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!

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exciting website news, thanks, ticket giveaway and a brief event update.

It’s controlled mania here preparing for next weekend’s Marlay Fair, the National Crafts & Design Fair which is set up just two days after Marlay ends plus Creative Island at Showcase in January. Everything is coming along nicely thanks to a structured plan, plenty of long but fun working days and lots of help when needed from good buddy George.

Eco printing at Clasheen

She’s great at keeping me on track finishing printed pieces and happy to be a sounding board when I ramble on about all the detritus involved in preparing for a major show.

Eco printed wrap by Nicola Brown

Eucalyptus leaves and bark on a large felt wrap, one of my pieces that is heading to the RDS fair

I’ve several pairs of tickets to giveaway for Thursday 4th and Friday 5th at the RDS, please email me your full name and address ASAP if you would like me to pop some in the post for you, first come, first served!

Eco print on felt by Nicola Brown

Oak leaves on nuno felt, another scarf heading to Dublin

I’m also very busy at the moment collating information for my new selling website, this will be launched in January in advance of Showcase and I’d like to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone involved who has helped me get to this stage in my business and is currently helping make this vision a reality.

  • Frances McDonald – excellent craft mentor who has acted as a sounding board all year. Thanks too Frances for your generous mention recently on Craft Words, much appreciated!
  • Emer Ferran, Mary Whelan, Emma McGrath and team, ongoing support and feedback from the DCCoI, especially in relation to Showcase preparation and providing one to one mentoring with Eddie Shannahan
  • Carlow Local Enterprise Office – 1000 thanks for approving my grant application for the web voucher scheme, none of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been approved
  • Eddie Shanahan – retail, branding and marketing guru, clearly saw within minutes of meeting how I could pull the three separate strands of my artistic practice together, a fabulous help and the person who introduced me to Patrick
  • Patrick McHugh – wonderful fashion photographer and super duper website designer, a pleasure to work with
  • Peter Martin – quirky film maker and videographer, can’t wait to have a short video for the website to help communicate my making process
  • Greg Dorney – excellent product photographer

Ok, one final picture before I head back to the printing studio, professional photographers avert your eyes!

Oak leaves eco printed on silk satin by Nicola Brown

My own oak leaves printed on silk satin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sneak preview ……..

I was thrilled to get a letter yesterday evening saying that the complex felt bag that I entered has made it through to the final round of judging in the RDS National Crafts Competition

Close up of glass nugget and seed beads

Obviously I can’t post a picture of the completed piece to the internet yet but here is a sneak preview of one of the glass nuggets surrounding with seed beads peeking out from the front of the bag, check out my reflection as I try to get the best photo!  One of the other pieces that I entered was a fun chunky necklace and although it didn’t get through to the final round of judging it does take the pressure off me somewhat as now it can be one of my three pieces to show for the upcoming South East Textile group exhibition.

Short post today, will be in touch with everyone who is waiting for emails etc. over the weekend I hope!

Another wonderful package and incredible news in the post!!!

I had intended blogging about the wonderful package I recieved yesterday from Gill aka tisserande for my second bite at the Clasheen Crafty Swap but as I have not been able to take photos today (totally tied up finishing pieces for the RDS National Craft Competition) I promise to post everything tomorrow and reveal the AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL woven silk scarf.  Thanks so much Gill, everything is fabulous and I really feel lucky to have some more gorgeous fibres to experiment with as well, just wait until I have some time next week to play, my head is full of ideas!

This morning I felted a sea shore inspired nuno neckpiece using some gorgeous hand dyed silk from Lyda Rump and combining it with short fibred merino and white bamboo tops.  I had intended on felting a white closure adding some fish skin, a piece of abalone and some mohair locks as embellishment but for some reason I just can’t seem to get it finished to my satisfication so I decided to leave it for the moment and take a quick break, walking up to the top of the lane with Rex to collect my post. 

