November/December news to date……..

The end of November and all of December to date has been a tightly coreographed dance of preparation, packing, unpacking, stand set up and stand take down, in short a whirlwind of selling events. Currently my work is on display as part of the FORM exhibition at 57 Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. This last show of the season continues until 6pm on Sunday 20th December and has been a wonderful venue for sharing Carlow craft with a wider audience. Thanks Carlow LEO for your assistance with the venue and signage.

I was delighted to have one of my small lambswool cushions selected by the DCCoI (Design & Crafts Council of Ireland) for their curated area at the National Crafts & Design Fair at the RDS. Making a commitment to concentrate on printing luxury fabrics has been a good business decision, nerve wracking (because of the associated higher retail prices) but well worth the initial mental effort. Heavier fabrics such as lambswool and higher momme silk absorb the colour more intensely than lighter ones in my opinion and I'm finding it leaves me freer to concentrate on getting good placement of pattern.

Small lambswool cushion included in this display as background for a short tv recording

One of the most satisfying things (aside from sales of course!) at all these pre Christmas events was how many customers from last year returned to tell me that they were enjoying their previous purchases and how surprised they were that multiple washes hadn't affected the eco printed colour at all. It was really great to get this feedback, I know how well my own pieces wash but it's quite another thing when others have the same experience.

Anita wearing her eco printed wool jacket

I met really lovely people at all the events, the Glucksman Gallery, Marlay Park, the RDS and now Blackrock in addition to spending happy hours chatting and explaining a little about the eco printing process to those who were interested.
 
Finally for today, although I've not yet seen all the images from the recent photo shoot with Patrick McHugh I was thrilled to be able to use this first one for new signage just in time for the RDS! Ivey Sullivan from Morgan the Agency did a fantastic job with hair and make up while model Mya was amazing for this her first professional photo shoot, thanks so much everybody!!!

Felt wrap and eco printed silk dress

 
 

 

 

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Post RDS, a few thoughts about successfully setting up and surviving a big craft fair!

I had a fantastic time at the National Crafts & Design Fair last week, made new friends and came home almost voiceless but thrilled with the sales and response to my work that I achieved over the course of the five days. It was a very intense experience, setting up my stand took me just over ten hours but at the end of the day all the hard work definitely paid off. Several of you have been asking via FB comments and emails would I be happy to share some tips about selling events, for what it’s worth here are some of my thoughts! In no particular order…….

