How To Choose A Good Fair

For Artists and Makers

By Becky Moore, and with thanks to Alice Chandler and Jane Kay of Sunny Bank Mills Gallery, Anna Urwin of House of Bats and Shaun Vickers  for their contribution to this document.

I know it seems a long way off, but now is the time when stallholders are getting their Christmas fairs lined up.  Fairs are being advertised to stallholders and applications have to be sent in.  But how do stallholders know what is a good fair and what is a bad fair?

Last year, a number of people complained that they’d had stalls at fairs that were badly organised and publicised.  They were really fed up.  So a group of us – fair organisers and stall holders – got together to draw up some guidelines to help people avoid future disasters.

Organising a craft fair is a skill that not everyone has.  It takes a lot of work and dedication to get it just right, but even so, you can’t legislate against bad weather and you can’t force people to come to your event.  But the job of a fair organiser is to put the right stalls and products in front of the right customers.  That takes good curating, knowing your customer base, having a good venue, a marketing plan in place, and all the legalities such as insurance, policies on copyright, and so on, lined up.

The job of the stallholder is to spot not only which fairs are right for them, but also which fairs are well organised and professional.  It’s a tricky business.  And occasionally stallholders get stung.   People have asked “what can I do about it?”.  The answer is very little after the event.  But you can maximise your chances of choosing the good ones by knowing the right questions to ask.  The more people ask the questions, the more craft fair organisers will have to up their game and stop ripping people off.

This checklist has been put together by a team of fair organisers and experienced stallholders.  It is meant to guide you through the tricky process of spotting quality, well organised fairs to sell your goods at.  It won’t tell you which fairs will work for your products or artwork, but it will help you ask the right questions when deciding whether to apply.

Some fairs will have all these points on their websites or in their recruitment information.  If not, then we hope this checklist helps you ask the right questions. And you are allowed to ask!

Remember, fair organisers are selling a service to you.  You are their customer.  Make sure you are getting good value for money and good customer service.

****Download our PDF checklist here:  How To Choose A Good Fair ****

Choose the right fair for you:

Firstly, not all fair-failures are down to bad organising on the part of the fair.  Organisers of a well organised, good quality fair will have done everything they can within their means to make it a good event, and yet still you have a bad day. 

Very often, if you have a bad fair, it’s because you chose the wrong fair to do.  Don’t beat yourself up:  it takes experience to know which is the ‘right’ fair.  You have to have an idea of where your ideal customers are.  Even experienced stallholders sometimes pick the wrong fair.  The trick is to not do it twice!    Don’t throw you money away on fairs that don’t attract YOUR customers. 

Sometimes, no matter what the fair organisers do, however much hard work they put in and publicity they put out, the punters just don’t show up.  We can’t drag customers in against their will, and we can’t force them to spend their money.  And sometimes it’s the weather, and sometimes it’s the economy.  Retail is a tricky business.

The right fair for your products

  •  Does the fair only allow handmade/designed brands and products or are franchises and mass produced goods allowed?
  • If you decide to do a fair that isn’t just handmade, will your products be able to compete with franchises and mass produced goods on price/quality/appeal?
  • Is the fair part of a larger event with for instance children’s activities or live music, or a sporting event?
  • If you decide to do a fair that has other activities going on, will people be interested in buying handmade that day, or will they have spent up on donuts, candyfloss and rides? Does your product fit with the kind of event it is?
  • Do customers have to pay an entry fee or is it free entry?
    • There are pros and cons to both. If a fair has an entry fee, it can weed out the browsers and the “just came in to get out of the rain” people.  It can mean that you get people that are really keen to shop.  But it can also put people off, and you miss out on the casual/passing trade.  You have to judge whether the event has enough appeal for people to pay to enter.

 How to spot a well organised fair:

 Track record

  • What do other people say about it?
  • Was it well organised? Well marketed?
  • Was it well attended?
  • What kind of people attended?

Don’t go on the word of one person – ask around.  And remember that new fairs can’t have a track record, but you can get an idea of how well organised it is, by going through the rest of this checklist.

