This Scene Is Dead

So, that was quite the hot potato, my Cautionary Tale post. I am glad that it’s been useful to people who were considering exhibiting at the market in making up their minds whether to or not. If you haven’t read the comments, they are definitely worth a read – here they are. I’ve heard from one of the other stall holders, as you can see, but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who disagreed on my take on the event or who is still planning on attending – it would be good to balance it out though I realise such a person may not exist.

One of the points that has come out of the comments is an interesting if contentious one I wanted to explore (even though it’s going to make me sound like a hideous, bitchy snob).

First though, I wanted to make something crystal clear about the market in question in the last post. I am pretty sure everyone is aware which it is and I wanted to highlight that the markets I have done there in the past were run by a completely separate organisation who planned, marketed and organised it very well and who were great to work with. Let’s call them Organiser A.

The market I attended as an exhibitor there last year was their last one at the venue. I believe a different organisation, let’s call them Organiser B, separate from the venue, organised an event the day after the one I was at last year, which was poorly attended and organised (from the information I have been told by several vendors). It is this Organiser B, along with Venue X that are organising the series of events I have been writing about recently. To clarify further, the first event was run solely by Venue X. Organiser A had nothing to do with it and continue to be awesome.

Here endeth the public service announcement on that. I felt it necessary to be clear on that for the avoidance of any doubt, as several of the stallholders at the event seemed confused over who exactly was behind previous events (which is very sad, indeed).

So, on to the next Big Issue. Several commenters, on the blog, by email and on Twitter, have raised the point of there being a need for an event genuinely showcasing Scottish design talent and selling high-end, quality work. Whilst I agree with the sentiment to a certain extent, I also have concerns that organising yet another event is not the answer.

I have yammered on about this previously, and touched upon it at the end of my last post, but I’ll say it again. The market is completely over-saturated in Glasgow for craft fairs. Here’s a potted history lesson for you. Pay attention, class.

7 years ago, tapping “craft fair glasgow” into Google might bring you up one or two traditional events to choose from locally and a small selection of others further afield, all catering towards the sedate, country crafts type market. Today, it will give you a list of links as long as your arm to events all over the city and beyond. 7 years ago, there was nothing for modern makers to take their work to. The traditional events didn’t want us, so I took the bull by the horns and organised my own event.

The Miso Funky Markets ran for a couple of years, largely in the West End of Glasgow and were, if I can be so bold to say it, successful. We brought together a whole bunch of creative people who were frustrated that they had no outlet for their work in the city, some of whom became great friends. I’m proud of what I achieved (with my then-business partner) and some of the people we introduced to have went on to form businesses together, as well as life-long friendships. Eventually, we felt our work was done – we’d helped establish a thriving indie craft scene in Glasgow and people were taking the idea and running with it. They didn’t need us anymore. We were happy (and tired).

The Glasgow Craft Mafia was born (of which I was a founding member, though left quite some time ago as I couldn’t face the politics of it) which organised events, and a few other markets sprung up which were being put on by people who had sense and the skills and contacts needed to make them a winner. People started running classes, workshops, opened shops and craft cafes. Glasgow was a leader for the rest of the UK and it was great.

As recently as two years ago, the scene was buzzing. I was still excited to be part of it. A core of regular events were being run by some pretty cool people who got the temperature of the market just right. There was the beginnings of cross over between vintage and handmade (a topic for debate on another day). The stalls I had were profitable and the people visiting were into it. They were hungry for unique handmade stuff and they were being fed it in plentiful supply.

Then the craft bubble blew up like chewing  3 sticks of Hubba Bubba all at once. Suddenly, what we’d known for years was being cottoned on to by everyone. This should have been a good thing. TV shows started appearing on our screens extolling the virtues of making things at home and now it wasn’t just acceptable to be sitting at home, crafting for pleasure, the impetus was to set yourself up in business and sell your work. And Etsy and Folksy and the myriad other online marketplaces encouraged that, with their quick-start-low-fees model. Suddenly, everyone who’d ever picked up a knitting needle was in business. A magazine was even launched telling you what to make and where to sell it (don’t get me started…). It was easy. And it was fun. We all got swept away on a wave of under-priced pastel-coloured crocheted bunting and we loved it.

