I had a good day yesterday at the DCA Summer Craft & Design Market. In the last week or so I had been starting to think it was a bit daft to do a summer event at all, given that my primary wares for such events are scarves.
Scarves are very well suited to autumnn and winter markets — the combination of cold weather and imminent Christmas gift-giving is a powerful motivator — but, even with the lightweight lace I have been working on, I wasn’t sure that they would appeal in June. Of course, in Scotland a scarf is never really out of season, but I decided I had better take along some of my little crop of purses as well.
I’m glad I did as they were very popular — and it turned out, fortunately, that the scarves were too.
The market was busy but not frantic. There were always customers, but plenty of time to talk to them which I really enjoyed. I hope they did too… Everyone was really positive and friendly, but I may have shared more details about weaving than anyone really wanted to hear!
The DCA market is a tabletop event, with the tables set up in the main foyer. It’s a light, open space and very welcoming, so even though the display space for each maker is small it doesn’t feel at all cramped. But it is a challenge to display scarves on a table nonetheless. Over the course of the few events that I’ve done, we’ve devised a number of mini display devices to raise things up off the flat surface and some have been more successful than others.
I’ve realised that the most important thing is to get people to touch my work. Whether they buy it or not, I want to convey that ‘handwoven’ doesn’t have to mean ‘thick and chunky’. ‘Thick and chunky’ has its place, of course, but I love the surprise on people’s faces when their fingers meet soft, light fabric quite against their expectations! Yes, it may well encourage them to buy something, but it also opens up that little opportunity for me to dive in and start evangelising about the practice of weaving. And if I want people to touch my work, then I have found that I basically have to make them trip over it. There needs to be cloth hanging over the front of the table in such a way that they can’t help putting their hand out to it.
The woodworking skills chez Booker are sound but basic: nothing fancy happens here. The latest device is a very simple one, repurposed from the shelf I used in the college show at Bradford (though it has been through a few other incarnations in the intervening time). In the Bradford show I had a shelf attached to the wall with my sketchbooks and other research material on top and a rail underneath for hanging up my swatches. Forgetting the actual shelf part and inverting the supports furnishes a rail which sits just above the surface of the table — a few scarves can hang down over the front of the table, but the gap above the table invites people to put their hand in and touch the cloth. It worked a treat! And having been emboldened by this first encounter, people went on to touch the rest of the work as well.
This shows my stall just as I was finishing setting up. I had emailed the organiser to ask whether there would be room for me to bring a free-standing display bust and was delighted that she arranged for me to have this corner spot so that there was plenty of space. I don’t know whether there is a general principle about these things, but I strongly favour what I think of as a bimodal display. In statistics, a bimodal distribution is one that has two peaks. (If that means nothing at all to you, the wikipedia entry is rather nice — it includes a histogram of data about weaver ants, which is delightfully appropriate.) In terms of display, it means that I really like to have a high point at each end and a dip in the middle.
So that it doesn’t get lost behind the mini-rail, my table top display bust is raised up on an improvised shelf: a white painted rectangle of MDF placed on a selection of cones of yarn. Having the yarn in the display is useful when I want to show people ‘where the cloth comes from’.
Since the basic backdrop provided at most events is white, I have deliberately chosen to use white props wherever I can. It just so happens that I also rather like white china, so before a craft fair I raid the kitchen for bowls and dishes to hold smaller items. I also filch mugs when I want to demonstrate that those little fabric squares are coasters… Since my work tends to be brightly coloured, a white background helps to keep things looking sharp and not too cluttered. I think I did have a bit too much this time around and it proved to be a bit of headache getting it all to fit, even though the total number of items I finally included was not that high.
One thing on my list is to get a larger mirror – the little round one you can see on the shelf is not much use. It actually works OK if I can hang it from a peg so that it is vertical at ‘average neck height’ (whatever that may be) but at an angle on the shelf it is fairly pointless. A more upright rectangular one would be preferable, I think, if I can just remember to do something about it before I am packing the car.
Here’s a later-on view the other way, which includes me closing my eyes and trying to pretend that I am not being photographed, and Kirsty Thomas of Lovely Pigeon at the stall next door. Looks as though she favours the bimodal approach too, which is encouraging as she’s much more expert at these things than I am!
Beyond the rail behind us is the main staircase down to the café/bar. It was quite warm where we were sitting and by 5 o’clock there was a very strong temptation to nip downstairs for a beer… All that talking, you know.