Posted in Indie Business

Location, Location, Location

glasgowmap

 

Ever since I expressed my intention to become a craft-related agony aunt, I’ve been inundated with literally several questions from people with a burning desire for knowledge. The first one came from a would-be craft fair organiser who wishes to remain anonymous, but here is the question:

I’m thinking of starting a craft fair in the West End and wondered if you had any tips on picking a venue?

Well, my first tip is don’t. You probably didn’t want to hear that but there are already myriad craft fairs in the West End of Glasgow and frankly, I do not think that you need to add to that list of poorly-attended events. Not to say that your organisation wouldn’t be top notch, but I believe the public is tired of the oversaturated market and unreceptive to newcomers at the moment, so you really need to come up with something really special and different to capture their imaginations.

Generally speaking, though, it’s all down to location, so you are right to put a lot of thought into that. You want somewhere on the beaten track, or very near to it. No one wants to try and navigate their way to you with  a detailed map and compass, even if that map is as beautifully illustrated as that one up there by Alice Dansey Wright.

You should give thought to the venue’s location in relation to public transport links, too – is it near an Underground station? Bus stops? If it’s only reachable by car, that’s already cutting back on your potential footfall, The exception to that is if your venue is very much a destination in its own right, e.g. a really popular country pub, or restaurant, with a guaranteed Sunday afternoon crowd. One place that I have exhibited at previously that really strikes that Sunday destination market right is The Cluny, in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne. I don’t think I’ve ever done a bad market there, it has good food, good music, is a bit out the way, but has other destination venues round about it and is pretty much always packed on weekends. I miss The Cluny market.

You also want to think about what other events have gone before you at that venue – I’ve discounted venues before because I know someone has run a shoddy craft fair there before within the last couple of years. People remember and not everyone is as savvy as you and I, to check if it’s a different organiser. So bear in mind that you could end up being tainted by the reputation of those who have gone before you.

Cost is another big factor – you pay for a good location and you’ll have to pass that on to your stallholders in their fees. Don’t price yourself out the market – there is a ceiling price for each level of event, and you have to bear that in mind when deciding on your venue. Stallholders won’t pay £200 a day for a pokey hall in the arse end of nowhere, but neither will they be confident in the success of the event if they’re paying a tenner for a city centre location in the middle of shopping central.

In short – location plays a massive part in the success of your event, so you need to make sure you get it right. Go there, have a recce, speak to people, canvas opinion. Just don’t sign on the dotted line until you’re sure you’ve got a winner.

Have you got a question about organising an event? Or maybe you want to know how to track down a supplier for a certain item? Or maybe you have another burning question – drop me a line at hello@thebellwether.co.uk.

Posted in Indie Business

If You Got A Problem, Yo, I’ll Solve It

Image courtesy of BBC
Image courtesy of BBC

One of my career goals has always been to write more, and one of the aspects of that I’ve always wanted to do, probably from when I was a teenager, is write an agony aunt column.

Just Seventeen never did call and Dear Deidre is not really my style, but I got to thinking – what do I know about? Craft and indie business. What do I get loads of? Unsolicited emails, Tweets and messages asking me for advice and help.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

So, if you’re a crafter looking to set up your own business, or perhaps you’re established but wondering how to select which craft fair to attend, or maybe you just have a dilemma you want to talk over but are in your own studio, alone, staring at the walls and feeling sick – get in touch!

You can email me at hello@thebellwether.co.uk with your question and I’ll scour my brainbox for a solution for you. Sometimes this will be from my own noggin and sometimes I’ll point you in the direction of another great article written by one of the community of awesome people there are in the indie craft/design business here on our fair shores.

Hopefully, at least one of you has something you want to talk about and will be in touch! And if not, well, you can still read my dronings on the matter anyway.

Bet you’ve got this in your head now, too:

Posted in Indie Business

Prima Spring Makes #BEDM

photo 1

 

A few months ago, Selina Lake, stylist of the moment, asked me for some of my work to feature in a shoot for Prima Spring Makes magazine – colour me thrilled!

photo 2

Not only did my work make the cut, I pretty much got a full page full of my stuff – whoop!

photo 4

Oh, and there’s another image, too, of my tea coasters – magic. I was in pretty good company with Kate Blandford‘s ace purse – thanks also to Kate for these photos, as I’ve not found the magazine in the wild yet.

It’s always exciting to see your work in print – I don’t think I’d ever tire of that thrill when you see something you’ve made being praised in a magazine.

I’m blogging every day in May as part of BEDM. Find out more here.

