“Nature and its endless forms, patterns and textures inspire my felted work. Exploiting the properties of various wool fibres, often combined with silk, cotton and lace, I seek to explore their relationship with light through the processes of wet felting. My work focuses on felted products involving light and encompasses a range of shades, strung lights, felted votives and textural vessels.“
“I’m a printmaker and graphic designer from Santiago, Chile based in Birmingham. I discovered the woodcut at college and it became my passion. Last year I created my own workshop to enrich my technique. My work is inspired by the nature, architecture and landscapes from Chile and England.“
Illopetals is a Bearwood based collaborative duo who create freestyle illustrations, graphics & paintings. Leon (‘illo’) is the character designer who naturally draws imaginative and quirky characters with a quick, freestyle approach. Deborah (‘petals’) is a natural doodler and adds repeating patterns, detail and colour in a bold, playful way. Together their styles seamlessly fuse to create imaginative stories and abstract worlds.
The Eloise Bindery is a small bookbinding studio based in Birmingham, UK, established in 2013 by Eloise Lee.
Eloise is passionate about creating beautifully bound books that are designed to be filled to the brim with ideas, memories and creativity. The books are made using a variety of traditional techniques, complimented by colourful, contemporary designs. The books are perfect for drawing, writing, painting, traveling and scrap-booking. Eloise specialises in exposed spine bindings, as she believes the stitching is too pretty to hide!
Eloise’s product range includes sketchbooks, journals, notebooks, guest books, photo albums, cards, gift tags, stickers and other stationery items. Her client base include artists, writers, and prospective brides and grooms.
All the books are cut, folded, glued, pressed and sewn by hand. Eloise’s photographs form the designs for the bindery’s stationery, and it is all printed in house. Eloise occasionally uses handmade felt covers for her books, the felt is made using a wet felting technique with dyed merino wool.
This year we started planning our Christmas Bearwood Handmade fairs earlier than ever but all of a sudden I’m sitting here wrapped in a blanket on a bleak November afternoon thinking about delivering flyers and only just starting to write about some of our fantastic stall holders. So here we go, let me start introducing the first of the talented designer makers we have coming up at the Bearwood Handmade event on 19th November.
Amanda aka This Geek Love is a regular at our Bearwood Tapestry nights in The Midland and had a stall at Bearwood Handmade last December. “I learnt to crochet in 2012 and haven’t stopped since! I love making geeky things inspired by Doctor Who, Star Wars and now Pokémon amongst other things. I also love working with bright colours and the CMYK colour combo.”
“My products are all handmade, mostly crocheted, accessories and home décor with a geeky twist. They range from rose and bow brooches to star wars pots, 8bit blankets and anything I can make a Tardis into.”
I wanted to share some thoughts on stall design and display for anyone doing a craft fair this Christmas. It can be the difference between good sales and no sales, drawing customers in and encouraging them to spend money, or ensuring they walk swiftly on by.
Over the years I’ve championed handmade like crazy, pointing out the love and care, craftsmanship and time that goes into each product. But to be honest, I was so busy pointing out the differences that I sort of forgot that for many buyers there is no difference. Of course, some actively seek out handmade and the chance to buy something unique, but many just see a craft fair as another shopping opportunity.
And so, you need to give your customers something they’re used to. Slick or edgy, retro or contemporary, whatever style you adopt, you need to try and recreate a good shopping experience. Just like the shops! But on a table, or in a booth! We’re not talking pound shops and supermarkets obviously. Think independent boutiques, department stores, cool chains. No easy feat, but it is achievable. You’re only working with a small space. And you are a creative, imaginative, artist, remember?
A good place to start is by doing your own research. Check out craft stalls on Pinterest or look for images on the web. Go to your favourite shops and work out the tricks they use. Visit some local craft fairs and see what others are doing.
Done that? Next up then. I don’t believe that throwing a cloth at a table and dumping your products down is ever going to make you great sales and I’m sure you don’t either. But it can be really hard to come up with a stunning display that will work for you and your products, draw customers in and entice them to buy. You probably won’t achieve the perfect display first time no matter how much effort you put in, and it will be a thing that evolves and changes over time, like your product range probably.
This is my starting point. Always. Before I think about table cloths, props, lighting and signage. I want cohesion. I want to create a little world where my products can sit happily, like they’re at home! I want people to get a feeling for me and my collection of handmade pieces. No matter how small a business you are, even if you just make a few things to sell at a Christmas fair once a year, you can do this too.
