Welcome back. A whole season has passed since I did my last update for my seasonal hashtag challenge.
Of course there is some argument whether we should wait until the spring equinox to welcome the much awaited spring. Since my winter wasn't a particularly easy one I hope you will forgive me in wanting to celebrate the start of meteorological spring and the first signs of greenery and blooms as we head into March.
The hashtag challenge #createinspring is all about celebrating the moments of the season, how it influences your work and imagery - whether that be sparkling sunshine or sparkling raindrops on blossom, making lighter knitwear or seasonal botanical inspired jewellery or embroidery. I can't help but be influenced by seasons and what is going on outside in my makes and I'd love to see what you have been working on too.
Before I show you a snippet of what I've been up to, I want to introduce the work of Kathy Hutton, a print maker inspired by nature and ceramics.
Tis the season for Christmas markets within the next month or so, and having participated in them for about 4 or 5 years I've accumulated some knowledge about making the most of a festive fair, and I've also asked some friends for their top tips, so whether you are new to it all, or have been around the block I'm sure you'll find something useful below....
This is probably one of the biggest areas to think about in advance. An attractive display will always draw people in, but how do you do it?
Not only do I love Jack's geometric planters, but I love the way he has used different levels within his display so that some of the products are directly at eye-level, in a design which complements his contemporary style. You'd spot his stall a mile off while casually walking around a market.
Other ways you can put products at eye level is by stacking boxes, using simple shelves or creating a shelf to display work so that it is at different heights. In my stall image above I have an A-frame for my plant-hangers which is always a good way to draw people in.
Think about your branding. How you decorate your stall needs to reflect your brand ethos and personality. Its useful to get the name of your brand in your design so that people will remember who you are. Takeaway business cards with image product photography can be useful for this too (Moo prints different images within the same pack).
Says Frilly Industries: "Help people understand who they are in relation to your brand. This is why we make our diverse range of heads to show the wide appeal of our jewellery designs. Know your demographic by also helping people understand that they can be part of it too."
Atmosphere - think about how cosy and inviting you can make your stall, like this one from Felti. The addition of fairy lights and subtle nods to Christmas will tell an inviting story.
Plan and set up your design in advance so that you know exactly where you will place everything, find out how big your table will be and plan accordingly. Set up will be usually 1 hour (2 if you are lucky) so when space and time are tight you will feel confident that you know exactly where everything goes.
Selling and pricing
"Tell and not sell", says Kate from Grace & Flora. "When someone approaches your stall stand up, smile and say hello. Don't be shy to explain what makes your work special, how its made, the materials and your inspiration etc. People come to fairs for a different experience, not just 'shopping'. For the most part they are keen to meet the maker."
Clear pricing is important, as Eloise from The Eloise Bindery explains: "Make sure your prices are clearly visible as people are afraid to ask for a price. A visible price list can be helpful for this. Also a card reader is a must so you don't want to miss out on sales, but as a back up people can always pay using the paypal app. You'll also need a good float for people who still like to pay by cash."
Get your actual pricing right. Explains Frilly Industries: "Starting out with a slightly cheaper price is tempting in the beginning but if you want to manage customer expectations, properly cover your costs, time and position yourself correctly amongst your marketplace competitors, so that you get your prices right.
"Use the Design Trust resources for calculating the right costs, especially if you want to sell wholesale. Don't ever sell yourself short as this hurts your peers and competitors and it's not cool. Its easier to reduce your prices at a market then put them up!
"Help people to understand the value of a locally made and independently designed item."
Promotion, publicity, marketing and networking
I'm rolling these all into one as they are all interlinked. If you choose a good market then the organisers should do a good job of marketing the event and your presence at it. However don't just leave them to it. As a stall-holder you need to let your followers know which markets you are attending, and this can be through your social media, handing out flyers to your friends and community, a newsletter or even a blog-post! :) Often the market will have its own hashtag for use on social media so don't be afraid to tell people what you are making in the run-up to the market itself.
Think of having a stall like an investment. It's not just the sales on the day that count. If you have a strong design presence people who visit your stall, and sign-up to your email lists, will remember your product and come back to buy from you on another occasion.
Also a market is a chance to meet with fellow makers - don't treat them as competitors - these guys can become your friends and your most loyal advocates. After all we are all in the same boat as independents so its nice to help each other out and let our followers know if we liked a stall design or made a small purchase.
