Monday, 2 May 2011

Handmade Brighton


Time to tell you about one of my very favourite places in my city: Handmade Brighton! I first came across this Kemptown-based shop last August on the first day of our flat hunt mission, and basically fell in love. This lovely little shop stocks the wares of over forty local designer/makers and artists and is packed to the rafters with amazing and excessively covertable pieces: including ceramics, prints, capes, postcards, brooches, fabric 'monsters', mini-zines and so much more. There is a serious wealth of talent in this area, and this shop is kind of the epicentre for the most interesting stuff this notoriously creative city has to offer.

In fact, 'Handmade Brighton' was initially fact a bi-monthly craft fair invented which was organised and run by Kirstin (above left). A little over a year ago, Kirstin was approached by lovely local business owner Lynne (above right) about turning the concept into a bricks and mortar venture. A couple of months later, the shop was born, and it's been doing really well ever since.

Aside from the interesting stock, for me one of the most appealing things about this shop is the financial model that it is based on. The shop itself doesn't take a cut on the majority of sales: instead the designers rent a space in the shop for a small amount. The rent for the spaces covers the shop's overheads, and the designers get 100% of any sales of their work. There are a few exceptions, like the clothing, where renting a space isn't really viable, so instead the shop takes a very reasonable cut of the sale price for these items. But for the sellers who rent a space, this effectively beomes their own mini shop; they have complete freedom of how they wish to decorate their space, how to display their wares, what prices to set, how quickly they wish to introduce new designs, etc. In a similar way to selling at a craft market, this offers a pretty unique chance to experiment and learn how best to sell their products but within the context of a shop. From the other angle, this in turn brings a real vibrancy and uniqueness to the shop itself, as so many different creatives' visions have contributed to the visual display. The shop is manned by different people on different days, and each of these people stock their produce in the shop for free or a discounted rate in exchange for giving up their time. How good is that?!

Kirstin (pictured above celebrating at Handmade's first birthday party where I debuted my Ceylon dress) has been very kind and supportive of our Brighton Craftaganza venture, offering very useful advice and being generally very lovely. She also invited me to stock some of my handmade garments in Handmade Brighton. I must admit, when I initially found the Handmade shop and realised I would soon be fitting into the catagory of 'local designer/makers' myself, I did log the possibility of approaching them with my work at some point in the future. The idea kind of got put on the back burner as the Craftaganza organisation took up more and more of my free time and brain space. But with the first of our markets nicely under our belts, and having recently sorted out all my stock for my own stall at that event, I recently took some selected pieces down to Handmade to see how they fare.

If you read my blog at any point last year, you may recall that I had an etsy shop for a while which stocked some skirts I'd made (see above, for example). Well, it wasn't a very successful endeavour, which I put down to two main things: 1) there is an overwhelming amount of stuff for sale on etsy which means items get buried quickly, unless of course you do some serious marketing to increase the amount of hits you get, which 2) I did none of! I must admit, my faith in my products took a little knock, but it was restored after the interest my products received (plus the couple of sales I made) at Craftaganza. And after an initially slow first couple of weeks, they seem to be selling well at Handmade Brighton as well. Woo hoo! Currently, I'm just trying to get some turnover of these older pieces. If they continue to sell, I'll be very pleased and maybe I'll venture into producing some new styles. Of course, you'll be kept firmly in the loop!

8 comments:

Kestrel said...

I visited the shop when I was on holiday last Summer. I bought a bracelet made from a coloured metal knitting needle, and wish I'd bought more than one because I love it so much, and don't remember the name of the maker :(

The shop is a brilliant idea, good luck with your sales too!

Jane said...

What a fantastic idea, I really like the way the designers benefit directly from their stock selling. I wish there was something similar in London. It's really encouraging that some of your pieces have sold too Zoe, it would be great if you could start producing new designs. Ooh it's all very exciting, great post. xx

Dibs said...

Thats a really cool concept.
Jane its true it will be good to have something like this in London. The trouble is London is so big and expensive to rent a place for such a venture. But who knows? Maybe there's already something like this going on. Brighton seems to be a really creative hub. I should visit one of these days.
PS: that skirt looks lovely by the way.

sundaycrafternoon said...

Oh, I am smitten with that business model - it has my heart aflutter and my mind whirring with ideas! I recently did a craft fair here and was unimpressed with my sales, and am happier to have someone selling my things for me (which I have one shop doing at present for store credit). But I love this idea, and how great that it works for you. The fact that it is like a craft fair, minus the cram, and with happy makers sounds like my perfect shop. I'm filing the idea away in my head under 'Awesome'.

Alessa said...

That sounds really cool! Congrats on getting your awesome designs sold!

chrrristine said...

hello Zoe, my London visit was super short and included a wedding, but I'm hoping I'll manage a longer break to the UK again this year, so maybe next time Brighton might be on my path... I'm really happy how well things have been working out for you, it sounds like you've found a perfect new home town. I'll let you know if I ever find myself close by!
besos, Christine

Tasia said...

What a great concept! It sounds like a better showcase for your work than etsy, plus people can touch and feel your products. Good luck!

Corrine said...

This type of storefront was very popular in my area of the US for a long time. (northeast) It was rooted mostly in the American country style with some Victorian style thrown in. Lots of cutsie crafts, jewelry, candles, home goods etc. Some generic clothing. If the shop is in a nice artsy community with decent traffic and a varied inventory you have a great opportunity there. Thinking out loud now, Is there much front window display space? How do you get to display your wares to street traffic? Does the shop sponsor events to introduce new artists? Are they insured for theft or loss or are you expected to manage that individually? Do they advertise in local forums, newspapers, coffee shops or universities? I'll stop now, don't mean to go on but I have seen some issues crop up with vendors in similar venue's and it can be a bitter pill. Best prepared. Wish you all the best with this venture. Getting known and shown is key to any new designer.

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