Craft shows for dummies

From Sunshine Artist Magazine, July 2007

Crafts and Craft Shows: How to Make Money, by Philip Kadubec, Allworth Press, 225 pages, $19.95.

I don’t know about you, but I resent being called a dummy, especially by the authors of those “for dummies” books. Philip Kadubec, the author of Crafts and Crafts Shows, would probably never have called anyone a dummy, as he was an advocate of treating everyone in the craft business with respect, especially your customers. But that’s about the best way to describe his book, which is a great tool for crafters who are either new to the show circuit or are simply feeling overwhelmed by all the details.

Kadubec’s book is filled with common-sense advice that you probably could have come up with yourself if you had the time. But most of you don’t. “A craft show certainly doesn’t require formal attire, and your customers may look like they walked out of a rummage sale, but you shouldn’t,” he advises. “Looking like a throwback to the sixties or a homeless person begging on a street corner is not going to inspire confidence in your or your product. Nor is it going to help you develop a rapport with your potential customers.”

He doesn’t stop there. Kadubec uses his 15 years of experience on the circuit as a seller of handmade baskets to offer almost every kind of suggestion related to the industry, from the aforementioned no-brainer advice on how to dress to a formula for calculating price to the best way to apply to shows. He even has a section devoted to booth design, although, as with the entire book, he’s geared it to craft events, not fine art shows. That means that fine artists, especially those who have been on the circuit a while, should give the book a miss, particularly as he advises exhibitors to “bury your artistic ego” and “appeal primarily to a customer’s wishes, desires and fantasies.” In the end, this is a book about running a crafts business, not expressing your artistic vision, although Kadubec might have argued that the two can go hand in hand.

Kadubec passed away in 2002, and this new edition has been updated by veteran jeweler Brauna Rosen. Admittedly, Rosen does provide some useful updates to the first edition of the book, which came out in 2000: She further amplifies Kadubec’s analysis of pricing, addresses digital jurying and discusses the growth of buy/sell and imported items. However, because she chooses to insert her observations in the middle of chapters instead of simply adding a new chapter or two at the end of the book, her contributions interrupt the flow of the first edition. Just as you’re getting used to the style of Kadubec, she interjects with thoughts of her own. It makes for choppy reading, despite the overall value of her comments.

If you already own the first edition, give this second one a miss. But if you’re new to the circuit or just need more advice on how to apply to shows, how to deal with promoters or whether to get involved with wholesalers, give Crafts and Craft Shows a try. And don’t feel like a dummy. We’ve all been there before.