But for every 10 people opening up their Folksy shop and selling assembled jewellery and Cath Kidston fabric keyrings at a massive loss, there was a frustrated genuine designer/maker, trying to make a living, sitting at home, weeping into their receipts shoebox (everyone keeps them in a shoebox, right?).

The online market was now completely overladen with homemade stuff. Some of it was very nice. Some of it was shoddily constructed. Most of it was run-of-the-mill average craft. Heck, I probably even bought some of it, so go ahead and judge me and call me an enabler. Where once it was easy to find something unique that had been designed and made by hand in the UK, you now had to trawl through 30 pages of search results just to find one thing that stood out from the crowd. No one wanted to pay a decent price for a quality, designed, handmade item because they could get something similar for a fraction of the price.

The difference between homemade and handmade is not a matter of semantics. It’s a very important point to highlight that sounds so petty but I know that other designers will understand. Homemade does not equal handmade and handmade does not equal homemade. Selling your work for a price that can only be making you a loss contributes nothing to the craft business community whatsoever. It shows you don’t value your own time and work and you don’t value that of other designer/makers either.

So it was only a matter of time before this trend migrated from the online market place to the real world. Soon we ended up in the position we are in today – with each weekend boasting one, two, three or more craft fairs (and fayres – oh, the fayres with a y!). Where are all the exhibitors going to come from for those? And where are all the visitors going to come from? And what money are they going to be spending given we are in such a parlous financial state, nationally? Think about it.

Glasgow is a small city. We have roughly half a million residents. Even factoring in 5% as being interested, that’s just 25,000 people who might actually want to attend. And I’d be surprised if it was anywhere near that high. So the pool of people to attract is relatively small compared to London and the US. Although I fought hard along with others for several years to change attitudes, it was like pissing in the wind.

The recent market debacle confirmed to me that we have come full circle and we are back where we are 7 years ago. The events we have are largely catering to the homemade and the hobby maker with an ever-decreasing number of genuine designer/makers trying to make a living alongside them. Whilst there is nothing technically wrong with that, it’s not conducive to changing the attitude of the general public and making them value the work from designer/makers.

The word “craft” has become a dirty word again. Jo(e) Public will take one look and write it off as inaccessible and expensive as they are so used to toddling along to their local library or church hall (or wine bar, nightclub, tea room…) and picking up a few vintage-look twee accessories for pennies. So why would they want to spend 5 times the amount on something from the next-door stall? To expand on the analogy, it’s like Primark opened on Hebden Bridge High Street and suddenly everyone’s wearing neon legwarmers.

Is another event really going to do the trick? Or is it just going to be lost in the mire? Itwould have to be an event of epic proportions with a killer venue, a crack marketing team and a juried selection process to really showcase designer/makers to the full potential. That’s several full-time jobs right there. That’s partly why, I believe, the recent market failed – although the venue is in a great location and run by a government body with the resources to market it extensively, having one person half-heartedly organising it alongside their daily job was never going to be enough.

Who is going to take a task of that mammoth proportion on board? Because I can tell you from experience, as can several of my indie business colleagues – there is no money to be made in putting on craft fairs. Every last penny of “profit” absolutely has to go into marketing and promotion, as does every last minute of the organisers’ time. It simply is not enough to book a venue, post it online and expect people to turn up. It does not work. Weeks and months of careful planning is required. Who would take that on?

So, what’s the way ahead? For me, it’s not pouring any more time and effort into events where I’ll always just be sticking out as the expensive one. (Apart from anything else, after this post, I doubt anyone would have me). It feels like a scattergun approach to reaching out to new customers. I’m going to pick my outings carefully. Last year, that meant just two markets in my home city. This year – well, maybe that was it, two weeks ago. I’m going to be focusing on trade shows this year. I had a go last year in Glasgow, but this year, I’m off to London to try it with the big kids (because even in the world of trade shows, the same problem exists). That’s a whole other set of blog posts waiting in the wings though.

And sad as it is to say, I’ve started to distance myself and my company from the word “craft”. My work is designed and made by me and my team of helpers. It is, in the true sense of the word, handcrafted. But I am very conscious that to describe it as such may not be to my benefit.

Lots to think about for me. And maybe for you, too.

