Recap of Winter Wonder Market 2023

Recap of Winter Wonder Market 2023


I sold my ceramics at SJMade’s Winter Wonder Market 2023 and learned a lot about myself and about retail. The rest of this is me describing all the things that happened leading up to this point and my experience and takeaways!

So I sold my ceramics at a craft fair…

I told myself at the beginning of 2023 that I wanted to do a craft fair. It was my ⭐goal ⭐ because I had always gone to craft fairs in the past and admired people’s work and I was all starry-eyed about it. I wanted to be accepted at West Coast Craft, Renegade Craft Fair, and all the amazing craft fairs for ✨artists and creatives ✨To early-2023-me, this was the defining point of a maker/artist/artisan/creative because if I couldn’t sell my ceramics at a craft fair, what kind of an artist am I???

Application process

I kept a close eye on the market application deadlines and made sure to sign up for each one I was eyeing: West Coast Craft (San Francisco) in November, Renegade Craft Fair (San Francisco) in November, and SJMade Winter Wonder Market (San Jose) in December. I chose markets that were at the end of the year so I could give myself all the time to prepare (and procrastinate); I also told myself I’d only do one of them because as a hobby ceramicist, I don’t think I could’ve made enough inventory by myself to do all three. In preparation for the applications, I also updated my website to make sure it aligned more with my “style” (whatever the heck that is).

West Coast Craft

West Coast Craft was the first application deadline, so I set myself a calendar reminder and made sure to submit an application right when it opened. It was pretty barebones and asked for the basics, but nothing more than that. They had an optional section for additional comments so I just wrote something like a cringe college application essay (shortened to <200 words and mostly a summary about what I make). They explicitly specified a date by which they’d let applicants know if they got in, which was great! My anxiety had a deadline.

I was rejected. It was very disappointing. I reflected on my ability as an artist and a creative, and I thought about my branding. I felt the decision reflected on me as a person and I had failed to meet the bar. I asked the organizers for feedback on my application and they gave me a generic response, which to be honest disappointed me even more because it felt like college admissions where they rarely treat you as an individual.


Many others that I know who are just as talented (if not more) also did not get in, and in a way, that helped ease the pain of rejection (and also made me feel even more annoyed at the opaque application process).

I did end up attending as a customer because I still enjoy going regardless to get inspired and maybe do some shopping for myself. Many of the booths/displays were incredible and I honestly don’t know if I would have had the time to commit to all of that.

Renegade Craft Fair

This was next in the timeline, so I submitted an application. This one was a little different from West Coast Craft; they asked for a bit more about yourself, which I appreciated. They also asked for some pictures highlighting your products so I curated a few of my favorites to demonstrate what I’d be bringing to the market. After my experience with West Coast Craft, I had low expectations for this one.

I was waitlisted for this one, which I figured would happen. There’s lots of great, amazing artists out there, and I have had no experience with a craft fair and my style was still up in the air. The date for Renegade Craft Fair was also really early in the season (early November), and they didn’t let us know about our status until about a month before the event. I wasn’t even sure if I could make enough products by then so I was almost relieved I didn’t get in.

SJMade Winter Wonder Market

SJMade holds a lot of events in the South Bay (including a huge market over Thanksgiving weekend that has over 400 vendors), and this year would be the first year for a last-minute holiday shopping event Dec. 16-17 known as the Winter Wonder Market. I decided to not apply to the big Thanksgiving market since I wasn’t sure if I would be traveling at the time, but the Winter Wonder Market was my own last-minute chance to do an in-person craft fair. I applied when they started accepting applications (back at the end of July). The process was pretty straightforward and also required few details (similar to West Coast Craft’s application).

The organizers responded later that same day saying that my application was accepted. Amazing! A timely response with enough time to prepare. I am someone who loves to be prepared because it helps my anxiety, so this worked out well for me.

Display setup

I had done a few pop-ups before, so I had some basic materials for the display. I was worried about the signage since I didn’t have a readily visible sign. After some browsing I decided on a table runner with my logo, and ordered one off Etsy. I also ordered another set of display shelves from Etsy, and I’m glad I did – they add some height to the display that makes it easier for people to see and reach. I didn’t really want to commit to larger displays that I’ve seen online and on Etsy not just because of cost but because I wasn’t sure how many of these in-person markets I’d be doing.

I decided to rent a table and chairs from the event organizer directly which made transporting other things much easier. I think that worked out mostly okay, but I also think if I had a taller table, it would’ve been better for visibility and for people who want to hold things.

My setup!

This was my setup at the market.


I stressed a lot about inventory; since I had never done something of this scale before, I didn’t know how many pieces to prepare. I knew from previous pop-ups that spoon rests do pretty well, and I had seen matcha bowls as well. I hate doing mugs because I feel like I haven’t settled on a handle style that both looks good and is comfortable/functional. I did have a few mugs at the market that ended up selling out, so maybe people want mugs after all and I have to just suck it up. I’ve found I really like making bowls (#bowlgirlera) so I made a lot of small bowls and many of those went pretty quickly.

In the end my takeaways here are:

  • Do what I like doing, and focus on that journey. It shows in the work, and I think people recognize that even if it’s not explicit.
  • Think of a theme for the “collection”; it shows in the display.
  • Don’t just do what sells well from other vendors, otherwise you’re just copying what they do.
  • It doesn’t work to define a formal goal for myself (e.g. 100 pieces by X date) because of the uncertainties of working in a community studio, and the time spent on other things (full-time job and personal life). Set expectations accordingly.

