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 |
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!
Exhibit A: My 'stall', quick description: looks like an Aladdin's Cave!
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:
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!