Saturday 17 December 2011

The Christmas Brighton Craftaganza!!!

Thanks Ryan, that would have been very helpful last Saturday when it was the Christmas Brighton Craftaganza!!! Actually, I have a 'Ryan' of my own who was incredibly helpful setting up tables, carrying boxes, handing out flyers, being 'official Craftaganza photographer', having banter with the stall-holders, furnishing me with hot chocolate to help me thaw-out when I needed it and much more besides.

If none of what I'm saying is making any sense to you, let me explain. For over a year now I've been the co-organiser of Brighton Craftaganza, a Brighton-based craft and handmade market. The aim is to promote the work of local creative peops and, more broadly, to show the non-crafting public that handmade products are just as good, if not far better, than their mass produced equivalents. What better time to do this than at Christmas, eh? Our first event was back in March, and our second event was last Saturday.

It's a very involved process, this craft-market lark, from the endless planning and organising all the elements that go into making an event like this happen, to the actual day itself: lugging tables, hustling punters into the venue, trouble shooting, trying to perpetuate a good vibe, and so on. I was meant to be co-running the TRAIDremade stall where we were selling a selection of the clothing, bags and accessories that my boss and I make for our day jobs, but that kind of went out the window and my boss and her friend Erica dealt with that on their own.

One of my favourite parts of all of this was selecting a great variety of high quality handmade product ranges to be sold at the event from all the applications we received. About a third of the sellers at this event had a stall with us last time, and the rest of the crafters/designer-makers were either previously unknown to us or new to selling their work at craft fairs/markets entirely. Picking who to assign stalls to wasn't an easy task: there's no way of knowing how attractively a seller will set out their stall on the day when all you've seen are some jpegs of individual products, but all the stalls looked wonderful last week.

When assigning the stall positions to the individual sellers, I really tried to create a mix of products, for example, no jewellery sellers next to each other, or knitwear producers and so on. Even though we tried to select designer-makers from each disciplines whose work was very different to each others', I wanted the public to be blown away by how varied and fascinating handmade products can be. It's about trying to rid the public of those preconceptions of what to expect from a craft fair in a drafty church hall (and our venue very much IS a drafty church hall!).

The other wonderful part about organising Craftaganza, and the main thing I was looking for when I agreed to get involved, is the ability it has given me to meet talented, interesting and creative people living in my local area. I'm pleased to say that almost everyone I've come into contact with through Craftaganza has been lovely. This seller even gave me a gift of several sets of AMAZING buttons to thank me for my hardwork and attentiveness! I've even met some great people who I now consider friends (especially if you define 'friends' as people you go for mulled wine and a gossip with!). I also get to meet lovely people who come to check out the market. Last week's event gave the opportunity to meet the gorgeous Alana from Lazy Stitching!

But it is pretty stressful as well, and you end up feeling really responsible for the outcome of all the stall holders' days. There are definately things that I need to focus on improving in the future to make these markets better for the sellers and more appealing to potential punters. And now that Steph and Lisa have both stepped away from their involvement in Craftaganza (for very good reasons, I may add, Steph's planning her wedding and doing a degree, and Lisa is writing a book and expecting a baby) it's going to be all on me for the future events.

I'm not concerned about taking it on single-handed. I don't think that it'll ended up feeling like that much more work. The time that was previously spent keeping each other updated about the various elements that go into planning these events can instead be spent just doing the stuff that needs to be done. Plus, there are a few changes I'd like to make. For example, I'd like to introduce a few more sellers that make very contemporary products to create a fuller spectrum of what 'handmade' can mean. Hopefully those sellers will cater more for the younger 'hipster' crowd (sing with me, 'I believe that children are our future..'!) and I'd like more sellers which create things for guys (call that the 'blue-pound' if you will).

The concept of a 'Spectrum of Handmade' really interests me. Facetiously put, that 'spectrum' might include moutasche badges at one end and hand-felted scarves at the other (no offence to anyone, there is a place for all!). The only criteria I have for what belongs at Craftaganza is that it is good quality and locally made. That local part is because I'd like to prevent lots of London-based sellers coming down for the day and monopolising the Brighton craft 'scene'. There are some incredible London-based creators of course, and a lot of excellent London-based markets for them to sell at (soem fo which I've sold at myself when I loved in London). Brighton is a popular destination for holidayers and day-trippers, and if they come along to Craftaganza, I'd like them to be able to buy something that represents this area. It would be depressing to attend a craft market in East London and another in Bristol and another in Brighton with the same sellers appearing at all three. That homogeny is the preserve of the High Street, and we are trying to create an alternative selling/buying set-up here.

Another hope I have for Craftaganza is that it can become somewhere that other crafters are drawn to visiting. This was actually one of our founding aims but I feel it got a bit lost somewhere along the lines during the actualisation of the last two events. Everyone knows that makers often go to shops, blogs and etsy for inspiration and to see what other creators are up to. Hopefully Textile Garden will choose to sell with us again (us? me? I'm not sure about the phrasing of this anymore) with their incredible selection of buttons and Japanese braids. If you are a crafter/sewer, what would you like to see at a craft market?

