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!

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!

 

 

 

Reviewing, recharging and renewing for the months ahead

It’s that time of the year again, reviewing events past, recharging the creative juices and looking forward to a renewed sense of artistic direction for the months ahead. Thankfully my cold is definitely on the mend today and I did actually manage to felt an experimental iPad cover this morning incorporating raw wool and cow hair (see pic above), more about that next time. I am still taking a cough bottle but at least I can think straight again, I just need to answer outstanding emails and respond to queries over the next few days, drat!

2013 is shaping up to be another exciting year on the felting front. Carlow County Council have been working hard to seal and secure all my windows and doors in the studio at Duckett’s Grove so hopefully that’ll mean no more freezing days trying to felt in the cold. All the studios and the design shop will be open again from the first week in February, Madeleine in the tea rooms is actually open this Sunday too as there’s an organised walk for families in the afternoon and she’ll be offering yummy cakes and hot drinks then as per usual.

In addition to facilitating workshops at Duckett’s Grove most weekends I’ll be starting several VEC funded courses over the next few weeks, once they’re up and running I’ll share the individual details and try to take pictures of the work in progress. May will see me travelling once again to teach in the US, I LOVE these trips and am so looking forward to catching up with you all again!!! I’ll be in MI, KY and CA, details to be added to the workshop page of the next few weeks as the workshop descriptions get sorted. In June I’m returning to beautiful Dominio Vale do Mondego in Portugal to facilitate our second residential felting week. It was fabulous last year and I’m very excited that many of the participants are attending again, we’ll have a ball!!!

Also on the teaching front, my wonderful friend and fellow Felt United partner in crime Dawn Edwards hopes to make a return visit to Ireland during 2013, obviously for a holiday but I’m happy to say I’ve also persuaded her to facilitate another hat making workshop! This trip I really want to take Dawn across the country to visit the Aran Islands, they are so stunningly beautiful and one of my all time favourite places in the world!!! Initially we had thought that this might take place early in the year but now we’re working towards a later date, as soon as we know we’ll let you know all the details.

I had also intended on sharing my thoughts here about the various craft fairs and events I participated in recently, unfortunately I’ve run out of steam now is so I think I’ll call it a day if that’s OK! WordPress have interesting annual reports available for all their blogs, click on the link bellow if you want to see some interesting facts about Clasheen!

https://clasheen.wordpress.com/2012/annual-report/

 

Another marathon day is underway

The day has gone pretty quickly to date. I was under a little pressure to get set up at Mount Juliet, possibly because I needed to make some fresh cranberry salsa to send home with Alan as well as catch the bank before coming here. It’s also Alan’s birthday today and tonight’s the last night we’ll see each other until the new year so loads to do and almost NO time to get it done in! Anyway, I changed a little of our display here and now all we need are customers to arrive.

Emma manned a joint stand at Borris this morning as we didn’t want regular visitors to miss us for the last market of the year. I don’t know yet how that went, hopefully better than last week though!

A short little update…..

Raising the front table and changing around the felt has definitely made a difference to our stand at Mount Juliet today. Ironically, it doesn’t look as cohesive as before but definitely more people are walking inside and browsing both the felt and Emma’s paintings. Yesterday Emma altered her section, I think that between us we’ve a better chance of sales over the next few days so fingers crossed we’ll all finish this marathon on a high!

Things are hotting up slightly

While Borris House Christmas Fair at the weekend didn’t exactly rock my sales boat too much the atmosphere was lovely and by the end of yesterday evening I was happy enough with how things had gone. Mount Juliet Christmas Village on the other hand has been extremely disappointing so far, great if you are bringing your children to the Santa train (as 10s of 1000s are!) but totally hopeless to date as regards customers browsing the stands and making actual purchases. We’re committed to having our stand there until 9pm next Sunday evening so all I can do is hope that more visitors come this week to the fair itself as opposed to the train.

Creative Carlow pop up shop

Creative Carlow pop up shop

This morning I had my first working stint at the Creative Carlow pop up shop on Tullow Street, I enjoyed myself and made a couple of good sales too thank goodness! Now I’m at home trying to catch up with the blog and a few household chores, washing, cleaning, tidying etc. but everything will never be done before 24th and neither will presents be sent abroad in time for Christmas delivery or indeed purchased before the big day itself for some of my Irish buddies. I’m annoyed with myself as I had really hoped to have everything bought or made by now, presents posted and cards sent, possibly I under anticipated how busy I would be travelling to and from all the outside events. Hopefully everyone will understand and enjoy their gifts even if they are a few days late, good friends will anyway so fingers crossed!!!

Our stand at the Creative Carlow pop up shop this morning

Our stand at the Creative Carlow pop up shop this morning

One thing that I am happy about today is that I was able to add another mannequin to our display and change around stock for Leiko and myself this morning in Carlow. While it’s not the best picture (rain has prevented any pics outdoors) you can see the sleeveless top I finished the other afternoon now displayed on a mannequin. As I mentioned before, it’s a real juggling game trying to keep each venue looking good with a variety of different items and colourways, tomorrow I’ll have a go at revamping our space at Mount Juliet.

Finally for today, I had a lovely time visiting Jim and Tina Behan at his house/ceramic studio on my way home from Carlow. Tina had selected a couple of felt pieces for herself over the weekend and I was able to trade with Jim for some fabulous eastern inspired wood fired tea bowls and pots. I’ve always adored this work of his so was in seventh heaven, thanks Jim and Tina!!!

Business is picking up a tiny bit…..

I’m just home now after the first day at Borris House, Santa made an appearance too and will be coming back tomorrow to visit some more lucky girls and boys. Leiko and Norma (my current work experience aide) manned Mount Juliet and while neither venue made brilliant sales we all did a little better than other days. Tomorrow should see a much bigger crowd in Borris so fingers crossed they’ll be in a buying mood!

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