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On Being an Event Merchant: We're Open!

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Photo credit: Bob Harbison

Doors and gates open! The moment we’ve been waiting for: our reason for doing all of this! Last-minute arranging and adjusting and moving, pre-opening potty break, taking the dog for a walk, settling in for the demo project, the cannon fires, and doors or gates open, and we're off and running!

Well, not always. If you happen to be at a large event away from the door, you have some time before your first patrons trickle in your direction. I enjoy the time to breathe, relax, get into character, whatever is needed for the day.

Photo credit: Abby Oldham/PBS House

As someone who demos, specifically spinning and weaving most of the time, I answer the same questions many times over the course of the day. My husband and I were next to another fiber artist at a Christmas show once, and she marveled at how we could both keep answering the same questions over and over again so patiently.

For each and every person who saw us working (I was spinning, Allan was weaving), those activities may have been completely new. Most people don't think about how every last molecule of their clothing was put together. It's fun showing skeptical kids how art and science converge. Some adults may have seen their mother or grandmother doing this and never imagine that these skills as still alive and well. We have encountered many people who were born and raised in other countries, and they watch in fascination something that makes them a little homesick for old ways that used to be so commonplace for them.

There will always be those few that don't understand.

Photo credit: Douglas Herring

"Why don't you just buy the yarn at Wal-Mart?"

"I can just get my sister/friend/mom to make me something."

"What?? I can get this cheaper on Wish."

"Oh, I could make that for cheaper."

"I saw this at [big box store] the other day!"

"That must be a nice hobby."

"Would you take $20 for this $80 shawl?" "It's the end of the show. Will you make me a deal on this chainmail shirt?"

We sigh, shrug it off, bite our tongues, try not to think about it, sometimes vent with a little sarcasm after hours, and appreciate the patrons who are interested in artisanal design and handiwork.

The biggest joy is someone who sees what we're doing and wants to learn. This spurs on-the-spot mini-classes, excited return visits dragging friends along, much poring over the work they've accomplished so far, and happiness over assisting another budding fiber artist. This makes my heart sing!

At the shows where we bring sheep, we understand that the sheep are a major distraction from shopping in the rest of the booth. Sheep have an amazing ability to calm and quiet troubled hearts and inspire great landscaping and house-buying plans. We have also had the opportunity to talk about the importance and benefits of livestock care to people who have only been exposed to falsehoods spread by animal activists. Happy sheep make good wool and excellent by-products, and that is the entire story.


I hope this series has been helpful for understanding the process of being a merchant and why we do what we do in a normal year. This may change once the pandemic is a little more under control, but our goal will always be to educate, uplift, and support the farming and art community in the process.

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