Disclaimer: If you’ve not met me in real life, then please be assured I am hopefully not as bitter and bitchy as I might have come across here! Honest! I’m just frustrated that this is happening and no one is talking about it. So leave your comments, I’m interested to hear your views.

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36 thoughts on “This Scene Is Dead

  1. I have been saying this for quite some time and can hand on heart totally agree with you. I dont know how many times I have said craft or crafting is a dirty word nowadays and the amount of people who claim that handicrafting sends visions of school basker weaving flooding into their minds, for me I am a crafts person (not a designer) I make hand made items but I also hand craft them. I just can’t get away from that word.

    Another cross origional designers have to bear at events are party planning companies like body shop, avon and Jamie “@ home” Oliver having stalls. Whats that all about? Ignorance on the organisers part methinks, or panicing to fill tables to line thier own greedy grubby pockets.

    For me I hate competing with pocketmoney hobby woodworkers who are selling their wares at low prices just to cover their costs of materials and have put no thought into the actual time and effort to cover all their costs. The problem is as you rightly say if I have a wooden bowl priced at £70 but 3 stall away someone has a similar sized bowl at £20 the average member of the public will give me a wide bearth, however to me with a vast knowledge of woodturning see’s the tool marks that are left on the £20 bowl the lack of sanding etc etc etc. The whole concept is lost to me why people want to undervalue their own work but then again they don’t have to rely on it as a wage as 70% probably work full time or in woodworkers cases are retired old men who have a nice pension package from their long working career, something we are not so fortunate to enjoy. Redundancy forced my hand to become a FT crafter. Taking a long time interest in woodworking to the next viable level and starting a business.

    I now have had to think outside the box as I hardly ever attend craft fairs as the return is pointless and offer local a handyman service.

  2. I thought I was being a snob years ago when what I do was described as ‘craft’, and I wasn’t very happy about it. That makes me think of old ladies sticking foam birds onto cards(nothing wrong with that btw). I studied and trained for four years for my ‘craft’ and that term doesn’t really acknowledge that. I’m not saying you need to have trained to call yourself a designer but you need to actually DESIGN not compile. However everyone was going mad for the fairs and the classes so eventually I chilled out and even went to a couple of fairs myself.

    I totally agree with everything you’re saying. I remember one fair there was an ironmonger with the most amazing pieces, a true talent but she was placed next to a stall full of plastic jewellery which made her stuff look extortionate! I compare this to any successful retailer. They have price points, they choose to be high end or low end and not both because both will not work. Similarly you’d choose brands and products that complement each other. This is where all the fairs went wrong I think, as well as the unbelieveable amount of fairs that popped up.

    Another point I’d like to mention is that I know of many individuals who do simply compile but do a damn good job of it. If people are buying your wares you’re doing something right so good on you.

    I think the scene is dead(and I’ve had We Are Scientists stuck in my head whilst writing this!) Everything has an expiry date.

  3. I know you in real life and can confirm that you are not bitter! I like the word “craft” (though not necessarily the way it is misused, in my opinion) but agree that markets in Glasgow are a horrible mire/minefield of oversaturation. I’m not really into online promotion/networking and so have never had great online sales. Markets used to be the best avenue for me to sell, sell, sell, but having been a bit out of the loop for the last year or so, I have no idea how to get back into it. I’m wary of booking a stall at any regularly occurring market. I’m never convinced I’d make my stall fee back on markets that happen really frequently. I’d much rather have a stall at a market that was a real EVENT, something with a bit of anticipation. I’m really missing Made In The Shade already. It was so nice to be able to take part in something that you knew would be well organised, promoted, attended etc. If you made an effort with your products and your stall, you were pretty much guaranteed to have successful sales. I can’t imagine anyone stepping in to fill that void and if they did I feel I’d be too out of the loop to get a stall in the first place. I need to find somewhere to flog all my stock though! I miss being a craft market trader 😦

  4. A really great read! There’s a few people I’m going to pass this onto as a not-so-subtle heads up.

    The quality thing really gets me. I went to a fair and bought a bracelet from a ‘one of a kind’ stall that was placed next to another handmade Jewellerry designer. The bracelet broke and I emailed to explain and send back for exchange. I was told not to worry and I’d get another sent out. Now completely suspicious how a ‘one of a kind’ could be sourced so quickly, I turned to eBay to find it there, bulk loads for 99p a piece.

