Monday, 30 May 2011

Lost Art

As some of you will know, Ritzy Swish has been attending the Craft and Design Show for the last two days, at Castle Ashby Gardens. A beautiful show (apparently much improved since last year), three large marquees full of exhibitors, an exquisite Spanish horse show and music from a very talented and entertaining jazz group. Sunday was a glorious day of sunshine (albeit very bustery), attracting lots of families with young children running around and a very impressive variety of dog breeds! Monday...well not so good, a full day of rain, although it was quite busy in the marquees as the public sheltered from the rain!

I have to admit, on the first morning I had a wander (hiding my exhibitor's badge) purely to have a nosey at the other stalls - Textiles being my obvious interest. There were two exhibitions that really impressed me, and simultaneously made me feel insecure regarding my own offerings! One was an exhibition (I say exhibition because that's what had been presented, whereas my stall remained a 'stall') of elegant sculptural bags that any lady would be proud to have on her arm. The quality, attention to detail, the presentation and the 'uniqueness' was paramount. Rumour has it that grown women were fighting over bags at this stall in a previous year. The second exhibition was a Textiles Artist who had the most gorgeous compositions on canvases and framed (although they were very expensive so I did wonder if any would sell).

I also met two fellow Folksy people, whose work I recognised and subsequently said 'You're on Folksy aren't you?' and related conversations arose. My fellow Folksyers were 'Cottons and Dreams' and 'Little Eccentric'. The ironic thing is, I have included a product from Little Eccentric in my Ruby Folksy Friday, and I actually recognised the bag sat there looking pretty! It is quite bizarre (but lovely too) to meet people you have spoken to online and to realise....they're REAL!

Cottonsanddreams on Folksy

Little Eccentric on Folksy

Whilst studying my fellow exhibitors over the two days, and through a great deal of conversation and immensely valuable advice, I learnt the following about exhibiting at craft fairs (some of which I have read about, but it was beneficial to witness it in practise). I'm sure there is much more left to learn!
  1. When exhibiting, ensure your display has some height. This can be created by: fabric covered boxes, shelving units, suitcases/wicker picnic cases, lighting, custom built display units, or simple plinths. The benefit is the customer can see the full product rather than a small part or section (or having to move or touch it themselves which people seem reluctant to do).
  2. Regarding actual products for sale: have a theme. 'Cottons and Dreams' has hit upon a flower motif that has proved to be very popular and is now marketing that motif on a variety of products. Little Eccentric has focussed on the techniques of felting and embellishment, which then translates into art compositions, elegant bags and accessories.
  3. Number 2 in other words, know what you're about.
Exhibit A: My 'stall', quick description: looks like an Aladdin's Cave!

  1. No height!
  2. No clear theme!
  3. No definite product!
There is no excuse for lack of height to my stall, I can sort that.

There is a history to my other problems (as there always is to all problems!) A few years ago, I got back into my Textiles Art. I started taking photos and creating work. To be honest, I'd been looking for a way out of teaching and a way back into creating (aren't a lot of us creators trying to find the ultimate job? To do our own work every day, and have that pay the mortgage!). At the time I had never heard of Folksy or online handmade. Instead, I came across an advert for the rent of some shop space and thought that'll be a good idea and went for it! In hindsight, little consideration of what I would actually do, just a go for it attitude. I showed my work to the shop owner who enthused and loved it. So we entered into an agreement. I would pay rent, and get to put all my works into the shop. However, once the agreement began,  a few problems became clear. The shop was located in a well known shopping village in Northampton, where by which a 'non-competition' policy is abided. Suddenly I was told: you cannot put framed works into the shop because we have a gallery on-site; you cannot put cushions in the shop because we have an upholsterers on-site; you cannot put bags in the shop because we have several bag shops on site. It was not the shop owner's fault, she fought for me. However, even the fabric shop owner complained about my goods because 'they are handmade and I sell the fabric for it!' That complaint went to the owner of the site who flatly disagreed (thank goodness), on the premise that imported goods could also be handmade! So I was forced to make products that fitted the theme of the shop in which I rented space: bedroom and bathroom. I made: a variety of wash-bags, make-up brush rolls, foot spa bags, anything I could invent related to that theme.

