the registration fee. This obviously wasn't the vending event I'd expected and I didn't quite fit in. Still, I'm glad I attended the festival and am happy that my money went toward a great cause. I'm all for promoting the arts, especially to younger folk -- and I love that there's a free space where 20somethings can share their work.

Check out the rest of my handmade jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

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