  • Be courteous and polite to the organisers, security and parking attendants at all times, you never know when you might need a favour!
  • Make friends with your neighbours
  • Plan your stand or booth at home but don’t be afraid to make adjustments and major changes once you start to set up, sometimes your position at a fair will make this necessary
  • Make sure you utilise all areas of your space when possible (walls, floor, tables etc.) to create a visually pleasing stand, less is more
  • Cough up for additional lighting for your stand if this is an option, it pays off!!! Consider an electrical socket too
  • I used bed risers to raise my main table and make it more accessible. This also means that for some shows (the Glucksman Gallery being an example) I have space enough for a second table at a lower level protruding out from under the higher, it’s always a good idea to have different heights. In the US you can source bed risers from Wallmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond or similar stores, in Ireland or the UK you can order them from Amazon or even use pieces of pvc pipes which you can cut to height yourself
  • Make sure to have clear signage with your name visible from different angles, it’s important for people to be able to find you easily
  • Have enough business cards and promotional literature available at the front of your stand to make it easy for visitors to take away and digest later, keep stocking up
  • Don’t be tempted to make a whole lot of cheaper priced items just for the show, stick with what you make best and be confident that it will sell, it will if your products are of good quality and priced correctly!
  • Have everything priced and keep a record of what you sell
  • Don’t be afraid to position a more expensive item to the front of your stand, it won’t put the customers you are looking for off. Remember that there is only a limited market for any individual item and you just need a good through put of visitors to make those sales, don’t blame yourself if there are not enough visitors……..
  • …………….. unless you don’t give out any invitations! Do please, please give out all the invitations you are given by the organisers, if you don’t how can you expect other stand holders to do so either??? Remember, you might invite a friend who won’t buy from you but someone else might invite one of their friends and they will be your customer! Think of it as a numbers game, the higher the number of total attendees the better your chance of sales
  • Wear smart but comfortable clothes, some fairs can be super hot while others are like an ice box. Think layers and think natural fabrics coupled with flat shoes or boots. By the beginning of the third day at the RDS I was shoe less but wearing a smart top, silk scarf, black trousers and black socks, none of my customers appeared to notice the lack of footwear as the only thing they were looking at was my display!
  • Don’t eat or drink on your stand but if you are manning it by yourself all day make sure that you have a supply of easy to eat protein and juice or bottled water that you can snaffle during any quiet moment. Step out of your space at regular intervals to do this and revive yourself with items like dried fruit, nuts, hummus, veg, fruit and good quality chocolate, not eating at all is not a good idea and you’ll only end up exhausting yourself. If you’re lucky enough to have neighbours like my buddies Ariane and John you might even get a couple of cups of coffee brought to you throughout the day, thanks guys!!!
  • Sign up for a credit/debit card system (to use with a smart phone) such as Square in the US or SumUp in Ireland, they are worth their weight in gold. As a single female working by myself it was much less stressful walking around at night knowing that I wasn’t lugging large quantities of cash around
  • Do make sure that you have enough change at the start of each day. My pricing structure means that my cheapest scarf is €65 and everything is in multiples of 5, as a result I only need 5s, 10s and 20s for my change
  • Consider taking names and addresses of every purchaser (ask them first) to add to your event invitation data base, if you don’t already have one start one!
  • Consider a sign up sheet for workshops or a newsletter
  • Personally I do not like to see anyone sitting in or on their stand. I know that sometimes it’s necessary to have a chair or stool but where possible have this outside the selling space but near enough to be on hand
  • Be polite to all the people who visit your stand, don’t prejudge
  • Don’t spend all your time socialising or on your phone. Remember that a fair may be one of the only dedicated events during the year with the potential to make a LOT of PROFIT in a short space of time, don’t waste your time missing this opportunity
  • Have fun!

I hope this list helps some of you, please remember that they are only my personal thoughts and not to be taken as the absolute gospel. If there was one acronym that sums up my approach it would be KISS, it may be overused but ‘keep it simple stupid’ really does seem to work for me!

Finally for today, I’ve been working like mad on my new website content as part of ongoing Creative Island preparations for Showcase 2015 and yesterday I was printing on a sample of lambs wool.

Oak leaf on lambs wool, the back of the leaf

Oak leaf on lambs wool, the front of the leaf

Tomorrow morning I’ll be participating at Borris Food & Craft Market as per usual, from Christmas however I’ll not be there on such a regular basis. The way my business plan is progressing unfortunately I won’t be able to manage each Friday but the good thing is that my new online shop will be up and running from mid January and the new collection should be available at selected retailers from February onwards!

Australian workshop announcement, Marlay Fair ends and the National Crafts & Design Fair is about to begin!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to facilitate a week long felting workshop at the Geelong Fibre Forum in Australia next year, I’m very excited about the whole thing!!! It’ll be fantastic to catch up with friend Pam de Groot who will also be teaching there in 2015, we’ll be the felting instructors and if you check out the event website you’ll be able to see what I’m teaching plus all the other textile related workshops that will be on offer.

Marlay Craft Fair was very pleasant, super organisers and a nice group of visitors each day. I didn’t manage to take any good photos over the weekend because each room had loads of windows and it was really difficult to deal with the light. I will take plenty of pictures though at the RDS this week. Tomorrow I set up all day and we open to the public at 10am on Wednesday, do call up to me at stand B8 and say hi if you’re re in the area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Glucksman Craft + Design Fair……….. in pictures!

I had an extremely busy but enjoyable time at the Glucksman over the long weekend. I'm too tired now to do any writing but here's a little sequence of pictures depicting the event from my perspective, thanks Rachel and all at the Glucksman for organising another super event!