Good quality exhibitors/stalls

  • Are you asked for details about your work
  • Do you need to send photographs of your work
  • Do you need to send links to your website and social media
  • Are stalls allocated on a first come first serve basis or are they selected on quality and type of product?
  • Do they have rules about Copyrighted items? (Eg people who are using well known images on products)
  • Do you need to have Public Liability Insurance to sell at this fair?
  • Have they asked about legal compliancy for your particular product? (Eg CE marks for children’s toys and clothes, regulations for food, cosmetics etc)

What does this tell you?

  • If the answer to all these questions is yes, you know that the organisers are concerned with quality of the overall fair and individual stalls. They have given some thought to the brand and reputation of the fair itself.
    • PL Insurance – this means that the fair organisers are thinking about risk and responsibility, which is a good thing, and it might also mean they want to know how professional your business is.
  • If the answer to all these questions is no, then you can be sure that the organisers haven’t given much thought to the overall quality of the fair. You might get lucky and sell something, but chances are it’s not going to be great.

Marketing

  • Have the organisers stated what kind of marketing they do?
    • Most fairs require stallholders to do their bit to market it too. Have they stated what that is?
  • Are you able to tell from their previous events if they have done lots of marketing? (You can ask other people but you can also trawl their social media pages.)

Venue

  • Where is the venue?
  • Is it an event that people will travel to specially? Or does it rely on passing trade?
  • What is the demographic that is likely to visit? Is your ideal customer in that demographic?
  • What are the facilities at the venue?
    • Wifi/Toilets/Refreshments/Lighting/Heating? You might not need any of these, but a well organised fair should let you know ‘the lay of the land’.
    • Have the organisers told you how accessible the venue is (eg for wheelchair users, blue badge holders etc)
    • Have they told you whether it’s cold or damp?
    • Have they told you what the lighting is like?
  • Will the organisers be on hand for the duration of the fair to help with enquiries, sort problems and generally check all is well?

What does this tell you?

  • A well organised fair will have thought through all these issues from the perspective of the overall fair and from that of individual stallholders. They are interested in giving value for money to you the customer, and in the quality of their product, the fair as a whole.

Practical Arrangements

  • Have you been given a schedule for when information such as set up times, directions and so on, will be released?
  • Have you been given publicity materials?

Terms and Conditions:

Fair organisers should have set out their Terms and Conditions.   You are their customer, they are selling a service, and you need to know what you are getting.  Check that they have set T&Cs and that you are happy with the terms before handing over your money.

  • Does the fair have set Terms and Conditions?
  • What is included in your fee?
    • Table
    • Chair
    • Wifi
    • Access to a card machine
    • Any additional costs for provision of tables or lighting or processing your application
  • Do they state their cancellation/refund policy? Many fairs will allow a full refund if you cancel within a certain timeframe, but not if you cancel close to the event.  Is it clear what their policy is?
  • Do they say what is expected of you as a stallholder?
    • Setting up and packing up times?
    • Profanity etc – have they said whether and how you can display ‘adult’ themed products?
    • Display – have they any rules about how your display your products?
    • Do you have to give a percentage of your takings to the organiser? (sometimes this is in lieu of a fee – decide whether it offers Value For Money for you)
    • Are you required to donate stock – eg for a tombola? You should be told about this before hand, not just on the day, if it a condition of having a stall.
  • Copyright – does the fair have a policy on use of Copyrighted material?
    • Images such as Disney characters or graphics from comics or other work such as lyrics from songs are all copyrighted. Unless you have a license giving you express permission to use them in your products you are violating that copyright.   The owner of the copyright has the power to not only require you to stop trading, but also any event or store that is selling them.  A well organised fair should know this and have a policy on it.  (If you are unsure whether you are violating copyright, it is recommended you consult an Intellectual Property solicitor.)

And finally…

Think of fairs as a service like any other that you buy.  You wouldn’t go into a restaurant and hand over your money before knowing what you were going to get for your money.  The same should be true of fairs.  You need to choose the right fair for you and your work, and that is about knowing your business and your customers.  But you also need to make sure you are getting the service and the product you want.  The more people ask the questions, the more fairs will have to start offering a better product.