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Posted in Indie Business

Mojo Sinking

goodthings
by Karen O’Bryan via @finestimaginary on Twitter

I’ve lost my mojo. I am not sure where it went, but it feels like it has sunk to the bottom of the sea or fallen down a very deep well, so deep that even Lassie won’t be able to hear its cries for help.

I’m generally a positive person but this past few days, I’ve fallen into a bit of a funk. It’s been a busy and stressful time at my day job which hasn’t helped, and I’ve let myself wallow a bit in self-pity and that has made my will to create disappear without a trace. I’ve spoken before about motivation or lack of it and looking back, I see that I seem to have been in this situation almost exactly two years ago.

What’s changed since then? Well, I’ve debated about whether to lay this all bare or not, but suffice to say business is not booming. In fact, to carry on with the sea-faring analogy, it’s in the doldrums. It seems that rebranding and doing a trade show has, far from lifting my business into the next echelon of awesome, has in fact, killed it stone dead. I have to wonder if this is because everyone who wants what I have to offer already has it, thank you very much, or if I am not working hard enough at it (I need this print for my new office space). And the more I ponder that, the less I feel motivated and enthused. And they do say that influences customers – the way I’ve been feeling, I’m surprised any of them have given me the time of day, let alone bought anything.

What am I doing about this? I feel like I need a change. Clearly stopping and not being in a creative industry wasn’t the answer or I’d have given up two years ago, when I first had these thoughts. I need a big shake-up, a reinvigoration and a new set of goals. Firstly, though, I need to move house and get that out the way. Maybe then it will be easier to take stock of what’s what, clear the decks and put some of my ideas into practice. Having this awful housing situation hanging over us for so long has made it hard to focus, I guess.

I’ve also signed up for the Indie Retail Academy What Retailers Want online class to see if wholesale really is going to work out for me one day. And I’ve been giving some thought to possibly curating some sort of networking/support type events at our new massive house for established makers who just want to bounce ideas around. Kim from Finest Imaginary introduced me to the term accountability partner the other day and I think that is something I definitely struggle with – setting myself goals, however informally, and then not following through with them to the end. It’s something else to consider (though it’s also something else to distract me from building up the business, natch).

In the meantime, I’ll keep plodding on and hope for a big piece of amazing press to kickstart things. Or a lottery win.

I’m blogging every day in May as part of BEDM. Find out more here.

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Posted in Indie Business, Random Utterings

Lately

Several things to note:

The winner of my embroidery giveaway has not been in touch, so I’ve picked another one. You snooze, you lose.  The second winner is Jules. Drop me a line, I’ll post out your loot.

I’m going to be doing a (birth)day in the life on Monday 11th March. Do join in if you can. Here’s what it’s all about.

And last but not least, I’ve killed off Miso Funky. The Bellwether is where it’s at now. Check me one time.

Enter The Bellwether's Facebook Competition!

As you can see, you can win large with a simple Facebook like. Click to it.

Posted in Day In The Life, Indie Business

Miscellany

1. The indie secret santa partners have been drawn now. You’ll have been emailed if you got in touch with all your details, do enjoy. I forgot I wouldn’t be able to join in myself, bah. But I have the warm glow of having organised it for others to keep me occupied.

2. The weather outside is frightful. We got a bunch of snow on Sunday/Monday, a bit more on Tuesday and today it’s raining on top of it all, rendering our patch of Brownton Mountain almost unnavigable. Max and I tried to go for a walk this morning and both of us fell over before we even got up the driveway. So I’m working from home and he’s watching telly.

3. The next Day In The Life day is this Saturday, 8th December, as chosen by Marceline. Do join in.

4. I’m giving away a Fuck The Dishes tea towel over at Miso Funky. You can win it in time for Christmas – go on, give it a go. Please make sure and tell your friends about all the things I make that are perfect Christmas gifts, whilst you’re at it. You can shop here.

Posted in Indie Business

Indie Secret Santa

Because I don’t have enough stuff to do, I have taken it upon myself to organise a Secret Santa swap for my indie craft business buddies.

Here are the rules:

If you want to take part, email hello@misofunky.com before the end of the day on Friday 30th November.

Please make sure you include a link to your shop, your Twitter handle if you have one, and your postal address.

You’ll then be given the details of the person you’re sending  a gift to, which I’ll chose at random.

Gifts should be around the value of £10 and can be something you’ve made yourself, or something you’ve purchased from a fellow indie retailer.

You can post your gift any time once you find out who your recipient is, but please try to do so before December 14th, to give it a fighting chance of reaching the recipient before Christmas.

Open to UK-based indie business folks only.

Please make an effort with your gift selection! No one wants a hastily purchased supermarket gift, so please only take part if you’re really into the idea! The last Secret Santa I took part in, the person I was paired up with sent me a whole bunch of tat that they’d clearly had lying in a drawer. I was not impressed, especially as I’d spent a long time custom-making them something. Bah!

