Realistic, targeted advice

Craft Show Low-Down: Face to Face


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Craft Show Survival

You & the Organisers

You & other Stall holders

You & the Visitors

You & Disappointment

You & the Organisers

It is  worth befriending the organisers, especially on set-up day.

Organisers

Never have a go at them, however stressed or let down you feel, as only they can put it right.

When the stall furniture is not there, your sign is misspelt, and you are not in the catalogue; remember its normal. It’s not personal. Sort out the problems in sensible order and go for it patiently, politely and persistently.

 In this disaster list, sort the tables first, because you can’t set up without them. On a big show  everyone sends you on to someone else. Organisers are nabbed every second to trouble-shoot. You have to keep following up.

If you have a major issue, deal with it after the first day. They don’t care at the end of the show but at the beginning they don’t want  the stall holders to get restive, so they will listen.

The organisers  can find you a trolley, give you an extra chair, offer you a discount, allocate you a corner stall, keep in with them.

You & other stall holders

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Getting on with your fellow stall holders is obviously a good thing, especially when you are doing a show alone and need the back up for loo and drink forays.

But remember  you are going to hear them pitching the same stuff all day long, you are witness to their deep insincerity and they are witness to yours. They are not your new best friend. Chatting away can be exhausting; go gently.

You & the visitors

In a busy show your visitors are buffeted, bemused, hungry & hot; or hungry & cold. The show is a struggle.

In an empty show your visitors are self-conscious  ( all the stall holders are watching them) and unenthusiastic. Just as at an empty restaurant: you expect the food to be no good.

A smile is all the greeting they need.

Once they begin to look in earnest, say a little more. Just a snippet of information  about your work. So a potter might say its all wood fired It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s just telling the visitor I am here to help, its my work

Let the visitor look peacefully, don’t chat at them.

They will let you know when they are ready to talk; but if they talk a great deal, do not expect them to buy. The talkers usually don’t.

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Intense silence, a distracted look and work handling are buying signs. The distracted look is them thinking how they would use your work.

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They are looking, better still they are looking in competition, they are selling to themselves, leave them alone.

Sometimes you see people doing all this and then they are gone and nothing purchased.

Don’t worry, many buyers will do a first round, see what they want, then come back later and make their purchases.

When they come back, they go through the looking again to be certain. If you know it’s a  revisit say something like “I thought you would be back, you were looking earlier” That helps to lock them in

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Once it comes to helping or paying, then social chat is all good. They will naturally go off and show other people their purchases and the more they feel you like them as people, the more they will market you.

Some buyers need support in making their choices, you are the expert so help them to choose. It is very important that they leave your stall feeling confident and happy that they have made a wise purchase. Don’t  just support their choice actually contribute to the deciding.

Family groups and friends Visitors-to-the-fair-1-565x376

This is a huge problem. One is interested the other wants to move on. The uninterested one distracts and puts off the interested one and the sale is  lost. Do your best to engage the less interested one, not with your work but just in chit-chat. Your chit-chat is buying time for the other one to look at your work properly. Sundays are always the worst days for this when the family comes and no one is happy. Sundays are for ticket sales, not yours.

 Don’t sit, Don’t eat and drink and Don’t read on your stand.

Don’t be so bloody silly you can do all of those. You have to survive a long hard day, do what you need to do.

ren3Working on something when you are not busy encourages visitors to talk to you about your work and shows you are the maker and wastes a bit less of your time.

You & Disappointment

Manage your expectations.

Share Denver Wild Mae Craft Fair

Here we are first show, how did it go ?

 I had no idea what to expect. I was simultaneously so nervous that I wouldn’t sell a thing and so nervous that I didn’t have enough inventory. It turns out, I sold lots, I didn’t sell out, I about broke even, I got great feedback, I met amazing people, and I left the fair brimming with new ideas and feeling incredibly inspired and motivated.

To be pleased to break even is a low goal but look how happy it left her. Lets hope she works out that her prices have to go up as to sell lots and break even is not a very business like place to be.

Redo your display mid show

When a show is going badly talk to your neighbours they may see where you are going wrong. Advice on rearranging your stall can find you some sales.

Also after the first day you know the visitor flow direction so you can redo your display to max that sight line.

Consider taking out of the display anything that is not earning its place.