Download our PDF checklist here:

How To Choose A Good Fair

how to choose a good fair

Be Dispensable: the first rule of fair management

By Becky Moore

As some of you know, I’m not just a fair organiser, I’m also a designer-maker myself.  I think that gives me an insight into what our stallholders need and expect from fairs.  They’re looking for a well publicised, well organised, well attended platform from which to sell their products.  It sounds like an easy formula, but it isn’t, as anyone who’s organised a public event can testify.  It takes experience and planning, lists and calendars and more lists, and data bases, and systems, and schedules, and yes, more lists!  And on the day it takes a good deal of people skills, quick thinking, problem solving and negotiation to pull it off and keep everyone happy.

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I recently applied for a stall at a prestigious event.  The application process was a little shaky, mistakes were made at their end that led to a fair few very vocal complaints.  (Also I didn’t get in, but that’s the way these things go, you can’t always get what you want.)  I wrote to the organiser accepting her apology and thanking her for her hard work.  Mistakes happen.  It reminded me just how big a job organising an event is.  I love it, I really do, and I’m good at it.  But sometimes the unforeseen happens.  Sometimes things go wrong.  Sometimes events organisers even seem like they’re just fragile human beings!

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I’ve been doing this sort of thing since I was 16 – organising people and events.  I wasn’t terribly good at it back then, but the intervening 4 decades have taught me a thing or two, and now I think I’m ok at it.  Sometimes I worry too much and get in a flap, (my partner thinks I’m too nice to my stallholders, I think I’m good at customer relations!)  but generally things run smoothly.  Those (nearly) 40 years have taught me how to anticipate problems and head them off at the pass.

But so much of it relies on “me”.  If you run your own micro-business, you’ll know just how much stuff you do that no-one, that’s NO-ONE with capitals – can do.  It has to be you.  It’s all in your head, it’s all about your mind, your soul.  So what happens when you just can’t be there?  What happens when – as I did earlier this month – you trip and fall and smash your face into a tarmac road and end up in A&E with a fractured nose and a bust up lip requiring stitches and you can hardly talk and look like you’ve been in a brawl?  The day before an event?  Yikes!

Well, what I did, was lie on a gurney in A&E and issue instructions on how to run an event, with bullet points and a schedule,  to my son.  Now, he’s helped me set up fairs before, and he’s stood on stalls with me many times, and as one of the chefs at the venue, he knows the place well, but he’s not an event organiser.  He hasn’t got 38 years of experience of managing conferences and festivals and fairs  and shepherding humans.  But there I am, whimpering in pain, covered in blood, and  he’s all I’ve got.

Turns out that all I’ve got is a pretty damn good substitution.  Saturday morning comes and as I lie in bed munching on various forms of analgesic and drinking through a straw, I get messages from various stallholders telling me everything is set up properly and my son is doing a grand job.  Such a grand job in fact that I’m wondering whether I can get away with staying in bed on the mornings of every fair!  (Preferably without having to drink tea through a straw though).

Yoojoo's stall at Design@HEART

Obviously he couldn’t have done it without the help of the venue staff, one of whom is also my partner (full disclosure here!), and also without my impeccable planning.  It’s those 38 years.  See, even though Design@HEART is a micro-business that relies on, and is, essentially ME, and even though I’m … erm … a control freak, the first rule of good events management is “organise yourself out of a job”.  Never be indispensable.

 

 

 

Mei Tai, Bei Dai or Mei Dai? However you spell it, Tag Togs is the place to get them!

Amanda Green of Tag Togs is taking over the blog today to talk about her business making babywear and accessories.  

