About Me

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North Somerset, United Kingdom
My parents were worried when I ran around with scissors – now I play with fire and (intentionally) break glass! Based in the beautiful South West of England, close to the sea and often the scene of beautiful sunsets, I am inspired by the countryside around. Working with sea glass collected from remote beaches, soda lime glass from Murano, Italy, Europe, USA and beyond, I create artisan beads, for use in my own jewellery or for you to enjoy in your own creations. But I couldn’t stop there; continuing the theme from round rods to flat sheets, mostly from the USA, I break large sheets of transparent, opaque, multi-coloured and dichroic glass into much smaller pieces to make a kiln-formed range of bright, colourful jewellery and home decoration. Each piece I make is individually designed around the shape, size and beauty of the materials and intended to be unique, wearable, usable and affordable. All my glass work is kiln annealed for strength and durability and designed to give pleasure for years to come.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A bedtime story for craft stall holders - you are not alone!

Once upon a time, lots of people went to a craft fair in a nice hotel in the countryside. At the craft fair were lots of people who had made pretty things. Some of them had travelled a long way and paid lots of money to be there, but they liked meeting the visitors, seeing if people liked what they made and of course, having an opportunity to sell things meant that they could afford to make more pretty things for people to enjoy. The hotel also went to the trouble to also offer lunches, teas and coffees to the visitors so that they could have a ‘grand day out’.

First through the door was Mrs Pincher-ideas. She liked to look at all the pretty things, but she never bought anything because she could make things herself at home. Sometimes, if something looked complicated she would take a sneaky picture using the camera on her mobile phone and hope Mrs Craftsman wasn’t looking. She usually came with her friend, Mrs Askalot, who would ask lots of questions, like ‘how do you make this’, ‘where do you get your fittings from’ and even ‘where do you get your sea glass from because I want to get some and sell it on Ebay to make a few bob for Christmas’. Mrs Craftsman smiled sweetly; she would be a rich woman if she were paid £1 for every time she heard questions like this. It’s not that she minded telling anyone, but she had spent many a long cold evening in front of her computer finding the best fittings and the best prices and often journeyed long and far to find her sea glass on a remote and craggy beach and felt Mrs Pincher-Ideas intentions were not entirely altruistic.

As the two ladies walked away another lady, with the biggest baby buggy you had ever seen and several bored and mischievous children, parked herself in front of Mrs Craftsman’s stall. The children busied themselves pulling all the pretty things out of the boxes and displays whilst Mrs Buggy stopped to speak to her friends who happened to be passing with their Chelsea Tractor sized buggies, blocking the aisle for anyone to pass. This meant that the other stall holders near Mrs Craftsman didn’t have anyone looking at their pretty things either. Mrs Craftsman asked Mrs Buggy if she would mind moving to one side or into the reception area to talk to her friends because they were blocking the entrance to the fair and no one could get through. Mrs Buggy carried on talking to her friends. Mrs Craftsman asked the children not to touch the pretty shiny things because some of them were fragile but the children, not used to being told not to do something just threw the pretty shiny things onto the floor and told their mummy that the nasty Mrs Craftsman had told them off. Mrs Craftsman was told that it was her fault that she sold pretty shiny things, that her table was child height and that the fair was boring for children. It is not after the 9pm watershed and Mrs Craftsman’s reply cannot be printed here! However, Mrs Buggy and her friends decided that there was nothing but tat being sold at this fair so they would all go back to the out of town shopping centre and have a look around Argos, M&S and New Look for some really nice things to buy.