I am SO excited as guess what was waiting in the post box to brighten up my day???  A letter saying that I had been awarded the 1000 Euro ArtL!nks bursary that I applied for recently, the news is still just sinking in!!!  Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now  will know that ArtL!nks is a 5 counties initiative that has been instrumental in helping me build my felting practice since taking up the craft almost 3 years ago.  I am really honoured that the independent panel assessing the applications thought my work was of sufficient merit to recieve a bursary and will blog about what the funds will be used for next week when I get my RDS submission out of the way!!!

Now, I have a message direct to you all from Cathy Fitzgerald, director of ArtL!nks and would really appreciate if those of you who the message is relevant to take the time to fill out the survey, I have already done it!

Attention all those involved in the Arts in the South East:

In the last few years ArtLinks have organised the first local arts training opportunities in the South East. ArtLinks is now 3 years old with close to 1500 members. ArtLinks is now currently reviewing its programme and is be conducting the online Survey from Mon 10 -26 May 2010, to all its members. We would invite all  who are passionate about the development of the Arts in the South East region to contribute to the future direction of this programme by taking 5 mins to complete this survey at http://tinyurl.com/25h2cy9 (there is a 100 euro book voucher to be won too!)

I am still swooning at this wonderful box full of surprises!!!!

My fantastic swap package

I discovered to my horror over the weekend that I only have until the end of this week to finish three sculptural pieces ready for a joint exhibition in June (need to get to the venue beforehand) and complete my submission for the RDS and Crafts Council of Ireland National Crafts Competition.  This has really put me under tremendous pressure especially as yesterday the large piece that I was working on turned into a total disaster and eventually I just cut it up in frustration.  Imaging then my delight with this beautiful upcycled box of gifts from Jasmine aka Natures Whispers that I recieved as part of the Spring Clasheen Crafty Swap, it really made my day seem brighter!  It is hard to describe how perfectly Jasmine captured my personality and likes and dislikes when preparing this amazing swap package to post to me so I am just going to let some pictures do the talking and will blog properly about the AMAZING and unusual fibres (vicuna, possum, cashmere and angora!!!!!) as soon as I get a chance to try them out!  

I love this text and the hearts!

It is also incredible to think that Jasmine only started starting felting her amazing nuno scarves earlier in the year having followed my tutorial here on the blog and to say that what she sent me blew me away is an understatement.  The wonderful scarf is felted from merino, bamboo, silk tussah and angora; the silk, angora and bamboo were dyed with daffodils and the merino with lilac twigs from Jasmine’s garden.  Each end of the scarf has beautiful embroidery and shisha mirror work (instructions enclosed so I can try it myself!), I really, really must try stitching again as this extra detail totally finishes the scarf beautifully.  I don’t know if Jasmine has ever seen a picture of me in one of my Blue Fish linen pieces but I have collected a whole collection of pieces in combinations of straw and green and this scarf compliments them perfectly!  Check out my Flickr photos to see more pictures of this fantastic bundle of gifts and see what else was enclosed in the beautiful upcycled box but for now I leave you with a couple of images of my amazing new scarf!!! 

Beautifully felted and embellished scarf from Jasmine

Stunning detail

Too many ideas and not enough time

I am finding it hard at the moment to clarify my ideas and get my thoughts on paper for several proposals and submissions that I need to get sorted out before the end of next week. In addition I am making a submission for a big 6 month project, deadline mid May and also making several entries for the RDS National Craft Competition, deadline also during May! Possibly if I had a formal art education this is the type of thing that I would be schooled in but as I haven’t it is something that I just have to wing myself. For me the problem is not my lack of ideas at the moment, rather the reverse. Ideas seem to be floating around my head in ever increasing circles and I really need to clarify and work on just a couple of themes in order to get my submissions/proposals finished in time. Today I am going to have to knuckle down and do some serious work towards my proposal for Sculpture in Context, I do have some clear thoughts for this one but need to see if I can make a mock up of the sculpture that I would like to submit just to make sure that I am not talking on too big a project (as if!)  Carmen has a couple of days off for Easter so I think that I will call in to her this afternoon and we can get some work done together, tomorrow I will probably work myself at home and try and get some paperwork done as well as a lot of felting time permitting.