When What Can Go Wrong Does Go Wrong

Being a small business, a creative person, an artist, a self-employed person… there are so many things that can go wrong, and usually no one but yourself to fix it. You can’t keep going if you don’t adapt.

Fortunately, we are stubborn.

Oops, We forgot something!

 

With as many shows as we have done, it is to be expected that occasionally something has been left behind. Packing for events is never not stressful, no matter how many times we have done it, and it often happens at the end of very long weeks trying to make as many things as we possibly can.

Sometimes, it is specialty displays that get left. We left our mask displays behind once, before we learned how to show them on gridwall. Last minute solution? Skinny pillows from Goodwill that matched our booth colors. We still use the pillows to add some interest to our displays.

Inventory that gets left behind is probably the most annoying. That’s things that might have sold that customers never see. Fortunately, all of our inventory doesn’t fit in just one box, so we’ve never left behind all of our inventory. It does mean putting out pretty much everything else we have made to make up for it.

Most recently, we forgot a bag of stakes that goes to our large, medieval pavilion for a one weekend event. It uses both large stakes for tension and small stakes to pin the 16 poles. Replacing all of those at a moment’s notice was next to impossible and would have been painfully expensive. In that case, it was a cost decision – buying a new backup tent at Walmart was more cost effective than buying all new stakes. So creative use of Walmart canopys it was!

For one show, we even had our entire tent not ship on time! And that’s why one of our backup tents is a 10 x 20 carport.

Rain, and Wind Oh My!

If you do outdoor shows, you have to contend with weather.

Actually, amend that. Sometimes, you have to contend with weather even with an indoor show. Shows on snow days where no one can make it to your indoor show are a not good you can’t do anything about.

And then there was that one time there was a pipe leak above our booth and we had to move tables to avoid stinky water. Thank goodness none of our products were directly under it!

But rain and wind… they will happen, and you have to adapt.

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Poor mangled steel tent! The only tents that survived the night were the full reenactor tents.

Wind is our least favorite. Several seasons ago, we lost three pop up tents in the course of a year. One was twisted beyond any hope of salvaging by a hurricane remnant. That was the year that made us buy our medieval pavilion!

Sometimes, it just means no sleeping in the tent at night, like we usually do at renaissance faires. High winds or thunderstorms tearing through a camp site can send us to sleeping in the car – which at this point we are well prepared for with foam mats and car blankets. It used to send us to a hotel.

And then there’s rain. Rain is easier for a tent set up than wind, but not good on leather products or on foot traffic. Product we can shift, and what is where will rotate when the rain get bad. Leather goes to where it is most protected, wood gets a little wet. But rain also means mud. We were “the dock” at last year’s Virginia Renaissance Faire because the hill became a river that parted around our makeshift wooden platform. Not setting up for an extended time without a platform again!

But if it’s only a one weekend event, we have to rely on organizers for things like straw. Our poor neighbors once had a river through their tent!

But whatever the problem, if there is a show we have paid for, we will be there! Maybe sometimes a little late. Maybe sick or sleep deprived. But we’ll be there!

What show disasters have you had to deal with? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Looking Back on 2018 – The Good, The Bad, and the WTF???

20180208_154144Hi guys! Thanks so much for sticking with us through a crazy year. As promised on our recent Facebook/Instagram post, here’s a quick run down on our past year! And I’ll go more in depth with pictures and other awesomeness soon.

Let’s start with The Good, shall we?

  • We’re still working on our awesome old building – which we are now the proud owners of!
  • We have two “sibling” businesses that we opened in support of our main business: Cynthia is running the Crooked Treehouse, a gift shop featuring our pagan/new age work, the work of other local artists, as well as crystals, candles, and other pretties. Nathaniel is launching The Olde Post Office Theater & Game Parlor, a black box theater, game space, space for classes, and general space to come and hang out.
  • We’re getting involved with our business neighborhood, The Boulevard, and we can tell the efforts are starting to be noticed.
  • We ran our first ever haunted house this past Halloween! Each night got progressively better, it brought in new friends and contacts, and helped more people know we’ve got things going on around here.
  • We made some absolutely amazing things! Our first ever major mascot cosplay commission, leather armor collaborations… We made stuff we are defintely proud of this year.
  • Lots of new contacts, new friends, new opportunities – some of which we can’t talk about yet, but I will definitely be better about sharing them when we can.

Now, The Bad

  • This was not a good year for our show circuit. Starting off the year with what happened with JME/Steampunk World’s Faire putting one show at low attendance followed by a show not happening and being out that money… then being out other shows, parts of shows, or attendance due to weather, luck was not with us.
  • Oh god, the weather! Our rainiest Virginia Renaissance Faire ever (actually led to one day closing completely – check out our video of the river!), two hurricanes through North Carolina…
  • … And speaking of that, we still have not gotten our roof fixed. We’ve gotten quotes for it, but still working on that whole fundraising thing. The rain and wind were not kind to it, so we’re currently working out of about half of the building.
  • …And because of that, we have not yet been able to open the building to the public yet. Sorry guys!