From a young age I have always sewn things, when I was very young I use to get any scraps of fabric from my mums sewing projects and cut and hand sew them into clothes for my Sindy and Barbie dolls. My mum and nan then taught me how to sew and I started making clothes for myself, I did sewing at school for GCSE and A’Level before it all got grouped in with other design things, I helped make clothes for the school theatre productions, and so it seemed like a natural progression to go to uni and do a textile based degree. The sewing stopped there, the degree I did was technology based with a lot of practical but no sewing. I picked sewing back up about 10 years later when I worked as a factory manager for a pillow and mattress protector manufacturer, the ladies who did all the sewing showed me how to make the products. Now I have moved onto babywear which is a bit more fiddly than making a mattress protector, but it is a lot of fun especially when I go fabric shopping, there is too much choice!

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I started my business after my first child in 2009, the company I worked for closed down, we made mattress protectors and pillows and I ran the business for the owner, once it had closed I decided to start my own business up doing the same thing. This has now progressed onto my babywear brand. I started making the baby carriers in 2013 when my second child was about 6 months old.

I originally went to uni and did a textile technology degree, this included spinning, weaving, CAD, dying and finishing and factory management, I think all these elements of my degree and experience in various companies have helped me to run my own business.
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I have a unit in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield which is great although not ideal, the unit is set out in small offices, I would ideally like one large room with all my sewing machines in together, I am looking at re-designing the layout of the unit which will mean knocking down walls, this is something I am putting off at the moment – the mess!!

The type of baby carrier I make is called a Mei Tai or Bei Dai or Mei Dai. It has a main panel which holds the baby and 2 shoulder straps and a waist strap which ties the carrier to the parent/carer. The carrier can be personalised with a patterned accent panel on the front and the back so this would then make it a completely reversible carrier. I also make baby bags or babywearing bags , and baby clothes which co-ordinate and match the carriers.

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I love being in control of my work hours, (to a certain degree), one of the reasons I wanted to have my own business was to be my own boss and enable me to spend time with my children and attend school events, which is not always possible when you work for someone else.

There’s some aspects of it though, that I’d happily hand over. I find the marketing difficult, I would love someone to come and do all of that bit for me. It can also be a bit lonely sometimes, especially when you need to bounce ideas off someone or ask for someones opinion.

I would like to get my babywear into a few more shops, currently I have some products in 2 local craft shops and would like to increase this and go a bit further afield.

Amanda will be at Design@HEART on this coming Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN

A Passion for Pattern

Preeti Gupta is bringing Pattern Passion back to Design@HEART next week and we can’t wait to see what new designs she’s got in store.  She’s taken over the blog this week to tell us more about her company and work.

Pattern Passion is the home of hand painted and hand drawn patterns inspired by nature which I create lovingly in my studio in Leeds. These designs are digitally printed onto luxury silks to adorn elegant and unique womenswear, scarves, cushions, purses, wristlets and men’s accessories. Great quality digital printing allows all the patterns to capture the original concept and artwork in the finest detail and always retain the handmade natural element. I strive to bring the finest unique wearable and decorative art. Some of the latest additions to my range of products are super soft silk scrunchies, silk headbands, square and long scarves, wristlets, coasters  and ties adorned with new hand painted patterns.

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As far as my memory can take me I have always been a nature lover and always will be. It doesn’t cease to amaze me and inspire. As a child I was naturally drawn to nature. I could sit for hours in silent wonder, literally watching the flowers grow. Little did I know then that I was serving my apprenticeship for my future career.  All artists have many inspirations and mine first came in that garden. My first designs were inspired by that cacophony of colour, so bright, so raw, so vibrant. I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. I grew up to pursue medical profession but realised very soon that my happiness lay in anything to do with painting and drawing. This led me to take up textile design studies in India which I thoroughly enjoyed and practiced for a few years before coming to UK. My inquisitiveness led me to take up BA Honours in Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art which was a very enjoyable creative journey. After working for a few high street retailers such as Dorma furnishings, M&S, John Lewis I decided to launch my own brand; Pattern Passion.

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I have a little studio at home where I begin with painting or drawing loads of motifs. After that I work on the computer to play around with the painted motifs and create some repeat patterns out of them. These are sent out for digital printing onto silks and then made into various products.

I really enjoy the creative side of my work. I derive a lot of joy, peace and satisfaction from creating my artwork and products. The whole process from research to completion is thoroughly enjoyable. I also find the interaction and connection with my customers very rewarding.

