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Crafty Fairs - selling jewellery at craft fairs

Second craft fair down, and I'm quickly getting to know the lay of the land. The vibe, the different types of stall-holder, the customers and what does or doesn't sell. It's all fascinating and frightening at the same time. Here's my observations on being crafty and selling at craft fairs so far...

If you are anything like me, you are creative, have a love/hate relationship with anything vaguely resembling maths, a bit of a dandelion mind and can talk the hind legs off a donkey. You've finally settled on an art form you enjoy, and your creative efforts are starting to make your living space a trip/stab/fire hazard. Perhaps your better half is starting to make veiled (or brutally pointed) references to the cost of materials, or your pets have progressed to playing with your works to get attention or just find a place to lie down. If any of this is reading true, then get you to start selling your jewellery at craft fairs!

Four silver pendants and 2 silver rings in boxes on red oak board. Photo from above
Sterling Silver creations on the trusty red oak board

"But it's all digital! #SellOnline!" I hear you cry. Well yes, do that as well, but there is nothing quite as good as face-to-face human contact to market yourself and ensure business card makers like Moo (#NotSponsored!) have you scurrying back to them for a refill. I have also found that building discoverability online is a very, very hard slog. I don't get excited when I get a ping on my phone to say someone is looking at my website anymore, as it is invariably a hit in America or China and not the UK, where I want to principally gain traction. It's a 'me' thing; I know I haven't employed the correct SEO, but in the meantime I can spread the word to people I meet.

That's where craft fairs come in. My first two have been with The Yard Market in Dundee, with completely contrasting results. In the centre of Dundee, smack bang next to The Overgate shopping centre, it doesn't lack for potential footfall. The first weekend I attended, I completely forgot to take into account that both the Scottish and English FA Cup finals were on that day, it was beautifully sunny and so it was, unsurprisingly, quiet. The second week had a local event on that also limited footfall in the glorious sunshine but it was the first day of the month and payday weekend. I was nervous, it was the first time I had set up a table, so product placement was not optimal. Saying that, I had £33 in sales, which was not too far short of 'making yer table back' - a muttered mantra you will soon get used to hearing. The second week was a cracking sunny day again, in the same location, but this time sales were £174, more than making up for the previous week's shortfall, both week's parking costs and creating a modest profit. So what was different?

green table against white wall with leaded church windows. table displaying jewellery and two crocheted creatures
Setup v1.1 - incremental changes on the way!

Firstly, I properly looked at my stall when setting up. I did this the first time - stepped back and looked from afar, took a photo for socials, grinned from ear-to-ear and cracked on, full of enthusiasm, but I didn't properly examine the setup in my excitement to get going. If you are like me and learn from doing, you'll probably read this and forget about it when you get started, discovering it for yourself. The second week I took a bit more thought about my product placement - I continued the theme from week 1 of having my Sterling Silver creations front and centre, Arran Seaglass to my left and upcycled (more on that word later) costume jewellery to my right. This ensured I could accurately describe what was on my stall without having to scurry round to the front to see what was being looked at - three easy sections to remember details about in my head. But this time, I used the tabletop right to the edge- I realised that the week before I had put products in rigid collections in the middle of the table. If there was going to be spare space, better it is behind the products than in front of them. I spread some of the necklaces on the table so they could be touched and examined, which was less intimidating than the hanging boards (which I still used).

Secondly, I spaced things out a little more, giving my creations room to tell their stories. I think the temptation is to cram as many of your creations into one space as possible to cater for every possible person walking through the door. I have a clear strategy of making my hallmarked Sterling Silver the main attraction, front and centre, but I am also conscious of combating waste by upcycling broken costume jewellery to provide a cheaper alternative and 'bling for every budget' which helps fund my sterling silver habit and hopefully tempt people back to me when they have more money to spend. The saying 'less is more' might seem counter-intuitive in retail but, if you are confident in your product, you should be able to set up with what sells best first.

six necklaces - seaglass and wire with cardboard cards on a green tabletop
Spreading out the necklace creations to tell their story

Lastly, that word - upcycled. This is one I am in a bit of a quandary about but illustrates a wider point - the words and body-language you use does matter. I have inherited from my Irish father his self-proclaimed ability to 'talk sh*t to anyone' and more importantly I enjoy talking to people, and listening. In my first week, my son observed that I kept talking about "recycling broken jewellery" and that 'broken' is a negative word I should try and cut out, which I have (mostly) done, instead focusing on 'upcycling discarded pieces into new'. He declared that 'upcycling' is more positive than 'recycling' but I am not 100% sold on that - 'upcycling' certainly was on trend a few years ago and at the end of the day, it has the same result in that you are limiting waste. I think I will have to take a poll on that one. To go with the words and the change of product placement, I also changed my behaviour.

One half of the lovely Creag Silver gave me some good advice on how you use your hands at a stall, observing I was pointing down at my products - it was a simple thing, but again, this has negative connotations, and it was recommended that the palm up approach be used. Simple advice that I believe works - there's a reason MP's use that annoying thumb thing instead of a pointing finger. There were other recommendations which I was really grateful to receive, but I'll leave you to discover them for yourself! ;) The feedback that I got from this market, on top of the sales, was really motivational. "You have a great, distinctive style." "I love that you are recycling!" and a comment I didn't quite fully catch about "Loving things that look like they are created by elves".... I think that was what was said... and I am taking it as positive?! Customers are 99% lovely, and it's good to acknowledge them whether you think they are going to buy or not. A kind word and a smile goes a long way. It was great to get feedback from the organisers that people were saying good things about me as they exited - you get out what you put in.

My final observation is about the community that is created around craft fairs - although happy to talk crap for Scotland (and any other country that will have me) I am naturally wary of communities attached to hobbies/past-times/areas of interest. I have been burned before in online communities, becoming associated with cults of personality and though I haven't encountered that yet, the all too human desire to rally people to your cause soon bubbles to the surface. There will be people that have been in the craft fair business a long time and seen the ups and downs come and go on numerous occasions - if it's a hard time for the crafting business, beware their gloomy outlook. Finding newbie craft fair sellers, like myself, is fabulous and, as a natural cheerleader, I love telling them their product is awesome- check out The Captains Hook who had to endure my customer banter all day, the poor soul. Lastly, beware stall envy - I cannot tell you the amount of staging products I have added and removed from my Amazon basket after looking at other people's setups - I undoubtedly have to get some more height into my display but just adding different funky necklace display stands you saw somewhere else is not the way to go. Keep it personal to your style, improve incrementally, and don't be afraid to ditch what doesn't work. I am already planning to replace my lovely red oak display board with something more fabulous.....

What have I learned from this second fair to adapt for my next foray? Well, I have been patiently writing down what has sold, to focus on creating more of those products or something along the same lines. I've scoped out a mirror to take along next time, so people can see what items might look like on them, and the third thing (I do love doing things in threes...settle!) is my table grouping. When I was talking about my products, I wondered why everyone started at the 'upcycled' jewellery first. Was it because they were the cheapest? Maybe, but I suddenly remembered the little bit of psychology that caused a furore for the BBC and its presenter placement, with the bloke always on the left of the screen - people raised with latin-based reading always read left to right and will naturally prioritise whatever is in the left. So, next time, the Seaglass is going to my right and getting the attention it deserves.

I'll next be at The Steeple, Nethergate, Dundee on 29 June 2024 - I look forward to seeing you there. Happy crafting everyone!

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