Category: fairs

when you don’t sell…

… sucks, really.

i guess my headline should be: – table fee + (takings + added value from stall upgrade) = profit \o/ but that wouldn’t be honest about my hopes/expectations and the fairly harsh reality.

if i was on a telly talent contest i’m sure i’d explain at length my “passion” for my product, my commitment to learning and transmitting the archaic skills involved in the manufacture of paper and cloth, and their combination into books. i love books, and people who love books love my books.

but selling my books on an open market is a big ask. if i had a flair for sales i prolly wouldn’t spend my time for preference stitching/cutting/spinning/weaving/gluing/dyeing textiles in my own company, to a country & blues soundtrack… i wouldn’t geek out over paper textures and weights… fonts vs typefaces… i wouldn’t need to use every single scrap – eventually…

but, yunno, glass half full 🙂

pretty, right?

christmas fairs part 5

second test trading day was a bit of a wash-out. weather wasn’t quite as bad as forecast but still wet and windy. and with every shop in town running some form of “black friday” deal, it left the market as a whole a little slower than we all hoped on a payday.

vintage till | altered book business card holder

but i enjoyed the chance to set up my stall again, and a few minor tweaks improved the display quite a lot, especially lighting and vertical display stands to show the books front-on 🙂

my number one tip? taller lamps!

christmas fairs part 4: show report

i survived my first fair!

front and centre

still work to do on displays and lighting, but i’m happy to report a really successful day. i had interested visitors, people asking questions and for demonstrations, the odd unexpected familiar friendly face and massive family support 🙂 and i made some sales! 😀

i’ve worked in retail, but i had no idea quite how nervous i’d be selling my own work to the general public for the first time. there was a hitch with my planned layout as either stall or table measurements were out of whack, so we had to improvise on the spot. it was really helpful to have experienced advice from gill, the keyholder and all-around stall-enabler 🙂 i’m actually very happy with the busked set-up as it made the most of my rather minimal displays, was hopefully warm and welcoming and – most crucially – it gave me a quiet corner slightly out of the way where i could sit and stitch if the whole *being out there* thing got a bit much. once i’d settled in a little i came out of my corner and did my stitching in public 😀

view behind the scenes

i’ve been doing loads of preparatory research and i’ve not seen it addressed that – essentially – the person you need to please most with your stall set-up is yourself. not that you shouldn’t consider how things come across from the viewer’s side, but that you have to spend 8 or 9 hours a day in or around that stall, and making it comfy and cosy *for you* helps you to put your best customer-service face on.

so people didn’t approach the rack at the back of the stall like i’d hoped, but leaving counter space out the front meant i could pull out and display variations on a theme or range. i was really pleasantly surprised that what i’d been working on as 3 distinct collections (my complex bindings, kimono and peter hall books) actually worked really well together – so i had examples of every type on the front table, and i was free to mix up the displays for what was most eye-catching or colourful in situ.

i also brought my limited editions to the front table: moon, how things work and the inc. intro catalogue. i was similarly pleased by their cohesiveness as a collection. i sold a copy of the catalogue and had some interest in the books.

i’ve calculated that if i’d paid for the stall i would have made over double the daily rate in sales which – for my first show, on a monday – i’m delighted with. next up “black” friday – i had no idea what a good day that slot could potentially be. i’m relying on the (dangerously good) mulled cider peeps a few stalls up to get people in the christmassy mood 🙂

christmas fairs part 2

following a workshop with lauren from the centre for student entrepreneurship and jeweller karen  dell’armi i’m feeling positive about my preparations so far. i have two chances at the cardiff market, with enough time in between to replenish stock and work on elements that prove less successful – lighting is my major concern.

it was reassuring that many of the points addressed were things i’d already considered: thankyou etsy’s craft fairs… it’s a living team and rasputnik’s donation of why we buy: the science of shopping.

i’ve noticed a real divide between sellers who like to keep everything up-front, and those that go with a U-shaped booth layout that requires the buyer to cross a threshold into the stall. my initial plan has everything set back from the front entrance, so i’m hoping to entice people who might otherwise be put off to give it a go with a friendly sign.

my initial stall plan has a whole side of blank wall that i wanted to make use of (in the same way that my banners should make good use of the folding doors). for £1 a piece from the print shop i got laminated a4 signs explaining a little more about my materials and processes. i also have the potential to re-use these signs as part of my display in london.

i’m concerned about having enough ambient lighting for these signs to be legible inside the stall, but they should certainly brighten it up a little.

christmas fairs part 1

i have a frantic few weeks ahead! 2 days at cardiff christmas market (mon nov 23rd & fri nov 27th) and 2 days at the selvedge artisan christmas fair in chelsea (thurs dec 3rd & fri dec 4th). alongside producing stock like a demon i’m putting a lot of consideration into my displays. the two markets will be very different – cardiff being close enough to home that i can fill up the car and go, with a 2.5m square stall and 2 tables. whereas for london i’ll need to bring everything on the train/tube to stock a 1m square share in a table highlighting the work of 8 new graduates.

for the cardiff market i’ve tried to put together an effective and characterful display on a moderate budget. i didn’t want to go the basic route as i don’t think it would reflect the quality on which i pride my work. my first concern was to raise some of the books off the flat table, bringing them closer to eye level. i ruled out commercial tiered acrylic literature displays due to the cost and minimalist aesthetic. i ruled out folding shelves on similar grounds of cost and i didn’t feel they would display the books effectively.

i finally settled on 2 x three-tier angled shelving units designed as a shoe racks. this will display the maximum number of books, front cover on, in the smallest space. i also feel the warmth of the bamboo reflects my brand well.

my next concern – for an outdoor winter market – was lighting. i believe the stalls do have basic lighting but i want to draw customers into by making it feel cosy and welcoming. my house is decked in fairy lights all year round, and i was attracted by these blossom shades, especially relevant to my japanese aesthetic. alongside the tree/lamp i’ve ordered battery powered sakura string lights that i plan to use on the book racks to add extra emphasis to the lower shelves. the naturalistic form should make these lights suitable for spring and summer shows too.

my research included poring over photographs of previous years’ displays. i noticed that each booth has fold-back doors which make ideal display boards. the stalls who simply left those spaces bare lacked interest from a distance or from the side and may get passed over. i’ve ordered commercially printed banners, on a textile rather than pvc base, to reflect my brand. being organised enough to order ahead of time i managed to save 30% on the cost of the same item with a faster turnaround.

 

i didn’t want to buy everything for my stall, so i put my thinking cap on when it came to business- and post-card displays. origami folding some small notebooks strikes just the right quirky and handmade note, as well as tying into my products.

and finally, an indulgence. i knew i needed a cash box and i couldn’t resist the lure of a pinging bell on every sale 😀 there are plenty of these vintage cash tills about on ebay and etsy, but this one is rare in having a working key, making it a practical as well as aesthetic choice.