If you are in the craft business, you inevitably have to do craft fairs and I started mine when I was still only making knitted and felt products. The first one I did in Teddington, was with a friend who was an artist and we shared a stall – first mistake (she is a very accomplished artist and I looked rather second rate next to her), but covering my costs was my most urgent thought. I made a bit more than the cost of the table but I certainly wasn’t retiring to the Bahamas any time soon! The next one I did with another friend and I did rather better; by this time I was selling my cufflinks and had my own stand with my stuff and I wasn’t sitting all day twiddling my thumbs.
And then the third one I did was a Christmas fair and I did quite well but the best thing that came out of the day was a friendship with a lovely lady called Natalie Armstrong that endures to this day. She was on the stall next to me and was beavering away at her bracelets which she made, but she still took time to chat and we hit it off instantly and that’s one of the lovely things about these craft fairs you can meet some lovely people both stallholders and customers. She had been doing craft fairs for years and has a really good business head on her and she has taught me so much.
Once you start doing a few of these fairs you start to identify the regulars. These are the rather odd habitués of these events whose only aim seems to be to jump out of bed in the morning and make their way to the craft fairs of their choice (I am certain they must visit plenty in a day) and usually pitch up near opening time when things are quiet and they have the stallholders at their mercy and their full attention and then they launch their attack!
Unlike other folks they don’t come to look at the crafts or seek out a bargain or look for that special one-off gift – oh no! Their one objective is to try and catch stallholders out by asking loads of pointless questions about your stock and make remarks like “well that’s not really a craft is it”, or, “you didn’t make all that yourself because the glass in the pictures wasn’t made by you, was it” ha, ha, ha! It’s an exercise in patience to keep smiling and chuckle at their rapier wit and penetrating insights and you can feel the fixed smile pinned to your face as they go through their routine. I have done a couple of craft fairs now at one particular location near me and the same man came round both times and did exactly the same thing to all of us. At least you don’t feel singled out – he’s very impartial with his observations and clearly entertains himself and no doubt his friends in the pub in the evening! The trick is to see them coming, spot some other unsuspecting stallholder being trapped and gauge when they will reach your stall and just as they saunter up looking suitably smug and expectant, you bend down and find something absolutely fascinating and engrossing on the floor behind your stall where they can’t see what you are doing. Starved of their audience and realising that you aren’t going to turn round any time soon, they quickly move on. If they don’t move on quickly enough, you can face the “Dizzy Tomato Effect”! You eventually have to stand up and find you have a face the colour of a ripe tomato and are tottering about with a dizzy spell and everybody else thinks you’ve had one too many gins on your cornflakes that morning!! Never mind, it all makes for an entertaining day and plenty to talk about to the people either side of you.
I enjoy doing craft fairs and talking to lots of people. I’m so lucky, all my customers are lovely, I have never had anybody rude or impatient, everybody is delightful and the orders I take are a pleasure to undertake. Each has a little history with it and I hear all that and it’s one of the main reasons I love to make these gifts.