|My stall at 'the event of the year'!|
One crafter has already pointed out that it is almost as though members of the public need to be reminded how special it is to buy handmade. Not mass produced, not cheaply made in a factory thousands of miles away, but lovingly designed and made by talented crafts-people who invest a lot of time into their creations - often earning less then minimum wage themselves. It is sad, but it seems that people just aren't prepared to pay for someone to make a special one off item, instead they are drawn to the high street where they will give a gift that thousands of other people will also receive.
I've gotten thoroughly bored of the high street this Christmas - the shops are full of the same stuff they are full of every Christmas. Rarely do I see something and think 'oh, that's different, I haven't seen that before...'. With each craft fair I've been to I always see something with that added WOW factor!
Whilst we may not be able to compete with the high street's prices, us designers/makers/sellers can certainly show the high street a thing or two about originality. There is also something to be said for being able to actually talk to the person who made your item, and this can be to the customer's advantage - us designer/makers *love* being asked to make something with someones specific likes/tastes in mind!
I have a theory that perhaps the term 'craft fair' puts a certain image in peoples heads. Not an image of pretty stalls selling modern, bright, beautiful products, but one of the complete opposite. Cold, drafty church halls, stalls selling home-made jam and with rubbish tombola's. (Don't get me wrong - I LOVE home-made jam!) Today's craft fairs are full of the most modern crafting I've seen, the most beautiful and often designer fabrics are being used, new arty/crafty techniques, handmade jewellery made from a lump of silver, and fancy and beautiful looking cupcakes that would make your eyes light up! There has also been a lot of criticism over a recent 'crafts' tv show that somehow failed to showcase the 'Best of British' as it actually promised. (I won't go into it, the least said the better, but the images it portrayed of the British craft scene were hardly enough to change the public's mind about handmade.) Eek, there, I've said it.....
It seems very apparent from reading other blogs and speaking to people via Twitter that the 'buy handmade' message is certainly getting out there - BUT it seems that only those who do actually 'hand make' realise just how important it is to support other crafts people. The problem lies with getting the message across to everyone else that it is worth supporting handmade. Yes, products may be more expensive, but that's because people in the UK are trying to make a living, it's not someone in a sweatshop hundreds of miles away.
I think I saw it quoted somewhere recently (can't remember where), but I have to agree that it's not necessarily my products that are 'wrong', but just that the people who visit the fairs I've done just aren't 'my' customers. My quest for 2012 will certainly be to find new outlets for my products, designs and ideas and to expand on plenty of new ideas I have swilling around in my brain. The Internet has certainly been my friend when it has come to sales these past few months, Twitter and my blog have been great advertising tools. It is certainly very disheartening when I look at my sales figures from craft fairs only for them to drastically drop when I subtract the huge amount I have had to pay out for tables at such events. If I hadn't had such great sales other than the few craft fairs that have been a bit disappointing, I'd certainly be looking closer to home and thinking that my products just aren't what the public want, but I get great feedback from customers, and I'm lucky enough to get repeat orders, so that does bring about a degree of confidence in what I make being 'good enough'.
So, all-in-all, a post that was originally going to be about cute t-shirts I've made lately, took an entirely different twist and ended up with me getting quite a bit off my chest! I certainly feel a bit better now, but what do you think? Is it as simple as thinking that we need to re-define 'craft fairs' or does it all come down to the turn in the economy? And if you've never been to a craft fair, I'm just wondering what image the term actually brings to mind?
P.S - normal services will be resumed this week with blog posts including pretty images of the things I've made recently :)