Sunday, 24 April 2011

What do you expect from a Craft Fair?

What do you expect from a craft fair?  The obvious answer to this would be.... craft.  However, would you expect it to be craft made by the person manning the stand?  Or would you expect to see items which have been handmade by someone else in the UK? Or perhaps crafted abroad? Or would you ever expect to see items which have been made by a machine? Or ...tat!

In answer to these questions - you may see anything!  I've shown my work at craft fairs which actually have been all of these.... Again, the theme of this follows on from my previous blog - the general public is not getting what they expect unless they are attending a craft fair which is selling genuine handmade goods.  I was astounded to attend a craft fair once to see that someone was treating it like a car boot sale.  They literally had emptied the contents of their 'tat' bin and were selling it on a stand next to a lady who made the most beautiful felt bags which she'd painstakingly made at home.

I naturally pay more attention to silver jewellery when I attend any craft fairs and in my home county a lady attends many craft fairs and sells imported, machine manufactured silver jewellery, set with gemstones which makes no pretence of being hand crafted - but she sells well at every 'craft' event she attends.  I on the other hand, was at one craft fair with her and had my first and last craft fair where I didn't sell a single item.  Why? because she imports the silver jewellery made into very nice looking pendants, rings, bracelets and earrings (nothing that can't be bought in the shops anywhere in the country of course) and she pays less for the completed items than I pay to purchase my silver bullion BEFORE I've even started working to make a unique piece of jewellery.  Of course the customer believing it to be 'craft' fair will choose the vastly cheaper option.  Do they question why it's so much cheaper?  Think back to the San Jose Chilean mining disaster last year - the health and safety record of this mine was particularly appalling.  There is no guarantee that this imported jewellery didn't come from a similar mine - destroying people's lives for cheap and cheerful silver jewellery to be sold in the UK.  My bullion is only purchased from dealers who adhere to the Golden Rules of mining - which ensures the workers and the surrounding countryside is protected.  People hear the words 'blood diamonds' but who really knows what this means? or if they do, in all honesty who thinks too much about it?

I now personally only attend fairs where I know that genuine craft is being sold.

The problem is that there's a conflict of interest with craft fairs.  The organisers are wanting to raise money from the event by selling the stands to the 'craft makers' and the customers attend expecting craft, so they don't necessarily think of it being anything other than craft when they attend.  However, if the organisers want to sell all their tables anyones money is as good as the next persons!  This is a generalisation because of course there are some very good craft fair organisers - most notably ones who require pictures/examples of the work being sold on the day.  I know THEN that this is a craft fair that I'm happy to attend to sell my work.

Q: How many ways can the general public be hoodwinked?
A: Quite a lot
Q: What measures are put in place to protect them? 
A: Sometimes it does seem - very little!

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