    I get that people need to bulk their stalls up but I totally regretted not going to the stall next door and was pissed off at how misleading the marketing and wording was in regards to that stall and the whole fair. As someone who doesn’t sell as cheap as others and is NOT a vintage product maker, finding a design Market that simply celebrates hand made goods (vintage or not) and sets a high standard of paying for the time and quality with these goods is hard and makes me think that sometimes it’s not worth the hours of prep to get ready for a Market when I could be focussing on making photographing and promoting my stuff online.

    Any way, yes! Good read. I’m so glad your so brutally honest as you are in these posts. 🙂

  5. I totally agree with what you have written, and my constant battle to attend the right events, and to run Handmade Winchester to the best of my ability, which is often far more difficult than it should be! We dropped ‘craft, from our event last year, we are now a ‘designer/maker’ event, and everyone who applies has to be checked over, because we know we need to have the right people making the right items, and at the right price.
    I would also say that I have been verbally attacked by people I have rejected for the event, because they have been lead to believe that stringing together some beads on a string makes you a designer, sigh.
    But we will carry on, because last year when at the end of the day, and 6000 through the door, and the stallholders and customers had happy faces, it was all worth while 🙂

  6. I think this is one of the most important bit of writing on “craft” I’ve seen in a long time and I’ve read Glen Adamson’s “The Craft Reader”
    A couple of thoughts : I think you should take your observations and work them up and take them further.
    I really hope that this scene is dead I hope that a stake can be driven through it’s rotten heart so can’t come back.

  7. I agree with this post absolutely, although from a London perspective. It’s not working here any more either, even with the well run fairs, and there are the same problems with hobbyists underpricing / undermining designer makers.

    I’ve learnt not to expect much of a return at all from craft fairs, and I’ve cut back on doing them to a few that I really enjoy aside from profits. They can still be useful if you have workshops or services to promote, a mailing list to grow, or to get feedback from customers on products face to face. But you have to go to the fairs with this in mind and really talk to people, give them a reason to remember you or part with their email address. It’s hard work but it really can still be of value, if (big if) you choose the right fair with good organisation.

    What has driven me nuts in the past though is when I come away from a fair with poor footfall, bad signage and little publicity investment – and the stall holders all tweet about how good it has been. I saw their glum faces and lack of customers on the day, but it feels like no-one wants to be the bad guy pointing the finger in a community where everyone knows each other.

    Thanks for telling it as it is.

  8. We’ve pretty much said the same and I’m totally with you on this and on several points hence my dislike of programmes hosted by Estate Agents with a secret yearning to be Martha Stewart. Don’t get me started, I reserve this conversation for another occasion as once I get started on this I literally foam at the mouth! 😉
    One of the main reasons why I started Craft Guerrilla (and at the time there was a very small craft scene in London) was to set up events for designer makers so they could make a living in a fair and even platform as well as provide the right kind of approach and support for them and their small independent creative companies. It hasn’t been easy and yes we do ween out the hobbyists from the professional designer makers because I truly believe in the quality of hand made goods not just in the product but also the effect it has on the local economy.
    People haven’t always taken this well and you know what…that’s pretty much something I’m happy to live with and discuss with anyone who thinks otherwise!
    The craft market is over saturated both in makers and event numbers. Seems like every man and his dog are now a “craft market experts” and a Designer Maker. When we started we made a conscious effort in using the term “designer maker” instead of “crafter” because we wanted to show the difference between the professional and the weekend maker. It’s perfectly fine to make your own…and not everyone is cut out to make things to sell so personally I would advise those people to make away to their hearts content but please do not add to the market!
    The amount of craft fair organisers you find in London is crazy so if we (Craft Guerrilla) can offer people great events with great products and offer makers a fantastic opportunity to sell then my work is done but it’s getting harder! There are way too many and majority are clueless!
    It’s not all about making money on stall rentals like I’ve seen on numerous occasions it’s mainly about the responsibility of providing those designer makers with a good foot fall which lead to sales, promoting the event to the right audience, having sleepless nights because there is so much to do, getting up at the crack of dawn because you need to prepare everything just right, liaising with difficult people and situations…etc etc etc…it is part of the deal and it is hard work!
    Poor sales has become a major concern for us and this is why we have decided to cut back on our events. We were doing monthly summer fairs and at least two more during Christmas and another on Valentine’s but unfortunately we’re cutting back to host only events on the major holidays because people aren’t buying like they used to. Now we’re considering only hosting a Christmas fair because that’s pretty much a good deal for everyone involved.
    We really don’t want to let our designer makers down and it’s not about making money through the stall hire! Well it isn’t for us. Unfortunately in the area where we operate there is another craft group featuring mainly hobbyists which doesn’t help at all! They end up hosting quite a few events during the year with poor sales but plenty of foot fall which looks good but in reality is pretty crap plus it fills the pockets of the organiser nicely. This actually makes our life much more difficult as what ends up happening is that the “good” organisers decide giving up is the easiest option and the numb nuts riding the bandwagon take over.

