Monday, 16 November 2009

Craft (un)Fair



Well just in case you thought I'd gone AWOL, here's some stuff I've been making since we got back from Scotland and the Australian returned to her home down under.     


I was going to start off my missive today with a moan and a bit of heartsearching, but I thought that might put you off altogether.   However, now that I've got you reading, I'm going to subject you to it anyway!    



I've been felting and sewing away like crazy for a while, trying to get some things together for a couple of craft fairs that I said I would do.   One for a local infant school and another for the county Women's Institute.  

















The infant school was a fair success, despite the fact that I had a table between the pink tutus and a very popular brand of greeting cards!   The WI, however, didn't go quite as I thought.   There was a large influx of elderly ladies quite early on in proceedings, but they were mainly there for a cup of tea, a slice of home-made cake and a natter with their friends.  Nothing wrong with that!  But a large number of stalls were not 'craft' at all:  imported socks, hessian shoppers with naff sayings printed on them, jewellery made in goodness-knows-what-sweatshop, that kind of thing.  


My lovely talented friend had brought along some beautiful quilted items that she had made during the year and I tried not to be too strident and bossy in pointing out to her that her prices were ridiculously low - but I could hardly get a word in because she was so busy selling her wonderful wares to hordes of purchasers eager to snap up truly great bargains!  She did agree that her husband had said the same thing to her, but she just felt she 'didn't want to go home with them'.   Her prices would barely have covered the cost of the materials - no thought of pricing her time into the equation.  And there's the rub, the age-old  argument about crafters not being able to charge a realistic price for their handiwork, because people can't then afford to buy it.  



I do try and stick to my guns a bit with my prices - after all, it's not just a hobby for me, I do want to try and make some money from it.   If I didn't, there are so many other things I could sensibly be spending my time doing (e.g. the ironing).   I've been thinking a lot about this since yesterday, particularly because one excited group of ladies were billing-and-cooing over some of my lavender bags until they saw the price tag.   Said one, "Oh £4, not cheap, then".   So why would it be 'cheap'?   Did she just mean, "Oh that's more than I really want to pay for a hand-made, linen and vintage lace, organic English lavender bag with lovely old button and ribbon".   Or was it, "You're having a laugh at my expense, expecting me to pay this vastly inflated price for your old tat, when I can get one in poundland".    

So I have been pondering these things in my heart and will continue to do so.   I need to take a step back and examine why I'm doing it - do I need the money?  am I actually making any money?!  am I just fulfilling a creative need?  do I need the affirmation that what I'm making is saleable?  should I carry on, but on a smaller scale, i.e. no Etsy shop?  scale up and do more self-promotion?   Oooh er, what a headache!   I'm sure you've all had more-or-less the same thoughts from time to time - care to share them?!





In the meantime I need to clear up the almighty mess in my workroom.   We're having a new heating boiler installed very soon and they have to take up the floorboards right underneath my storage shelving, which has now extended several feet into the room with a rat's nest of detritus piled up against it.  When things are a mess, I always say, "It looks like the Wreck of the Hesperus" - no idea what it means,  but I get a mental picture of an old sailing ship dashed against the rocks and its cargo bobbing around on its way to rest on the shore. Oh, just looked it up on Wikipedia, now I'm not at all sure I have the right expression ...!


22 comments:

Laura said...

Hello! I've just come across your blog and I can feel myself becoming addicted! I'm an honours year graphics student in Aberdeen, and my final year project is focusing on the importance of crafts in an increasingly digital society. I was wondering if I could ask you some questions? It would be interesting to get your view on the subject

Gina said...

Craft fairs are so disheartening... but don't give up. What you make is beautiful and I think that £4 for a handmade lavender bag is cheap... silly woman didn't know what she was talking about! The braclets are gorgeous!

CJ Stitching and Blooms said...