So ask yourself these 3 simple questions:
Who am I?
One knitter is pretty much similar to another, in terms of what they offer. I know as artists we don’t want to think like that, but the same goes for many crafts….it’s the personality of the maker and product that singles them out. Your display should be brimming with that personality.
What are my values?
This is where you start to stand out from the crowd. You might use only recycled or sustainable materials, or expensive gemstones, you might aim to make your products cheaply so that they’re affordable to everyone or you might seek out the most hard to find materials for true uniqueness. Your values should shine through in your display, complimenting your products.
Who is my customer?
Know your market and what appeals to them. What message do you want to convey to those particular people? No point being too cool for school if you make traditional handbags for ladies who lunch. This is where looking at successful brands can help. You and your products are never going to appeal to everyone, but over time you’ll probably notice a ‘type’ of customer who goes crazy for what you make. You’d be crazy not to think about them when designing your display.
In answering these questions you should gain a bit of clarity, in terms of the ‘feel’ of your stand/booth/table and what you should be aiming for. The good thing is that this exercise will also work for the design and style of your website, blog, business cards, etc. So begin now and then you can get started on the look. If you’re the sort of person that writes lists, do that. If you’d rather create a mood board, or start pinning, go for it. Good luck!
You’ve decided to have a go at doing a craft fair. Awesome! You can have a lot of fun at craft fairs and there’s money to be made, whether you’re just trying to support your addiction hobby or you want to earn a regular income from your artistic talents. BUT. Craft fairs can be hellish. Seriously.
First, you’ll spend weeks handcrafting a beautiful range of products, individually pricing everything with handmade labels, buying props and a new tablecloth for your stall. You’ll wake up at dawn on a Saturday morning, find your way to a chilly church hall, nervously set up, drink down a cup of coffee, before the doors open and….noone comes! You stand there all day as just a handful of people turn up for a mooch, you sell nothing, all the other stall holders spend the day moaning, and you eventually go home drained and despondent and down the cost of a stall, swearing never to do a craft fair again.
And this isn’t even the worst that can happen. You could end up at a great fair, well attended by people with money to spend and still not make any sales! A disaster for your purse and your self-esteem.
Want to make sure neither of the above scenarios happen to you? In this post, I want to share some of my tips for success at craft fairs with a list of things to consider before you even hand over any stall fees. And even if you have parted with your cash and have a few fairs already booked, there’s still some useful stuff here for you – especially if you’re a newbie.
Know your goals
First of all it’s worth thinking about your reasons for doing a fair. Is your goal chiefly to makes sales, or are you looking for feedback on products? Are you just hoping to use your first fair to gain experience or are you trying to make a name for yourself and keen to make lots of new contacts? Knowing your reasons for doing the fair will make choosing the right one a lot easier.
Choose the right fair
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give. Do your research. Go on, make a database! Attend some potential events first. Are they busy? Are people buying? What sort of crafts are represented? Will you have lots of competition or is there a gap that you can fill? What is the standard like and do the prices compare to yours? You also need to think about how much a stall costs, the application process and the logistics. If you can’t get to a fair in advance ask as many people as you can for recommendations. Join social networks relating to craft fairs. Research is key. It will save you money and time in the long-run.
Plan, plan, plan
When you plan anything you need to think about logistics, right? Once you’ve found your perfect fair check your diary – do the dates fit in with your schedule? Make a note of the application deadline. Make sure you have time to make enough stock. Do the organisers require proof of insurance cover or a license? Will you need help on the day? Transport available? Is someone going to help you with setting up? Who will carry the heavy stuff? What happens when you need the toilet? What about the kids or the dog – do you have someone to mind them while you’re out all day? Remember pulling out or not turning up at the last minute will only give you a bad reputation. So check everything before you apply.
Consider sharing a stall
Sharing a stall can be great, You split the stall fee, you don’t need as much stock, you have someone to chat to throughout the day, help with setting up, you can cover each other at lunchtime or when you need the loo. I’d advise finding someone you get on well with. And ideally someone with a product range and style that compliments your own. This will make designing your stall display a lot easier.