A lovely lady called Mrs Day-tripper came to meet Mrs Craftsman next, she came with lots of her friends, and they must have been related because they were all called Day-Tripper. But at least they seemed an interested group of people, even if their car did hold 56 people. They liked Mrs Craftsman’s little zip tags (£1) handmade beads (50p) but stopped short of paying £1.50 for some of the more expensive items. Mrs Day-Tripper asked if Mrs Craftsman had any more of the zip tags because there were only about 50 on display and she wanted a wider choice. She then bought one, as did a few of her friends. She explained that they were on a mystery tour of the town and didn’t have any money having paid for the coach trip to take them to Closed-on-Sunday-ville and they had to pay 60p to get into the fair so she thought her and her friends had paid enough already. She admired the pretty silk scarves Mrs Craftsman had handmade, and the stunning hand printed and hand painted velvet scarves but said no one in their right mind would pay for them because you could find something just like it in the market. Mrs Craftsman thanked her for her feedback and explained how the scarves were made, the process and the time it took. Mrs Day-Tripper said she was silly to spend more than a few minutes making something, didn’t she know there was a war on, she’d heard it on the news when David Clegg was speaking on behalf of the Condemned party. Or was he called Nick Cameron? Mrs Day-Tripper had forgotten. Mrs Craftsman excused herself from Mrs Day-Tripper to serve the lady who wanted to buy the pretty velvet hand printed and hand painted scarf.

Mr Bord wandered over to Mrs Craftsman’s table, he was here with his wife who had somehow escaped him. He asked Mrs Craftsman about her broken glass jewellery, what was it and where did she find it? Mrs Craftsman explained that it was once ordinary glass that had found its way into the sea and became smooth over many years. Several minutes later Mrs Bord arrived, ‘what are you looking at that for?’ she asked. ‘She’s selling broken glass, whatever next?’ he replied. Disappointed by this remark, Mrs Craftsman went over to speak to and serve Mrs Looking. Mrs Looking had removed a number of items from the displays and placed them to one side; this looked like a lady with a Christmas list. Mrs Looking ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed over the sea glass earrings, the pretty brooches, lavender bags from handmade silk, the pretty silk pocket mirrors, silk and velvet scarves from the display rack. The pile was getting very big so Mrs Craftsman asked if she could start to wrap some of these for Mrs Looking. Mrs Looking replied ‘oh I don’t want to buy your ‘stuff’, I just like looking at it. Then she walked away. At that moment one of Mrs Craftsman’s friends from another stall walked past. They were still smiling, Mrs Looking hadn’t seen their stall yet. Mrs Jumper stopped suddenly and looked down and picked up one of Mrs Craftsman’s necklaces which had, until recently been firmly fixed in a jewellery box. ‘Is this yours?’ she asked, it’s on the floor over here. ‘It looks like someone has been helping themselves because it isn’t in one of your pretty boxes’ she said, adding ‘the other jeweller next to my stall has also had some things taken without payment so you’d better keep a keen eye out’. ‘Oh dear’ thought Mrs Craftsman, I keep a close eye on people so someone must be good at prestidigitation! ‘That’ll not help me make a profit today!’.

As Mrs Craftsman tidied up the front of her stall to make it lovely for everyone to look at again, Mrs Needapresent asked about the silk scarf kits that Mrs Craftsman sold. Mrs Craftsman explained that they were kits to make a silk scarf and contained dyes, silk scarf and illustrated instructions so made a nice present because you had the fun of making something and then fun of wearing what you had made. Mrs Needapresent seemed shocked that this was something you had to do yourself and asked if she could have one of the ready-made silk scarves for the same price as the kit and if so it had to be the same colours as one of the kits. She needed it today, there and then, she didn’t want to have to pay for something to be made for her because Mrs Craftsman might not be an honest lady and post the commissioned scarf on to her – and heavens above, she wanted to charge postage as well!! Sadly Mrs Craftsman had to disappoint Mrs Needapresent on this occasion. How sad for Mrs Needapresent, Mrs Craftsperson should have a large stock of identical one-off scarves matching the individual scarves that could be made with her kits so that she could have found one to match the expectations of Mrs Needapresent.