20180831_165003The WTF???

Okay, the WTF is not nearly as specific, but it’s been an interesting year of good and bad working together in really strange ways.

  • For example, fighting with our roof and trying to figure out ways to get it fixed was part of how we ended up buying the building, which opens up all new opportunities for the next year.
  • Going to a tiny show that we did mostly as a filler to try and make up for ones we lost due to weather didn’t net a lot of sales… but it did open us up to a whole new potential part of our business that is now in development.
  • Not being able to open the gallery yet is part of what drove us to open the other related storefronts… which are starting to feed each other in a nice communal way.

So long story short, thank you everyone for their patience this year! We are hoping we’re about to be past a bad year hump, and we have some great plans coming for the next year!

Event Review: Virginia Renaissance Faire 2017

We love participating in VARF, and were happy to return for five weeks this May to June! Of course, with an outdoor fair and the growing Virginia heat, there are always some hiccups.

First weekend, I was madly trying to track down our new tent with absolutely no info coming from the company as to an ETA. So, week of we went ahead and bought a car port from Harbor Freight and some canvas for side walls so we would have something.

So when did our new tent arrive? The day before show opened, so too late to get it set up for first weekend.

We did get it all set up for second weekend, thought we were hot and tired and did not realize it was inside out until it was all up. We left it that way for the show. Last hiccup? We were in our usual spot, but with a larger space it was clear just what an odd hill it was. The tent stayed well, but we were constantly having to accommodate for the lean. Next year, we’re adding a platform and an in-tent fan!

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Our temporary tent on the grey first day of faire.
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Second day – sunny, and Nathaniel’s huge sword from Artomatic is raised to gain attention to our odd space.
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Second weekend – new tent raised… inside out. Oops!
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Nathaniel working on armor at our demo table.
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Drawing the eye however we can – a new sign with our new logo, and a new colorful ribbon cape.

Event Review: Southampton Renaissance Faire 2017

Fall and Spring are always chancy times of year for weather. We’ve been fortunate this year in having better luck than last thus far. But this small faire in April got interesting.

First, creativity with set up. We had not yet received our new tent, so we made something up quickly with two 10 x 10 canopies and a quickly sewn cover. The set up this year was odd. Flow did not make obvious sense. One of the reenactor groups was so far away they seemed like a private encampment. But the crowds on Saturday were decent and people had fun as usual.

Just in time for the evening feat it started to pour down rain. Fortunately the feast is in the big garage building of the fairgrounds. We had a good meal with friends, then decided to pay for a night in a hotel.

Good thing we did. We came back Sunday to find our tent was standing in a lake. The organizers allowed people to move into the large building and use table space for Sunday. So I started opening us up for sales while Nathaniel took down our tent and helped out neighbors.

So for all that the event ended up unusual for a renaissance faire, the move indoors ended up being a good thing. Maybe it was that the vendors were now moved together and easier to find. Maybe it was the small remaining group of people staying closer together and making the building festive. Either way, Sunday went even better than Saturday. So, pouring rain but a good show. Thanks everyone!

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Our makeshift pavilion, in its odd spot near the pony rides. Out of main traffic, but not the worst location.
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Nathaniel getting all ready to show his wood weapons.
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My leather bottles were a hit at this particular fair.

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Our indoor Sunday set up. Took a little table and made a booth. Odd but worked!

Event Review: Harvest Faire 2016

Each show has its challenges, but we never expected a hurricane to be one of them. This year, we spent the week leading up to Harvest Faire watching to see if Hurricane Matthew was going to hit near Virginia Beach. It didn’t, but the rain and winds that make up the edge were problem enough.

Still, we were there! Some vendors never showed, but there were still plenty of people around on Friday to make the show worth it. We came well prepared, with side walls and multiple tarps to try and stay as dry as we could.

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Friday night was fine, and plenty of people came by, even in the dark. Saturday, as the day went on, the weather got worse. Rain picked up, and the weather report was threatening the coming winds.

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Mad dash from the rain! At least inside the tent was nice and dry.

The organizers were awesome, and sent people around about 4pm saying that vendors were welcome to pack up if they wanted, and come back Sunday morning. Our work is fine with a bit of damp, but neither leather nor wood is great with a soaking rain. Plus, we did not want to try and stay on site with what the forecast had in store.

So, we packed everything up (thank you friendly helpers!), found a cheap hotel not too far away, and went to stay warm and dry.

Good thing we did, because apparently it hit the site viciously. At 11pm the organizers had canceled Sunday – the site was so beaten up by the weather it would not be able to host traffic the next day.

We came back the next morning, through towns with no power, to pick up the little bit we had left.

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Poor mangled steel tent! The only tents that survived the night were the full reenactor tents.

Traffic getting home was an adventure due to areas of flooding or no power, but we lost none of our inventory. Just another poor tent.

Which we are still trying to replace. If you can spare a moment and/or a dollar or two, please take a look at our Go Fund Me page. Any little bit helps!

