The Other Side of the Stall: Episode 3……..’Networking’….. aka making friends and finding out about stuff!
If you are expecting a piece about how to pick out the people who will further your career and give you a hand up the greasy pole of success look away NOW!
Networking, (has a word ever been created that sounds more calculating 😡😡?) is not really my thing but experience has shown me that chatting to people at craft events and exhibitions, remembering their names and what they do (just as you would when meeting people socially), often leads to bigger and better things! The joy of being part of events and exhibitions is making friends (let’s face most of us make more friends at shows than we make money) and that’s what makes the whole experience so much fun!
After the stress of the first ever event in Yorkshire and my Mother’s pneumatic expanding arm and hospital internment (see Episode 2) I resolved to do an event more locally. I looked around for small (dare I add cheap) events and the first that took my eye was a craft fair in a marquee at Cromford Mill for one of their artisan fairs. It really does make sense to start small and local and when I look back I realise that many of the people I met at Cromford that year (2014) are now friends and an integral part of my craft life.
Two of the people I met at that first show are now the backbone of my Medley group…..more of that later……and a third has my work in her gallery, from tiny acorns eh! Looking at the photo above of Cromford Mill in the early years, Ruth Gray behind me on the left and Anne Alldread’s stall behind me on the right ..........who would have dreamt that 5 years on we’d be friends and still working together!
Cromford Mill making friends or networking…you decide!
This photo is my first show in the old Cromford marquee, it was cold and leaked but was is a great venue in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales. The old marquee has now been replaced and although not much warmer it’s certainly drier! My first show here was also the first time I met Anne Alldread and Ruth Gray two people with whom I still work as part of Medley and count as friends as well as colleagues. I also met Susan Hermansen that week whose husband John is a renowned ceramist now based at Cromford Mill; she and her daughter have a gift shop/gallery in Brailsford which now stocks my work. Susan was very welcoming to a newbie and her advice to me that weekend was simple but effective and was to add height to my display….wise words which I tried to act upon at subsequent shows…….lovely to see how people help and support each other ........or ‘network’ I suppose!
I also met Shelagh Wray at those Cromford shows, she has since retired, but used to organise craft fairs; her invitation to join her Dales Craft Fairs at Bakewell led to me meeting Guy Badham a well known Peak District photographer and Fiona Laing of Scribblings both of whom were later to become members of Medley. I popped in to the Town Hall at Bakewell this Saturday to catch up with Julie Stanley (textiles) who I also met there and who is now another Medley member. Had a good gossip with her and with Naomi Jones another brilliant photographer who will be joining Medley for our Christmas 2019 show! See what I mean…nothing planned but like a river fate has a knack of taking you in the right direction……..I’ve been lucky to meet some brilliant, talented and very likeable people and my advice is to talk to everyone, make friends and if you get on with them you may find you can work on shared projects together!
Having perhaps sounded a bit negative about networking ….I think it’s the corporate connotations of the word that sends shivers down my spine…I must say that getting together with other ‘creatives’, another word that sends shivers down my spine…….can be brilliant. My first networking in the truest sense of the word was with Purple and Gray about four years ago. They are two local artists who have set up a consultancy for aspiring artists and makers using their own experiences to advise and help individuals to fulfil their potential both in an artistic and business terms. Through their networking meetings held at different venues and free for all to attend I was able to widen my circle and begin to feel part of the local artisan scene….important for an ex Geography teacher!
Ruth (the Gray part of the duo) introduced me to Martin Sloman of Cromford Studio and Gallery who stocks my work and Purple (Karina Goodman a local artist) was also a member of Medley for the 2017 and 2018 seasons! There are people who are friends of friends who I now work with on Medley, people I’ve met at Buxton Artist and Designer Fair who gave me great advice about public liability insurance, people who have given me tips about shows…which to do and which to avoid, I could go on and on……and usually do!😂
It’s only by writing this blog that I’ve come to appreciate how through meeting people and interacting with other artists and makers my craft journey has progressed
So then, to network or not to network that is the question………
Get out there and meet as many people as you can!
However, the trick is not to treat each new person or introduction as a possible gain in commercial terms but to see each person as someone to help you get through the boredom and /or the hassle of a show, someone who might in the future become a valued friend who you enjoy meeting socially or someone who you might, just might, end up working with, laughing with and very importantly meeting up with for a coffee and a chat!
