7 Reasons that Participating in Craft Shows Is Just Like Going to College

4 years ago

Several months ago I applied to a local arts show, thinking there was no way that I would be accepted. This has been my first year exhibiting shows, so the whole experience is very new to me, and this was the first show that I applied to that asked for a statement of my qualifications.

Uh, statement of qualifications? What does that even mean? Was I even qualified? 

Clearly I was out of my league. 

I pondered the question for awhile, writing and rewriting my statement, much as I had my college essays eons earlier. Finally I decided to apply to the show, which seemed like a huge reach to me. I mean, the worst that would happen was I would get rejected, right?

So imagine my complete and utter shock when I received an e-mail in early June informing me that I had been accepted! 

(With this show and others, I may have been just as excited as I was when I received my college acceptance letters.)

As I have gone through my first year of applying to and exhitibing my jewelry, I have come realize that this year I have been reexperiencing some of the very same motions and feelings that I had applying to and going to college. The nerves and excitement of the application process, the fear that you won't get in, writing personal statements, the waiting. Today I share with you how participating in craft shows has been like reliving the college application process all over again.

1. You have to figure out what would be a good fit for you

Just as every college is not for every student, so every craft show is not for every artisan. There are so many things to consider: location, fee to participate, size, clientele. Some are a good fit, and some are just flat out not. 

2. There is an application process, and you have to find a way to make yourself stand out

What makes you (or in this case, your product unique)? Why should you be accepted? With the competition high (especially, as I have found, as a jewelry artist) you have to try to stand out from the crowd while also showing why you would be a good fit. 

3. Around the time responses are due out, you start obsessively checking your mail

I remember anxiously waiting for the mailman to arrive in April of 2000 to see what would arrive in the mail for me that day. Would it be a little envelope or a big, fat package? Now, I experience those same feelings checking my e-mail to see if there is any news of the latest show. And you like college admission letters, you can tell from the first line whether or not you were accepted. 

4. It seems to be a total crapshoot where you and your friends will get in and where you will be rejected

My high school guidance counselor told me some schools to which I applied would be a reach and others I would be more likely get into. Well let me tell you, there did seem to be any logic to which schools accepted me and which ones rejected me; same with my friends. Similarly, I have shows that I thought I had a better chance of being accepted into only to be rejected, and others that I did not expect would accepted me. I have watched my fellow crafter friends go through the same thing. (And some of those shows also have waitlists. Who knew?)

5. These things aint's cheap!

OK, so participating in a craft show is considerably cheaper than getting a college education, but it can still be a pretty significant financial investment that definitely puts a dent in your wallet. Get used to writing those checks!

6. You have to somehow cram everything you will need into your car

I remember driving off to my first day of freshman year, with everything I would possibly need for nine months, seemingly defying all laws of matter. How the hell did my parents manage to get it all in my mom's minivan and somehow have room for my parents, sister and I to drive off to school? Similarly, it takes a small miracle and some amazing maneuvering skills on my husband's end to get everything I need for a craft show (including a 10 foot by 10 foot tent, three folding tables, two chairs, four bins full of jewelry packaging and display materials, not to mention my jewelry) arranged in my little Volkaswagen Jetta and still leave room for us (barely). We are definitely going to have to rethink things for next year once there is a baby in the picture.

7. There are first day jitters

Ok, maybe this is just me because I'm a huge nerd, but I get nervous on the first day of a show if it's the first time I'm doing it. I worry about getting lost, getting there late, setting up, figuring out the lay of the land, wondering if I will like my neighbors and if anyone will talk to me, and fearing that I am out of my league and somebody made a mistake. Seriously, it's just like I'm a little freshman all over again feeling out of my element on the first day at college, but soon those anxious feelings melt away. 

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