After three months, business was bad, not just for me but the shop owner alike, and I ran out of monetary resources. I had to leave the shop. This left me with a wide stock range of products that I would not ordinarily choose to make. I did home parties before christmas, and an exhibition at my place of work. Products sold well at both venues. So I got confident and began to make more of the same, believing that the products were popular (not realising at the time that it was probably just the right time of year to sell that type of product).

'Back to Basics'
From the latest craft fair at Castle Ashby, it has become blindingly clear to me that I have been sidetracked by producing products for that shop last year. I lost my Art. I admit, I enjoy shopping for fabrics to make the products, but it's no good if they basically do not sell. I was diverted from my original Textiles Art work, which had a clear theme and was composed. This resulted in the production of items that are boring, not unusual enough and not unique. Loads of people commented on how pretty my products are, but coupled that with 'I could make that'. I quote a comment from a student of mine (bless her trying to give me advice): 'That's lovely, you could get that in Boots...Maybe that's the problem Miss, the fact that you could buy it in Boots.' You always get the truth from your students (if they trust you anyway!).

Plan of Action:
  1. Get back to my theme, it was there, and is evident in my gift boxes!
  2. Investigate artistic avenues in a sustained manner.
  3. Explore how to translate my artwork into products (so that the connection/theme is there).

Examples of my line of work before the shop last year:

Final Thought: If any of you creators and artists are struggling out there, there is one last thing I discovered:

People are willing to spend an absolute fortune on Cake!

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Vibrant Embers! Serpentine Jasper Keyring / Handbag Charm by Nofkants Curios
Stitched "love" Heart mini fabric notebook by Dab and a dash

Headband/Hairband - Green and Orange by Uniquely Yours
Crochet Gift/Keepsake Bag by ~Elvira Jane~

Will You Be My Bridesmaid-Luxury Vintage Style Postcard Set by Craftypagan Designs

Copper and Rust Memory Wire Bracelet by AMIDesigns
Envelope clutch, hand printed copper brown silk by SabineCornic
Copper Silk Hairclips by Ickle Imogen
Silver and copper leaf pendant

Beautiful Crochet Copper Bracelet by Loveliness Jewellery

Copper Rose Handbag by handbagsandgladrags
Copper Heart Necklace by Willow Wire Creations

Ornate copper coloured hair clip by Damselfly Gemma

Copper Rivers Bag by Ritzy Swish

Gift Box 'Copper Rust' by Ritzy Swish

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Marina XSmall Dog Collar by Funky Mutts
Buddleia of Suburbia - Handmade Lampshade by HouseofChintz

Chalcopyrite chips in resin and sterling silver pendant by Damselfly Gemma
Summer Hand Bag by Mad Bags by Wendy
Moss Drop by Natalia Lovat

Tea Light or Votive Candle Holder by Emily Magpie Moments
miniature kitty - japanese style plush by little treasures
Emerald Rivers Bag by Ritzy Swish

Elegant Emerald Green Cotton V Neck Bow Puff Sleeves Fitted Cocktail Shift Dress by Fashion Couture

Emerald green crochet tote by CrochetMushroom

Green emerald olive forest boa scarf - Clover by The Crafty Bride

Popcorn Emerald by Elaine Martin

Thursday, 12 May 2011


Welcome to my contribution to Folksy Friday: the Folksy bloggers create a showcase collection of Folksy work based upon a theme. I intend to post my Folksy Friday Collections on Thursday evenings as I work full time. The theme I have chosen for my first Folksy Friday links to my last blog on inspirations and also my latest collection; the 'Rivers' bags.

Folksy Friday: 'RUBY'
"Ruby" the Red and Pink Gingham Button Teddy Bear with UK postage inclusive by Gladys and Albert
Ruby...Reversible Dress by Miss...Mushy
Monique - Ruby Red Silk Bridal Shoulder Wrap by Gabrielle Louise
Ruby by Elaine Martin
Ruby Red Heart Woolfelt Pin by Plowmen's Clocks
Ruby Dot Booties by Betty P
Ruby lace heart dish in stoneware ceramic with deep red glaze by Prince Design UK
Rococo Loco Wig in Ruby Red by PPLongstocking Wigs and Hair bands with a twist
Handmade Gold and Ruby Felt Handbag by little eccentric
Ruby Rivers Bag by Ritzy Swish
Ruby Leaf Necklace by Natalia Lovat