(Well, almost. I'll bet I can write a lot, after all.) (Well, there's a lot to say!)
Seriously, thank you! I never expected so much great conversation to errupt because of my post last week. It seems many of you had a similar experience to Xan's hurtful "Oh, I can make that" earful. And some of you disagreed. How awesome is that! Thank you all for your comments. I hope I didn't miss any. I really appreciate all of your insights and experiences, and I am very grateful that you all took the time to share.
So here are two things that I have learned as a result of that experience.
The first is simply practical, and entirely to do with the event itself.
Find out specifically what type of event it is, and who your customers are. Determine what the traffic is looking for ahead of time, and bring in quantity only what they will actually buy. Anything more will be a waste of time and energy. If your gut tells you to grab a sample for display, go for it, but it may not need to be on prominent display. Let the venue and the crowd determine that once you have arrived and felt out the day, space, and crowd. Be aware that all 3 can change at a moment's notice, especially if it's outdoors!
That all seems like a no-brainer. I have to tell you, that stuff up there didn't actually occur to me until after the event. It's easy to think of things like bringing a cash box, pens, clipboard, extra chairs, display hardware, even a hammer and 2 types of screwdriver. The previous paragraph reminders may save you more heartache, though because you can't borrow them from the site or other vendors. Some of you out there are experienced craft-fair-vendors, some of you are not. Take this as it applies to you. And please, anyone with wisdom to add, we all welcome your additional advice.
Here's the second thing. Be aware of your legal rights according to Copyright Law. That sounds boring and complicated. I've been reading the most appallingly sleep-assisting documents, and believe me, it Copyright Law is crushingly boring and insanely complex. That's why people go to law school for it. (Well, not if they think it's boring. I expect they find it somewhat gripping if they're willing to invest tens of thousands of dollars a year for at least 3 years -- gaahhhhh!!!! -- to study that... but I'm not exaggerating the complexity! At least language-wise.) The link above is marvelously illuminating. It really helps. These are, by the way, laws according to the United States, and the 10 Myths are generally on a federal level, so there are other, further breakdowns that can have a more localized affect according to state laws.
Just so we're clear, because I had to learn this too -- and it took quite a bit of searching for me to be secure in the correctness of my answer (at first I thought art/craft was covered by Trademark; depends...): works of art/craft are covered under Copyright Laws; read about it in "A Brief Intro to Copyright".
Stealing someone's fully fledged idea out from underneath them is technically stealing, according to U.S. law as described in the 10 Myths, but in the scope of our use, rarely a prosecutable offense. Complicatedly, this makes it more of a moral dillemma. Which makes it more arguable than anything else, I suppose, depending on your view of morality and what you consider stealing, making this an even more interesting conversation. I don't believe we'll find any answers here, but I'm glad we are talking about it.
Talking about it, while it makes an excellent debate, won't solve the world's problems, but that's not why we're here. We're here to make art and expand our skills. Learn new things. Push the boundaries. Share some ideas. If questioning whether something is truly original gets you hung up, take a deep breath, work on something else for a bit (or go for a walk), and then, probably when you get back, I'll just bet you've got something that's tweaked that "something" into "something better".
If not, remember this.
Elvis was a singer, not a songwriter. He sang other people's songs. Someitmes songs were written for him, but most often they were written for others; generally the songs were whatever Colonel Parker thought would make the Colonel a wealthy man. (Oh, and if it kicked a few bucks Elvis' way, that wouldn't hurt, either. Which they did.) What most of his contemporary fans didn't know was that to become the great performer he was (and he WAS legendary), Elvis was standing on the shoulders of dozens of great black singers who came before him, doing exactly the same thing they did, just those other performers were black and couldn't get radio play on the big stations or weren't welcome on the stages Elvis could play on. So he wasn't original. But he followed his heart, and that was wise. We still call him The King.
There was another wise man, another king, another man of fact and legend, except this one did a bunch of writing. He wrote over and over and over in his very best known collection of wise sayings (the Book of Ecclesiastes), "There is nothing new under the sun." That wise man, that king, was Solomon, a man so great he is revered in three of the world's great religions (Solomon/Schlomo/Suleiman, depending upon which of the Abrahamic faiths called upon). In fact, this Great King is even deeply-admired outside of the scope of faith, and across world geography, a trait Solomon and Elvis have in common. That phrase, flowing out of his fingers, reads almost as a mantra, perhaps even as a punctuation mark. It's one of the truest things ever written. Solomon/Schlomo/Suleiman may have written it, but I wonder who said it first...
Remember that, follow your heart, and be at peace with what emerges from your creativity.