Firing up the kiln

If you have visited Design@HEART before you may well have seen Lindsay Thomas’s work.  Lindsay is a potter, producing eyecatching home decorations using the ancient method of Raku, and incorporating her other love of textiles into her new work.  Here she is talking about her work and methods:

I have been making pots since 1995. I started by attending an evening class and enjoyed it so much I carried on. I was fortunate enough to use an inheritance from my father with which I bought a kiln.

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I was also able to attend two courses that influenced my work and inspired me to try to sell my work. The first course was a weekend in the wilds of Wales with Annie Horner where I learnt to build and fire a Raku kiln and I use this process in my work still.  The second was a week’s course with Peter Beard, an amazing potter who taught me to refine my work and encouraged me to go out and try and sell my work.

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As I loved the Raku process I used this and made work influenced by ancient standing stones and ancient rock art from Ilkley moor. My first selling event was Potfest in the Pens 2000, a show which I have attended every year since. I work from my little studio in my cellar and Raku firing my work in my homemade kiln outside in the garage with my husband being my extra pair of hands.

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Over the years my work has gone through various influences, the main one being natural forms and pebbles found in the beach. The beach theme expanded to beach huts and camper vans and I now include found object found in the beach such as driftwood.

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The Raku process is an ancient Japanese process used to make tea bowls. The work is made, bisque fired, glazed, and then fired again in my Raku Kiln. The Raku kiln is fired to 960degrees then the pots are taken out when red hot and placed in sawdust. This causes a reduction in heat and makes the glaze crackle and any unglazed part turns black.  The pots are then placed in water and cleaned up.

My other love is textiles and my new work is earthenware decorated with oxides and transparent glaze. I use hand dyed yarn by Jean Wildish at Wild Wood Wool to sew rock art designs into the pots.

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Sarah Dunton

Sarah Dunton’s work went down very well last Christmas, so we’re having her back!  Here she is talking about her work:

I am a painter, potter and plant grower – and maker of small objects. I always drew as a child, and went on to study fine art at Leeds University.

My influences and inspirations are manifold, ranging from medieval art with its sturdy practicality, glorious disregard for proportion and delight in decoration, to the 20th century painters Paul Klee and Marc Chagall, whose work is often dreamlike.

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I learnt etching at Leeds, Morley College and Sir John Cass College in London and , much more recently, pottery at Swarthmore College.

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My work is derived from memory of things observed – I try to create calm-inducing and/or tactile work, which usually includes portrayals of birds and plants and occasionally people in their own worlds.

Everyone Loves Bags!

Sue Turrill of Nuthatch Designs will be back at Design@HEART this December with her beautiful tweed bags.  Here she is talking about her work:

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When I was a small child I would spend weeks in the summer with my two siblings staying with our Grandmother and her two sisters.  That was when I really started creating things, using embroidery, sewing and knitting.  I remember spending hours with my Great Aunt Mary embroidering daisies around the edges of tray cloths, and I loved it.  Even from a young age needlecraft for me has always been a way of relaxing whilst producing something unique and useful.

I’ve since wanted to combine traditional methods I’d learnt with modern ways of life.  Everyone has some sort of electronic device and it seemed the obvious choice to incorporate my designs with natural fabrics to produce unique covers and cases to protect them.  Shortly after starting my business a good friend of mine said “why don’t you make bags? Everyone loves bags?”.  So after a bit of thinking I decided to give bags a go as well.  She was right of course and I love making them too!

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Natural fabrics are important to me as they combine durability with practicality meaning they will last but can also be recycled into something new in time.  I love the tactile nature of wool and the properties it has for retaining shape and repelling dirt. I’m sure my love of natural fabrics is in part linked to my love of nature.  I’ve always been drawn to wildlife and the countryside so the imagery I create on the smaller purses represents this part of my life,and it’s also why my shop name is Nuthatch Designs – it’s just my favourite bird.

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Wherever possible I try to champion British manufactured natural fabrics, and design and handmake the bags and cases I sell.   I absolutely love the heritage wool fabric Harris Tweed which is only produced under licence in the Outer Hebrides and now includes many brighter modern colourways from upcoming young weavers. In themselves they are a thing of beauty and I feel very lucky to be able to use them.

Nuthatch Designs will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 8th December at the HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

New Year New Hobby

Destash instagramIts a New Year, and while we’re not advocating a new you (you were just fine last year and you will be this year!), how about a new hobby or project?

What have you got in mind?  If it’s something arty crafty, we’re here to inspire you.  On the 17th February, 20 local artists, designers and craftspeople will be selling off their unused art and craft supplies.  We’ll be clearing out our cupboards, sorting through our craft stashes and bringing along all sorts of treasures.  Ribbon, paper, boxes, buttons, beads, tools, machines, paper, yarn and oh so much more – all at bargain prices.  