At the end of the day, having spoken to some lovely people, Mrs Craftsman sat down for the first time in hours. She was tired having gone to bed very late last night to make sure she one of everything for her customers. She had left home at 6am in order to drive many miles and be ready for them when the fair opened at 9.30am. Now she would have to pack up everything and take it home again, ready for her next fair. It would be another couple of hours before Mrs Craftsman would be able to relax with a lovely cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

On the way home Mrs Craftsman thought about all the lovely people she had met, Mrs Needapresent who wouldn’t have been happy whatever she had seen; Mr and Mrs Bord who didn’t appreciate her work, but why did their abrupt opinion matter so much to her; Mrs Pincher-ideas and Mrs Askalot who seemed to be at a lot of fairs these days; Mrs Howmuch, who, when they discussed the cost of her items told Mrs Craftsman that she shouldn’t expect to earn as much as the minimum wage each week when this was ‘only a little hobby and side line dear’; she’d recount that one to the man at the mortgage society when she saw him next to plead poverty and ask to extend her overdraft to pay for more fairs. The nice man at the Tax Office would roar with laughter if he heard it, he had a strange sense of humour. She shuddered when she recalled the man many years ago who asked if she was ‘a cripple and unemployable’ because she was sitting down and demonstrating spinning a fleece at an exhibition. He suggested she see what the Job Centre could find for her instead on a scheme for ‘poor unfortunates like herself’, not realising that Mrs Craftsman, then Miss Spinner, was actually a senior and well respected member of the local Jobcentre staff! My how rude some people are.

Reflecting on all the fairs she had done that year, how much it had cost her in time, money and energy, Mrs Craftsman felt that she perhaps would not book the same fairs again. When the next year came she found that Mr Organiser had decided not to book the hotel for the fair where she met the lovely Mrs Day-Tripper and Mrs Needapresent, the feedback Mr Organiser had received from other stall holders was not good. Mrs Craftsman also decided she would not book some of the fairs where she had not sole enough things to make this worthwhile.

A year later Mrs Needapresent, Mrs Day-Tripper and lots of the other lovely people arrived at the hotel expecting to find a craft fair, like they had last year. But the hotel was closed and boarded up. You see, children, because no one had stopped at the lovely hotel with its pretty garden setting for a cup of coffee or for lunch the hotel had gone out of business; because no one had taken enough money to pay for their place at the fair some of the craft workers too had gone out of business. Sadly this meant that all the lovely people had nowhere to come on a wet Sunday, nowhere to go to look at lovely things and have a nice chat with Mrs Craftsman and her friends.

And what happened to Mrs Craftsman? Well, you just need to know where to find her. She now sells a lot of her work through little galleries that she has carefully selected, yes they take half the money but it’s easier on Mrs Craftsman’s feet! By not spending long days at craft fairs Mrs Craftsman has freed up time to learn new skills including writing her own website to show off her work to lots more people. She sells through lots of lovely online shops, like Etsy and Folksy and has her own shop with Big Cartel and her work is sold worldwide. She does go to some fairs but not as many as before. Sometimes she sees Mrs Needapresent and Mrs Looking but, older, wiser and with a new pair of specs from the optician without the rose tinted glass she can recognise them quicker and head them off at the pass. Often they say to her ‘we did like looking at your stuff, we miss you at fairs, but we don’t want to buy anything today, perhaps next time?’. Sometimes Mrs Craftsman sees Mrs Jumper, she’s still attending all the fairs she can find. She told Mrs Craftsman that she won the lottery, big-time; so now she can afford to do fairs until the money runs out.

Sleep tight.

19 comments:

  1. Oh so true, so funny, so clever you ... now I must get back to packing my boxes and fill my car up with petrol, I don't have time to sit here in front of my computer all day, I've got beads to sell :0)

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  2. A very cautionary tale for those new to craft fairs, I gave up a few years ago and sell online or at places I know and trust. A shame that we are loosing the craft selling sunday afternoon tradition, many of us shared and loved as youngsters...x

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  3. The first half of your posting had me smiling with amusement, I so recognise these characters as I meet one or other of them nearly every week! However, it contains a serious and salutary message, one does wonder how much longer craft fairs will be able to continue and I myself, getting older and unable to cope as well with the approaching cold weather, am now making plans to promote myself in shops and galleries and am designing new point of sale material with this in mind. I am half way through a five year plan to stop selling at the Art & Craft Fair and your posting reminds me that as soon as the Christmas rush is over, I really need to get my finger out and get on with it.

    Other annoying characters I come across from time to time are Madam Timewaster and Mr Can't-Take-A-Hint :-)

    Best of luck with the on-line marketing; website looks good!

