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As long as nimble fingers and artistic talent have been around, so have roadside shows and impromptu sales booths offering ingenious handicrafted items to the public.

Always a pleasant past-time, most people love to wander through arts and crafts shows to find items they didn't know they could not live without, until they saw them.

It seemed logical that handicrafted articles would be as popular in cyberspace as in physical space - but they aren't. However, it has become apparent in the past several years that customers for articles found in arts and crafts shows are least likely to be computer - oriented, and those most likely to locate handicrafted articles in physical, roadside shows, are least likely to be looking for similar articles on the Internet.

There have been hundreds, more likely thousands, of web pages published in the past several years presenting a great variety of homemade articles for sale. A number of countries aid their local merchants in preparing Internet web pages offering craft items unique to their particular area of the world.

We have spoken with activity directors at retirement centers that have literally spent thousands of dollars in purchasing attractive websites and preparing image files and descriptions in appropriate format for their resident's crafted items to be offered online.

The websites were carefully and diligently entered into all the major search engines and the sellers sat back and waited for orders. In almost all cases the results were singularly disappointing.

The most obvious recourse is email advertising. However, this process often seems to result in clashes with anti-spam groups. A postal mailbox stuffed with advertising flyers is accepted and even desired by a majority of the public.

An unsolicited email message is labeled as spam and attacked, sometimes quite viciously, by knowledgeable computer operators until advertising and spam have become almost synonymous. This, of course, has probably transpired primarily due to the efforts of pornographers.

Whatever the cause, the results have made it very difficult for online arts and craft shows to reach the public. There is no traffic driving by online craft shows and the majority of potential customers may have email available, and will respond to an offer landing in their mailbox, but they have not the inclination or expertise to surf the Internet looking for online arts and crafts shows.

An alternative may be to consider the Internet as a source of almost unlimited storage for catalogs of handicrafted items. A customer may drive hundreds of miles to attend an arts and crafts show and walk around among the various booths.

If the booth owners would advise the customers on how they could review these arts and crafts articles online in between physical shows, this very well might provide the missing attention to online shows.

I published a website in 1999 that displays a variety of booths. Potential customers, once they find the basic website, can wander around among the booths just as easily as attending a physical show and walking from booth to booth.

Each online booth provides an immediate link or access to the other booths. In most cases these online booth owners hold physical shows at regular intervals, or at their homes, or businesses.

Just as auto dealers have found it expedient and advantageous to all of them to set up shop in the same area as other auto dealers, so online arts and craft booths will find it advantageous to set up their cyberspace booth in the same area and other booths.

Once customers find an arts & crafts area they like, they will be inclined to return to that area in the future to review the great variety of products the catalogs provide. The greater the variety of handicraft items offered, the more likely customers will wander around among the catalogs or cyberspace booths - once they find it.

Considering online arts and crafts shows as an adjunct or catalog to physical arts and crafts shows may be their best, and only, future. Advertising for online shows may best be accomplished by word of mouth and by handing out flyers and business cards at physical shows.

Without the direction provided by physical arts and craft shows, the new location of these cyberspace shows, or catalogs of crafted articles offered, may never be found.

Todd Rockwell Email: Oneline Arts & Crafts Show

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