What I learned at the craft fair: Lesson 5 -- Please try this at home

Is selling stuff evil?
When friends ask how last week's craft fair went, I usually answer "It was fun, but I didn't make as much money as last time." But sales aren't the only gauge of success. I learned a lot (as these posts show, I hope), met nice people, and spent quality time with Mr. Creative Upcycling.

And I learned one more thing -- inspiring others to upcycle is just as important than getting them to buy my stuff.

In fact, maybe it's even more important. After all, the primary goal of upcycling is to consume less and re-use more. At times, during the craft fair, I wondered if I was coaxing people to do the opposite -- buy stuff they didn't need.

What worried me even more was how the youngest fairgoers leered at my colorful wares. Like these.
Tapping into kids consumerism
Which one is not like the others?
(Well, not the pink one.) Thanks to their brand precocity, kids immediately recognized the mouse and the fat bear. I was ringing the capitalist bell and waiting for them to salivate. Yikes.

So I started telling these proto-consumers, "Hey, I bet you could make one of these at home!" Parents nodded in agreement. I gave older kids more specific instructions. At my next craft fair, I decided, I'll bring printed directions so kids can make a blank book or e-reader case or Scrabble bracelet at home. 

And if I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll put up a small table where kids can make their own upcycled creations, right there at the fair. What cool things would they make out of dice, dominos, fabric scraps, broken Scrabble tiles, and reams of book pages? Instead of teaching them to be consumers, I'd be tapping into their innate creativity.
Used items to repurpose
Take my stash. PLEASE!
But it sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Still, shouldn't I at least try to listen to my better angels?

my better angel
Tidings of comfort and re-use
One angel actually showed up at my table. She was a 5th-grade teacher. One look at my blank books and she asked, "Could you teach kids how to do this?" Uhhhh, I don't know. A room full of 11-year-olds wielding sharp sewing needles? But I said I'd give it a try.

What do you think? Is selling stuff at odds with upcycling?


  1. Wow! Such good questions. You're ideas sound like a lot of work but you really may be on to something. I've been thinking a lot about the consumerism within craft fairs and on Etsy. If I believe that experiences are more important than objects why am I jumping into the world of peddling stuff?

    BUT! Craft fairs ARE experiences, especially if you're going with the purpose of finding inspiration and maybe supporting a local artist. And your work in particular lends itself to providing both objects and experiences. I say go for it if it feels right. I love the idea of providing sheets with instructions (be sure to include your Etsy site) and really, a booth full of busy hands seems way more fun than just standing around and saying "hi".

  2. How about giving classes for kids? They could bring in their old junk and you could help them upcycle it.

  3. Classes for kids would be fun. I might practice on the Brownie troop I help with first. Jenn, I like the idea of thinking in terms of experiences, not just commodities. Something to stew on.


Post a Comment