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  4. My point exactly, use us or lose us; we can't sit around waiting for 'Mrs next time', especially as there isn't usually a next time.

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  5. Oh crikey! I've got three craft fairs this month and I'm gradually remembering Mrs Askalot, Mrs Pincherideas and Mrs Buggy from last time. AAAaaagh! FHF Mand x

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  6. Oh crikey I've got 3 craft fairs coming up this month and I remember those customers .... heeeelp!

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  7. what a great post - just reminded me why i don't do fairs anymore, i do miss the face to face selling but not all the other stuff you mention in your post!!!
    onwards and upwards !!!!

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  8. Wow... What a brilliant article. I'm sad to see art fairs closing :(. I hope people realize art is what makes the world go round! I have recently setup an Etsy shop and was thinking I would eventually like to sell at our farmer's market so I hope I will still be able to do that and I will find nice people come to my stall :)

    http://kavitakriti.etsy.com

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  9. Very clever and witty writing Sue....perhaps you should spend your time at craft fairs sitting ignoring all the timewasters and writing books instead! Or just stay at home in the warm and do it while your beads sell online!

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  10. Don't give me ideas. Didn't JK Rowling write the first Harry Potter book in a cafe? I like cafe (or rather I like cake).

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  11. Superb post Sue - so true, sadly. I also seem to regularly meet Mr Raised-Brow who will not be content until I admit that I don't spend hours lovingly crafting my goods, but do in fact buy it all off eBay from some child labour camp in the far east, and also Lady Sniffy-Disdain, who's daughter in law makes similar items -a rather superior version though, obviously! I agree that this should be published somewhere for a wider audience, excellent writing!!

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  12. GAH!!! You don't know how completely perfectly timely this is.... did my first Christmas one of the season yesterday, my first one ever with my textile stuff as opposed to jewellery...spent days honing everything, achey hands after sewing like a freaken DEMON till 1am....high hopes as everything was cheaper than the silver jewellery I used to sell...

    5 hours and I sold ONE £4 brooch. Talk about let down.

    This post is genius. Thanks you for lifting my poor achey heart on a solemn Sunday!

    x

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  13. This is brilliant and so true, perhaps you should have printed in a booklet form to display on coffee tables at crafts fairs, you never know those visitors that can read may learn something.

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  14. Oh I'm sitting here with tears of laughter running down my face at your characters, but also a couple of sad tears as the story is all too familiar.

    I had the (mis)fortune of meeting 'The Primark-Precinct' family this weekend, who loved looking my pretty handmade things, especially the grubby handed children who really enjoyed picking up my jewellery with a sticky pushpop in one hand and a dribble of something unidentifiable coming out of their nose but Mum seems to think they can buy exactly the same thing in Primark for a lot less, then they can look just like little Chardonnay from down the road too!!

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  15. Superbly written and would make a lovely short children's story. Children would take it at face value and hear the 'lovely people' side and it would be read by Mrs Pincher Ideas and friends lol! It also sums up how I am feeling as I am considering leaving the craft circuit.

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  16. I know I'm a bit late to comment on this but it's brilliant! I am fairly new to craft fairs but did one last weekend and Mrs Pincher-ideas was one of the first to come to my stall. I couldn't beleive how blatant she was - she asked loads of questions about how I had made my bracelets, and then said "I'm not buying, I do craft fairs myself and I'm just here for ideas, er, I mean to see what's going on..."! Unfortunately I wasn't prepared for this and my jaw just dropped open, but have been thinking ever since of all the things I so wish I'd said to her! Oh well, a lesson learnt...

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  17. note to self- one shouldnt read blogs like this the morning of a fair!

    LOL..thank you so much for this, its had me chuckling the entire way through and im so glad its not just me!

    sophie
    x

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  18. I LOVE your style of writing!!
    Just realised that it's an old post, but it's truly a great piece! Hope things are going well for Mrs Craftsman!! x

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  19. Simply brilliant. I've met them all but thankfully met lots of Mrs OOOILoveYourWork!'s too : )I pick and choose my fairs though.

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