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The biggest challenge of running a micro business for me is managing everything alone. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit of a juggle doing everything yourself. It’s about finding the balance between creating, marketing, selling and also having a life.  In a few years’ time I would like Pattern Passion to be known as a brand that can be trusted for great designs and quality. I would love to see it in some top design led shops.

My inspiration is the beautiful Yorkshire countryside

Artist Lucy Tomlinson takes over the blog today to talk about her first forays into art and how she came to be a professional artist.

I am a self-taught artist, living in Rawdon, and surrounded by the beautiful Yorkshire Countryside, which is where I get most of my inspiration, particularly when out walking my dog, Jasper.

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After giving up work when my children were born, I discovered after lots of art and crafts sessions and one in particular, a children’s watercolour session at our local café, that I was in fact quite arty! I have always found it difficult to find art for my own house, so I decided to try and create my own.  A few hours later and I had produced a colourful hare, which is still framed in my lounge.

I was hooked and any spare time was spent painting in watercolour, most commonly wildlife, hares, bees and flowers.  I love to paint them in different colours to their natural state.

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I then decided to get some of my images printed by a local company to make notebooks and cards.

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Around this time, I was also training to be Teaching Assistant after trying to get back to work whilst still being able to be at home for my children.  I had previously volunteered at school for many years so it seemed like natural progression.  I finished my training and immediately got a part time position at my local primary school, however, after a year my hours were cut due to financial constraints.  I decided to embrace the situation and put all my efforts into my artwork.

I also got the bug for Abstract Acrylic Pour Paintings. They are just fabulous to do and so addictive.  Due to the process and the many ways or “pouring” each one is completely unique. My studio (kitchen and dining room) are full of them, either drying, waiting to be varnished or the finished item and I often post videos of the process on my Instagram site.

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I opened my Etsy shop and contacted lots of local businesses, a few of which now have my work in.  I have done craft fairs and met many other arty people. I have displayed my work in a shop in Leeds and am about to have my abstract acrylic pours in a gallery/framers in Otley.   I also have lots of plans for other products with my artwork on.

Lucy will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June at  HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HN

I never intended this to be something for other people to see

Photographer Kelly Marsh takes over the blog this week, ahead of her first appearance at Design@HEART in June.

I’m a self-taught photographer. I never intended this to be something for other people to see. It’s always been something I have primarily done for myself.  But then it turned into a business!  I guess you could say that it really took off for me when I was joking about holding a gallery show for my birthday and then suddenly people were encouraging me and I ended up getting fully funded on Kickstarter to put on a show which I did in October.

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I take photos because it works as a kind of mindfulness meditation for me allowing me to refocus on the world rather than myself. I‘ve been diagnosed with acute anxiety and I find that when I take photos my mind is quietened and I am able to just enjoy what I am doing. This means that a lot of the time I can’t remember where I last put my phone but I can tell you the location (as far as I ever knew it) and what I was doing there for every photo I have ever taken.

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My workspace can be anywhere. If the weather is bad outside I will take pictures indoors, of my home or my clothes – whatever has caught my eye at the time. A lot of my photos and my inspiration is centred on nature. As an engineer I spent a lot of time learning about how nature has optimised itself to be strong and durable and I’m always fascinated about how this contrasts with how beautiful nature is at the same time. I also love a good steam train!

I think one of the things I love most about doing this is that I love finding common ground with people. Even if people don’t come and buy something they will often comment on my pictures, telling me which are their favourites or memories they have associated with what I have taken. Sometimes I get to learn a cool bit of history about Leeds or a cool place to go shoot too.

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The best bit of the whole process is the show. I’ll have an exhibition in HEART Centre at the time of the fair and its going to be 20 photos. It’s super stressful at the moment trying to plan out everything that I want to include and what I want to say but I know as soon as it goes up on the wall I’ll feel really happy to share my perspective with people.

My all time fan is my partner. He is always pushing me to share my photos and is my biggest supporter. If I am struggling with anything he is the one I turn to for advice. He does the framing for me, because I can’t get the prints in straight. He also bought a whole bunch of my photos and put them all round the house!

