Yesterday afternoon was a great success. Following on from the dreadful experiences of craft fairs over the last weeks it was very refreshing to have an enjoyable and profitable event! Alan and I had a massive tidy up and clean of the house which only barely got sorted in time for me to create a display of my felted items. I decided to use my upstairs dining room to lay everything out in as the space is quite generous for an old farmhouse and the light is good. For those of you who have never been to my house it is a very old simple farmhouse which I bought about 4 years ago now. It had not been lived in since 1928 and had never had any services installed like water, sewage or electricity. I stripped it out myself with a hammer and chisel back to the stone and then I employed some conservationist builders and craftsmen to make good any timbers, install timber sash windows, insulate throughout, re-lay stone floors and lime plaster inside and out. I also built a modern extension to look exactly like the older houses in my region and everyone who has visited to date can’t tell the old from the new. My dining room is the largest of the original rooms and the ceiling goes right up to the roof and has an exposed crossbeam. I laid out all my finished felt (needless to say I have a pile of things just awaiting the perfect handle or closure sitting in the studio!) and initally was afraid that I had not enough variety of items. It appeared that I had quite a few scarves, vessels and neck wraps but not enough wall hangings or jewellery. Anyway, everything went well because after a slow start several groups of friends arrived almost at the same time. For anyone wanting a really nice warming drink to serve at something like this I definitely recommend my warm apple punch! Just bring pure apple juice, sliced oranges and lemons, cinnamon stick and cloves to a simmer and serve, how simple is that? For those of us wanting an acholic drink you just add a shot of spirits to the glass before pouring in the hot apple, I especially like brandy, calvados or whiskey but really any spirit along those lines would do. Sometimes people are not quite sure if they are going to like the punch but as soon as they taste it they are hooked! The apple juice has enough natural sugar not to need any extra and it is a great winter party drink for those people who are the desiginated driver or just don’t like drinking alcohol . Sales were good and I picked up a couple of commissions so all in all I was delighted with the afternoon. An added bonus is that my house (or at least several of the rooms) are beautifully clean and somewhat tidy just in time for the festive season!
Wow, how the time flies! It seems that I have been continuously on the road over the last two weeks and coupled with that have been having internet connection problems, hence the lask of posts for which I would like to apologise. Anyway, here goes with a bit of an update (including a caution!) and things should be back on track from now on.
Last weekend I had a stand at a small rural craft fair which Carmen organised, this was to raise funds locally for the community development project in Raheen, Co. Wexford that she is involved with. Stands cost only E20 (luckily!!) and some bright wit from another Christmas event kindly removed all Carmen’s road signs. The roads were absolutely treacherous when I set out, my intention was to reach the venue a couple of hours in advance but unfortunately, signs lacking, I actually arrived to the parish centre about 15 minutes after the proposed opening time of 10am. Carmen will never know how close I was to turning around and just going home when I couldn’t find the venue, she had left her phone in the car and I was trying to contact her continuously once I had got lost but eventually I found a man who gave me directions and all was well again. Some of the teenage members of the Youth Club that Carmen works with were on hand to help everything run smoothly and to man the tea and coffee stand. Attendance was dreadful, 37 people work in the centre, Carmen herself was the ONLY worker who actually attended and she was running the show! Anyway, the public were definitely conspicuous in their absence and by about 3pm I had only sold one scarf. I wanted to stick things out for Carmen’s sake (other exhibitors had gone home) and thankfully a couple of people arrived who really related to the felt and I sold several items in quick succession. I definitely picked up a few new people to teach, covered my costs and went home with a couple of extra Euro in my pocket so the day turned out to be a much more positive experience that I had at first expected. Not so the 2 day house event that I attended on Monday and Tuesday. This took place at Ballyhealy House, a comfortable old guest house a couple of miles outside Kilmore Quay in Wexford. My friend Betty owns the house and for the last 4 or 5 years has been running a Christmas Gift Fair at home so we were expecting a big croud. I felt sorry for Betty because she had put a lot of effort into inviting people, advertising and promotion on the radio. All I can say after 2 disasterous days is that it is definitely apparant to me people are affected badly by the current economic situation. On the Monday afternoon/evening a friend and I counted only 23 actual customers (none of whom bought any of my items!) and the following day not 1 person came when they had dropped their children to school (this was a busy time previous years) but about 38 customers did come sporadically during the day. I met a few nice people who were very much into hand crafted products and by the end of the day had made sales to customers who really appreciated the felt. Again I made contacts interested in lessons after the New Year so from that point of view it was worthwhile but in this instance the stand cost E150 and I definitely didn’t cover my costs when you put travel expenses etc. into the equation. LESSON LEARNT I will not participate at craft fairs ever again unless the space costs E20 – E50 and it is really to support a cause that I believe in and/or the current economic climate takes a turn for the better. It is really soul destroying to sit hour after hour when no customers are even in the building! Felt is a very definite niche market and I had no problems selling my work whenever interested customers came to my stand, the problem was a lack of customers through the door and this is something that I had no control over. I hope that this summation does not sound too depressing but I really want anyone else thinking of going down this route to plan their participation carefully and learn from my experience.
