Conquering the Craft Fair
This time of year, and then again later towards the inevitable and unstoppable Christmas rush, I find myself running around like a headless chicken exhibiting at shows. I am sure my other half forgets what I look like sometimes and in the whole month of July I will have been home (Newcastle) a total of 12 days. That's not also considering that after the Game Fair next week I am at Countryfile live the following week and Skipton Art in the Pen following that. However, I am not complaining.
I love doing the shows despite them being incredibly hard work sometimes. It is a chance to meet people, both new customers and other traders and businesses with whom I can form links, even if thats just ones of friendship to while away the unavoidable dead hour at the end of every show day. It is not all about selling either, a lot of the reason I do the shows is marketing but also to garner opinions from the public about my work and products. It is a great way of finding out what is working for me or get suggestions of what to paint next. I also confess if I consider how expensive some of the bigger shows are, pretending that some of that money equates to marketing costs for magazine advertising makes me less uneasy come the actual show days.
I thought you might like to know a little about how I set up a show. To start with it involved packing the car. I doubt the Tetris champion could do a better job than me now. For the biggest shows I also have to borrow my Dad's ever-broken car. My Mazda 2, which I thought would suit me fine when I bought it in 2012, isn't really suited to fitting all the furniture and products I didn't realise I would be filling it with when first purchased. That being said I love my little car and I don't feel I could sell it just yet!
Following this we're off. I do shows all around the country. This year I have been, or will have been to: Harrogate, London, Skipton, Alnmouth, Tatton Park (Knutsford), Burghley, Blenheim Palace, Skipton and of course my local hangouts of Durham and Newcastle. Once at a venue setting up can take me anything from 2-5 hours from unloading the car to putting the labels on the finished display. Normally the night before a show I mark out the space with string in my conservatory and make sure all the furniture fits where I think it will.
Admittedly, often when I think I am finished setting up the next morning involves me rejigging a few things. I find that with the deeper pitches some customers don't like to go too far in. I think perhaps they suspect I might pounce. As a consequence it is important to place my favourite paintings or products I want to show off in prominent positions and easy to spot places.
I really enjoy doing the Country Living Shows which make up most of my summer. However, as much as its fabulous being able to drill into panels it also takes me an age to hang the pictures and work out where they will all tesselate to fit. I try not to let my OCD take over when some frames aren't level with others. Aside from the hanging stocking the shelves doesn't take too long when I consider how many products I now have.
Anyway I hope to see you at some of my shows soon if you can make it. You'll find I am not a Del Boy character but I would love to hear what you think about my work. New customers are often surprised I am the artist when I'm stood on my stands but I haven't yet decided to outsource the work to minions. After all how would I get to meet and greet you all otherwise? You are all fabulous and over the past 5 years its been great to meet you all and if I look slightly blank when I see you at a fair, please forgive me I am trying to place your face amongst the hundreds of people I meet at shows, teach at workshops or have popped into my home or studio. Thank you for all your support.