 

 

 

FORM invitation and pictorial update

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last few weeks. Those of you who follow my activities via FB will know that I've pretty much been out of Internet coverage from the time the workshops ended in the north until Alan and I returned from our holidays in west Cork on Sunday night. Now I'm preparing for good friends Merridee and Keith to arrive for a visit on Friday so I think it's best if I update you here via pictures! I'll begin with an invitation to our FORM event during Kilkenny Arts Festival followed by a few from our hols (some of the to me we vacationed on an island and spent two nights in a tipi and two in a yurt!), the final image is the felt bracelet that I finished this morning, a VERY belated birthday present for my sister.

 
 
 

 

 

Television tomorrow

You may remember recently I headed down to the wonderful Ennis Creative Arts Centre the film a short slot for Nationwide, it’s being shown tomorrow night (Friday 28th March) on RTE One at 7pm for those that are interested!

A selection of my felt and beautiful hats from Highbury Designs at Ennis Creative Arts Centre

A selection of my felt beside beautiful hats from Highbury Designs at Ennis Creative Arts Centre

Here’s the blurb direct from the Nationwide website.

CREATIVE ENNIS/REPORT AINE LALLY

Many new businesses were set up during the economic downturn in Ireland and one very colourful and innovative centre in Co. Clare inspired and helped several women from around the country do just that. The ‘Ennis Creative Arts Centre’ is where tutors from overseas and Ireland gather to teach and develop all aspects of Arts, Crafts and Design for those wishing to learn a variety of creative skills for the first time or indeed expand their business in a way that they have unique products and crafts to offer their customers. Áine Lally has the story.

Reflections from Showcase 2014 and thanks!

I had intended posting pictures to the blog every day of Showcase, poor Internet connectivity coupled with tiredness in the evenings unfortunately made this an impossibility. Instead, I'm going to reflect on how everything went and give you a peek into my thoughts as I debrief, if I get it all written down now then I can move on and make some new felt. I'd especially like to say a massive thank you to everybody who supported and encouraged me in advance of the show and over the five days of the event itself, the Showcase and Crafts Council teams who did an incredible job, the electrician who changed the wiring on my stand with such good humor, twice, all of you both here and on Facebook who blew me away with your good wishes and finally, my buddies in crime at the neighbouring stands, thanks for being such a pleasure to spend time with! Obviously it's impossible to name everybody (and I don't want to leave anyone out inadvertently!) but a special thanks go to Ariane Tobin, Cornelia McCarthy, Roisin Markham, Kate Ramsey, Emma Jane Champley, Lesley Round, George Stafford, Anita Marnell, Niki Collier, Mary Whelan, Nicola Doran and to Lorraine Bowen who gave me great advice about agents and JobBridge.


Now for those reflections, it paid to……….

  • Have clear signs (thanks Ger and Joe from Carlow Sign Management)
  • Have good photography (thanks Greg Dorney)
  • Send out email invitations to prospective stockists letting them know which stand I was on and what my collection consisted of
  • Keep the display very simple
  • Pay for additional lighting
  • Offer a show special
  • Ask for a sale
  • Have a slide show of images looping on the MacBook meaning whenever I got a confirmed order or a lead I could quickly update my notes by typing them up
  • Be on the stand myself as much as possible but have good knowledgeable friends to help me too, thanks a million George and Anita!
  • Wear one of my scarves
  • Eat!!! The first day I didn't eat any lunch, bad move! From then on I tried to get a hot meal or snack regularly on dates and fruit, one needs ones energy at these shows.
I was thrilled to get orders from galleries and high end shops in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK. America will be on stream in a couple of months while Canada is also a possibility. In addition to the confirmed stockists I've several exciting projects coming up in both Ireland and Northern Ireland over the spring/summer period, all in all exciting times ahead! I've now got to finish unloading the truck and order more raw wool and silk. I'll leave you today with a picture I took earlier this afternoon, somehow a glittery leaf from a Christmas arrangement ended up on a pile of spent natural printing material and was sparkling in the rain, weird but fun.