At the very least, re doing your stand will give you an injection of hope which will help your state of mind and ability to sell.

Do not, absolutely do not, drop your prices. That will not be the problem. It will simply mean that the sales you do make will do less to help your parlous situation. A bad show could even be an argument for putting them up. People tend to respect big prices more than bargain basement ones. You only need half the buyers if you double your prices.

When the show is a disaster for you but the other stalls are making fortunes

This is such a dispiriting situation but stay logical:

I am doing a new show

It is a gamble

It has not  worked

But I knew it was a risk

It reflects on the show, not my work .

It means the show is wrong for me, but the only way I could find that out was by trying.

When the show is a disaster for everyone

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They happen, those Where the hell were the customers? shows, they are annoying, boring  and expensive. Get drunk.

Extras

This is part three of three posts on shows

Part One was on Picking the right show

Part Two was on Preparations for your show

If you struggle with feeling Confident then acquire  The Coat of Arrogance

If you want  one to one help with your business then this is current  deal.

Talk to me in The Comments and if I helped please share the post.


Craft Show Low-down : Preparations


DC Craft Show, 16, break down

What you have to get sorted before the show.

Words of remarkable wisdom on:

How much stock to take
 Getting  your display right
Checklist of what  to pack
Handling money
What to wear
 Pre show marketing

Stock

The rule here is less is more. Do not overwhelm the customer with choice. Faced with endless decisions the customer becomes confused; loses confidence; cannot decide and ends up not buying 

When customers ask do you have it in green? That is not a sale lost. You could show them a green and then they may want it smaller etc or a different green. If they like it enough they will buy it in blue.

The more stock that pounds its way too and from fairs, the more elderly it’s going to look.

If your stall is easy to set-up and easy to take-down, shows will be easier. You might not have to hire a van.

Push what you have with confidence, you don’t want to be endlessly head down searching  the under the table stock for one customer while that little crowd of customers you had before  evaporates .

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The less you display the more expensive and special it seems

Severely edit what you take 

Displays

Display is not about pretty, display is about communication Your audience has to understand at a glance what you want them too. What you need to communicate depends where you are selling. Can you take it for granted that your visitors know what you are selling is handmade by you? If not, that has to be message one.

Message two might be the material you work in, for example if you make silver jewellery you have to get across the silver bit. Having gathered those two facts the visitors will hopefully close in for a better look.

Beware of branding If you were selling washing up liquid then branding is all important, but hopefully you are not. If someone buys  you want to be sure they go away with something that tells them  who you are and how to buy from you again. But before they buy, it has little relevance. It can even be a sales killer.

Toft Knitting &Stitching

Over branded to the distraction of the product

Handmade is one-off, by you. You are the brand. Talking about yourself is the way you brand.  Your name is the name for your craft business.

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Look no overt branding  at this very successful open studio event but the presence of the maker

Signage 

At shows the organisers provide you with a stand sign but it’s usually over the top of your stall so when people are looking at your work they can’t see that sign, so put another sign inside your stall. (At the end of the show nick the organiser’s overhead sign, cut off the stand number and you’ve got  a  sign for your next show) 

Its important  your visitors understand your offer, sometimes it’s not completely straight forward

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Having criticised this stand for branding, I think they got the explanation bit bang on.

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Sometimes your product itself might not be obvious and that needs addressing head on.

Heavily displaying  your website on your stand can lose you sales, as visitors feel they needn’t spend their cash at the show as they can do it online anytime. Tell them about your online shop once they have purchased.

Handling the Wares

The way you display tells the audience whether they can handle your work.

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this one says don’t touch

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This one says pick me up

If you put a sign telling people not to touch, you won’t sell. Picking something up is the first move of ownership. You are pretty stupid if you block the first move.

How to display pricing

There are two ways to price, price at a glance or by the visitor handling the product to find the price. A mixture is probably the best route.

Always price in round figures as it makes transactions easier and it values your piece as an art work

Handwrite your prices ( it emphasises the handmade) and write them unapologetically big.

Make it obvious what you are selling 

If you have a book to sell about your work pile it high up in the front (in uneven piles so it looks as if the piles are depleting) Then have a huge notice Signed copies and the price.  Displays of your work featured in the book go behind that.  The visitor then understands I am here to sell my book.