Coming next in the Other Side of the Stall Episode 4…….
’Medley…… what is it, who is it and why is it there?’
Okay, so not literally, obviously, as I would not be in a fit state to write about it but for those of you who ask about taking that step towards showing for the first (and possibly last) time be prepared for the gnawing terror that accompanies the looming date of your first show.
There are the obvious questions which assail you as you lie awake panicking at 2am …and 3am…. and 4am….such as, “Why am I doing this?” “What on earth made me think I COULD do this?” and the classic, “What can I do to a) get out of this b) cancel due to illness as yet I undetected and undiagnosed c) get the earth to swallow me without a trace?”
It is a measure of how committed you are or perhaps how much you’ve paid for the stall whether the answers you come up with to any or all of these night terror questions actually result in you pulling the plug on the event but rest assured that if you get through these few nights it will never, ever, feel as bad again.
The simple process of getting through your first event alive and usually unscathed is proof enough, if proof were needed, that any mishap (as others call it) or calamity (as I am prone to call it) will not be life threatening but is usually solved by a little ingenuity on your own part or as usually happens, by a helping hand from the fellow stall holders around you who are with few exceptions a friendly and utterly helpful bunch of fellow travellers.
My First Event:
My first ever event was in Yorkshire, in a village which adds the letters ‘fest’ after its name to create the festival ‘vibe’, has a craft marquee and a beer tent and congratulates itself on its artisan appeal. Set up was on a Friday and I duly rocked up and felt smug because unlike the bloke next to me I had read the small print and actually brought my own table……..with experience I now know that charging £75.00 for two days and expecting people to provide their own table as well is a teensy weeny bit of a rip off…..however, at the time I felt the investment was worthwhile.
Stall was set up…see last month’s blog for the photo……so off I trotted to spend the night at my Mum’s who only lives a few miles away….there I took a deep breath and I thought I could relax and prepare myself for the FIRST EVER CRAFT FAIR😱😱😱😱
Isn’t it amazing how life has a way of throwing you a curved ball. We went out for a meal that evening to a local pub and midway through the meal my Mum began to feel unwell, she complained about an aching shoulder, I dismissed it as an age thing, “overdoing it in the garden” I think I said! Oh dear oh dear oh dear, little did I realise!
Within two hours we were in A & E in York waiting for her to be seen as her arm had swollen up to twice its size. OMG what a night; it turned out, thankfully, not to be life threatening but a reaction to her blood thinning medicine (from out of nowhere)! At 1.30am she was admitted to the ward and I went home wearily and worriedly with my husband who, thank God, was with me!
So, what to do….my first stall was all set up and ready for me at the venue, my Mum was in hospital and I was knackered! Here my husband was an absolute hero….in the morning he dropped me off at the craft fair and then went straight in to the hospital to take my Mum her overnight stuff and check on how she was. My sister came over to stay with Mum (I add this detail so you don’t think I’m an uncaring and horrible daughter!) and I spent my first ever morning ‘on the other side of the stall’ completely exhausted and worried. The problem is once you’re set up there’s really little you can do but soldier on or abandon the stall completely! Went for the ‘easier’ option and kept ringing husband at hospital and trying to interest the good people of ****fest in my wares, with hindsight would have had more success trying to sell stained glass in the hospital car park! Spent the Saturday evening at hospital. Exhausted. On a brighter note my Mum was feeling perkier!😁
Sales that day?
Not a penny.
Not one sale.
I won’t bore you with the Sunday story (a similarly depressing tale)…… most importantly Mum recovered and is, as I type a hale and hearty 91. Was it worth the emotional rollercoaster and stress?
Let’s put it this way, after deducting costs I came away with a princely £20 for one of my worst weekends behind the stall; I’ve made less money at shows since but never been so stressed again.
So was it worth it? Not financially definitely and certainly I don’t want to go though the worry like that again but I learnt a number of really important lessons that weekend which have stood me in good stead ever since. Trivial perhaps but event on event it’s about improving so…..