My Christmas fairs
I thought you might like to know when I'm around locally:
17 November -Paperdolls Handmade Market
22-23 November - Made in Kings Heath - open studio art trail
1 December - Birmingham Etsy Market
8-9 December - Pop-up with Ava Events Styling. (tbc)
Hopefully these images will have inspired you. If not I have a small board on Pinterest. I'm there as @ceramicmagpie too, or just search for market stands.
I hope you found this interesting. If I've missed anything then let me know and I might even amend the post with your comment.
Thanks for reading. Maybe see you at my next fair?
A week with clay master - Eric Landon, aka @Tortus
I started the year with an intention: to play and experiment more with clay. I had previously become skilled at slip-casting and although I love this process I was drawn to the more personal and tactile process of making vessels on the wheel. Some time about March I slipped off the bandwagon and just started making things for other people - not that there is anything wrong with this, but it wasn't allowing me to grow as an artist.
Last week I went some way to returning to my original goal of experimenting more this year. Except up until then I didn't have the skills or the knowledge to be able to fulfill my goal.
I had been following Tortus for a couple of years and it had been a dream of mine to go to Copenhagen to do one of his courses. But with two young(ish) children I thought it was just wishful thinking. But, my very supportive partner agreed to take time off from home to be the stay at home afternoon parent.
So this blog post is going to be about my time in Copenhagen, it'll be mainly pottery but I'll do a few highlights about my time as a tourist here too. If you follow me normally you'll know that I normally do a round-up of what's been happening in my #createinsummer (formerly spring) hashtag. Its when I normally share how creatives are influenced by the season, this month the focus will be on just me for a change.
I hadn't intended in advance to write a blog post on my trip, but I know lots of people enjoyed my IG Stories so it seems good to have everything in one place, as well as serving as a record for anyone wanting to follow their pottery dream,
Well hello May! One of my favourite months for blooms, but spring is so mixed this year isn't it? From t-shirt to winter coat, this season is certainly keeping us guessing to how we should attire.
As for nature, the trees are gently saying goodbye and de-robing their blossoms now as new green leaves start to unfurl and many flowering bulbs such as tulips and bluebells certainly seem late this year. I'm just waiting patiently for the lilac in my garden to bloom which is normally on cue for my Mom's birthday mid May.
In this month's #createinspring blog I'm going to review what's been keeping me busy, unveil my latest guest judge and see who Sue, from @apetalunfolds, selected as favourites for the #createinspring hashtag photography challenge.
April seemed like a short month, by the time you take out the holidays, but I've been working on a new shape, I fulfilled some smaller and larger commission orders, and I've been learning to develop my photography skills. A particular highlight was seeing my incense holders launched at Honest Skincare (and they will be available soon online at Honest and in their Great Western Arcade store too).
Forever spring in a bud-vase with @apetalunfolds
t's funny how we talk about putting a spring in your step. It's so true that as spring approaches we can shrug off winter's heavy coat, swap boots for trainers and suddenly we feel so much lighter. The days are longer, the birds sing more (or at least they are waking me up earlier!), the lambs frolick in the fields. It's such a happy time of year.
I love noticing all the little details, and there seems to be a collective rejoice at the bulbs pushing through and the first signs of blossom.
In Japan, the arrival of the blossom season reaches epic proportions as it heralds the beginning of Spring, and there are regular news updates on the bud stages. The bloom lasts 1-2 weeks before the 'sakura snow' effect starts and they float down gently from the trees. In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom flowers are seen as a symbol of the transient nature of life. But would it be nice to capture their beauty forever?
You've probably realised the petals pictured are paper ones. This 'forever' paper blossom from Sue @apetalunfolds really deceives the eye with its intricacy; I never thought it would be possible for something made out of paper to resemble nature so closely.
I'm really excited to be collaborating with Sue this month for a little photo challenge on Instagram in the #createinspring gallery, (which coincidentally exploded overnight; evidently people feel very happy about Spring's arrival).
To take part in our competition to win 'forever spring in a vase', 3 beautiful strands of blossom in one of my new mint green porcelain bud vases, you need to be following both Sue and myself and show us how spring is influencing your makes and styling over on Instagram, using the tag #createinspring. We really want to know what a spring palette means for your creativity. I'll show you how I'm incorporating spring into my ceramics later, but first, let me tell you some more about Sue and her fabulous skills.
