Tuesday, January 17

Craft Fairs - what the small brain has learnt so far!

It occurred to me that it would be sensible to write this down - if only for my own sake next time as a reminder list, but others might find it useful too! Plus the Virgo in me just loves lists! Can never have enough lists, and this headset has come in extremely useful in collating people's information.

These are just some basic tips, may work for you or may not because everyone works slightly differently, and the scale of the event will dictate your timeline and formality required. A village hall event will not require the scale of health and safety that the NEC would demand for example. However, the principles are the same regardless of event:

learn the art of gentle delegation
too many cooks etc - make sure you know who's doing what to avoid duplication and looking foolish
have realistic deadlines and stick to them - if you need flyers out by the 10th, stick to it
have fun - you meet some fantastic new people along the way and everyone brings something new so share ideas

1. get a venue
2. get stall holders
3. advertise
4. confirm your stall holders and get payment
5. advertise again
6. chase up the stragglers
7. have a fabulous day
8. take feedback from customers and stall holders for next time
9. cup of tea
10. start all over again!

Given past experience of a 'I'd love to come along' does not always translate into hard cash and an actual stall holder, we did everything via email. I love facebook, it's great for getting general information out but given that we're fairly new to all this I was a little nervous of just counting the 'likes' on a page.
Another reason for email is that we sent quite detailed booking forms out - asking for phone numbers, photos of your work, do you want wall space to hang art? do you have to have a food hygiene certificate if you sell cakes? Would you want to book a space at a handmade event where over half sell the same thing, or worse there are more re-sellers than handmade? We wouldn't, and didn't want to do that to others.
Lists! you will save yourself hours later if you keep track of who you've invited, who's responded and their contact details. You will always have that one person running late and far easier to have their number to hand than panicking. And on the subject of phone numbers - write them down! Personally I keep everything in one folder that anyone can find things or someone can find it for you, you just know your phone battery will die at that critical point.

Floorplan - again, far far easier to print them off and leave around the venue for everyone to see rather than you getting caught up in every conversation, hence the comment about gentle delegation. Everyone can point out a map so why keep it in your head?

Advertising - this will depend largely on your event, the intended customer base and where you are. Also, depends on your advertising budget (you lucky thing if you have one). Ask all stall holders to make use of their contacts to advertise. We ran a poster competition offering a free stall to the winner and then sent them out to everyone so they all looked the same.

If you're lucky enough to have local radio - use it, they love this sort of thing, as do local press - just make sure you've decided who's contacting them to avoid 5 of you doing the same thing.

Chances are if you organise yourself from the outset and be realistic about what you intend to get from the day it will be fantastic. If you want to be the local event then get local crafters, if you want to be just weddings only invite wedding related exhibitors. It's easy to get caught up in the 'argh we need 5 more' but are they the right 5 for you? Far better to spread out a bit and have the right stall holders, customers will trust you next time and return. Also, stall holders talk to each other so will know that you stuck to your intention and spread the word. Nobody gets annoyed if you say sorry, it's a wedding venue and we only want wedding appropriate sellers. Sellers get more annoyed if you say, yes sure come along only to find that none of the customers are interested so don't be afraid of saying no.

Apologies for the glut of information, hopefully some will be useful to you!

Monday, January 16

Absolutely Fabulous is real - I was Bubbles!

We've been involved in setting up a craft fair recently and it dawned on me where my experience came from. For those of you that remember the first series of AbFab you may remember some of the absurdities of the show. Well I am here to assure you that a lot of it was based in fact! OK, so it was exaggerated but the essence is there, no doubt - and I was a real life Bubbles.

I have fabulous memories of the phone calls from a London cab as my boss randomly asked for a name of a shop she had passed earlier and could I check an order, err which shop please? Oh Darling I don't remember! was the reply. All this from a phone which was attached by a pink ribbon to the handbag to avoid yet another trip to the railway station lost property office. I fondly remember the strange and wonderful presents she would arrange for clients' children; or driving her home in her Jaguar after the wine bottle had been emptied to a large sigh of 'Bother, it's all gone'.

Fast forward a few years and we got The Devil Wears Prada, I love this film as again it brings back so many memories of working in PR. The clients were different, but the basics were the same.

However, what may not come across in either of these two is just how much you learn from a woman like Miranda (or Gina in my case). Yes, it was a bonkers and often surreal experience. Telly Tubby hugs on the lawn while a record player blasted across the garden is a personal favourite. But she was so aware of trends, what would work for a client and people in general that to not learn from her would be a crime. It was only years later - as a colleague predicted - that it really did hit home. They are just so busy that to them details bore them, what do you mean you didn't realise I would want that today? was a standard question, that over time you came to recognise and had ordered in ready. What a training for arranging craft fairs, having worked on trade shows for her.

Sadly, I think many of these characters are lost in today's world of business which is a shame because love her or loathe her she was good at what she did and in hindsight I'm very lucky to have had such a teacher, even if I wasn't grateful at the time. And you do come to be very protective over them, just as Andy does to Miranda because you begin to see the woman behind the work.

Wednesday, January 4

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult

This just kind of sums up how I feel right now! Although I don't feel the disguise is quite strong enough yet, perhaps the flowery dr martens don't help that much (but they're my favourites!).

So, 2011 - what did it bring for you? For my part it was a weird and wonderful mix of events, people and new projects emerging. One of the best things was actually getting to start Chez Hippo and people starting to take it seriously.

The kiln now happily sits in the corner of a very cold shed, but the cat likes sleeping on it and chirruping (he can't purr very well) as you work up there. He's not mastered full conversation yet but does nod in agreement every now and then which is quite pleasing. Oh, and with the shed came two men into the girly house - now that took some getting used to, but also very lovely. And before you all sound disgusted at two men, one is The Boy who I now have to stand on a chair to tap him on the head and say 'go to your room'. That does provoke amusement, especially when he then leans on my head and declares he's in charge - yeah right, as if! Combining two households has proved to be err interesting - for instance, just how many light bulbs and extension leads do you actually need?? Clearly not as many as we had accumulated between us. Please can I have a tardis house, or even one that just keeps expanding while you sleep?

I am now officially on the Chez Hippo full time as my teaching contract finished in December and decided to have a proper go at this self employed lark. I mean, how hard can it be? Oh, that's right - ridiculously hard eek. However, we would much rather put effort into building a life we can sustain and doing something we actually enjoy even if it does mean the cold shed to check the kiln - after moving the cat off it first. Also, managed to track down two of my oldest friends last year - hurrah for facebook. We will have that reunion at some point boys - but not in a tent in Wales this time!

Had a lovely day today, started to look at venues for craft events with another crafter and hopefully showcase ours and others' work as a group. So, this self employed lark might just come off after all! Angie xx