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with every word of this blog so thanks for sticking your neck out and writing it. I’m not a crafter, but was an enthusiastic attendee for a while, but have now stopped going to craft fairs because they just tend to feel a bit half hearted and lame, with demoralised sellers. Here’s to people actually making a genuine and sustained living from what they do, not having to make ten times more than they need to fill up a stall which then doesn’t sell because as people have said, the ‘hobbyists’ are undercutting everyone else.

  10. Thank you so much for articulating the problem so well… as a ceramicist with large overheads and 20 years of experience on top of an honours degree, I have just put my prices up to something close to what they realistically should be and not what would compete in this completely muddied market… it’s taken a long time to pluck up the courage to break free of it but why compete any more with the ‘assemblers’ market which is as far-removed from the designer-maker end as a chippendale chair is from a flat pack table… there’s a perfectly reasonable cross-over (most of us have a mix) but you would never find them in the same place, sales/promotion-wise.
    Time to widen the net and admit it isn’t working… thank you for saying it out loud.

  11. Great article. Agree with it all. I am a full time artist who attends craft and art fairs because I like to meet the people that buy my work and the other artist/designers. I now pick my shows very carefully and to be honest they are usually quite expensive to attend – £400 and the rest! – and unfortunately most of them south of the border – but, it means that those willing to take that kind of financial risk mean business and the standard is usually very high. The organisers have to make that kind of expenditure worth it. If I am driving to a show and I dont see at least 3 signposts for the show in the last 10 miles of my journey its not usually a good sign! It feels terribly elitist to say this and I am a big advocate for more creativity in people’s lives as a neccessity rather than a luxury but …….you already said the rest.

  12. There is so much I want to say here, but I a) don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched and b) set up any false expectations. I will suggest that at least a handful of us are working on something to make sure that the excellent handmade community spirit and buzz that has reappeared in the last five or so years doesn’t dwindle away to nothing. Plans are afoot that involve quality, professionalism and good people who are passionate about what they do, as well as skilled in its execution. Watch this space!

  13. Ok first of all this: “The difference between homemade and handmade is not a matter of semantics. It’s a very important point to highlight that sounds so petty but I know that other designers will understand. Homemade does not equal handmade and handmade does not equal homemade. Selling your work for a price that can only be making you a loss contributes nothing to the craft business community whatsoever. It shows you don’t value your own time and work and you don’t value that of other designer/makers either.” >>YES!

    Oh where to start. I’ve written this reply so many times now then deleted it for being too personal or too bitchy. So I’ll take a step back and try and give my view without being either. The market scene in Glasgow is definitely too saturated, and the only good one left has now gone, in fact the only really good markets I did were Miso Funky, Glasgow Craft Mafia and Made In the Shade and now that all the bandwagoners have taken over these great markets have had to stop. Anyway, I wasn’t going to get personal. The craft scene in general has always had the problem of defining itself properly, for a long time there has been the debate about what ‘craft’ means. Unfortunately for us it means lots of things. To me the word craft conjures up images of craftsmen and women working away in a messy workshop surrounded by the tools of their trade and using their skills to make beautiful, functional, useful objects after years of learning and experience – this is what I aspire to, I don’t see myself as a craftsperson in the true sense of the word yet, for now I am a designer-maker.