Get your application right
Just like a job application, take this seriously. Not all fairs are juried, but however the fair is organised you need to read the instructions for applying and make sure you meet deadlines. Include photos if requested, descriptions of your work, and full contact details. Some organisers work on a first come basis, so it’s worth contacting them in advance to find out when they will be calling for submissions. For over-subscribed events or high-profile design lead fairs there will be a lot of competition. Spend time getting really great photos. Provide links to your website or facebook page. Explain why you’re keen on this particular fair. And please be nice. As an organiser of an over-subscribed fair, believe me, it makes a difference. Suggest you can help with promotion, say that you’ve attended previous fairs and give some positive feedback. And don’t miss the deadline!
Think about stock
What will you sell and at what price? It’s a good idea to have some lower priced items within your range. That way, someone who loves your work but isn’t able to spend on a pricier item might just buy a small token as a way of buying into your ‘brand’ and supporting you. Have you tested your products on family and friends? Be aware these people love you and they might not always be truthful. Try and garner honest opinions from people you trust before committing to expensive materials or tools. How much stock to take to a fair can be tricky. As a general rule I take three times the amount I expect to sell. Pricing is the hardest job for many craft sellers. I’ll post separately on that in the future.
Create a great display
It is really important to create a style, a mini world that represents you and your product. Think about your shopping experience. Where do you like to shop? Can you borrow anything from those environments? Lighting can play a big role. Try and get the feel right, matching your products to your display, be it modern, fresh, minimal, homely, warm or funky. Do you want people to touch your work? It might be an idea to place your most precious or delicate items at the back of your stall beyond the reach of sticky fingers! Or keep small, expensive items behind glass. Also consider whether you’ll be sitting or standing. You’ll need space for your stock book, cash, wrapping materials and extra stock. Can you make uses of wall space? The biggest tip I can give here though is, practise. Find out the measurements of the stall and practise setting up your display.
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!
This is the final update on our Bearwood Handmade Spring stall holders. And we know that for some, the food is just as important as the crafty stuff! Indeed, all the food at our fairs is handmade and expertly crafted. And delicious!
“I make homemade preserves. It started as a hobby and was never intended as much more than that. I found it suddenly took off and I was being asked to attend events, so production went into overdrive. Almost a year ago I registered as a business. All my products are made with ingredients as locally produced as possible, with Salop Drive and Northfield Eco Centre being part of my supply chain. If I see a glut of fruit or veg – I just HAVE to find a recipe to use it up!”
“Chocolate, fudge & all things sweet, handmade at home by me. Started with a little help from Google searches and here I am, 2 and a bit years later and still loving every inch of chocolate making. I am inspired by happy faces and people saying how my chocolate made someone’s day!”
Bearwood Pantry will be serving a range of food from 10.00am – so skip breakfast and come and join us! For lunch there’s gorgeous veggie soup, Spanish tortilla and mini pork pies. Albert has made Hot Cross Buns and a lovely range of artisan breads AND he’ll be serving up his fab South African street food.
And of course Bearwood Handmade wouldn’t be the same without the sweet treats of our very own Rach. Afternoon tea anyone?
So there we are. My mouth is watering just thinking about tomorrow. Come on down and enjoy the day. And remember, we’re in our NEW VENUE!!!
Another day, another round-up of stall holders who’ll be with us this Saturday for Bearwood Handmade Spring.
First up is Erica from Pear Tree and Stitch. She’ll be doing Bearwood Handmade for the first time, so be extra nice!
” All my creations have a retro feel, I love playing around with fabrics and embellishments. I do a lot of free motion embroidery and also use a small range of hand-cut lino prints in my work. I am inspired by all things vintage and retro and love up-cycling old vintage fabrics, but also love the great outdoors and British culture. This is a very new venture for me, only having started my blog and facebook page in January of this year. However I am determined to make this something great!”
We love Hazel Cooper’s original silver jewellery here at Crafty Muthas. Hazel is another local talent who had stalls with us last year in Bearwood and the Mailbox.
“Trained at The Birmingham School of Jewellery and Silversmithing, I work mostly in silver, making one off pieces of jewellery, sometimes set with stones or incorporating semi-precious gemstone beads. I find inspiration from the environment around me.”
Next up, two friends who are sharing a stall as well as their name.
“Rogue and Me represents two friends and artists: Marta with PersonaliZe Me and Ashley with Rogue Red. We sell a mixture of hand-painted ceramics and glass, handmade unique jewellery and more recently, home decor items, which are made using a decoupage technique. Marta uses every spare moment for her passion – decoupage. She makes one of a kind, shabby chic items including clocks, jewellery boxes and trays. Ashley is an Art School Graduate who makes quirky jewellery.”