Help Us Buy a New Tent!

Hello friends and visitors! We’ve had a great couple of years bringing our handmade goods to shows up and down the east coast. We’ve reached a little financial hurdle and are asking for your help.

It started in May, when we set up at the Virginia Renaissance Faire after days of pouring rain. Our gazebo tent sank into the mud and bent as the weeks went on. Parts of it are now broken and unusable.

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Next weekend, more rain and mud. Did the best we could to keep it off our visitors.

Then, Steampunk World’s Fair in late May fought with both wind and rain. Our good easy-up canopy was one of the lucky ones, but it still bent in the bad weather. That tent lasted a couple more shows, then snapped while being set up at NoVa Pagan Pride Day.

Then, Harvest Faire in Newport News VA over the same weekend as Hurricane Matthew. The direct hurricane didn’t hit us, but even the edge winds were enough to completely mangle our all steel backup canopy.

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Poor mangled tents… ours and the others on the site.

Harvest Faire showed us something else interesting. There were broken canopies scattered all over the site. Even new ones with thick poles were bent to unusable. Which ones were still completely intact, and all inventory – even blown glass – unharmed? The actual medieval style tents.

Well, we’ve been wanting to upgrade to a better tent for a while anyway, so this is the perfect time. Hence we are asking for your help! We are raising funds to buy a new, medieval reenactment tent.

Donate to our campaign and you can even get some cool custom stuff, so please take a look!  Any donation or share will be a big help.

Thanks!

 

Steampunk World’s Fair 2016

Speaking of shows with interesting weather problems…

I can not say enough positive things about the staff of Steampunk World’s Fair. It was everything else that went wrong.

So, first there was pouring rain during set up. Made the traffic to get there horrible, and we showed up just before the show was supposed to open. Steampunk World’s Fair has a vendor set up different from any other show we have done. There were several different places that vendor tables and booths could be set up – ballrooms in each of the two hotels, first floor rooms in the hotels, hallways in the hotels, and the outdoor midway between the two hotels. We were located in the midway. Which, if the weather had been nice, would have been a really neat place. There were a lot of vendors and the main stage, giving the whole area a really festive feel.

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Browsing the damp booth on Friday afternoon.

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I didn’t have time to catch many costume photos, but I loved this Spidey.

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Happy customer! The giant hammer finds a new home.

We were allowed to pull up even though we were late, rush set up in the rain, and were ready to go. The weather cleared, and Friday night was awesome. It also is one of the few shows we do that goes to after dark. That means good booth lighting if you are outdoors is a must.

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Friday night at the World’s Fair. The booth lighting and the concerts made this so festive.

Saturday started good, but then the clouds and wind really picked up. Rain is manageable, but wind is complete havoc on an outside show. About 4:30 the clouds got really, really dark and we found out about a lightning storm coming in. So with all of us with metal tents, we were told to evacuate the midway.

This was another time the staff was awesome, as well as the guests. We had so many helping hands to first get our inventory packed up and inside, and then getting the tent taken down and into the van. We waited out the storm from the van, then came back about 7 to set back up. A bunch of other vendors did not return that night… which, since it was also a big concert night, made it the best part of our sales.

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Adventurer’s tea sets – one of my big hits of the fair.

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Fun Steampunk jewelry, made with pieces of old books, gears, propellers, wings, and crystals.

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Plastic refinished toy guns – a lot of these still made the ridiculous sound effects.

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For pirates, airship or otherwise, a hand tooled leather water skin.

Unfortunately, setting back up also resulted in a call from the staff at 2:30 in the morning. The wind had picked back up and our tent had tried to make a break for it. The staff was awesome – we showed back up to find everything broken down and anything that might blow away weighted down. We packed up and got what sleep we could.

Which leads us to Sunday. First, the adventure of getting to the show. The convention was right near Rutger’s University, and that day was their commencement. On top of that, the speaker was President Obama, which meant all sorts of road blocks. We got lucky – a cop managing one of the blocks recognized us as heading to Steampunk World’s Fair, and gave us directions that would get us there. Other visitors were not so lucky.

We made it back out the try and set up again to find even fewer vendors outside. The wind was vicious. We and one of our neighbors gave up on attempting tents after they tried to blow away the moment we tried to set them up, and went for just tables and product, yard sale style. About an hour of that, and the vendor coordinator offered those of us who wanted to move tables in one of the hallways.

So, we condensed our 10 ft by 10 ft booth inventory to a single table as best we could, but at least we still had the chance to sell all three days.

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Light up knives and whatever we could fit on the hallway table.

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What’s left on Sunday – we needed more inventory!

We learned quite a bit with this show. We really hope to do this show again, but any indoor space we can get. And we know better what inventory to bring. For one, we need more of it. My adventurer tea sets, which I launched at this show, almost completely sold out. Nathaniel almost completely sold out of his refinished toy guns and light up knives.

And above all else, we have to say, this staff was awesome.