    The word ‘craft’ also covers all the hobbyists out there who make stuff which doesn’t necessarily take much skill and just do it for fun (although I know there are lots of skilled amateurs out there – just look at some of the knitted stuff available, and the people who can make their own clothes). I just want to say here that I don’t have anything against people being creative, it’s a great thing, but we do need to distinguish our work from theirs. Without carefully juried markets we will always have to compete against the hobbyists (and when I say hobbyists I mean those who don’t value their work properly but still expect to sell it next to decent realistically priced work), how we distinguish ourselves is down to how we market our work – using the word ‘design’ may be the way to go, or modern craft. I’d really like to see Craft Scotland do more to help market makers in Scotland, they seem to be concentrating on selling the craft scene to overseas markets and have just announced a big exhibition over Christmas in Manchester! Which is all well and good but why aren’t they doing one in Scotland as well for goodness sake?

    Mind you I say all this but I don’t really want to do markets any more, I don’t want to use up whole Saturdays standing in a hall trying to sell my wares. Let’s face it, if we were to pay ourselves for our time standing at a stall on a Saturday we’d never make any money. I’d rather carry on selling through galleries and shops with the odd sale online, at least there (in the shops and galleries at least) my work is surrounded by other great work by lots of other great designers.

    So yes the market scene is dead, it’s time to move on.

  14. Food for thought… I’d been wondering whether we should do more fairs but think we should maybe give it a miss …. Trade fairs may be the way forward for us too, I think! Thanks for this.

  15. Firstly, I’d like to say that my comments here are as Clare Nicolson: Textile Designer and not Clare Nicolson: Co-owner of Made In The Shade 🙂

    I started my textile business around 7 years ago. I guess I sort of started at the more professional end, selling online and at trade shows in Glasgow and London rather than smaller events. After doing some research about local happenings I came across what sounded like a great market event (and it was) called Miso Funky. Being a sole trader and working alone in my studio all week I thought it would be a good idea to meet and socialise with other makers and perhaps sell some things too! It was an exciting time to be a maker.

    Not to blow our own trumpet too much (perish the thought!) but Made In The Shade filled the void for me (after the Miso Funky event ceased to exist) as a maker to showcase my work in a more design-led environment. I was surrounded by high quality work at a variety of price points that were also priced correctly. Products were being sold for what they were worth and makers were getting paid what they were due for the time and skill it takes to produce high quality handmade work. Most importantly, customers were also willing to pay these prices in exchange for handmade products.

    Times have changed. Currently in Glasgow there are no events that I feel comfortable selling my work at. Not wanting to sound too harsh, but the only way I can describe the scene right now is hobbyist makers selling at events run by hobbyist event organisers. I can’t attend any local markets because it’s impossible to sell my cushions (which retail for £45+) sitting a few tables away from makers that are selling similar, cheaper (and poorer quality) products. This ‘bargain basement’ attitude towards markets is damaging the people that are trying to work full-time as a maker. I mean, I like a bargain as much as the next person but I also know the value of someone’s time, skill and dedication to creating a beautiful product. And sadly I don’t think the majority of people currently selling at/organising/attending markets have the same perception of value.

    These are sad times for the UK scene, not just Glasgow. Now that I’ve got myself into a suitably depressed mood, I’m away to cry into a big plate of mashed potatoes 😦

  16. Firstly, I’d like to say that my comments here are as Clare Nicolson: Textile Designer and not Clare Nicolson: Co-owner of Made In The Shade 🙂

    I started my textile business around 7 years ago. I guess I sort of started at the more professional end, selling online and at trade shows in Glasgow and London rather than smaller events. After doing some research about local happenings I came across what sounded like a great market event (and it was) called Miso Funky. Being a sole trader and working alone in my studio all week I thought it would be a good idea to meet and socialise with other makers and perhaps sell some things too! It was an exciting time to be a maker.

    Not to blow our own trumpet too much (perish the thought!) but Made In The Shade filled the void for me (after the Miso Funky event ceased to exist) as a maker to showcase my work in a more design-led environment. I was surrounded by high quality work at a variety of price points that were also priced correctly. Products were being sold for what they were worth and makers were getting paid what they were due for the time and skill it takes to produce high quality handmade work. Most importantly, customers were also willing to pay these prices in exchange for handmade products.