So, if you've read this far down into my witterings about this particular on-going project of mine, then you are a diamond and deserve lots of chocolate and/or wine. I cannot buy you all chocolate and/or wine to reward you, but let it be known that I would if I could. So instead, I'll pick your brains some more. If you visited any craft markets/fairs this year, please let me know what stood out to you about it. Maybe it was the layout, or a particular seller, or a table of free cakes, or live music, please share!!! Thanks in advance my friends.


Lilly said...

As a knitter/crocheter, I love seeing hand dyed and handspun yarn at craft fairs.

Anonymous said...

I am full of admiration, Zoe. You must be EXHAUSTED! Well done, you.

Penny-Rose said...

WOW, I am really impressed with your level of organisation and the great blog post. If I was back in UK I would definitely want to come along to the Brighton Craftaganza - it looks amazing.

Kimbersew said...

My favorite craft fair has had a DJ spinning tunes by local bands- Less visually interesting than live musicians, so the shopping continues, but Really nice. And also selling the CDs! -It is possible that the DJ and all the music was from a local music label here- and that would make more sense business-wise.
Bravo to you for all your work!

Anonymous said...

Aw, it was so fantastic meeting you Zoe and I had a blast.
Unfortunately I wasn't in a financial position to be shopping for myself but I've since looked up two of the sellers whose cards I took online. I'm not in the situation right now to buy one of Rockcakes Jewellery's necklaces but I have it bookmarked and when I'm more flush it will be mine but I wouldn't have known about it without the craftaganza. Likewise the buttons, I picked up a couple on the day but now I'll definitely be using the store again because they're fantastic. So it's interesting that it's not just about the sales on the day, the craftaganza impacts future sales too. I'll absolutely jump on the train for the next one!

House of Pinheiro said...

Great work. Part of my MBA I will have event organising and I would love to use this as my case study . If you feel I could be a benefit to this event, let me know on my email is . Xx

Unknown said...

Wow, you have been busy! It all looks and sounds fab, I'm glad you vet the stalls, the craft fairs here don't appear to do that and you get a lot of crap appearing. Hope the next one goes well, very brave of you to take it all on yourself but I'm sure you'll do brilliantly!

Anonymous said...

Kudos for all your hard work! I went to a craft fair last weekend that had a little cafe with tea and homemade cakes for sale along with cute tables set up. It meant people lingered for longer.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Utterly fantastic! Fantastic venue too, dripping with character (hopefully not from a leaky roof!)
I am involved in organising a few events a little like this, and we do it via committee, which sounds ominous, but oh mymy, we are all such good mates and there are not tensions or power trips, and it is fantastic. Every one has a specified responsibility this year, and we have meetings once a month or fortnight closer to the time to touch base. Perhaps it's worth asking a few of the ther makers if they'd like to participate in the planning? :)
You are so awesome Zoe, you provide such leadership, in your thinking and also in your actions. That's quite a double act! xo

Len said...

The venue looks fantastic! That first photo is beautiful.

Glad it went well though :) I do like to see stalls where I can buy good quality supplies at craft fairs alongside stalls with lovely handmade goodies but obviously this isn't always possible! I guess I'm just a sucker for rifling through buttons. I was at a great vintage fair the other day which had a stall of a costumer who worked with vintage materials to do period dramas and the like for the BBC! Hopefully I'm going to go visit their actual shop soon, so you can see what I mean - she had some FABULOUS goodies.

There's a weekly market here in Cardiff which sells local produce and lately they've had a few crafty stalls cropping up as the Christmas season came along. They're so lovely! One which stuck out was a gentleman who spun his own yarn which his wife then made into beautiful hats and scarves. Sadly nothing I could afford (£40 per hat) and he didn't sell the yarn either, but he had the wheel with him and everything, so that was a treat!

Stephanie said...

I'd love to visit Craftaganza one day. It sounds like a great handmade market. I suppose what I'd really like to see is more contemporary, hip stuff, as you say yourself and more things in the "clothes sewing" department. I find that a lot of handmade markets sell very cute stuff but nothing I actually need or would buy for myself. I also like to see unusual sewing supplies (cool fabric, vintage patterns & books, - but I know that's not really handmade anymore) because more than buying handmade I like making handmade myself :)

I only went to a sewing/needle work market once, where stalls mostly sold supplies, rather than handmade, and I was a bit disappointed because very few of the stalls catered to people who sew clothes, a lot of it was knitting, felting, scrapbooking (although not really sewing related?!), crocheting and quilting; and I don't do any of these things.

So, I guess what I'd really like to see more of, as I said, is more contemporary, edgy clothes and accessories. I think that's also what people need to see so that handmade loses its old-fashioned, grandmotherish associations.

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