In my last blog I said that I would write about my experiences ‘doing a craft fair’ and I must stress that this is a very personal view.
How many of you reading this will have tried your hand at a craft fair? Quite a few I would imagine. It takes a lot of planning and preparation. What goods do you sell? Targeted at a potential market or just everything you’ve got? How are you going to arrange your stall?
I did a craft stall at a North Norfolk craft fair on a hot August Bank Holiday weekend some years ago and didn’t sell a thing [see previous blog 8th February 2013 Art – v – Commerce…] This, I must say, put me off a bit but in September I had another go.
A bright sunny morning dawned. It was mid September. I packed my items (decided to take the lot in the end) and made the short trip down to the village hall. Walking into a room full of people you don’t know is quite a daunting experience (at least it is for me!) but I’d come this far so in I went. I had decided on quite a simple arrangement for the stall – just a pretty cloth with some height introduced by placing some cardboard boxes on the table and draping the cloth over it. I knew there wouldn’t be any electric plugs to hand so didn’t bring any lights. I had pinned all my brooches to a plain cream cushion and they looked very pretty. The aim was just to try and sell some jewellery and see how it went. It didn’t take long to set up and then I sat behind my table and waited.
The stalls were part of a charity event and by 9.30 people started to come in for the tea, coffee and cakes. But would they notice me and more importantly, my jewellery?
My experience as a receptionist has taught me quite a lot about reading body language. When someone comes into the reception area how they hold themselves, how they speak and their general ‘mien’ can tell me a lot about how they are feeling. It is much the same when you are trying to sell something. With craft fairs when someone comes up to the stall it could be……….
(a) I’ll just take a look. What’s this person selling? Oh jewellery! Not quite my thing … and then they drift off often without making eye contact.
(b) Casual browsers. They come up to the stall. Look at it. Don’t touch anything – perhaps smile, if you’re lucky – then move on.
(c) People who are really interested! My favourite of course! I don’t mind if they don’t actually buy anything. I am quite happy for them to pick up the jewellery and handle it. I just want them to talk to me so that I can engage with them.
After a few of (a) and (b) I decided to be a bit more proactive. When people came up to the stall, I smiled and said ‘hello!’ and often a brief conversation would ensue.
An elderly lady approached the stall, gave it a cursory view then remarked ‘I’ve always admired people who do this kind of thing, but it’s never been for me. No make up, no jewellery, plain Jane, that’s me’. I didn’t know quite how to reply to this, so just smiled politely. She went off in the direction of the tea and cakes.
Two women came up. One, well dressed (smart casual) and festooned with gold jewellery remarked with a smile ‘Hmm, I prefer real jewellery myself. My husband was in the trade’. To which I just smiled and laughed (thinking inwardly, well, that depends upon what you consider jewellery to be) … anyway her friend took a different view and bought quite a lot.
A few minutes later she came back. ‘I’ve lost one of the earrings I just bought!’ she wailed. ‘It’s because you gave her a bag with a hole in it’ added her friend (of the gold jewellery). Well, eventually after much scrabbling about on the floor we found it and I apologised profusely, inwardly kicking myself for such a stupid mistake. That’ll teach me to check the bags I put people’s purchases in, in future!
Overall, I did quite well. I sold some necklaces, earrings and amazingly a few of the brooches sold, which surprised me as they are a much neglected item of jewellery. I think this was due to the fact that I had pinned them to a cushion which helped to set them off. One of the other stallholders bought a brooch, saying (without a trace of emotion) that it would look good on her suit when she attended her mother’s funeral.
On reflection I should have brought some work to do whilst I sat there as in the inevitable ‘lulls’ between customers I sat there looking at the clock whose hands seemed on a go slow at times. I was glad when it was time to pack up as after 3 hours of sitting there I’d had enough. There were a few half price cakes left at the end and I bought some, fully intending to gorge myself when got home. Strangely I felt tired, even though I hadn’t really been doing anything.
Putting your work which, if you’re anything like me, has a lot of yourself in it on display in front of the public, creates mixed emotions. I always ask myself, is it good enough? Is is appealing enough? But, I don’t really know why I do this, as when it comes down to it you have to follow your heart when it comes to any kind of craft work, or it is not an honest piece. What I have made, I have made and so be it.
Do I really enjoy the selling bit? To be honest, not really. The creating bit is much more fun. Feeling under pressure to make things for the sole purpose of selling, is a surefire way to stifle creativity as it creates tension in me and then things don’t go right. I give a lot of my work away to friends as presents and this gives me much more pleasure. If I do sell, I’ll say, ‘Oh you can have it for ‘X’ amount – knowing full well that it’s probably cheap. But then, the pricing bit is the hardest of all. Overprice and you don’t sell. Underprice and you could be making more. It’s a dilemma that probably faces craftspeople all over the world.
One thing I’m sure of however ,is that all that really matters is creating a piece that you are happy with; that satisfies you in terms of creativity, finishing and quality. Otherwise, why make anything in the first place?
If you have any views, comments to make on the above please, as always, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time ……….