Display materials

Don’t sink a fortune into  buying purpose made display materials, they are expensive:  be creative.

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A brilliant display solution on a  juice seller’s stall

rhinestone display

Pinch other people’s good ideas

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Think laterally, here cardboard hat boxes from a millinery supplier are used as plinths to bring the display up to different levels

Display rules

Give your display height, but  make sure you  can serve through your display

Show tables are too low for the standing customer you need to bring your surfaces up so they can handle and see your work easily.

Most shows are under lit so consider taking extra lighting .

Try to help visitors to see themselves owning your work

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Showing pots on a  dresser helps  visitors imagine them at home

If possible block out the sides and back of your stall otherwise people look straight through to your rivals and whiz off there

Try to take a small table of your own  to act as a secure location for your cash/phone/ iPad and as a packing surface.

Table coverings  need go all the way to the ground so  you can hide stuff away.

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Make  sure your work and not your display is the star

Packing for the show

Do a trial  run for  the display at home and for packing up your car if   its is going to be tight

BOX

Pre show checklists reduce stress. I would do two, one for your needs and one for your stand. This list is to help you put together a comprehensive list of what you are taking, but be more specific

STAND LIST

Stand tool box (you make this up once and keep from show to show) suggested contents:

  • Scissors
  • Packing tape /gorilla tape ( taping down flexes )
  • repositionable tape (resealing packets )
  • Velcro stickers 
  • Blu tack
  • Price stickers
  • Pens including marker pen
  • rubber bands
  • Paracetamol
  • Tissues
  • Electrical screwdriver

Product Toolbox only relevant to some products eg  jewellery to make alterations for customer

Packaging materials for sold products

Marketing materials

  • business cards
  • leaflets

Display materials

  • Posters/ show cards
  • stand covers including night sheet
  • stand display pieces

Stand Furniture

Lighting

  • Lights
  • extension leads

Communication

  • computer/iPad and leads
  • camera and leads
  • phone and re-charger
  • card reader and leads

Money

  • cash boxes and float
  • Reserve money purse
  • Signs

Stock 

Yeah, after all that, don’t forget to take something to sell

Handling Money

Try and keep all money and packing off the display.

Consider not using an obvious cash box as locked or not it tells the opportunist here be the money and they take the whole thing.  I use two boxes one for change and one for notes and cheques. Neither look like cash boxes. use a money belt for street markets

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Very tempting

How much float and in which denominations depends on your prices it should be change for those prices. My change box has only £1 and £2 coins as all my prices are in whole pounds My note box is stocked with £5 and £10 notes. £20 are no use to me. I take around £60 float for a big show.

If you are doing well, cream off  the money from your notes box to a non money looking container which is hidden away.

If you want to take credit cards check the signals at the show and any costs for internet access or electricity.

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Lots of shows in top venues have lousy mobile signals

What to Wear

Your clothes are all part of your marketing. You are marketing yourself as the maker.

Guibert Didier

This look says I am not making any money and I never have

Ingrid Wagner

This look says I am wacky and my product is wacky

dutch seller K&S

This says I am a the craftsperson

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This extends the packaging of the product

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This indicates the work is expensive

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This says only for the stylish

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This says only for the fully committed

Think about what you are going to wear, match it to your stand, then you look confident. Nondescript just doesn’t cut it.

Your show marketing

You don’t have to if it’s a big well established fair. You take a stand at these to extend your customer base. Getting your existing customers to come along is not necessarily the way to play it. Invite them to a studio event. You don’t want to lose their spend elsewhere at a big show.

If you have a website, list the fair links in your diary bit because you have visitors there who are not yet customers. Do the same on Twitter and on your Facebook page. But no big effort is necessary.

Do not miss any deadlines for the show’s own publicity and take trouble with any exhibitor listing as that can really boost your website visitors.

Extras

This is second of three posts on shows

The first part was on picking a show, which you can read here 

The final part is about the show itself. If you want that  emailed  scroll up the  left side column and click on Follow.

If you want to pick up display ideas do a search on Pinterest

If you want  one to one help with your business then this is current  deal.

Talk to me in The Comments and if I helped please share the post.


