Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas in October

This year I did my first Christmas related fair in October. There were trees and mistletoe everywhere. I thought to myself this year I will start buying my presents at the different events I would be attending - good plan! However, as a retailer I know that in order to be one step ahead of the game you have to buy when you see that certain something or you will miss out. The times this year that I have found myself willing Mrs Organised with only two more presents to get to put down my ideal present for Aunt Agnes. Oh no I now want to kill my own potential customers. We are now at the last week of shopping and have I finished my buying? - don't be ridiculous, I have run out of fairs and have to resort to the high street with all the other bad tempered folk in my position. Take a tip from me if you see that ideal gift either on line or at a fair BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!! you will be so happy and as a result be victorious in the present giving stakes.

Happy Christmas from Artisans-uk

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Christmas is coming

I have found myself doing several fairs recently and it never ceases to amaze me how early people start their Christmas shopping. I know it is a bit of a cliche but I did my first Christmas related event in September and sold lots of my NOEL Bunting. One lady I heard said that she was just buying her last few bits and her friend replied rather smugly ' I finished all mine last month' which by my reckoning makes that August!! Please tell me is there a secret society where you have to sign a pledge to be full of festive cheer in September. I wonder what these terribly organised soles do until December are they buying next summers wardrobe? The problem I have is that I aspire to be this organised and feel less than adequate year on year when I fail miserably and shop mid December. Please tell me the secret as I am sure it could be patented and sold for a fortune!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The joys of outside trading!

I have done several outside events this summer and they have proved very successful. However, I can honestly say the fair I did recently should have put me off outside trading for life! The event was the Burnham Market annual Street Fair. The preparation for this type of event is extensive as you not only have all the products to make, label, package etc. and the physical aspect of loading your vehicle with a gazebo, stock, tables, chairs- and if there is any space left the odd person!

My daughter and I set our alarms for some ungodly time as the journey was at least an hour and we had to allow at least two hours to set up (this may seem a long time but I can assure you it is not). Upon arrival I realised that our pitch was on a slope so not a great start to the day. Nevertheless we eventually found some level ground (now eating into our allocation of two hours set up). After trying to arrange our stand to accommodate the new layout we just managed to put the last label on, as the first customers started to arrive. I find my heart beats several times quicker until everything is in place, still the gazebo looked fantastic with our new range of bunting and we were all set to trade.

The morning was great with a steady flow of customers and a little drizzle (not a problem with my waterproof gazebo). We then noticed a change in the weather with the wind starting to build, Lottie- my daughter, positioned herself such that she could hold onto the sides of the gazebo to stop them blowing in. All was going well until I think the equivalent of “Hurricane Katrina” arrived which resulted in her hanging off the side of the gazebo to stop it trying to take off! As you can imagine things became a little fraught and after what seemed the longest afternoon ever it was time to dismantle our stand. At this point the heavens opened and we were sent a flash flood! All the stock had to remain under the gazebo or it would have been damaged. There is an art to loading our car and the gazebo HAS to go in first! - Luck was certainly not on our side! After a traumatic time loading the car we eventually set off for home, tired, wet, dirty and you would have thought grumpy. NOT AT ALL! I have to say for all the problems we encountered it was a lovely fair filled with fun and laughter. I would not swap trading outside, it brings you in contact with your customers and we always meet some lovely people and our fellow traders bring camaraderie to all the events. We look forward to doing lots more outside trading again next year but this time with some weights for the gazebo and a huge umbrella for the staff!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Handmade is it worth the money?

As a customer is cost important or would you prefer to have something individual? When I started Artisans-uk I had an idealistic point of view that naturally customers would prefer something unique and handmade as opposed to a mass produced product. However, when you are faced with a barrage of ‘How much’? one can question one's judgement and wonder am I barking up the wrong tree? At the start of my business venture I soon became demoralised and wondered if I was indeed going down the wrong path. The easy option would have been to buy lots of cheap products and instantly set up shop.

I decided to take the other route and make life more challenging for myself, which was to prove more difficult but so much more rewarding. I have met so many talented people over the past year all of whom offer something unique. One person in particular stands out and that is Jane Pennington of Stone-Me.

She is a jewellery designer offering a lovely range of handmade jewellery. Jane is in a particularly difficult market as there appears to be masses of jewellery designers but few offering quality products. She has embraced the art and works with natural stones. It has been so refreshing to find someone else who although the market is tough has stuck with it and is now enjoying success.

The other aspect of my business is the Eco friendly side. This is demonstrated in the fact that by sourcing products made locally this cuts down on the Carbon Footprint, and we also re-cycle all our packaging.

I hope this business model will appeal to more of you than not, as I feel that although there are a few companies who use the Union Jack as a marketing tool, we at Artisans-uk can confidently boast that we can truly offer handmade products and be proud to support our British talent. Yes things may appear slightly more expensive but who said they wanted the same as everyone else - it is time to go for something different and consider it as an investment. Who knows these products may well turn out to be the heirlooms of the future!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Hidden Talents

When I first had the idea that I wanted to start my own company using only British designers I thought that it would be so easy to stick to the original remit. However, having visited countless trade shows I went through a stage of disillusionment because I knew if I had just gone down the import route I would have been set up much quicker and the products I could sell would be much cheaper. However, I knew had I done this I would have felt a bit like selling out.

The rewards have been so great because I have met some lovely people who produce exquisite work, none more so than Helen Drewett who specialises in intricate embroidered pictures. The skills that people like Helen have must be preserved and I am heartened by the return to the textile design courses on offer and it would seem there is a trend to return to the original crafts. My only criticism is that many students are not taught the basics i.e putting in a zip. Without these skills I fail to see how the construction of complicated designs can be achieved.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Do 'The British' do Networking

When it was suggested to me by my dear friend Penny Lindop I might like to join her at a WIRE meeting I thought 'oh no' I don't like the thoughts of mixing with a group of competitive women who wouldn't be interested in the likes of me. How wrong my perceptions were, I found the whole experience very positive and the women I had feared were incredibly supportive and complimentary about my product.

'Speed Networking' now we are moving onto another level. British people (or just me)? don't big up themselves. I went to a session on Speed Networking and prior to my arrival I have to say I was more than a little nervous. I had to deliver my message to a room full of strangers, one to one!!!! I had rehearsed my pitch to my husband and daughter who both felt it was good but I knew were thinking 'she can't pull this off'. Well my first pitch was to a friend Jane O'Riordan who just happens to be one of my suppliers and it went well, I then found I really got into the whole thing and was anxious that all these people hear my story, it was a worry that I wouldn't be able to get around the whole room. What was I worried about? I have a story and after 2 minutes felt the world should know about it. This was such a great experience for me as normally I am self conscious and it completely showed me that when you beleive in what you do have the confidence to shout about it!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

First Edition

Artisans-uk first Blog and what to write? The idea behind my business came from the fact that my daughter Lottie was heading off to university to do an Art and Design Degree. My worry was that after all the effort and expense she would create some fantastic designs and have very few places she could sell her work. The motivation grew to build a site which enabled new designers to have an inexpensive way of exhibiting their work with no cost to themselves. has proved a very rewarding business and now features new designers predominantly from East Anglia. However, if I come across someone from further afield I will give them some space as well.