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There’s some projects that I would like to do that will require a lot of planning and a space to display them once they are done. I’d like to do a project focusing on mental health and highlighting the difference between how we feel and how we are perceived. I’d also like to do a set of photos around female beauty and what it means to be a woman but these will require me to get a lot of practice in photographing people. I’m hoping to start the planning and practice in the new year after I have finished my PhD. As for the business side of things- I’m hoping to have sold enough images that I could buy a wide angled or macro lens for my camera.

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Kelly will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June.  She sells various different sized prints, framed or unframed and is also happy to take commissions based on a specific theme. Don’t forget to check out the exhibition of her full exhibition while you are in HEART.

 

 

“Probably the thing I enjoy most is playing” Liz Samways talks jewellery and printmaking

Liz Samways’ work will be familiar to those of you who’ve been coming to craft fairs at HEART for a while. A jeweller and print maker, her work reflects her love of landscape and the natural world.   We caught up with her to find out how she got started and her practice.

I’ve always wanted to be a jeweller, ever since visiting Camden Market in my teens and seeing all the jeweller types who had lifestyles which seemed very exotic. While I was doing my ‘real’ jobs it was always there in the background. When my youngest child had gone to nursery I thought I would give it a go professionally.

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Before then I had studies History of Art as my first degree, worked in industrical canteens, factories, Asprey on Bond Street, an Estate Agency, in sales and marketing for Royal Mail, and then retrained in horticulture and garden design and as an ESOL teacher. Quite a list!

To a certain extent I’m self taught, but I did evening classes at Leeds College of Art and Swarthmore with Roger Barnes, during the mid-nineties for jewellery, more recently weekend workshops for printmaking. There’s also been a lot of helpful friends offering technical advice and suggestions along the way.

My first makers’ fair was back in 2011. It was quite a landmark, taking my work out there to the public. Since then, there’s been many more memorable moments: getting my work accepted ito the Craft & Design Gallery in Leeds, where for years I had admired other people’s work, and later being invited to take part in their “Walk In The Park” exhibition. Driving over the hills from Skipton back to Leeds after my first “Art In The Pen” event, having met loads of enthusiastic customers, having fellow makers as good friends, and realising I had finally become the sort of person I’d seen at events when I went as a customer; and my first trade fair which was incredibly daunting, but with a lot of help and advice from other makers I managed it and did well.

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The most important consideration for me, when designing a piece of jewellery, is wearability! Will the piece stay the ‘right way up’ for instance, in the case of bangles or stud earrings, ….how will it wear over time? Will it feel comfortable on the body? Also, Will it look good up close and from a distance? Is it something I haven’t seen before? Can I see my customer (we should all have one in our mind’s eye) wearing it? And of course, very importantly, is it within my technical capabilities?!

I use engraving, etching and rolling to make the textures in the metals I use, then cut and solder to layer together. Although I do work things out in sketchbooks, I find a lot ends up as lists of words! (working out technical details and the order in which to work). I hardly ever sketch out a finished design which I work towards, it’s usually a more random process. Often I just have bits of cut up and textured metal around me and I play around putting shapes together till something looks good – I maintain that this is a legitimate design technique as I learnt it through my garden design training! To finish the piece and add the darkness I like, I use traditional patination techniques, selectively polished for contrast, and sealed with a wax.

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For the enamelling I use a small kiln and build up layers and layers of colour in various combinations, remembering to make notes as, although I use a lot of different colours, they come from a fairly limited and subtle palette so it’s easy to forget what I’ve used! I work in much the same way as I build layers of ink in prints, through overlapping, masking, and sometimes adding in other elements such as metal leaf or wire.

Probably the thing I enjoy most is playing around! The fact that inspiration is everywhere and I have a legitimate business reason for experimenting with shapes and textures, learning new techniques and meeting lots of other creative people.
The thing I’m not so keen on is juggling orders and the logistics of producing several pieces at the same time, though my experience working in various factories in my youth comes in surprisingly handy when planning my working processes.

