Monday, 30 November 2009

Big Thank You and roll on 2010!

I'm really grateful to everyone who so very generously took the trouble to share their own experiences of 'craft fairs' and to help me clarify my thoughts about the meaning of (crafting) life!  You're all so kind and it was genuinely helpful.  

As with most of you, 'making stuff' has always been a part of my life.   One of my earliest memories (maybe I was about 5) is of constructing little gardens in the mole-hills on the village football pitch.  Then I'm sure I got badges in the Brownies for knitting or somesuch thing!   My mum showed me how to embroider and I've still got a tablecloth I decorated with satin-stiched flowers when I was about 10 - goodness that would certainly qualify as 'vintage' now.   

And over the years I have dabbled in all sorts, loving to make things for my home and for presents.   Kind friends and relations encouraged me to make-and-sell, which I did in a very small way.   When I gave up my proper job I had more time to indulge my creative side and opening an Etsy shop seemed to be an easy way to answer the often-posed question, "Have you got a website?".   The shop wasn't ever meant to be the main focus of my crafting, just somewhere to refer people to see the kinds of things I made.  The selling thing was a handy way of financing my new-found love of felting and bought me the freedom to 'play'.  But I can see now, with your help, that the cart is now before the horse, as the old saying goes.    I seem to be making simply to keep my shop 'shelves' filled and to try and make things that will appeal to people at these 'craft' fairs.

So the New Year will bring a different approach.   I hope to take part in one or two strictly handmade fairs next year, in the expectation that visitors will have been attracted by that title and will have a realistic vision of what will be on show.   And I want to spend more time experimenting with felt, perhaps creating natural dyes and doing more three-dimensional work and nuno felting.  

So I'm sorry this is such a droney post, but I wanted to say a big thank you and demonstrate that I had used your kind input to help me make up my mind where I go from here.  

The next few days will be a bit of a write-off on the crafting front, because, (as you do in the cold depths of winter) we're having a new central-heating boiler installed and my workroom is now scattered over several spare bedrooms while the floorboards are up, the water is turned off, every outside door is wide open and it's perishing!   Oh dear, I don't do cold ....

Monday, 23 November 2009

Damp Derbyshire

Derbyshire is really not too far from home for us, so we went tootling off there with a couple of friends for the weekend.   We stayed here for BandB and received a real welcome in the cold and dark - a roaring log fire, squashy sofas, bouncy big puppy and our host even laid on Scotland beating Australia at rugby!   What more could we ask.

We'd spent a rather damp day at Chatsworth, but escaped the rain by touring  the house, which was decorated lavishly for Christmas on the theme of candles and a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.   Here's some grainy photos which will help inspire your own Christmas decorations, no doubt!

As luck would have it, they were also having their Christmas market that day and if we had so chosen, we could have staggered up the length of the stalls drinking mulled wine, cider, eating award-winning sausages and Bakewell tart (more of than anon).   One absolutely delightful stall (called Made in the Shed, but no web/shop link available sadly) were having their first outing.   I adored everything the talented ladies had made:  they had sourced some fabulous fabrics and made lovable big bunnies and teddies, dreamy romantic hearts of every kind and irresistibly tempting goodies of all sorts.   I just had to make a purchase and (here I go again...) tell them that they were not charging enough for their goods.   They all agreed that they had had sleepless nights worrying about how to price and insisted that it was impossible to charge realistically for their time.  I have seen things not nearly so charming in CL and other magazines which are priced way way higher.   Hmm, more food for thought!   Anyway, not sure I can show my purchase to you, as it might be a pressie!

We must go back to Chatsworth, in the dry, so that we can spend some time walking around the extensive grounds and admiring the fountains and water features - but the main 'water feature' on Saturday was descending from the leaden skies.   So we took off for Bakewell in search of Tart.   And we certainly found some here!   It's a tiny little place, behind the bakery, but it had the most mouthwatering Bakewell Tart in the world and worth a 2 hour journey just for that alone!  But, no need, they'll even post them to you at home....

And, to my joy, Bakewell has some fantastic little independent shops and even in the pouring rain and dark, we had a delightful time dashing from doorway to doorway exploring.   My favourite was Chalet home, which was a little cottage packed with Scandinavian and French things, all decked out for Christmas and smelling divine.   More purchases made, I'm afraid!

I'm going to skip very quickly over the fantastic steak pie and great pint of beer we had at The George in Alstonefield in the evening - we all completely overdid the consumption, being full of Bakewell Tart already!   And then Sunday with a Full English Breakfast at the BandB, the only thing for it was a walk from  Milldale to Dovedale and back (in the rain) along the valley of the river Dove.  Only five or so miles, so not nearly enough to walk off all the weekend's calories, but we got rosy cheeks and felt slightly less guilty!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Mosaic in the Meantime

Having a serious think about all the kind comments and support I received in response to my last post and things are a bit clearer now, though I'm still mid-ponder!

Here's a little mosaic to enjoy in the meantime, and 'thank you' to everyone for their generosity.

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 ...!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lest We Forget

                                       At the going down of the sun
                                                 and in the morning
                                                           we will remember them

Saturday, 7 November 2009

New Lanark

A few images from our trip to Scotland last week - words to follow ..... sometime soon!