Trying on Hats: pop-up shop in The Strip District

Customers trying on hats offers information –

This past weekend I was fortunate to have a sidewalk pop-up shop in front of Penn Avenue Pottery, located in The Strip District, in Pittsburgh. Ceramicist Tracey Donoughe invited myself and another textile artist, Kitty Spangler, to sell our wares. While I have demonstrated feltmaking at two MakerFaire events this autumn, I’ve not had a ‘live’ sales event in the United States. My previous craft fairs were in the UK, where I lived for over a decade before embarking on my current Pennsylvania adventure a year ago. Hence, this weekend’s focus was on The Hats.  And educational it was for this online seller to see actual folks trying on my hats!

Here’s what my display looked like. Tracey kindly lent me two tables which were four feet each. I put them together to have a 4′ by 4′ table. This new configuration proved much more amenable than the rectangular, six foot table that I’m used to. A square table makes a nice vantage point that visitors can easily take in.  Behind the table is a wall-mounted, fabric covered board; it was handy to pin all the small-sized felted accessories. To the right of me was a shop that sells Gold and Black Pittsburgh Steelers merchandise (and items for Pirates and Penguins fans too). It was quite the busy place and my table benefited from overflow traffic. There’re at least three gold and black shops in The Strip District of Pittsburgh.


Loads of hats to try on at sidewalk popup shop in Pittsburgh's The Strip District


As I mentioned earlier, watching which hats people were drawn to was quite educational.  It’s especially helpful to see what people react to because I’m someone who makes my felted hats in moderate isolation and sells online via my Etsy shop. Megan Auman talks all how important it is to have a TME, or Test Market Event, in her wonderful online course at CreativeLive.  Without a ‘testing the waters’, there is the risk that artists and makers create items in a vacuum, and don’t learn whether there is interest in a particular ‘product.’

I didn’t keep a formal log of people trying on hats, but here’s the top three performers which I saw people try on and look at throughout the weekend Special thanks to Kitty Spangler for reminding me to snap the photographs.

  • the small elf hats
  • the wizard hat, dubbed The Harry Potter Hat by several passerby
  • the nuno-felted hood


Two girls trying hats - Christmas Elf Hats


Trying on hats - blue nuno-felted hood


Fourth place went to The Seagull hat which was considered quite seriously by one visitor, but passed upon. I think that I shall now add some elastic to the wig clips. I learned that the clips tangle and snag more easily in straight hair. Hard to see that they do this with my wavy hair.


Trying on hats - The Seagull Fascinator


And probably fifth place would go to the peach colored ‘turban’ with faux feathers. I mentally refer to this hat as Carnac the Magnificent. {Note: I’ve never watched Johnny Carson growing up with an eternally early bedtime}. This visitor tried on three hats; but alas, left with only my business card. She liked the peach one most; her friends advised otherwise. (Other milliners have written that brides shopping with friends can be adverse. Or not, if you’re Monica from Friends).


Trying on hats - three of them, the wizard, the bowler and the faux turban.


This pop-up shop was an excellent TME. It was great to see people trying on hats and what their reactions were. So many things were learned about hat display, color attraction, and pricing for Pittsburgh.  On the latter, someone said “This is not Paris.” Unlike in the UK, many visitors were familiar with Etsy, but not with the concept of small fascinator hats. Note to self: update Etsy listings to explain that hat elastic gets tucked under the hair, at the back of the neck. Not in the front, under the chin which is uncomfortable.

Lastly, the weather was splendid, with people wearing shorts in Pittsburgh in December!

Thank you Penn Avenue Pottery and Tracey for this opportunity!