Craft Show Low-Down : Picking


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If I knew how to pick a winning show, I’d tell you.  But I don’t.
  But this should help you place your bet

Why you have to do shows

However magnificent your online empire, you have to sell your product  face to face to get  feedback to modify, ditch and develop your work. If you isolate yourself you will fail.

People are more ready to buy  expensive pieces online if they have encountered the work before in the flesh.

Don’t do too many

The after show recovery period is a week. They are truly exhausting and you need that week to unpack,  follow-up and catch up.

Sometimes booking a particular show every other year can be better,  as then your  existing customers see your presence  as an opportunity rather than the “same old”.

Dont book the year’s shows if you are inexperienced. Shows are expensive and they are a risk . Young businesses need to book and try to use the  lessons from that show to inform their next pick.

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Budget

Never book a show unless you can survive  losing your costs. It is a gamble. How ever great previous takings might have been you cannot rely on that happening again. If you do a show and you get your costs back they must go back into your show fund they are NOT profit.

Start small and work up

Evaluating the Audience

It is not just about numbers. You need to work out what the visitors are seeking at this show and what their price range is. Most organisers insist their show is ideal every inquirer You need to drill down deeper.

For example if there is wall to wall craft making workshops that might be where the majority of the visitor spend is going  and retail  is just an add-on. If there are great children’s activities then is it more of a family day out?  If there are lots of displays and the entry ticket is high, then  visitors will be there to see rather than buy.

If it’s an established show look at pictures of last year’s online, do the visitors look right?

Gt Northeren contemporary craft fair

Pictures can tell you a lot.  In this image the  visitors are not laden with purchases, the girl in red has not got any interest on her stand, she is bored and watching the world go by . You know she is a seller as she has an exhibitor’s badge.

exhib research

See if you can find the exhibitor list for that show, what’s the mix ? Click through to some websites and see what their price range is,   phone a couple  and ask if they would recommend the fair.  A show like this is a big spend so take time researching it.

Selection Procedures 

SELECTION

If you are approached and offered a special deal don’t be flattered, it means they can’t fill their show. If you are given a brief time frame in which to sign up to secure the “deal” don’t be rushed.

Always, Google a show and look for upset stallholders’ comments. There are outright scams out there and shows hot on promise and cold on delivery. Got that? Always.

If there is a craft show in your discipline that you aspire to, be sure you make a note in your diary for the application timings and don’t apply if its beyond you financially Don’t go for the most prestigious, but for the next step up for you.  You don’t want to be the worst in the show as then you have no chance of recouping your costs.

Costs

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Before you sign up use this checklist  of costs

  • Cost of stand
  • VAT on stand
  • Insurance
  • Lighting  larger shows you  pay for any electrical connection even if you provide your own lighting.
  • Stand furniture even if you have your own can you transport it as well as your stock and display?
  • Internet connection (I recently did a show at Alexandra Palace where they charged £200 for a connection,so watch out)
  • Travel
  • Parking
  • Overnight stays
  • Food away from home
  • Help on stand
  • Hours spent at show

When you have your total cost consider how much of your product you would have to sell at the show before you made any money. If you just cover costs  you have worked for the show organisers which was extraordinarily kind of you.

Beware the halo effect. We all dream of  finding the perfect show where our work sells like lottery tickets  and your kids can be privately educated. Sad, but the fair you are considering probably isn’t actually THAT one.

The days of doing one big show a year are long gone

Trimming costs

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Sharing Don’t do half a stall each, that makes you both look losers. Choose your partner wisely: so a potter might share with a furniture maker, displaying their pots on the furniture, so  the display is mutually enhancing.

If it is a multi day show you can  timeshare. But be sure you get the right days.

Stall Size think hard about this. Getting the smallest possible stall can be a false economy as most of  your other costs are set and do not relate to stall size. If it is a big show a very small   footprint means people can miss you entirely.

Negotiating You are the customer. There is a huge proliferation of craft shows competing for your business,  you have a bit of  room to negotiate.

Ask for concessions. Play the long game. A hesitant no from you can open up a better deal. This is the response I got “  if there’s anything I could do to tempt you back (short of giving you a free stand!) just let me know.”

They  may not be able to cut the per sq metre cost but they can often throw in stall furniture, lighting, insurance, internet connection and bump up your location. Ask for a corner stand and you double your sales frontage.