On to happier days, or should I say difficult but happier days!! I returned home from Ballyhealy House late on Tuesday evening and was due to set out for a Feltmakers Ireland get together and Crafts Council training in Dublin at 7am the next morning. The weather was so cold that night and the roads so covered by ice that I took the decision to leave a bit later than planned. My vehicle is a long wheel base pick up truck and it is not the best in icy conditions being only 2 wheel drive and very light unless fully loaded. Anyway, it took me an hour and 25 minutes to drive a distance that usually takes less than half an hour so I did not arrive to Dublin until after 11am, a total travel time of over 3 hours. What a nerve wracking journey but it was great to finally arrive, grab a Starbucks coffee and head into Blanchardstown Library to meet the other feltmakers. There was a big pile of work on display and instead of actually making Christmas Ornaments as I thought we were going to do everyone discussed the items that they had made recently and on the recent Sigrid Bannier workshops. I was wearing the necklace that Sigrid gave me as a present and the ring which I made with Ingrid to match it, these got many admiring glances! We all went next door to the Driocht cafe for a light lunch (very tasty!) and then were joined by some other crafts people for an afternoon session with a Crafts Council sponsored mentor. This session was dealing with sales and I must say following on from the previous 3 days was quite an interesting experience. It reinforced my belief that unless you get the foot fall past your stand you will not have a good show but if you were in any way unsure how to get a sale with a LIVE customer this was the afternoon for you! When we had networked and said our goodbyes it was almost 6 o’clock but I wanted to take a quick run into Inspiring Ideas, a craft shop in the Blanchard Centre before setting out for Clasheen once more. A heavy fog was blanketing everywhere so I tried not to delay, some beads and cord later I have to confess that I then grabbed a large Big Mac meal to set me up for the journey ahead! Lucky I did this, my trip home took 2 hours and 45 minutes, usually I can do it in approx 2 but the fog was just like pea soup.
Yesterday morning Carmen called over and we got stuck in for a very enjoyable morning’s felting. I made some more punched beads ‘a la’ Sigrid and then strung them in the evening with some nice lime green beads that I have, Carmen made a beautiful felt and linen necklace. I then had the pleasure of watching Carmen prepare the most devine paella (anyone who knows me knows that I just LOVE good home prepared food) complete with fresh squid, monkfish and huge prawns. We had a glass of sherry, very refined and then got stuck into the paella, not so refined! It was fantastic, a great combination of tastes and textures.
This Sunday I am opening my house between 2 and 5pm sharp for a display and sale of my felt and hand made Christmas ornaments. Quite a few friends were asking me about buying felt as presents so this seemed an ideal opportunity to gather everyone together at the one time and have a bit of a social event at the same time. We are going to enjoy a glass of spiced apple punch and some canapes and I would love for any of you within striking distance to come along if you would like to attend and please tell your friends! If anyone needs directions please just email me and I will forward them on.