I made my first pair of cranes because I wanted to wear them myself. They were so fun to create that I made another pair, and another, and another… Soon I had 30 pairs of crane earrings hanging off a vase in my lounge and nothing to do with them, so I decided to attend my first craft fair and see if anyone else thought they were as cool as I did.
The fair I chose was an outdoor fair, a couple of weeks before Christmas, at the top of Cuba St Wellington. I had a great time, got heaps of awesome feedback, made a killing financially, and best of all was approached by Jacki of Rex Royale and asked if they could stock my wares… that fair started my business, the excitement I felt and the confidence as a result of my success’ there. (Ironically given my recent experience and stresses with the tempestuous weather conditions, which you will read about below, I don’t remember being stressed or worried about the weather at all)
Selling at fairs has many perks, you are face to face/ one on one with your customers. You can gage their reactions to new products, engage with them in a way you can’t online. You can ask their opinions, test out pricing, be in an environment surrounded by other makers like you and give your products a face, a personality, a story! All going well you make a bit of extra money from the experience too. I’m not sure of the exact number of fairs and markets I’ve sold at since that first one, but it’s in the double digits. I’ve been part of some great events over the years, but more recently I have had a series of such disappointing fairs (some badly organised, others under publicised…) that I had decided to hang up my float and retire from the fair game. My attempt at attending the Thorndon fair was the final nail in the coffin, or so I thought…
Three years ago I decided to apply for the Thorndon fair, a fundraising event organised by a local school (the profits from table hire goes straight to them). It is a large event, outdoors, on the first Sunday of December. I applied, and was accepted. I prepared for ages, borrowed a trestle table (so I wouldn’t incur the extra hireage fee) and organised a lift there with my bags and bags of stock, displays and of course the table. The day of the fair it was horrible. Rain, lots of wind, plain old yuck. We packed the car and drove there, just in case, some people had shown up and were setting up their stalls (as there was no plan B) but nearly all of them had pop up gazebos, with sandbags, which I did not. Also of course, the product I was selling being light and paper… well, it would never survive. So we drove home, with me sobbing the whole way.
The next year I was more prepared. The weather wouldn’t win again. I applied, was accepted (with a slightly better spot) and I purchased a pop up gazebo so the rain wouldn’t stop me attending. The day of the fair Wellington had record winds. I could barely stand still in it, let alone sell my delicate wares. The gazebo just wouldn’t survive in weather like that. So I chalked the whole thing up to experience, safe in the knowledge that I tried (twice) and that at least the money I had wasted went towards Thorndon school not into someone’s pocket… It was my donation to children’s education, I tried to convince myself (while sobbing).
This year the application arrived in my mail box and I went online straight away to unsubscribe.
Weeks later a friend of mine, Nini from Things Unseen, emailed to say she had a spot (undercover no less, which was good as I had sold my gazebo after the last failed attempt) she wasn’t able to attend herself but didn’t want to loose her spot (as it would go to someone else if she declined… once you have a good spot it’s hard to get it back). She offered it to me, she would pay for the spot, I would just have to attend (weather willing) and sell some of her jewellery on my table. It seemed too good to be true!
I said yes to the spot around 6 months ago and on the Monday before the fair (with 6 days to go) I remembered it was on. I was totally unprepared so spent the whole week preparing, doing nearly nothing else except fair prep; making new stock, making new displays, packing my bag (a full sized backpacker pack plus a full bag in each hand). The weather forecast looked good, rain Tuesday to Friday then sun on Saturday and most importantly Sunday. It was true to form, it rained and rained and rained. Then Saturday arrived and some sun poked through… with light showers and 140k winds… it wasn’t looking good. My stomach knotted, I worried all day. Had I put ALL this effort in for nothing? I went to bed that night with crossed fingers and toes.
The morning of the fair was SPLENDID. The weather couldn’t have been better. It was sunny, warm, and mostly still (it’s Wellington, that’s really as good as you get here). The fair was wonderful. It was busy, I met some lovely people and saw many friends. I sold heaps, ate candy floss with my friend Heidi (who kindly offered to help me), introduced my new range Ex Libris.
…but most importantly it restored my faith in fairs.