Accommodation Book your accommodation early so you can find a cheaper room or a twin bedded room that you can share with another maker

1959 Cartier-Bresson

Set Up Try to set up on the morning of the first day as that will save you overnight stay costs and working time the day before.

Extras

Folksy blog runs a series of craft fair reviews by sellers

You can try Stallholder which is an event listing site to find shows

If you are new to fairs read through some of the craft fair help threads on craftsforum co.uk

For the bit of the public you should aim for, read  Juicy Customer Segment

This is first of three posts on shows

the next part is about Preparation and the last  At the Show itself. If you want those emailed  scroll up the  left side column and click on Follow.

Use The Comments to add your advice on picking shows or if you have specific questions
If you want  one to one help with your business then this is the deal.

The crate is here


The crate from Marrakech  has arrived. It came in the afternoon in a very unromantic  OCS white van. The crate was damaged and opened. In the top was a mysterious animal skin bag and I feared some of my shipment had been nicked.

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I gingerly unpacked to find everything there but when I came to unwrap the very last piece it was shattered. It was the bol sur pied.

piles

But I had all the sets of plates

on stove

And the tagine pot, a proper one which sits on the fire on top of the stove and ought not go in the oven. So with trepidation, now or never, I cooked a beef tagine hoping that I had properly understood how to use it.

on stove open

By the end of the cooking the tagine pot and I had made friends, we understood each other and worked together

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With the aid of cheap red wine and my Fes bowls from two decades ago we had supper. That little candlestick to the left of the bottle, that is the gift that warms the deal and makes the connection between the seller and the customer.

tamgroute2

This is where I bought them and that is Mourad who fell for this green Tamgroute pottery and has filled his shop in the souk in Marrakech with it. He is adding up how much money he wants.

tamgroute

Tamgroute is on the edge of the Sahara, the glaze is an ancient Berber recipe known to seven families of potters  Tamgroute pots are crudely made, full of lumps and bumps, it wobbles atrociously, the glazes come out differently from plate to plate, there is little control of the process

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The sun dries the clay ready to work

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There are plenty of kiln deaths

Not to mention the transport deaths

But the result, the difference it makes to use things made by hand, things with another life embedded in them, somehow that elevates the mundane task of cooking and eating.  It has a  feel good factor which pushes out the mean bits of living which makes the  indulgence of time and money to acquire it really worthwhile.

Their perfection lies in their imperfection, if you understand that you understand what handmade is about.


Handmade Morroco


You didn’t get to go to Morocco,  I did, so I’m sharing some of the stuff

 The old bit of the coastal town of Essaouira is hunched up next to the fishing harbour and within its walls, in a back alley, these steps

steps

Poor nations recycle

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This door is in the kind of backstreet you get travel insurance for .

That blue is fly blue.

The Victorians used it in larders and potting sheds to unwelcome flies

Essaouria 4

The Atlantic slaps Morocco really hard at this point

It’s always windy and the sea boils

Essaouria harbour 2

A real working fishing boat harbour

nets

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When you start to slow, because you are on holiday you start to notice, and see the patterns in things. Your eye starts to say:” You know what? The world, and things that man has crafted are so often beautiful “

sardines

Even lunch is beautiful ( and yes that is a fly and no, he was not alone)

lamp

So goodbye Essaouira and back in the taxi to Marrakech .

That taxi driver had seemed so well-informed and civilised but when we hit  the Marrakech rush hour he proved  a complete shit. He left no room for error:  pedestrians, donkey carts and scooters were shown less consideration than lorries. He was like an incensed blue-bottle outraged that anyone should think they could share the road with him. “No horn,no job” was his mantra. Our route was flanked by people making internationally understood gestures at him.

Goat 3

On the way out to Essaouira he had stopped to allow us to take pictures of the goats feeding on the leaves and fruits of the Argan trees  Thats him picking up some Argan nuts

 goat best

Sweet goats aren’t they? Wonderful photo opportunity.

But, but… look closely behind each goat that’s blue baler twine isn’t it?  There were two goat herds with them and  they expected tips for the photo. The tree was unmissable by the side of the road and why were all the goats on the road side of this tree ?

Nothing is as it seems in Morocco, everything has to be thought about twice.

CHANGE

It’s no good minding that tourists are used.

It is a country of change.

