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If you’re headed to Handworks in Iowa this weekend, please do stop by the Lost Art Press and Crucible booths in the Festhalle to say hello. Your editor, Megan Fitzpatrick, has volunteered to give us a hand when she isn’t off exploring the amazing show.

If this is your first Handworks, here are a few tips for making the most of the show.

  1. Bring cash. Credit card readers sometimes have trouble out in the wilderness. And though the organizers have built a wifi network for the event, cash is always faster and simpler.
  2. Bring a variety of clothing articles. And a hat. And sunglasses. And a sled dog. The weather was unpredictable during the last two Handworks. We froze our butts off one year and then had them roasted on another. Bring layers.
  3. Make meal plans. The hours at the shops and restaurants in the Colonies are not like in Manhattan. During past shows, they have closed at hours that might seem odd to city-folk. Head to Cedar Rapids or Iowa City (a college town) for late-night eating.
  4. Don’t miss Roy. Roy Underhill is giving the roof-raising hand-tool sermon at 10 a.m. Saturday. People line up for this, so get there early and bring coffee. You never know what’s going to come out of Roy’s mouth (and sometimes neither does he).

Finally, a personal note on bargaining. I’ve done dozens of shows all over the world, so my skin is thick. Ask me for a discount, and I’ll just laugh. We don’t discount. Period. When people say “How ‘bout you throw in that hat for free with my book?” I’ll say: “It would hurt my bottom line less if I just gave you this $5 bill and told you to leave. Either is fine by me.”

All the vendors at Handworks are tiny businesses. Yes, even Lee Valley, which is large for a hand-tool catalog and manufacturer, but is tiny in the grand scheme of things. Many of the vendors traveling to the show hope to make enough money to pay for the trip back (with a motel instead of a rest stop – a great place to make new friends!).

So my advice is to not treat the vendors like you would a car salesman. Every penny counts for people like us. And while we all try to be friendly and accommodating, we also need to feed our families.

OK, sorry for the economic rant. I hope you can make it to the show because you never know if there will be another one.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 9 comments
  • Nancy Hiller

    Amen, brother, on the matter of asking for discounts. I have so much admiration for your way of doing business.

  • roccaways

    Appreciate the sentiment on haggling. Just give me a fair price and I’ll pay it. Don’t charge me a tax for being polite relative to the bigmouth 5 people in-line behind me.

  • pmac

    Your note on bargaining reminded me of the lets haggle scene from Life of Brian. For those of you that want a laugh Google: monty python lets haggle scene

  • pearlsb4swine

    Anyone have recommendations regarding the restaurants? This will be my first time attending.

  • rwyoung

    I would like to receive $5 for this comment. Carefully crafted from the finest organic electrons, hand raised in a nurturing environment. Selected for their purity and thoughtfulness of purpose. Each has been coated with a premium wax and then burnished with artisanal broomstraw and fine Peruvian monkey fuzz.

    If not, have a good time. Enjoy the food, sights and sounds. Maybe not so much the communal bacteria swap.

  • Mike Ramsey

    In case you’re wondering about the weather it’s going to be crap all weekend.

    Chris are you going to take a card? I’m planning on picking up a set of the Heyward books while I’m down there.

  • hmerkle

    Thank you, Chris,
    Your economic advice is helpful! The format lends itself for many to think “Hey, great venue to make a deal” but in fact, most these people are running a small business and as you point out many are sole entrepreneurs and any “discounts or deals” truly affect their bottom line!

  • rackjack

    Watch out for speed traps and photo-enforced speeding tickets in Iowa. The state sucks for those.


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