So come along to the HEART Centre in Headingley Leeds LS6 3HN on the morning of Saturday 17th February (10am-1pm) and pick up some inspiration – and some bargains.

 

Your Christmas Shopping Guide

Looking for those perfect presents for friends, family and colleagues?  We’re here to help!  Here’s some ideas from Design@HEART exhibitors next month to get you started.

The Makers

Know someone who likes making and creating?  Check out these crochet and sewing project kits from Elm Rocks and Sally Sally.  And for the knitters, Ed Bennett Woodturner has a fine selection of yarn bowls to keep their wool clean and tidy.

The Local

If you know someone who loves where they live, how about a papercut map of their local area from Bethanie Yeong.  Her exquisitely fine papercuts make a beautiful gift.

Or a humorous take on our local seaside towns and tourist destinations with prints by Jack Hurley at Rubbish Seaside.

The Pamper Princesses and Princes

Know someone who needs a bit of TLC, rest and relaxation?  How about some very special handmade bath products from Little Shop of Lathers or beautifully scented candles from Calverley Candle Company?

The Writer

Do you know someone who’s determinedly traditional?  Who has shunned the keyboard for pens and paper?  Who sends letters not emails and texts?

The Jewellery Lover

Jewellery is a very personal thing.  You can’t just grab the first pair of earrings you see.  You have to think what sort of jewellery, what style, what theme and colour?  But fear not, we have lots of variety to choose from, from plastic fantastic, to sophisticated precious metals.

The Little Ones

Launcey Boo create lovely gifts for baby’s room and gifts for toddlers and Love From Poppy have a beautiful selection of clothing for little ones.

 

The Food Lover

Know someone who goes crackers over cheese and chutney? Badgers Garden have a wide selection of preserves, pickles and conserves for the food lover in your life.

 

The Accessories Fanatic

With Felted hats and scarves from Fantasy Textiles, printed silk ties, purses, and scarves from Pattern Passion, Tweed handbags from Nuthatch Designs and leather purses from Katie Roe Studio, we have no shortage of luxury accessories.

 

The Music Lover

Guitar Geekery will be returning to Design@HEART with all things musical.  Music fans and musicians alike will love these gifts and accessories.

 

Shopping local is good for you

Shopping local is good for you

Why should we shop with local businesses?

As we gear up to the crazy shopping season, many of us will be feeling the stress levels rise.  Whether your shopping list is minimal or huge, many of us choose to just click a few buttons on a well known online market place and have done with it.  But there’s a a lot of good reasons for you to hold off clicking that Add To Shopping Cart button.

Why should you shop with local businesses?  It’s more time consuming, it’s hard work, it involves thinking and doing.  But isn’t that more meaningful too, than buying another load of tat that you’re not sure anyone really wants anyway?  If you still need convincing, here’s 6 reasons to shop with your local makers, designers and businesses this Christmas.

Boost your local economy

When you shop with a local businesses, far more of the money stays in the local community.  It gets spent by local people, whereas if you shop with big online market places or high street chains, the profit goes to shareholders who are anything but local!

Shopping local is good for you

Little Shop of Lathers is a local business run by Claire Riley, selling hand made bath and skin care products. They will be at Design@HEART on 9th December.

Supporting local talent

When you shop with local artists, makers, or infact any local business, you are supporting local talent and skills.

Ethical concerns

You can be sure that handmade local goods made by local tradespeople will have travelled far less distance to get to you.  It is easier to check out the ethical origins of products, and you can be sure that even if the maker is paying him or herself peanuts, your next buy will help to elevate that to erm, cashews, rather than lining the pockets of shareholders.

Shopping local is good for you

Ed Bennett’s stall in Leeds City Centre. Ed will be joining Design@HEART on 9th December. Buying from local businesses and makers benefits the local business keeps the money in the local economy.

Be unique

You are far more likely to get something unique, something no-one else has.  When you buy from a designer-maker, this is even more so, because nothing is mass produced.  If you are shopping for gifts, you can be sure that whoever you are shopping for won’t have one of these already!

Variety is the spice of life

Supporting local businesses means that local economies are not entirely dominated and taken over by big chains and multinationals.  You get to keep some local colour, variety, and character in your community.

Warm and fuzzy

You get that warm fuzzy feeling of having met the maker, you know the provenance, you have the opportunity to find out the story behind the product.  Which you’ve got to admit adds value over and above something you’ve picked up from an anonymous seller in a high street chain!