The tourists want it to stay picaresque and traditional and easily accessible by Easy Jet, so it does its best to oblige.

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You see Marrakesh roof tops, the old and the new

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patten 4

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Where are we now? In the Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech

patten 2

patten 1

God that is complex

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Now we are in the nineteenth century Palais Bahia much of which was built for a very fat Vizier

 I suppose  he just lay fatly on his couch and stared at his beautiful ceilings

patten 6

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Strong stuff, like Turkish delight you can only take so much, before it cloys

iron sheets

This is by way of a palate cleanser from the souk

rubbish

And this is to remind ourselves of reality.

Disgusting but colourful.

I hate to tell you this but this is Casablanca

Yes really, I am sorry

Casablanca Mosque

And this is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

Beautiful?

Yes but post dates the film

It was built over six years finished in 1993 and 35,000 craftsmen were involved

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Now back to Marrakech, but to the new town which is ugly noisy and filthy and favoured by the rich who live in gated communities of exclusive nothingness .

The honourable exception being Yves St Laurent  who lived in the  former house of  the French artist Jacques Majorelle and restored the magical garden which is now kept by the foundation.

Marjorelle gardens

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It’s not all Yves St Laurent styling, the palm trees do belong

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and the light struts its stuff

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High atlas

Now one last trip, this time into the High Atlas , then I will leave you in peace

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Proper Berber land

Berber market High Atlas

And a market

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canvas

seller

So what did I buy?

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Well this is what he was selling,vintage Berber stuff ( it matched up with stuff displayed in the Berber museum in Marrakech)

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So I bought myself this, so that I could pound my spices in the same bowl  as another woman from a very different harder  life, did sixty years ago. Its made from cedar and is as hard as nails.

And there is more I have a crate coming …

crate

If you beg me I will show you, but at the moment it’s still bumping its way by road to London (at least, I hope it is) Otherwise its a job for Interpol


Botox your homepage


First impressions matter so pimp your homepage.

 

MEDICINE

The Look you Need

mass home page

Look at all these websites, all professionally generated with a corporate feel. That is not the way to go. You want to look individual.

You want to look  personal, one-off.

Flashy effects such as scrolling pictures look corporate and distract. People have come for craft. Craft is about contemplation

Your site should quietly offer clarity and lovely things. Thats it, nothing more.

Do nothing because that’s what other sites do.

Routes in

When people buy craft they are buying two things:  the  craftsman’s way of life and the crafts piece.

That means you have two things to sell, two routes to take on your home page.

Here a maker takes the product route . It is beautifully simple, it gambles on the viewer being sufficiently attracted to the product displayed to click-through to find more and buy something

Here the maker plays the craftsman / lifestyle card beautifully. This is the central picture on his homepage .

The hope of the maker route is that the visitor will want to plug into the romance of the craftsman’s life by buying  a piece of their work. You are hoping for an emotional connection which will  predispose the visitor to search for something they can buy.

The risk of this approach is that the visitor may be impatient to see the product and see pictures of the maker as an unnecessary  diversion.

Of course you can mix the two approaches  but if you do, you spread the appeal, but dilute the power of your message.

If what you are doing is  complicated, you need to explain your offer on your homepage. But keep it simple.

www.mollymacdesigns.co.uk

Focus & Organise

You cannot have a decent homepage unless you are completely clear what you want it to achieve.

The visitor has arrived, they are looking at that first page. What do you want them to do next?

There should only be text, image and links  which lead to your chosen goal.

All communication has to be swift. Your visitors have butterfly minds, they alight very briefly, you have to be quick to catch them.

Say who you are and what you do.

If your work covers different areas offer defined pathways into each area. Mixing media makes a site look like a jumble sale, get it sorted so the visitor arrives and chooses.

Answer the questions your visitors came with. Think from the outside in. What you need to cover depends on what you are offering . Essentially your job is not to persuade people to buy but to offer sufficient information for them to make a decision.

It’s fine to have scroll down on your homepage but make sure the main whack of communication is on  that first frame, also that it is obvious there is more to see by scrolling.

Textual Blemishes

Every single word on your Home page has to earn its living.

Cut the inane  “wood is perfect or special for any occasion” the sort of thing  that sounds good but means nothing

Don’t tell visitors why they need your stuff  as in “the perfect wedding present”. They are already open to having it or they wouldn’t be visiting your website.