Hello Chrissy, Your felted creations are very beautiful. I think depending on where you are selling your creations will depend on what kind of reaction you all will get. Of course with the economy the way it is I believe shoppers are looking for the most they can get for their money, hence I think they are thinking if I go to a craft fair things will be cheaper. Sad but I think truly. If I were you I would stick to my guns. Hugs Judy

Diane said...

I have so felt how you are feeling right now, and I find it increasingly frustratinng. This is my JOB. My husband agreed to let me stay home and create because its what I want to do so badly but it was with the understanding that I would bring in some money. I have had people tell me I am pricing myself out of the market. Why? because there are people out there selling their things for next to nothing. I barely charge $7 an hour for my work. I live in France...so essentially I am working for less than $5 an hour. That's considered overpriced!! On the other hand I have artist friends who are successful who tell me I am undercharging. It is a very confusing issue but I really wish those people out there selling their items for pennys would realize they are the reason people expect to pay so much less for our work. If they treat our items as so much trash...that is how they will be regarded.

LOVE STITCHING RED said...

I feel for you Chrissie. I had similar experiences a few years ago when I was on the local craft fair circuit. I still question whether or not I want to open an Etsy shop

I hope you work things out, be true to yourself

Love
Carolyn x

Chrissie said...

Laura - hellow - I'd be pleased to try and answer some questions. Do you want to email me at lifecoacher@hotmail.co.uk and I'll see what I can do.

Gina - thank you for your nice comments, glad you like the bangles!
Judy - you're quite right and I do understand what you're saying about the venue. Thank you!
Diane - thank you for leaving a comment - hope I wasn't moaning too much! It's good to know that someone understands.
Carolyn - I have only really done a couple of fairs, round about Christmas-time, and can't for the life of me think why! I need to go back and think about creativity - I seem to have lost my way.

julielea said...

I go through cycles of feeling just like this Chrissie,I think many peple don't understand or appreciate the thought and work that goes into work like yours. I knew an artist who took a group of (non-art trained) people around a craft gallery and then did a series of workshops with them leading to them putting on their own exhibition of their work. On Day 1 when the group went around the craft gallery, they were very dismissive of the work there ("Anyone could do that!; "Look at the price of this!" etc etc). BUT after they'd had a little training, made some work they had to put a price on their (still understandably naive work) for the exhibition.... and of course...they had all changed their attitude to pricing. They now felt hand crafted work warranted a decent price! And they were more appreciative of others art and crafted pieces. Hope this makes sense... I just want to say 'please don't feel disheartened... Your work is top quality, sensitive and beautifully crafted'. Julie x

Jasmine said...

You have been busy, all that felty lovliness. i've een making a lot of my own christmas presents this year.

Chrissie said...

Julie, thanks for sharing your story. Your encouragement is really appreciated - sometimes it's hard to keep things in perspective when you work in isolation.

Jasmine - I love your blog and will be exploring your wonderful artwork more thoroughly - when I've cleared out my workroom!

vintagerockchick said...

Oh I so know what you you mean. I remember years ago, I helped a friend who had a table at a craft fair. A lady passed by, picked up a beautifully knitted baby jacket, looked at the ridiculously reasonable price and said "Well! You could make it youself for that!" I just don't understand the logic. My recent attempts at selling have left me just as dispirited - I think the best customers are other crafts people, who appreciate the love and skill that goes into every piece. Keep at it and don't compromise - because you're worth it!

Uta said...

Chrissie your work is delightful. Anyone who thinks its too expensive isn't good enough to own your it anyway so there :P

p.s. Glad 'the Australian' finally when home hehehe

Uta said...

oops added an extra word in there 'your', I hate that :)

Menopausal musing said...

Chrissie: What I don't think people appreciate is the fact that not only have you MADE to items you sell, but YOU had to source the beautiful old buttons, the ribbon, the lavender....... all in YOUR time.......... Chin up!

Julia said...

Hello!

Just found your blog, how inspiring! I thoroughly enjoyed this post as it brought to mind several similar experiences I have had with little old ladies pursing their lips and raising their eyebrows at my stock!
I agreed with everything you wrote, and I think that there are people out there willing to pay a bit extra for something beautifully hand made, its just not little old ladies in teacosy hats.

