Have you applied for the Bearwood Handmade Christmas fairs yet? Thought it would be timely and useful to offer some advice for anyone applying for fairs and events at the moment. Whether it’s a smaller curated affair or high profile juried job, here are some of my top tips:
- Take it seriously! Just like a job application, this isn’t something you should dash out the night before the closing date. Set some time aside and allow yourself extra time to re-read, proofread and spell check.
- Meet the deadline. Yeah, I know, you’re a creative. Your head is so full of fantastic ideas you can’t be pinned down to deadlines. They’ll be so wowed by your application they’ll overlook that it came in two days late. NO! Always get your application in on time. Some application forms can be completed online, or downloaded and emailed or posted. Sometimes they’ll send an application pack out and you’ll need you to return it by post. Allow plenty of time for this. You don’t know what schedule the organisers have. There might be a meeting of jurors the very next day and if your application isn’t in on time, you’ve lost your chance.
- Check you can afford the fair. The bigger events will often charge an application fee. Some will also charge for ‘optional’ extras, like electricity plug points, lighting, tables, chairs, marketing. Read the small print before applying.
- Make a statement. The larger fairs, especially contemporary craft and designer events, will often ask for an artist’s statement and sometimes a CV. An artist’s statement is your opportunity to prove your authenticity: talk about what inspires you, your particular technique, your background and what makes your work original. It’s a good idea to have a short and longer version that you can tweak as necessary. You can use this blurb as a basis for any online profiles, web pages or PR you do too. Don’t use the same CV you’d use in a job application. CV’s should always be appropriate to the situation. Be honest and include any relevant training or qualifications, events you’ve attended, exhibitions you’ve had, workshops you’ve taught at or attended, books you’re included in, high profile press features. Make sure your information is up to date as well.
- Include photos. Good photos. You might make stunning jewellery or beautiful knits but without a decent photo you can’t showcase your work. A badly judged photo (did you forget the ironing board was in the background?) or dark, out of focus shots will actually suggest to organisers that your presentation skills aren’t up to scratch. They’ll be looking for people who can not only make beautiful products, but who have an eye for display. Great photos mean you’ll also have a chance of being included in any planned press or advertising campaigns. Sometimes you’ll need to email pictures for judging or online use so images need to be easily downloaded and lower resolution (e.g. 72dpi). If the organisers are producing printed publicity they’ll ask for larger, high resolution images (e.g. 300dpi) taken with a good camera. Plan ahead and get a variety of coherent shots taken, saved and labelled correctly, before you start applying for fairs. Then they’ll always be to hand.
- Great product descriptions can help people see the value in your work. Talk about where your materials come from, how much you charge, how they’re displayed. Organisers won’t necessarily have experience of your craft. This is your chance to impress them with your originality and tell them what makes you tick. Again, organisers might be looking for quotable snippets they can can use in publicity.
- Include all of your contact details. Telephone numbers, email and home addresses and your social media info – your twitter or facebook links and details of blogs or online shops. Organisers are nosy! Let them know you work hard and you’ll be rewarded.
- A bit of sucking up won’t do you any harm. Explain why you’re keen on a particular fair. Give positive feedback if you have any. Suggest you can help with promotion, hand out flyers, contact a friend who works for the local paper. Use your judgement. Organisers of a large, high profile fair won’t need your help in putting up bunting the night before, but a local event run voluntarily will be glad of the help.
- Remember, being turned down isn’t a failure. And no sour grapes. Some successful fairs are so over-subscribed that your chances are slim anyway. But getting in an application still gets your name out there and if you’ve included your contact details, you never know – you might be called in as a last minute replacement for a no show or given priority at the next event.
- Get organised. Work out a system that suits you. It could be a ring binder, or a spreadsheet, or a new phone app, but if you’re going to apply for multiple fairs you could soon get yourself in a right mess without an efficient system. Missing deadlines, double booking, not paying fees – all likely to inconvenience organisers and ruin your reputation.
Hope these tips are of some use – good luck with all the fairs you apply for this year. And remember, the closing date for Bearwood Handmade is Friday 2nd October. Get that application in now!