Don’t balance out sentences. Good web copy is staccato. Visitors are not committed to reading your every word but the fewer there are, the closer they will be to reading it all.

Watch out for a dodgy stance like those Christmas round robins which change person. Don’t use “we” you are not  BMW. “We” to you sounds stronger, but to the visitor it sounds evasive.

Don’t self praise, it’s not going to work

Clarity  is hugely reassuring to buyers It makes them feel you are someone who knows what they are doing and are easy to deal with and honest.

You can explain yourself in very few words here the main text is simply

” Carol Saunderson

 An Artist in the Landscape.

Abstract Landscape Painter, Rural Dweller, Lover of Modernist Art and Design”

Nothing showy but enough to place the artist. It’s a bit repetitive but it makes sure we get it and the repetition is in different parts of the page. The simplicity and calm gets us ready to look at her pictures.

Too Many Links

 The cost of putting zillions of links is your visitor blithely goes off in your least desired direction.

 Forget  about getting up the rankings by having lots of links, just stay around and you rise like scum. Chasing rankings is something that is sold hard by the marketeers but that’s what they are selling. But don’t bother, two seconds later and the rules change and you have slithered back down. Much better make sure that when a visitor does arrive they are herded firmly in the direction you wish.

Don’t link  with social sites on your homepage that benefits only the owners of those sites. Of course they tell you to but it is simply a way in which to lose your sale and boost their visitors.

Web surfers jump about like scalded cats hitting links because they caught their eye, so what if they follow you on Twitter, that is not going to fill the fridge is it?

The images

Before you consider images, consider space. Books have great big margins so that they are comfortable to read, websites are the same.

Space > calm

 Calm > contemplation

Contemplation > desire

 Desire >sale

If you were selling printer ink you don’t need space, you need low prices and an instant sale mechanism. If you are selling a piece of craft you need to slow the world down, make it feel rested and offer your lovely object.  Space and pictures of nature, the craftsman lost in the creative process  are your workhorses,

Mind your images don’t clutter your page, keep it all carefully focused. Home pages are about sacrifice, less is certainly more.

Revisit Rejuvenate Rethink

Every time you up load product you should take a long hard look at your home page. Is it still the best you can do?

More Help

For web designers look at  http://www.redgreenblue.co.uk/  5-6 pages, with no shop, costs from £250 They made the first two pictured in this post

Free starter web host look at http://www.create.net/ Brighton based and so far only heard postive things about them

Critical Eye Offer

If you would like a private review of your website’s home page then fill in the contact form .  Its £15 a throw. I will take a quick look, make sure that I have something useful to say, then email you a Paypal request for payment which means you can use your credit or debit card Once your money is my money I will send you a brilliant email explaining the changes I think you should make.

But give me your comments here, the  same as usual as you often say things which make the post better.


Creativity The Elephant in the workroom


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How ever perfect your workspace

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However beautifully equipped you are

link creativity

You are on your own when it comes to creativity

You can’t buy it

You can’t learn it

Its the Elephant in your workroom

 Do Craftspeople need to be creative?

Nope, you don’t. Lots aren’t

Enjoyment in making things does not make you creative. Many craftspeople are attracted to repetition and want nothing more than to run quietly along  in their groove. Their skills increase over time and they can have a good  business producing well crafted objects  “The public wants it, I make it”  They may introduce variations in terms of new colour-ways or sizes but they see no reason to reinvent the wheel.

However there is a different sort of crafts person, the artist-craftsman, who is driven by the desire to make something more and more exceptional. These run on creative energy, they are volatile and vulnerable to its whims. Their heart is always in the next piece. This article is for you guys

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Accept that creativity is destructive and wasteful

Creativity wastes huge amounts of time. You just have to accept that most good ideas turnout to be bad ones. But you have to try them out to find  out if they are any good.

Be careful  not to dismiss try outs too quickly.

You are trying to reproduce something in your head. There will be a  disappointing gap between the imagined and the real, but the result could be truly worthwhile even though it is not what you  meant

Ruairi-Glynn-at-the-Tate-Tanks

Many creatives run on a depressive cycle, the low tending to herald a creative surge.

You need to accept that and block any negative actions at your low point.

