Recap: Renegade Craft Fair

Renegade Craft Fair is one of my all-time favorite fairs in San Francisco -- the work is beautiful, the space at Fort Mason is stunning, and the vibe is fun. And for the very first time, I got to participate as a seller rather than as a shopper! 

At the show, I debuted my collection of steel mosaic wall hangings. I had no idea how it would go -- it was pretty different from the faceted vessels I'd making previously -- and I wasn't sure what to expect. But people loved them! They were drawn to the bold shapes and patterns, and many had questions for me about how I'd made them.

I'm currently working on several large commission jobs in this style, but with more complex patterns and tones. I'm really loving this current direction, and I'm excited to keep exploring this path in my work! 

Recap: West Elm Pop-Up in Emeryville

I did a pop-up shop at the Bay Street West Elm in Emeryville, CA, on April 9th and 10th! I had some great conversations, and sold a handful of pieces, including a few Geo Bowls. Best of all, I got encouraging feedback on the large wall hanging -- people seemed really drawn to it! Check out the slideshow to check out my set-up.

Recap: Urban Air Holiday Market

I had a booth at Urban Air Market's Holiday Show in the Dogpatch this past Sunday, and it was a BLAST! 

The weather that morning didn't bode well at all. There was torrential rain during load-in, deep puddles that forced a number of vendors (including Jeff from Krakatoa Design) to relocate, and high winds that gusted through the giant roll-up doors and knocked over several booths. I honestly couldn't imagine that anyone was going to leave home in favor of a gusty, freezing warehouse. Boy, was I wrong!

When the event opened at 11am, the rain died down, people trickled in slowly, and I mentally prepared myself to not make many sales. But then around lunchtime, it started picking up. And it didn't slow down until the event ended at 5pm. I definitely got the vibe that people had holiday shopping to do, and they were on a mission to get it done that day!

A lot of my friends came out, including my parents, my partner Phil's dad, aunt, and grandparents, half a dozen members of my cycling team, two of my financial advisors, several family friends, and, of course, my best friend Jasmin. And just like last time, I ran into a few friends who didn't know I'd be selling there -- the look on their faces was priceless!

I had a lot of great conversations with fair-goers about my process and my background. I especially enjoyed talking shop with the folks who had some welding experience. I can now spot them a mile away! They're the ones who immediately pick up a piece and start turning it over in their hands, trying to figure out how I'd made it. For this craft fair, I added an iPad to my display that played time-lapse videos on loop of me welding and sanding. It ended up being a useful tool: it drew a lot of passers-by into my booth, and I was able to better show the work that goes into each piece. 

When I got home at the end of the night and checked my sales numbers, I thought I'd accidentally pulled up the wrong date range -- the total was over double what I thought I'd made. Still incredulous, I checked to make sure I hadn't accidentally overcharged someone by, say, $1,000 (I hadn't, thank goodness). Once I was sure that it wasn't a mistake, I celebrated! I still have a ways to go to make Elektra Steel a sustainable business that pays all my bills, but Sunday's show told me that I've got a good product-market fit, and I'm on the right track.

Major thanks to Phil, who was a champ for helping me with load-in and load-out logistics, all of my friends and family who showed up to support me on a stormy day, and to my growing list of customers! I'm heading back into the shop now to finish up a few remaining holiday orders. Cheers!

Successful First Craft Fair!

This past weekend, Elektra Steel made its retail debut at the SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium! The event was held at Pier 35, a massive warehouse right on the water next to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It was held over two days, Saturday and Sunday, and I believe over 50,000 people attended (crazy!). I'm thrilled with how it went! 

I could write a short novel on my thoughts and reflections, but here are the highlights:

Realizing I can go into production beast-mode. I amassed an inventory of 85+ pieces in six weeks!

Setting up my booth with Jasmin and Phil, and realizing that all my meticulous checklists and packing paid off, and I didn't forget a thing. Whew! (Don't miss the time-lapse video of booth set-up below!)

Seeing everything come together after months of research, planning, and agonizing. (This online class from Creative Live was crucial to my success! I highly recommend it to anyone preparing to sell at a craft fair.)

Talking with prospective customers! I loved explaining how each piece was made, answering questions about my process, getting feedback, overhearing people gush (!), learning what pieces people are drawn to (or not drawn to), and geeking out about welding with the few people who had some experience welding. (Side note: Working a booth all day is exhausting! I'm an extrovert and enjoy this kind of social challenge, but I can't imagine how introverts manage it!)

Seeing friends! I had a bunch of friends and family members show up to support me, and that made my day. I felt like I was at my own birthday party! Also, I ran into a few friends who came to the show not knowing I'd be selling there. Those surprise reunions were so much fun! 

Getting ideas for new pieces. I had some unexpected hits (like the Prism Stands!), and it gave me ideas for new directions to pursue with my work.

Making money! I had no idea what to expect going into it, but I sold way more pieces than I'd expected, and I'm pleased with my sales.

And most importantly, feeling like this business is a real thing. It was magical seeing my vision come together in real life.

Below is a time-lapse video that shows how Jasmin, Phil, and I transformed a 10'x10' space in a warehouse into a welcoming little room in just over two hours. The three of us are a well-oiled machine: We've built two Burning Man theme camps together, and set up countless campsites. I couldn't have asked for a better build team! I definitely couldn't have gotten through the last few months without their constant emotional and logistical support. Not to mention that they kept me fed, hydrated, caffeinated, and sane throughout the show itself -- so grateful. On Sunday, my best friend from high school, Yennie, took a shift at the booth so that I could slam some food and use the restroom. Truly a team effort!

A couple other thank-yous... Huge kudos to my studio-mate Jeff (the woodworker behind Krakatoa Design), who's a craft fair veteran -- I can't tell you how many times I bugged him with questions about the minutiae of booth set-up and logistics! And it was great having company during those long days at the shop. And lastly, a big thank you to my friends and family who braved the lines and the crowds to come support me, customers who paid me real money for things that I made, and everyone who's shown their support for me and my fledgling business over the last year.

If you missed this craft fair, you have one more chance to shop Elektra Steel before the holidays! Come by the Urban Air Holiday Market next Sunday, December 13th -- it's at Pier 70 in the Dogpatch, from 11am-5pm. I'm excited to do it all again in just over a week! See you there!

(All photos by Phil Reyneri)