It's so difficult to plan for something you've never done before. After 10 years of doing them, I have craft fairs down. Before I show up, I know exactly how much space I'll have, so I'm able to plan/build/make to specific specs and there's really no guess-work. I have a good sense of how much jewelry I'll need to make and what kinds of displays work best, and really the only unknown at that point is the weather.
But a national tour? Living out of a suitcase on a tourbus? Setting up and breaking down twice a night, in a different city every day? Sometimes I don't even know when I'll be able to use the bathroom next.
Before the tour, I had no idea how payment processing was going to work (individually or through the merch guy), how much room we'd have for our work (sharing the merch table or individual booths), or even how many people to expect for crafting each night.
So I did what I could and tried to plan for the best, and the worst.
Some of the things I've learned:
- Even if you think you're only going to be offered a small space with limited merch, pack like you're going to be able to have a whole lot more. Because you might.
- Make a lot in advance, but also bring supplies to make more. Also, your 'studio' is going to be in a different place every day, so easy access is important. I remembered extra supplies but I wish I had packed in the following categories to make organization easier and setup faster:
- Jewelry supplies
- Merch supplies (price tags, pouches, info. cards, etc.)
Why? Because sometimes I'm like, where are those tags again? And then I'm like, oh yeah, they're stuffed between the leather scraps, the cutting mat, the extra knot necklaces, and the hole puncher. When breaking down and setting up constantly, efficiency and organization is key, even if it means packing an extra bag.
- Pack emergen-c. When sleeping on a bus with 11 other people, you gotta keep yourself healthy!
- Don't party too much after the shows because, remember, you'll be on a moving bus and there's really no place to puke. I mean, you're only allows to pee on the bus and no TP is allowed, so I'm pretty sure puking is a no-no.
- Make sure to set your sales tax correctly! It SEEMS counter-intuitive, but your square will actually allow you to have several sales tax rates on at one time, and you can accidentally overcharge people :( Each new county, I have to turn the previous day's sales tax rate off and enter a new one. This mistake cost me a sale yesterday but I definitely learned!
- Create a craft project that requires little instruction and can be finished quickly and easily. I realized after three shows that the knot necklaces are just too involved a project, so I'm going to pivot and switch to bracelets! Being flexible is a must. It's hard for me, but I'm working on it.
- Take time for yourself. Even though it's fun to hang out and shop and celebrate with everyone, taking a little quiet time for yourself is super important.
- Set up early so you can help others. There's SO MUCH TO DO and sometimes you don't even have time to eat. That's when it becomes super important to help each other. I mean, nobody wants to take a class from me when my blood sugar is low.
- Bring a mini laundry detergent bottle. Sometimes you have to wash your socks and undies in a hotel shower and hang them to dry in the room. Helps to have the right kind of soap.
Being on tour is unlike any experience I've ever had and it's already allowed me to do a few things I never thought possible. The day before yesterday we were in Salt Lake City, Utah -- a place I've always wanted to but never thought I'd have a chance to visit -- and I was able to meet 2nd and 3rd cousins I didn't even know I had!
Now we're in California for a couple days before going to Texas, and I can't wait to see what's next.
Stay tuned for another blog post later this week, filled with scenic photos and all the great little shops I've stumbled upon.