By Rebecca Portsmouth of Living Abstracts
Bust magazine’s Christmas Craftacular at Bethnal Green’s York Hall at the weekend was a brilliant day out with crafts, atmosphere and free workshops.
There were 65 stalls and areas in the large hall, with some shared tables meaning there were about 75 different designer-makers. The stalls ranged from jewellery to furniture, stationery, toys, giftwrap, comics, limited edition books and cupcakes and is about the sixth Craftacular that Bust magazine has run. The £2 admission included a two-sided A4 sheet with a list of stalls, workshops, dancing and goodie bag donations.
Rob Ryan had a grotto on the stage decorated with his distinctive style of cutouts in white foamcore, where he was signing about 500 limited edition prints in red, navy and teal. When I arrived half an hour after the start, there was a long queue of people wanting one of the prints; several hours later, there was still a queue, so a very popular part of the day.
I loved the event. It seemed well organized, have a really lovely selection of stallholders and the DJs played an eclectic mix of upbeat, often ‘80s tracks that kept the large venue buzzing. Workshops including making a festive fascinator, crafting a sequined bauble and learning the hula-hoop.
One of the great things about a craft fair is the connection it allows you – meeting the designer-makers, finding out about them and their creations. When you do find work you like, it is frustrating not to be able to find their details. There were quite a few stalls where I couldn’t see its name or website. Everyone I did ask had business or postcards, although some weren’t easily visible or have clear contact details.
I was really struck by Kate Le Fevre’s Mutton and Lamb cushions using fabrics from the 1950s to 1980s. Her stall, on the end of a row, made the most of the space and the name of her business and what she was selling was really clear. She had clearly accessible and stylish business cards and postcards that stated her business (vintage fabric cushions), a sign-up sheet and to wrap purchases – butchers’ paper, red and white twine and stickers.
The cushions were sold individually and in pairs, with carefully chosen piping contrasts around feather inners made in Scotland. Kate is an engaging character, a former set designer and art teacher, who was a delight to talk to.
Vicky of Lola Lou designs had a really well put together shared stand. Most of what she was selling was 2D – gift wrap, cards and gift tags. The cards were put on a stand which displayed them vertically and the gift paper was rolled and tied with twine so it became 3D; a sheet of gift wrap covered the front of the stand so you could see the pattern and she’d fitted on a selection of Christmas decorations and a cushion – one of the main products on her Folksy store.
Mary Kilvert’s well-dressed sheep won me over with their cuteness and her stall was beautifully put together. It was a lovely assortment of ceramics, material bags and gift wrap, well labelled and in a range of prices. She was also easy to talk to.
One of the most striking things about Mary’s stand was having her sheep at eye level; being looked square in the eye by a felt/woollen sheep, even a small one, makes you remember them. Having some products displayed at a height also means you can see what is being sold, even over the shoulders of other shoppers.
GREAT STALLHOLDER IDEAS
– Shoreditch Sisters WI attached a QR code on a sewn banner on the wall opposite their stall and on their stand. They explained QR codes viewed in a mobile phone QR code reader can link to a website home page or a particular part of a website such as a sign-up page (as they did) or a competition page that people might not be able to find without the code.
– A sign-up sheet for fans wanting more information. It’s an old idea, but still a good one.
– Mr Wingate displayed his screen-printed tea towels from a length of painted wood attached to the front of his stall with clamps. A small safety pin looped each tea towel to a screw eye inserted about every eight inches. It meant his designs were well displayed in an otherwise dead area of the stand and you could feel the material.
– A selection of price points. Mr Wingate was spot on with this as well – a nice choice to suit different budgets.
– Multiples from the same collection together. Lola Lou’s three gift wrap colours work fabulously well grouped together, as do her labels and cards, styled with rustic string.
– Beautiful signage: Zosienka and Rosie Illustration had a beautiful sign and cards clearly on display, given a seasonal twist with a green branch and Clementine. Their pricing tags were well designed too, reinforcing their branding.
– Table coverings can add to your branding. Terri Leahy used plastic grass and felt birds to brighten the front of her table and Brat & Suzie on the same table used an animal print under their animal T-shirts.
– Hazel Nicholls had a printed thank you onto her brown paper bags – a lovely touch.