Market logistics

So there were some not-so-ideal changes to the event that were mostly (but not entirely, IMO) out of the organizers’ control. At the end of August, the organizers let us know that the original WalMart space they were planning for the event was leased so they ended up moving us to the central corridor of the mall itself. This meant that the booth sizes were smaller, but the organizers lowered the booth pricing itself (for me, it was from $300 to $200). You could also choose to withdraw from the event and get credit to use for another SJMade event, or withdraw entirely and get a full refund. I decided to stick on with the event and take the discounted pricing. The booth size change didn’t bother me because I didn’t plan on making it a large booth anyway.

The day before the market, the venue had apparently double-booked the same weekend for another event. The other event was a sports cards and collectibles event, which draws a very different crowd than an event for handmade arts and crafts. This meant that there was a lot of foot traffic coming through the mall, but not all of it was for the SJMade event. I heard from my friends who visited me during the event (thank you for coming by 💖) that parking and traffic was pretty bad. So yes, the mall was crowded with people who were coming for SJMade, for the cards and collectibles event, and for just general holiday shopping at your regular Ross or Target. Arguably this made for worse sales for many other vendors, especially those who were positioned in areas with those other sellers/stores.

I was positioned in a corridor by the mall exit/entrance, which turned out to work pretty well for me. Everyone else in the same corridor was part of the SJMade event, and being near an entryway made it so that a lot of people walked through. Another vendor came by to buy something from me and mentioned that there was better air circulation where I was, so that was another small plus.


I’m a huge introvert, so being fully present two days in a row for six hours each day drained me like no other. The only other time I’ve felt as tired was when I went backpacking; honestly it was a similar feeling where I am running on low sleep/energy but somehow I keep going entirely based on adrenaline. After each day I would eat dinner, walk our dog, play a few ARAM (League of Legends friends, you know who you are) games and then go to bed and sleep for 8+ hours.

People were so supportive in general; even if people didn’t buy something there were plenty of people who came by to say something nice. I also loved chatting with some people who do pottery themselves so we could talk a bit more about the technical details. And then there were some people who were really interested in my display pieces (someone’s mom asked me if I was selling them), which was…flattering, I guess?

I had very low expectations of how much I’d sell over the weekend, so anything is good I guess 😆 But I also understand more how hard retail is. I think about what my good friend and fellow artist Sheila says about in-person markets, where the time and effort spent is rarely worth the income. To be honest, if I were a full-time ceramic artist, I probably wouldn’t be doing any of these in-person markets. Online drops are much less time-consuming and are probably more lucrative long-term; social media helps a lot with presence and marketing. A lot of people took my business cards at the event, so I hope that they continue to follow me in the future, but I don’t know if this would’ve been worth it if my primary goal were to make a significant profit off my ceramics. I do think that it is helpful to hold and touch ceramics in person because as a functional piece it’s not just the look of it but the feel of it that really makes a difference. For that reason, I do like having my pieces available for people to hold, but maybe that means I should explore more wholesale or other types of retail.


I am so grateful to my husband Kenny for being there with me through it all. He did all the driving, he did the loading and unloading, he helped me get food, he handled almost all the payments…he basically did everything in his power to help outside of actually making the pieces and stocking the Shopify site. Sunday was really rough for me because I felt the aftereffects of Saturday and I had a huge headache, and he was there the whole time to help me power through.

My #1 fan and me

#1 fan.

I am also very grateful for my parents for watching our dog both days while we were at the market, and for my mother for making me home-cooked Taiwanese food. It really made our days easier.

Thank you to all my friends and family who said hi, bought a piece, or even just shared their support from afar. Your support means so much to me and it was so fun to see friendly faces and be able to catch up with folks.

Thank you to the SJMade organizers for setting up this event, as chaotic as it was. There were still plenty of good crowds, and a big thank you to the people who came by asking each vendor if they’d like water.

Lastly, thank you to all of those who shared kind words and/or bought something from me. Each piece is handmade by me from beginning to end, and it feels like a little bit of me goes into each piece. I’m so glad that so many of my pieces found a way into people’s homes and hearts.

Now I’m going to vegetate for a few days and enjoy the last weeks of the year with loved ones.


Am I going to do more in-person markets? I don’t have a definitive answer yet. I was accepted to SJMade’s Friend Fest 2024 which I heard is even bigger than this one (but it’s in a dedicated event space, so maybe that changes things). It’s at the end of February, and after this past weekend I’m silently panicking about the number of pieces I should make and whether I should just withdraw from it. I think I can do it, but I am going to be extremely exhausted again. After that, who knows. I might try for a holiday one again, or I might just think about new ways to evolve this hobby/business of mine. Stay tuned 😉

Bonus: Interesting things that happened

  • Very early on in the market, I saw a mom and daughter walk by and I swear the mom gave her daughter a look that said “Don’t be an artist when you grow up” 😆 They actually came back and bought some things from me, though.
  • Someone’s mom asked me about my display shelves and if she could buy them from me. Her daughter was there being like, “Oh my god, Mom, you can’t just ask that 💀”
  • I noticed someone brush their fingers across my display piece, so I guess more than one person enjoyed them.
  • One of my tealight candle holders finally sold at the end of the market to someone who is making candles! 🕯️
  • Lots of people asked me what my ring dishes were. My husband demonstrated the functionality with his own wedding ring.
  • A group came by and talked about how my large bowls were great for soup, so I’ve now renamed them in my shop as soup bowls.
  • Thumb cups were surprisingly popular; I think people appreciate the thoughtful design for their fingers.

It's a vibe

These mint chocolate chip bowls all sold out :')

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