For gift ideas, it might be nice for the people taking part to support one another, so I will post a list of businesses on the blog who are taking part, so if you want to purchase a gift from them, that’d be cool (but, of course, not essential!).

Do spread the word – the more the merrier! And remember to register your taking part before the end of this week.

Posted in Indie Business

Craft Mania

 

I got myself all riled up to write a post about this article on the BBC website recently but then lost momentum with all the house shit going on and my work being mental. You can read it for yourself and wonder why the BBC is always about 5 years behind the times on stuff like this, too.

What a waste of an opportunity to treat a whole British sub-industry seriously for once and give it the status it deserves. No, instead, they’ve gone with the all-too-familiar “look at these kooky kids and their little felt mice” angle that is prevalent on articles about craft in Britain.

It wouldn’t have taken much to swing it round to a proper article about independent businesses. But statements like this HELP NO ONE.

“This mouse is part of a trend, one of millions of handmade craft objects being made at home and sold online.”

No, Vanessa Barford, it’s not part of a trend. It’s a product for sale online that someone has designed and made, just like any other.

 

“The craft calling can be seen as an extension of the knitting craze which took off about 10 years ago.”

Ummm, what? I am pretty sure that knitting has been around for thousands of years, love. Also, it’s not a craze. I don’t have figures to hand, I’m not that kind of scientologist, but I’d wager the UK knitting industry alone, without taking other crafts into consideration, is worth millions.

Hobbycraft turned over £95.2 million last year. That’s not a craze. And that’s just one shop, albeit a big un.

I was quite pleased though to see biscuit-pusher Nikki McWilliams get a good proper feature as part of this article though – why couldn’t the rest of it have been so positive?

I don’t think I can expound on this much further without getting into a Hulk rage. What did you think of the article?

Posted in Indie Business

Lady Magpie and Me

 

Last weekend, Lee and I pootled down to Castle Douglas to take a stall at the Lady Magpie & Me Winter Fair (I say pootled, it was a 5am start and we drove through a blizzard). I won’t lie to you – after all my ramblings and rantings about markets, I had my reservations about how good a use of my time and resources this was going to be, but I’d heard good things about the summer fair and I know that the organiser, Leah Halliday, knows her event onions.

This is a photo taken from behind my stall just before the doors opened. We were opposite the terrine stall, and also opposite the entrance. Why the random photo? Because it was so freaking busy this was the only photo I managed to take!

I cannot recall in recent memory being at an event that was so steadily busy for the entire duration.  In fact, I think it may have even been the busiest event, relatively speaking, I’ve ever exhibited at.  For a town with an estimated population of under 4,000 people, to get 1400 people through the door is not just testament to the phenomenal marketing and organisation skills of Leah, but is nothing short of miraculous. It felt like I spoke to and sold something to every single one of those 1,400 people, too – people were interested, engaged and hungry for unusual stuff to buy.  Frankly, I was over the moon, in many ways – the cash tin was full of paper money, the stock levels were depleting but best of all, I really enjoyed myself. That cannot be underestimated. It really gave me a renewed enthusiasm for what I do. I can’t wait til the Spring Fair!

It’s a source of constant anguish to me that there is no event in Glasgow that could come close to this one anymore. So I’m off to Newcastle next month to try a market there – I’ve always done well on Tyneside and I love it there. I do hope that we get even half as good a turnout as last weekend. Hats off to you, Leah – you’re a market superstar!

Posted in Indie Business, Living

Wistful Whimsy

It’s like 10 weeks til Christmas, which is past high time to be thinking about it, if you ask me. As an indie business proprietor, you never really stop thinking about Christmas. There is always something to be done, designs to be made, packaging to be bought, hopes to be pinned on it.

Sometimes it’s crazy mental, like two years ago when I barely slept for a month. Sometimes it’s more manageable, like last year, a steadier pace. I’m trying not to get my hopes up for a busy one this year, as, cards on the table, I’ve been really quiet of late. I suspect that changing my website and brand last year has something to do with it. I should write a book called How To Rebrand And Lose All Your Customers.

Anyway, I keep plugging away, with my limited time and energy, to try to improve matters. I’m no different to anyone else doing the same work/business juggling act, I guess. It’s tough for everybody and I am trying to take my own advice and keep my head down and plough my own furrow.

Yesterday, Lee and I allowed ourselves the indulgence of a brief look at Christmas decorations. We have a Christmas village which we like to add to each year – I am sure I’ll be posting photos of that once it goes up. It’s a bit twee but it’s our seasonal indulgence! We didn’t have it out last  year as we’d just moved and had nowhere to stage it, but this year, we have the perfect place.

