Craft fair season is well and truly upon us whether we are exhibitors or visitors, there is something on every weekend at this time of year. Craft Fairs, Makers Markets, Vintage Fairs, Handmade Shows, they are all there to give artists and designers a place to exhibit their work and to give the public an opportunity to buy truly unique items, handmade by someone you can meet and chat to.
The Exclusively Highlands Meet the Makers event at Blair Castle on November 10th and 11th gave visitors just this opportunity. With over 30 exhibitors from the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Fife, this event brought some amazingly talented people together which left visitors in awe of the skills people are putting to use to produce the most beautiful art and craft and the tastiest food around.
I was approached by Isabel at Exclusively Highlands and asked if I would like to exhibit at the Autumn events at Birnam and Blair Atholl. I was delighted to be asked and felt confident enough to take part in events like this due to the experience I have gained in recent years of exhibiting at good craft fair events.
The setting for this event would take your breath away.
Highland Perthshire is stunning at the best of times but with all the autumn colours on the trees and the slight mist and nip in the November air, it made the setting all the more enchanting. Although Perthshire is my home county, I live in North Fife now so traveling back and forth to the event was not an option. Taking accommodation for an event is a new concept for me but for the regular Exclusively Highlands exhibitors it is the norm. We were all given the opportunity to book local accommodation through the organisers and my helper and I ended up sharing the most fabulous converted steading with five other exhibitors. It was great fun having a chat and a laugh over a few bottles, I mean glasses, of wine and getting the chance to talk shop with some very experienced stall holders.
The castle itself made a wonderful venue for this event
Not only did we have visitors coming for the event itself, we had a constant stream of international tourists who had come for a tour of the castle and got to visit the craft fair as a bonus!
Many of the exhibitors commented on the great atmosphere that this event had compared to others. One reason for that was that all the stalls were within the one room.
At some events the stalls are split between different rooms and sometimes different levels within a building. Customers can get confused or not realise there are more stalls to see and the stall holders not in the main area get agitated thinking they have been given a less prominent space and are suffering a loss as a result.
Everyone seemed happy with their space at this event plus the roaring open fires within the hall added warmth and character.
Can you believe this fire was right opposite my stall! It was kept stoked all day and added such a cheerfulness to the event.
On the other side of my stall was the Leachkin Bakery from Inverness.
As you can imagine my helper and I were caught cake handed more than once! It was actually really good having tasty food on hand as I am terrible for not eating enough during the day when I do craft fairs. It is difficult to eat discreetly behind a stall but it does keep your energy levels up which makes packing up at night much easier.
My top tip for doing any event is to take along some form of lighting. It makes a huge impact and can be the difference between people noticing your work or walking right past. I only had one light but could have done with two. This particular venue was quite dark but with it being November there was even less daylight coming in and as the windows faced east, the light faded by about 2.30 anyway. My other top tip is to try and stay at your stall and be attentive to customers. Always say hello and make eye contact and if you gauge that the person really likes your work, tell them a little more about it. You get better at this with practice and find that it comes naturally after a while.
There were so many wonderful stalls at this event and such a variety from ceramics to photography, silver smithed jewellery to whisky barrel furniture. Handmade soap and bath bombs to handmade children’s clothing. Hats, bags and scarves to intricate fused glass. Delicious cakes and chutneys to handmade tartan bodices! Stalls that stood out for me included Loobie and Boo, Vintage Squirrel and Rustic Symplicity.
Fellow Folksy seller Loobie and Boo and I have been at three of the same fairs over the last four weekends. Laura makes an array of stylish, quirky gifts and accessories from gorgeous, vibrant Harris Tweed.
The colours Laura uses in her work immediately draw me to her stall and it is always well laid out and tidy. I like how she only uses the plain tweeds, never the patterned ones. It makes her work stand our as a little bit different and the vibrant colours are a perfect backdrop for her cute designs.
Another stall holder I have met more than once over the past few weekends is Katie at Vintage Squirrel. Katie’s stall always draws me. The combination of colours she uses and the fascinating variety of items she has on display are a feast for the eyes and have a comforting feel to them.
Katie sells an exciting collection of fashion accessories, jewellery and decorative gifts for the home. She has also recently opened a shop studio at her home selling all these things and more including Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I think it’s the presentation and variety of items on sale that makes Vintage Squirrel stand out for me.
Rustic Simplicity is a brand new venture and this was their first time exhibiting their fabulous pieces made out of reclaimed wood.
I have to admit to having a thing for wee cupboards and I just love these! Anita really enjoyed the event and was delighted at the response to her husband’s work. She was also really impressed at how friendly and helpful everyone was and how encouraging other stall holders were.
I met other newbies to this event and craft fairs in general and they all said how much they had enjoyed it and how welcomed they felt. They also said they had learned a lot and seemed really enthused to move onward and upward with their work.
As much as we all enjoy selling online and can glean a lot from feedback we receive through social media, it is wonderful to get out and meet customers and other makers face to face. To see people’s reaction to your work and give them the experience of buying something unique from the person that made it is something really special. I wouldn’t like to go out and do it every weekend as it can be exhausting and your own enthusiasm could wain but choosing a few well organised events to attend is a very worthwhile thing to do. It doesn’t have to be a high end event, but it does help to be exhibiting alongside other makers of quality items. Plus, when people see your work in real life and find out that all these things are available online, it will boost sales in our online shops too. I gave out lots of Folksy samplers to customers of all ages and encouraged a few of the stall holders to open Folksy shops too. It has been an exhausting few weeks taking Aileen Clarke Crafts on the road but well worth it!
A huge thanks to Aileen for helping to spread the Folksy word and give us such a wonderful insight to this lovely event. You can see all of Aileen’s work in her Folksy shop Aileen Clarke Crafts. If you’re a fan a craft fairs and markets you can now discover events local to you at GoGoMargo.com.