    Times have changed. Currently in Glasgow there are no events that I feel comfortable selling my work at. Not wanting to sound too harsh, but the only way I can describe the scene right now is hobbyist makers selling at events run by hobbyist event organisers. I can’t attend any local markets because it’s impossible to sell my cushions (which retail for £45+) sitting a few tables away from makers that are selling similar, cheaper (and poorer quality) products. This ‘bargain basement’ attitude towards markets is damaging the people that are trying to work full-time as a maker. I mean, I like a bargain as much as the next person but I also know the value of someone’s time, skill and dedication to creating a beautiful product. And sadly I don’t think the majority of people currently selling at/organising/attending markets have the same perception of value.

    These are sad times for the UK scene, not just Glasgow. Now that I’ve got myself into a suitably depressed mood, I’m away to cry into a big plate of mashed potatoes 😦

  17. I so wanted to leave a comment that I put down my iphone and cranked up ye olde laptoppe for a proper typing sesh.

    As a craft editor, I love semantics – ‘handmade’ and ‘homemade’ are TOTALLY different things. I work on books, magazines, blogs etc to allow the average crafty bod to pursue their hobby (producing homemade items) by delivering instruction, inspiration and aspiration in the form of the work of craft professionals (who are producing handmade items). My mantra at work is that we push everything to the limit – every word, image, layout and project must be of a polished, professional high standard. The magazines we aren’t cheap, and I’m well aware that there is a glut of free content out there. However we need to set a standard and push the limits, and in return for buying into the magazines and brands, readers receive a beautifully, professionally crafted product that delivers quality on many levels, in which we’ve invested time, passion, talent and integrity (not to mention budget!). That’s how I feel about Miso Funky and your colleagues – your product sets the bar and delivers an professional experience that doesn’t come cheap. Until people can distinguish between the value of homemade and handmade, I think professional crafters/makers/designers need to stick together, both to protect their interests, and to keep that bar high.

    OK – I’m finished. Hope that all made sense – high five sweetcheeks and keep on saying what everyone else is thinking! Jen xxx

  18. Very well said. I think you’ve just nailed what every Glasgow vendor has been thinking, or at least the ones that remember what a good stall was like. After the last event by organiser A, I was pretty set on hanging up grubby table cloth. I’ve tried a couple of other markets but in all honesty they’re just pish.

    But in all honesty I don’t think the scene is totally dead. I think there’s still a chance it can be revived to remind people what good crafts fair looks like.

    Well maybe that’s just me being over optimistic. Personally I just fudging love doing stalls. The banter is golden, I’ve met some great friends through GCM and MITS and it’s an awesome way to spend a day even if you don’t break even. Its also give me a chance to get to know my customers face to face and more often than not that turns into returning custom in the form of commissions etc.

    I know it’s a long shot but it would be sweet if some of us market veterans could meet up for a bleather and see if there’s anything we can do.

    It would be like the Avengers except instead of saving the world we’d be saving the craft scene.

    right baaai

    nx

  19. Hi
    Thanks for your posts about Glasgow sales, after many years living in London I have recently come home to Scotland and have signed up for a fair in Glasgow which I think may be the one you are describing (gulp). I visited the last one and was surprised at the lack of marketing, promotion, signage, lighting…..the list goes on. Being fairly new to the Scottish market scene I thought I would give it a go, now I’m not so sure.
    Help!

    • Thanks for your comment and I hope I haven’t made you feel too bleak! If I can help at all, please feel free to email me (hello at misofunky dot com).

  20. I came out of market-stall-hibernation specifically for the MITS farewell shindig and it totally restored my faith in the Glasgow design (I have ALWAYS hated the word ‘craft’) market scene. It confirmed that the customers DO have money to spend and the level of interest in handmade, design led goods has NOT waned. For me as a seller, a successful market comes down to three core elements. Venue Location, Event Promotion and Stall Quality Control. All of which MITS excelled at, but all of the other markets do not. (RE: quality control – it was always MEGA exciting and, dare I say it, a bloody honour to receive the ‘you have been a successful applicant’ email from MITS through the mail, wasn’t it? It was like a stamp of approval!)

