During November and early December, I exhibited at 6 different craft fairs. These were all Christmas fairs so my patterned products were competing against the usual novelty festive things found at fairs - lots of hand made decorations, hand made Christmas cards and other bits'n'bobs which immediately made me nervous. I was already anxious as to whether or not people would like my products/designs without having to compete with other stalls that may be seen as more relevant to the time of year.
Pocket mirrors - £2.50 each or 4 for £8.00
I know that a lot of my fellow SPD friends are also taking the plunge into exhibiting/selling their work so I wanted to write about my experiences to hopefully help, offer advice and give confidence!
So, I decided to test the waters and do my first fair at home. I opened my (parents') house to family and friends to come over and see what stocking fillers I had. I post on facebook about new designs, illustrations and products quite a lot, and so the people invited had an idea of what I had to offer but I wanted to give them a sort of 'try before you buy' opportunity. Mum and I set everything up and between 2-8pm that day we had endless amounts of people through the door! It was amazing! I couldn't believe the response, feedback I received about my work and products, and how successfully the whole day was. I had lots of sales, with people buying across all of the products I have - tote bags, pocket mirrors, notebooks, greetings cards and Christmas card sets.
This definitely built my confidence up for the public fairs that I had to come! So, that would be my first bit of advice - if you can, have a few people over to test the waters with your products. It's your family and friends who are going to be your biggest fans and tell their family and friends about what you're doing so it's definitely worth trying. I even had people show an interest in buying wallpapers as I had my design portfolio on display and lots of people flicked through and loved my designs! So even if you don't get many sales on the day, it could bring in business from other avenues!
Me with some of my products at my house
Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd November, I had my first two public fairs. These were very slow and I only had a few sales - most of which were from other stallholders. I tend to be quite shy around people that I don't know and sometimes struggle to explain how I'm a surface pattern designer as some people can't quite grasp it. However, I pushed myself to talk to people and explain that everything had been drawn by hand and put into patterns on the computer, by me! So this would be my 2nd piece of advice - TALK TO EVERYONE! If someone comes by your stall, don't be afraid... just stand up and smile, say hi and explain a little about yourself. It makes them feel welcome, makes them see that what you're offering is exclusive to you and a lot of time and effort has gone into it! Also, talk to other stallholders. As I said, I had a few sales from people on other stalls and also found out about other fairs that may be of interest to me and the type of products I have. I even had invitations to exhibit at fairs from stallholders organising their own. So even if the sales aren't coming in thick and fast, use your time to network and make contacts!
Notebooks - available A5 £3.00 and A6 £2.50
The next 3 fairs that I did were in association with different charities - MacMillan Cancer Support, Kickstart (a local charity in memory of Emily, school friend of mine, and Teenage Cancer Trust). These were very well advertised locally and brought in a lot of people and sales. I like to support charities where I can, so these fairs were great!
My final fair was 1st December at Driffield High School, with over 85 stalls it is the biggest fair in East Yorkshire so I couldn't wait to get set up and see what the day brought. There was a wide variety of products on offer. Once I had set up I went for a walk around while mum manned the stall and I could see that my stall was very different from everything else, as it had been at the previous fairs. This still, 5 fairs later, made me a little apprehensive but things went really well! I gained more great feedback and thoughts on other products I could maybe have on offer next year which was lovely.
Overall, I have had a very positive experience with the fairs I have taken part in. I have made great contacts both with customers and other stallholders, got my name out into the local area more (and over to South Africa where one of my customers was taking her pocket mirrors to family!), and gained confidence as a person and in my abilities as a designer. I have been given that much needed boost to carry on doing what I'm doing and developing my 'Sarah Fleming Designs' brand - including my wallpaper collection!