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I started off because I’m a terrible magpie and I wanted to make things for myself. It was later that it developed into something I thought I could make a successful business out of. I love working in print and jewellery because there are so many ways they influence each other, and I constantly have ideas working both ways. I love the unpredictability of the surfaces involved in both processes.

When you give up a successful career

Julie Ashworth is our latest designer-maker to take over the blog.  Like many of us, it’s not her first career.  Read how she gave up a successful career as an author and created  award-winning greetings card company, Yoojoo.

Designing and making greeting cards isn’t my first career, I originally trained as a teacher of Art & Design and English and taught English as a foreign language in Greece, Mexico and France. This led on to a successful career writing and illustrating award winning language books.


When my family flew the nest I found myself in search of a new challenge and it was friends who pointed the way to a new career. I like to give them hand made gifts at Christmas and used my new found skills (acquired from the jewellery making course I did at Leeds College of Art & Design) to make bookmarks of their favourite animals. I put each one inside a card and drew a scene around the animal and it was from there that my card business started to take shape.

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Zig zag fold card and stainless steel bookmark gift

So, I had a product but next came the challenge of turning it into a business and creating a brand and I had to drag myself (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century by learning computing skills to facilitate production and promotion.

The name Yoojoo appeared after a moment of self doubt about my illustrating skills when a friend uttered the wise words; “Look, you either use it or you lose it!”. This sparked the idea that you also use a bookmark or lose your page and the ‘oo’ sound in ‘use’ and ‘lose’ started spinning around in my head, got mixed up with Jue (which some people call me) and suddenly the word ‘Yoojoo’ appeared!

It hasn’t been easy starting again but I have enjoyed the journey (friends would probably question this remark as they get to listen to me whinging as I grapple with each new challenge!) and I am proud of the greeting card company that I have created, and the awards that it has won.
The one thing I don’t like about running a business is having my photo taken!

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A very young Julie receiving the English Speaking Union Award from Prince Philip in 1992

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A much older Julie with her British Craft Trade Fair Greeting Card Award certificate in 2016

Meet the maker

Trying to be invisible!

Yoojoo will be at the Design@HEART Art and Craft Fair on Saturday 9th June.

 

For the love of amigurumis

Gilda Gigi Perez Madrid takes over the blog today to talk about her love of creativity and the Japanese art of amigurumi. 

Hello! I’m Gigi and I believe in the power of creativity and enjoyment as a way to create our own reality.  I studied Literature, art therapy, tarot, mandala meditation and many other creative and inspiring technics.  I love nature and its beauty, and I enjoy observing it and get inspired by it!

I started making crocheted friends for myself to enlighten my everyday space, and now I’m very excited to share it with everyone who enjoys the company of cute beings!

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I work mostly from home, looking at the birds chirping outside the window while I crochet or felt in my living room, but sometimes I go to a cafe or library for a change, always looking for inspiration and creative ideas.

My main inspiration is nature and the amazing world that surrounds us. I love animals, flowers, trees, and people, I enjoy long walks and talks, I love to observe and feel connected with other.

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I make ‘amigurumis’ -cute animals and objects made of crochet, like foxes, whales, cats and more-, and felted things as well -woollen shaped birds, flowers and mushrooms and other natural creatures.

I friend taught me to crochet. I wanted to make crocheted flowers and mandalas for decoration, but then I discover the amigurumis technique.  I couldn’t believe the infinite possibilities of creations! all the animals and cute creations I could make with just a hook and some yarn.

The needle felting I learned last year in some classes here in Leeds, and I completely loved how you can create any possible shape from scratch, sculpting and shaping, adding details and everything you can imagine with wool.

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What I love the most about Luna by Gigi is the possibility of making things, of creating anything I want to, like the animals I love and things that makes me happy, using colourful materials. And, of course, the chance to create cute objects that other people can enjoy and share.

I feel that every creation is a part of how I see and enjoy the world. They are my way to share what I enjoy and love the most.