I think I'm not alone in saying that it was pretty easy to say goodbye to January. And whilst February doesn't exactly equal Spring, as I sit listening to the rain drum heavily against the windows, there are moments of sunshine with a hint of a promise of kinder months to come.
Like the arrival of the first snowdrops last month. They feel very symbolic, along with the hellebores, to be the first blooms to appear. When the clouds lift we are greeted by crisp blue skies and the sun feels so welcome on our faces. The first sightings of catkins and other buds on the trees have filled me with a childish excitement about our days getting longer and in turn more fruitful and creative.
Which leads to me announce that I'm retiring #wipsandblooms and replacing it with a year-long project, with a quarterly focus - starting with spring of course! I'm hoping that this new hashtag #createinspring, will encourage us all to use our creativity, and share how the season is influencing our making.
This morning I woke up to the first frost of the year, and its been replaced now with a crisp cold day and beautiful bright sunshine. Don't you just love those kind of days?
I always love writing this blog, as it gives me a chance to pause; to reflect on what I've been making, maybe have a think about what I want to make next and to review where I'm going. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day; the next little item on the to-do list, or the latest commission that I've been asked to make, that I can forget what the bigger picture should look like. Are you the same?
I love including lots of seasonal references to what's happening in nature amongst my making shots. So, there have been quite a few pumpkins popping up in my feed. Last week it was half term so I didn't set foot in my studio except to package up some orders. Instead, I was able to focus on some macrame and play around with a few new knot techniques, from @createaholic's new book (it's just peaking into shot) and start to work in more of the little porcelain beads that I've made especially for this project. I hadn't had a chance to make any planters for a while, so it was fun to get a few more ready for Christmas fairs and my open studio which start later this month.
There's definitely a distinct seasonal shift as we welcome in October. This morning was one of those crisp Autumn starts where the sun was low and bright, and yet felt warm on my skin, whilst I was wrapped up in winter layers.
I have to chuckle about how excited we all become with little autumnal treasures gathered on recent walks: the shiny conkers, jewel-like berries, mushrooms and of course there's always a lot of leaf play both outside and styled over on Instagram. It always makes me smile to see a new take on creativity, on how people arrange their makes, or how an image has been put together. In the month ahead #wipsandblooms will be focusing on creativity, but more on that later....
Why is a ceramacist posting a picture of a flower wreath I hear you ask?
Well, it's simple. I kindof failed this month to get into my studio and make any of the long list of commissions, or fulfill any new ideas that are burning a hole in my sketchbook. It's tough to admit defeat- but I always knew that with two holidays planned and the long school summer break I wouldn't be making much during August, or be able to give much attention to #wipsandblooms.
Fortunately, I was able to top up on creativity when I attended the www.hillviewmoments.com/Hillview Farm Creative Festival, organised by @takingamomentintime.
The retreat was a good balance of wool based and other creative disciplines including indigo dying, macrame and mobile making. At this retreat I met a whole heap of lovely ladies, and was able to take part in some fun workshops, allowing me to stretch my creativity in a different direction, as well as having the reward of making something that I got to keep. (which makes a nice change!) The photo above was from @olgaprinku's workshop, who I met for the very first time - such down-to-earth
creative lady! As well as Olga, it was great to meet other makers to talk about running your own business, the joys and downfalls of social media, and reflect about our priorities in how we manage these tasks as well as being a mother, or partner.
#wipsandblooms - June and #leaf_ladies_habitat
I really hope I'm not going to jinx our chance of sunshine with the title of this blog!
Before I launch into what I've been up to and my summer hashtags I wanted to share an observation. I've noticed two interesting things going on with Instagram recently. Firstly all the new people who have joined are really loving the sense of community, and finding like-minded people who share their aesthetics and interests. Then, there are the people who have been using the app for a while, who seem to have lost some of their passion, since the algorithm no longer shares posts like it used to.
We are living in a world that is constantly changing therefore you have to adapt and go with a new flow, or work harder to find your community. I loved seeing @Allison_sadler's take on this with #freeupyourinsta, which encouraged people to post more of the things that make them happy.
I'm asking something similar, but in a more niche way. I'm encouraging all the #leaf_ladies (and lads) to show off their green spaces, a corner of their homes and gardens which they are proud of, their maker space, or anywhere there is some lush greenery for the hashtag #leaf_ladies_habitat. And then, go and say hi, make friends with these people, be inspired by their use of greenery, exchange plant care tips and advice.