I’m not quite sure how many parts this will turn out to be, but “one” seems like an appropriate place from which to start.
The 33rd Annual Fine Craft and Design Fair was this past weekend. It’s a juried fair, which means that your product has to have passed certain standards of quality for you to participate. The purpose of this jurying is to select craft and art that are both aesthetically and technically of a high calibre within their fields. In other words, the playing field is well above sea level and customers and other craftspeople can be assured that what surrounds them is worth purchasing and will not drag down the market for the other booths.
Prep for these events is monumental. I don’t know how other people work, but I tend to put on a super blitz before the fair and make about three times as much stock as I know will sell. This enables me to keep my booth well-stocked with good product and to produce variants on certain pieces for customers who don’t quite see what they’re looking for on the wall. The other advantage to making that quantity of stock is that I can, immediately after the fair, resupply any shops with which I deal in anticipation of the Christmas season.
So I made a gargantuan quantity of stuff, but this year I tried a few new things:
- I invested in a few tools that enabled me to do certain tasks more quickly, thus saving time. The Fiskars slicer, for instance, vastly sped up my time for making backings and saved me its worth in time during the first week I had it.
- I standardized the sizes of a number of things so that the same sized backings would fit any one of a number of products.
- I eliminated gratuitous steps from certain products. Some pieces didn’t need (and in fact were lessened by) stitching in certain places, so I left it out where structurally possible.
- The above steps enabled me to shave a bit off my prices while still maintaining my profit margin quite nicely.
- I was also able to spend more time on making each piece unique and individually satisfying. The uniqueness of the works made them much more attractive and I had a better time making them.
- I honed my work and refined my focus to be more fine art than craft. Partially this was simply changing hanging devices and making more expressive pieces, but it also involved switching to primarily wall-mounted works and displaying them as they were meant to be displayed in a home.
- I redesigned my business cards and also designed a brochure that used the same image. That image also appears on the top of this blog.
- I used silk for certain pieces and labelled them quite obviously as such. Silk has exotic appeal.
- I went into more detail in my labels about the materials and techniques.
- I focused on producing a dollar and quantity amount of stock, but also kept a close eye on making sure that there was variety within each category.
- Meeting a production value amount was not allowed to supersede making superior product. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in production quantity to the detriment of inspirational quality. Technical quality is always high for my work, but artistic success sometimes takes a dip when production is pushed hard. I suspect this was one of the reasons I had a rough year last year.
- I produced a body of work that was highly unique and utilised imagery and techniques that were effective, attractive and gender-neutral. As many men liked my work as women, which is a huge coup as far as I’m concerned, as textiles tend to be female-dominated, both in terms of the producers and the consumers.
- While producing the work, I worked in small series. This made for a fabulous display, allowing for the grouping of pieces by theme. Within each theme, I made sure that there was at least one large piece and several smaller, more affordable, works. Not only did all the works sell well as a result, but the visual appeal of the larger ones brought people in to the booth.
- One of the techniques I used sparingly, but to great visual appeal, was the foil as shown in the piece at the top of this blog. Not only was this eye-catching when well lit (lighting is another entire post), but it made people stop and ask questions and (if you’ve ever done a trade show or craft event you’ll know how important this part is) it gave me something to explain to people and chat about with them.
I’m sure other things will spring to mind about my product development for this show. I’ll try to write them up as they come to me.
Next stop, the display…..