The hardest part of this job for me is to be by myself most of the time. Making crafts is a solitaire work, as you are almost always involved in an individual project. While I love the chance to express my creativity, I sometimes find difficult to deal with the loneliness of the job. I love being with and share with others. That’s why I try to work with others as much as possible, and participate in craft fairs and events, so I can meet other people that could be in a similar situation.

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Gilda will be at Design@HEART Art and Craft Fair on Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN,  10am-4pm.

A slightly less cool way of nailing your life long ambition

This week, Paula Perrins of Wychbury Designs takes over the blog to tell us about her textiles business and her passion for stitching.

When I was young I desperately wanted to be like the fashion designer Jean Muir, with red hair, black clothes and designing things for a living, I suppose I sort of nailed it in a much less cool way! I started making things to actually sell when I had my first child in 2004 and decided not to go back to my call centre job. I love to sew but have gradually grown apart from my sewing machine in favour of hand stitch over the years.

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I started my business like many of us, to fit in around my children. I had previously worked in a jewellery factory (literally a factory, nothing creative here!) and in the pattern rooms of a couple of fabric converting companies which I loved. As this work dried up in our region, I’d fallen into working in the collections department in the call centre of a well known utilities company which I decided not to return to after giving birth to my first child in 2004. I got the opportunity to work in collaboration with my close friend and that’s where it all started.

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I am always learning. I mainly teach myself new techniques with books and the internet but have had some wonderful teachers and mentors over the years. I studied a course in Creative Textile Techniques in Saltaire in the two years between my children being born and love to attend workshops and courses when I can. I am also a new member of the Airedale Branch of the Embroider’s Guild where the members are an endless resource of knowledge and skill to learn from.

I have a workspace in the loft of my very small house in Bingley which is accessible only by a ladder. There is very little head room and I’m nearly 5’9″ so its not ideal. It’s freezing in the winter and I tend to work elsewhere in the house where it’s warmer, gradually spreading like a virus until Spring or until we run out of space, whichever comes first. Although where I live is beautiful, I dream about being somewhere warmer pretty much all of the time. I have a wonderful friend who is an artist and designer, living on Kefalonia in Greece where I got married, and I pretty much want to be her. Jealousy is an ugly word but I may be a little guilty of it sometimes if I’m honest.

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My work is all centred around my obsessive love of sewing. I make pincushions, other sewing accessories, jewellery and art work. I stitch by hand and incorporate patchwork and embroidery techniques into many of my pieces. I try to make my work express a feeling of nostalgia for a time before technology in my work, which is how I feel about making it. I use recycled and vintage fabrics as much as possible as well as collected haberdashery and try to incorporate them into my jewellery as well as my stitched work. My branding reflects my love of old things too, with lots of tea staining and hand stamped print.

I absolutely love to work with well washed, recycled fabrics with a bit of a tale to tell. I no longer buy fabric new and most of my materials are left over from other stitchers projects. English paper piecing in miniature is by far my favourite method of using up the tiny scraps of fabric.

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I like making my sewing accessories best because I know they are being bought by people who are as crazy about sewing as I am. I listen to the ladies at the Embroiderer’s Guild talk about the things they love about their sewing, favourite materials, stitches etc and try to work those ideas into my pieces.

Organised and tidy are just words that apply to other people and I struggle endlessly with balancing work and home in terms of both time and space. However, I love the flexibility of being my own boss even if it’s daunting sometimes. I love being able to work in front of my own fire or out in the garden in the Summer. Taking advantage of a sunny day to explore something new is an opportunity I’m always eager to seize! If I stall on a project and need to clear my head, I can get my boots on and go out for an hour with my whippet, Ginny any time I like.

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I really feel that after all of these years I am at a happy place with the work that I’m producing at the moment. I am pleased with the balance of production and creativity that I’ve got going on right now and I feel that the extra curricular stuff I’m doing with the Embroiderers Guild is really feeding my work and driving it forward. I love that I no longer buy fabric and keep all of my outgoings on materials to the bare minimum. Using recycled and donated materials as much as possible is both inspiring and satisfying.

Wychbury Designs will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART 10am-4pm.