Its pointless to drive on through a low, better take a break, it just needs waiting out, not fighting, as your subconscious brain is really busy. The low is a way of allowing it to concentrate.

Think of creativity as a lover; when it arrives you drop everything and serve it . It is an opportunity.

When you are making and you have a ‘what if ?’ thought,  let it in, try it out, expect disappointment, but it just might open a different door ‘by misdirections finding directions out’ that leads to a real step forward

Don’t judge, just get on with it

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Judging needs different skills than creating and its really important to give your new born space and respect

American creativity business coach Tom Monahan said that you shouldn’t try to test the validity of an idea in its fragile early stages, all new ideas have flaws. If you judge too quickly you drag down the whole creative process. Look for what is good about it

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Your judgement can be behind the creative curve.  Sometimes  American Expressionist painter Philip Guston found himself painting  what he had destroyed five years earlier because when it first  appeared he was not ready to accept it.

Boosting Creativity

Yeah this is the bit you think I can’t deliver but I can, watch me. Some of it might be placebo stuff ( you think it helps so it does)

crazily lined notebook inspires creativity

Here’s some wacky stuff. try to break out of the norm it helps to unrestrict the mind . So an oddly lined notebook frees you up.

Absolute silence hinders creativity, research shows coffee shop noise  at no higher than 70 decibels is perfect. You  can get it here and I have been using it to write this and its great.

Research also shows that dimming the lights makes you feel safe so more ready to take risks

Don’t take responsibility for creative outcomes –let your imagination entertain you, with something unexpected.

Let projects stew, don’t try and think about solutions  directly. They have a way of growing in the dark.

Trying to control and direct deadens what you are trying to achieve. For Gods sake forget the need to sell that’s the cyanide pill of creativity.

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You can’t grow as a artist-craftsman without exposing yourself to visual stimulus and Nature alone will not do. You are not a gardener, you are making something man made.

You must expose yourself to the past of your speciality and the contemporary best makers.

You also need to be contrary. If you respond to nature, then walk the city streets. Leave your comfort zone. Bump start your thoughts.

Go to the exhibitions that leave you spaced out and mystified, that make you feel as if you are in a vacuum of something bigger than you.

Seek out unexpected experiences, altering daily routines, abandoning the well travelled neural pathways

Do as many courses as you can afford, adding new techniques to your skill set.

Hackney

Using Creativity

Creativity belongs right across your work. Its not just about product but also about marketing, display, websites; the whole gamut.

Being creatively driven means you assume that everything you touch is up for improvement, you need to look and re look. Sometimes you change something and realise it was better before. That is the cost of always trying to drive things forward.

You must spend time trying to come up with the right questions. What do you need to sort?  Forget the solution achieve absolute clarity on the problem. Also look for the assumptions and challenge them.

Here’s an example:

A maker’s problem is they need to create a reliable low cost market stall product to add to their product mix

They examine the fundamentals of that task. One of the assumptions is that the new product must use low cost materials. But what if you turned that on its head and used high cost materials but very little labour so you could make ten in an hour instead of five? Suddenly your creative energy is working in a new and exciting place.

Lone maker and Creativity

NAOMIFREARS-031A IN HER STUDIO

Business works with creative teams. Craftspeople mostly don’t have that comfort.

Do not ask your friends and family for opinions, they are terribly unlikely to be truthful or informed.

Seek friendships ( proper ones) with other craftspeople and artists, but paddle your own canoe.

Be an understanding and sympathetic boss to yourself .

Dismiss self doubt on principle.

If you spent all day trying out a new idea that didn’t work consider you had a particularly  hard working day, when things work out it feels like play. Just  don’t turn it into a melodrama of failure. Its just another working day.

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How is it for You?

Creativity makes me hungry, distracted, thirsty, cold, wound up.

I like to approach it at arms length, I collect elements for a post in my ipad notes. I don’t bother about form or headings I just jam it down. I don’t read any of  it until I can’t think of any more.

Then I read the stuff and try to see what sections would contain what I have. Then off to Google images to see what could work .

Then its out of creative and into judgement mode putting it all together.

What about you, how do you work it?

EXTRAS

Want to see how you come out on a creativity test then try this one

Listen to artist Philip Guston talking for two mins on video about how his paintings emerge here

Check out what sort of crafts  person stereotype you think you are   here 


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