This Japanese paper version though caught my eye earlier – so whimsical! I love this sort of shit. I don’t have a heart of stone after all, maybe.

Posted in Indie Business

Market Nostalgia

I have a confession to make, dear reader. You know when I was banging on about markets all being shite and how I had given up on them? I miss them.

 

After I did Renegade last month, I realised that I actually really miss meeting customers, talking to them and seeing their reactions to my work. Like miss it enough for it to be a deal-breaker, maybe. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now but I think I want to do more events where I actually get to meet people. Do I feel like I am going back on what I said? Not really, as I still don’t want to do just any old market. So I guess that means I’ll not be rushing out the door to buy carrier bags anytime soon.

One event I am taking part in is the Lady Magpie Winter Fair on November 3rd in Castle Douglas. I’ve met Leah, the organiser of this well-established event, a few times and am really looking forwards to it – road trip! Should be a good un. My neighbour, an artisan soapmaker, has also been keeping me informed of events in my new local area, so maybe I will visit some of those for a look, too. In the meantime though, I’m officially back in the market for markets – ho ho.

Posted in Indie Business

Cross Stitcher Commission

 

A few months ago, I was asked to create a wintry design for Cross Stitcher magazine, which is pretty much the leading publication in the cross stitch field in the UK. I was pretty chuffed to be asked (thanks, Emily!) and this is what I came up with.

Simple, not too elaborate and recognisably me. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. The issue came out this week and you can find it in most newsagents or read more about it here.

I am working on preliminary plans for a big project for 2013 at the moment which I hope I’ll have time to see through.  Watch this space.

 

Posted in Indie Business

Give It Away Now

I always find it tedious for both the reader (you) and the writer (me) when making such bold statements as I’m going to blog every day for a whole month, but that’s my intention. I should have picked February though, not a 31-dayer.

For today’s fascinating installment, I am merely going to say that I’m holding a giveaway over at Miso Funky, where you can win your very own cross stitch iPhone case.

 

 

You can enter here.

Posted in Indie Business, Travel

Renegade Round Up

 

 

Phew, that was some weekend. I could have slept for a week after this weekend, it was fun, stressful, tiring and, importantly, successful! The picture above shows one of the quieter moments – it was packed for most of the weekend, so we were kept very busy. Definitely busier than last year.

 

I set off on Friday morning to the train station with all this. That suitcase weighed easily 30kg. I lugged it around by myself along with my 7kg banner and a big bag of metal stands. It’s fair to say I was puggled before I even got on the train! I had planned ahead and downloaded a bunch of TV shows to watch on iPlayer on my iPhone and had pre-booked a window seat so I’d have a plug point to recharge it – I’m SO clever sometimes.

I arrived in London later than planned and after a bit of will-I-make-it-or-not?, I dumped my luggage at my hotel and went off on my meat date with Kim and Adam, my stall mates for the weekend. I stayed at Club Quarters St Pauls, which is quite literally on the steps of the cathedral – it’s super handy and also pretty reasonably priced for London. I’d recommend it!

 

 

 

 

 

We went to Meat Market in Covent Garden – AMAZING burgers. Mine was so juicy I was pretty much just scooping up handfuls of it to shove in my maw. Delicious! After a swift half of strawberry beer at a nearby hostelry, it was back to my abode to iron tea towels and generally prepare for the market.

 

Here we are, all set up and ready to go! If you look closely, you’ll see a sneaky peek of our collaboration, too. I should have ironed that tablecloth, Jo would have killed me.

When we weren’t chatting to people, having our photos taken (I don’t think I got my photo taken that many times on my wedding day, never mind at a craft market!) or gleefully comparing notes on trade, we were eating some pretty amazing food.

 

Saturday’s lunch – salt beef bagel. I had this last year and have been thinking about it ever since. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

 

Sunday’s lunch – pad thai omelette. Cooked freshly. street-style,  in front of my very eyes downstairs in the Old Brewery. SO good.

The market was much better this year in terms of visitors and sales for me and I was really delighted with how it went. I spoke to so many lovely people, but I didn’t really get a chance to have a good look round at any of the other stalls, only a handful of them. There are definitely people I wanted to meet that I missed out on saying hello to – maybe next year! It was great to hang out with Kim and Adam though, and see one of my favourite craft compadres, Anna from Custom Made, and say hello to Kirsty Lovely Pigeon and, and, and…

I got the sleeper train back on Sunday morning (not as fun as expected) and then home for a quick change and off to work. Such a busy weekend but fun in a tiring sort of way. My workspace is in chaos now though…

 

Yeah, I should really tidy that up. Roll on next year!