1. Remember this paragraph at the beginning ( I know it seems such a long time ago)
‘The simple process of getting through your first event alive and usually unscathed is proof enough, if proof were needed, that any mishap (as others call it) or calamity (as I am prone to call it) will not be life threatening but is usually solved by a little ingenuity on your own part or as usually happens, by a helping hand from the fellow stall holders around you who are with few exceptions a friendly and utterly helpful bunch of fellow travellers.’
2. And this one does seem really trivial
Get a good table cover….I took with me a red sheet that weekend, I thought it was bright and cheerful but it looked awful because the glass colours were distorted and dull. Now I use crushed velvet in white bought online shows off the coloured glass beautifully…doesn’t crease and washes like a dream. You might be better with black or purple, look around at fairs and gather ideas.
3. Chat to fellow stall holders, full of good tips such as the people next to me at that weekend who suggested the white crushed velvet and where to buy it!
4. Listen and learn! I listened to the jeweller next to me who encouraged all passers by to, ‘feel free to try things on.’ and had a well rehearsed but friendly and encouraging spiel. Rehearse it and practise it at home!
5. Never ever take bad sales personally, you will always find someone who’s had a better show than you……. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve vowed to do tray bakes or cupcakes…..they always sell out!
They say you never forget your first don’t they!?
Well I certainly won’t…….now you know why I called this episode of my blog:
Going over Niagara Falls in a Barrel!😂😂😂
Next time……….meeting people, finding friends.
First of all thank you for taking time out to explore my new blog.......so why a blog and why now?
When you walk around a Craft or Makers’ fair I’m sure that you look at wonderful (and let’s be honest sometimes less than wonderful) pieces on display made of wood, glass, metal, willow, silver, ceramics etc etc etc and are in awe of their skills, and then you look at the the people behind the stalls....often tapping away on their phones texting, looking exhausted, bored or fed up....sometimes all three and I’m sure you wonder.........
“Why are you doing this?”
And they are thinking,
“Why are we doing this?”
And I very often wonder,
“Why the hell am I doing this?!!”
So, over the next 12 months I’m going to try to provide some of the answers!
When I was a Geography teacher the basis of every lesson was the ‘Three Ws’, ie What is it? Where is it? Why is it there? It seems natural therefore to answer the same questions about my glass work! The idea has grown over time as people ask me why I started creating stained glass and what inspires me and why I continue when it’s such a roller coaster!
There are lots of well worn phrases and clichés that I constantly read but to be frank the one closest to the truth that answers the ‘why’ part and explains what it was that kick started my ‘art/maker/crafter phase of life was the saying ’necessity is the mother of invention’.
I moved in 2010 into an Edwardian house in need of renovation; after sorting out the rewiring, the plumbing and the plastering (not personally I hasten to add!), I needed a pair of stained glass door panels and so I did some research. When I found out how much it was to get a professional to do the work I decided that I would do a course (far cheaper) which was devoted to stained glass and embarked on a completely different experience doing 3 hours a week for 10 weeks!
The brilliant thing was I could learn the basics and do a project of my own over the ten weeks. I think the idea was that we do a small panel as a project so the course tutor was a bit taken aback when I produced a design for two door panels! With his help and a lot of extra hours I finished my first panel and decided to do the second at home with some basic equipment. Martin McCassey, my tutor was brilliant and it was from that course and doing a second with him where I learnt the copper foiling technique and made a lamp that the basic building blocks of my stained glass skills were developed. A lot of years and hard work later I now design, make and sell large panels I design myself, work to commission for people’s homes and gardens and create small decorative objects for the home and gardens.
I decided to do an occasional blog to share some of the highs and lows of the the coming year. To show you what life is like,”on the other side of the stall’, to encourage people to talk to the makers and artists who will be very pleased if you buy their work but will be just as pleased if you show genuine interest and appreciation for their wares. We realised that times a tough at the moment and not everyone can or will want to afford to buy a piece of art or craft but we also have enthusiasm and knowledge we like to share! You may help us have more to do than look longingly at the slow hands of the clock!
To show that I have made some progress in the five years I’ve been doing my shows here’s a photo of my first stall to compare with the the latest one at the Medley event I organised at Christmas at the top of the page! Everything I write will be a personal view and not designed to create a furore on the scale of Brexit! Please feel free to contact me via my contact page if you have a question.