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?’