A regular at Stirchley Market and CoCoMad, Elizabeth from Papier Trouvé is bringing her unique range of woven baskets to Bearwood. Yay!
“I make woven baskets, dishes and ornaments from recycled newspaper. The business is called Papier Trouvé, meaning ‘found paper’ – a combination of ‘Objet Trouvé’ (the style of art based on found objects) and ‘papier maché’, since I use a lot of old paper and a little bit of glue. I use a basket-weaving method that I taught myself, based on a dish I bought years ago in a market in Sydney, Australia. The woman at the stall showed me the basic method and, when I finally got around to having a go myself, I went on from there. Since I started, I’ve developed new techniques and I’m still learning. I love the seemingly limitless possibilities of the medium, and the fact that I can weave at my kitchen table without making too much mess!”
Finally, Bearwood Handmade regular Sarah, from Felti, returns with her beautifully tactile pieces.
“My felted work is inspired by the nature that surrounds us, the forms and textures translated into organic, sculptural pieces of lighting, quirky vessels and pods, and unique jewellery. Each piece starts by laying out fine layers of carded wool fibre. A soap solution wets the fibres and then the physical work begins. The fibres are rubbed and rolled until they’ve tangled and bonded to form the felted fabric. Additionally, each piece incorporates other wool fibres, fabrics or yarns for texture. In my latest work I’m experimenting with printing images and text onto silk, this is then nuno felted into the wool fibres.”
We’re getting really excited now. Can’t wait to meet up with the stall holders and welcome the public through the doors. Please do remember that we’re at a NEW VENUE – Bearwood Baptist Church, Rawlings Road, B66 4HA. But we’ll be open between 10am and 4pm as usual. Going to try and get one more blog post in before the big day – with the focus on handmade food! Yum!
Just thought we’d give you a little taster of some of the lovely things you’ll find if you wander down to Bearwood Handmade this Spring. Next Saturday 5th April actually.
Eloise Lee is a first time Bearwood Handmade stall holder.
“I am a landscape photographer and book artist who fell in love with book binding whilst studying photography in Cornwall. I specialise in handmade coptic bound sketchbooks, notebooks and journals. I also make handmade felt which I originally learnt how to do at Glastonbury Festival. The felt is made using a wet felting technique and I use it to make a variety of products. I am inspired by my love for the outdoors, mountains and the sea and all my work is incredibly colourful.”
Rebecca Vincent is another new, though much experienced, seller with us this time round.
“I run a micro business called Mommy Bears Soy Wax Melts & Candles. I hand make all the candles and melts in my kitchen. I use eco soy wax in my melts and candles as it is kind to the environment. This is very important to me. I love attending craft fairs as a trader as it gives me the opportunity to meet and talk to people. I sell mostly from my Facebook page but I love selling face to face at fairs.”
Our good friend Collette Waudby was a roaring success at our Winter Bearwood and Mailbox fairs and so we had to welcome her back.
“After studying art & architecture at Art School in Hull I came to Birmingham to study BA (Hons) in Silversmithing & Jewellery. I set up my craft business in 1995 and continue to work from a studio in the Jewellery Quarter. I create a studio range & one off items using both traditional & ancient techniques. I am inspired by Mother Nature & her seasons & the beauty they offer so effortlessly. It is this I try to harness in my work.I have lived in Bearwood for fifteen years and feel passionate about its creative community.”
Local artist blacksmith Ian Moran is also joining us again.
“I am an Artist blacksmith, who designs manufactures and installs site specific, sculptural & functional, interior & exterior metalwork. Fundamentally for me Blacksmithing is the art of moving not removing material. I have been attempting to distill the ethos of my larger work into varied smaller domestic and household items, like hooks, brackets, candlesticks ornaments & objet.”
And rounding up this little taster is Kiran Johal, another talented jeweller from the ‘Wood.
“I am a self taught jewellery designer who makes jewellery from a range of materials including hand torch fired beads to laser cut wooden butterflies, incorporating a range of semi precious and glass beads. Most of my jewellery is hand wrapped using either copper or brass wire to create my signature look. I also make a small range of clutch bags from designer fabrics or vintage fabrics.”
So be sure to join us this Saturday 5th April at Bearwood Baptist Church Hall, B66 4HA, between 10am-4pm. Spring is here and the sun is shining. And Bearwood Handmade is going to be ACE!!!!