    The last market I attended was a couple of yearsd before the final MITS and was in a new bar in town. OK it was free to hire, but it was dark – perfect for drinking in at night, but not for shopping during the day. The bar had recently changed names and had done very little promotion for itself, so NOBODY knew where it was! When I arrived, there were a few top quality designers there, but there was also a load of plastic crap that had been shipped in from China but was being marketed as handmade. The icing on the cake was that the ONLY promotion the organisers had done was to set up a facebook events page. Gaaahhhhhhhhhh! There was probably about 60 people who visited all day. Needless to say I didn’t cover my costs, never returned as a stall holder, and since the event I have pretty much badmouthed it to all and sundry (unlike Claire, I AM bitchy and bitter :P) lolz

    Also with regard to the new market that Claire went to which was a pile of pooh. I hadn’t heard anything about it at all in the lead up. From anyone. Ever. I actually had to google it just there to find what you were referring to. A bad sign indeed.

    I think the last thing that Glasgow needs is another market. I heard about a new one today, and I immediately rolled my eyes and made a joke about teacup candles and 90’s vintage clothing. Yet I knew nothing about it at all. For all I knew it was organised with military precision and was going to be the best thing ever. But my preconceptions got the better of me. And I think a lot of people automatically think the same.

    I hate to say this, but the first thing I thought when the council hit Glasgow with that Public Entertainment License thingy was that it might actually have a positive impact on Glasgow’s overcrowded market scene by seperating the wheat from the chaff.

  21. Thanks for all the comments on this post. Loads of really great points – I don’t have time to address each comment separately, but I will hopefully cover a lot of them in my next post in the next few days. Please keep your thoughts coming as it’s been a really interesting week hearing from people here, by email, on twitter and in person about their stance.

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  28. I totally (and sadly) agree with your thoughts.

    There’s so many points to make but here are my few:

    Firstly – I used to run a craft market in London a few years back and to my experience it is mainly about the venue. Like you said, it is near on impossible for a lone curator to organise AND market an event. For the money you will make from a one day event on stall fees, you will have probably worked months dealing with the admin and trying to get it in front of the right people. It’s not exactly making a fortune. And sometimes even when you think you have done enough it’s still not busy. I organised a market that was on a busy street, bustling with boutique shops and their shoppers, and I found this a good way to snap up a lot of that footfall. Trying to get people to go out of their way on a Saturday is really hard! Even when they do care about ‘craft’

    Secondly, yes the ‘craft’ world is entirely over saturated but I think also key to it’s downfall is makers being blind to the marketplace they’re in. I mean yes – go ahead an make wonderful handmade jewellery if you like but if a customer can get something similar for half the price in Primark where do you think they will go? I care about handmade (as do a lot of folk) but the combined total of those folk willing to pay what you’re charging WILL NOT SUSTAIN YOU AS A JOB. You have to think smart – what can you do that people CAN’T GET elsewhere? Only then have you got a business plan. This is where the ‘homemade’ and ‘handmade’ differs. If you are serious about making to sell, I’m sure you will have thought about this.

    Thirdly – I think directing your products through the internet is a far better worth of your money than wasting it an a whole bunch of time and effort on doing markets. We’d all love to live in a world where markets were mega busy and worth doing, but they’re not! To be able to make money at the market you really need to work in not just the cost and time it takes you to make the item for sale, but also the time it takes you to plan, pack, and run your stall for an entire day. Even at minimum wage you’d be talking of £70 you need to earn before selling a single item. Plus sometimes double that to pay for the stall. Does that make sense? It is, unfortunately, a mugs game. Spend the money on advertising I say.

    And lastly – I did attend a pretty big market in the East end of London last month, in a venue with a large footfall but still with no joy. I wasn’t very impressed with the promotional side from the organisers – I think they thought that as it’s a busy venue they wouldn’t need to, but it’s often the type of people walking through that is important. Our market was right next to imported tatt and sales were low. Going to do the Christmas one though…think it’s about being picky with these things…and yes trade fairs – I’d love to hear more thoughts on these as I have been thinking about applying for the future.

    Hope that wasn’t too ranty!

    Sally x

  29. Thanks, Sally. Your points are all bang-on. Having something unique to sell is what separates the wheat from the chaff, definitely! You weren’t ranty at all.

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