Love Julia xxx

Pomona said...

Sue at Mousenotebook has been discussing similar issues. I do think that it is a real problem with trying to make a living from craft - everyone's tendency to look at the cost of the materials only, and the fact that so much we see in shops is made by people working the other side of the world for pennies per hour, and probably being horribly exploited at the same time. I think the answer is to choose your market place carefully (easier said than done) and not even attempt to occupy a niche at the bottom end. The V&H fair that I went to at the weekend is a good solution, I think.

Pomona x

kay susan said...

Hi, all that has happened to me too! At my very first craft fair, a women picked up one of my hand made original dolls and said 'What's the best price you can do on that?' - I'm afraid I very snootily informed her that 'This is a craft fair, not a car boot sale!'. At a local Womens' Institute meeting, I put a hand made fabric notepad and pen holder on the raffle table. A women picked it up, turned it over, opened it, then threw it back down on the table with a dismissive 'Looks hand made to me". I have explained to people that a heavily embellished item is more expensive because it took me much longer to make it, and they say 'What, you expect me to pay more when you are just sitting at home doing that?! I don't know what the answer is. Some people appreciate hand-crafted items and some don't. It's really a matter of finding the ones that do.
I would also have to say to your friend that people who sell their hand crafted items cheaply just devalue the work of every other craftsman - and some people are trying to make a living or at least supplement the family income.

Things Hand Made said...

The whole craft pricing thing is such a minefield. We talk about fair trade for people alll over the world and we must remember that it means us aswell.

florcita said...

I know what you mean. I had the same type of conversation with an artisan here. And she was saying that she is forced to lower her prices just because otherwise she doesn' t seel anything. I think that people who want to buy hand mae stuff need to know that it will be unique and a bit more expensive because it was made by a person...not mass produced in a factory. You want mass produce... go buy that. it's cheap. Hand made is more expensive. There are, believe it or not, people whom will pay the price for something made with care, good materials and good craftmanship. Don't give up! Don't do it for the money, do it for yourself. But don't give away your work.

Anonymous said...

Well, everyone else has already said it all Chrissie. Speaking as a person who likes to buy hand made/crafted items (with some appreciation from making a few things just for my own home), I have no idea what is wrong with people!
All I can say, once again, is that your work is creative, inspired and beautifully made. Finding the market is the really hard part.
Love, Anne

Guzzisue said...

sadly this is the reason that I no longer make things to sell, at one time I had a store holder who bought her stock from myself and several other makers but now I create only for friends or myself.

thewildhare said...

Hello, I completely understand your dilemma. I can't bear marking my good work down so it will sell, I know that it is very high quality and that I am actually priced low when people tell me I am priced high, and on the other hand, I have many WONDERFUL items on the shelves packaged to go but not selling. I have not solved the dilemma as I feel bad when I practically give things away, and sad when they don't sell.

I will be very interested to hear as you consider this issue. I want to know where you go with it for sure.

Hope your day is wonderful!

Clasheen said...

Hi Chrissie, Having had the 'craft fair' experience myself this weekend I totally understand where you are coming from! Last year I swore that I would never again participate in any fairs (except this one which was organised by a good friend and for a good cause) so why do I put myself through it time and time again?? I genuinely think that the majority of people attending don't appreciate hand crafted work and my policy is not to underprice but instead try to get the message out there as to what good quality hand crafted items are all about. £4 for one of your beautiful lavender sachets is a bargain to me, the problem is that people are so used now to purchasing mass produced, unfairly traded items they genuinely don't often know the difference. This is not to underestimate the educated artisans and supporters of craftsworkers who definitely appreciate our work but in my experience they are unfortunately few and far between. My thoughts were to use the craft fair I attended on Sunday as an advertising experience and any sales would be a bonus, for all that I did expect to sell enough to make it a good experience and not a disaster. As I said, I NEVER learn!