Home Archive Craft Local :: a personal story of contemporary crafting in Scotland

Craft Local :: a personal story of contemporary crafting in Scotland

by Folksy Support

Written By Jay Anderson

I have some lovely memories of Scottish craft fairs from my childhood days in Glasgow to when my children were young and I, along with other mums, would be asked to help out with activities such as baking, face painting and generally volunteering to help the local primary school.

Then the children grew up and I lost contact with these wonderful events often taking place (and still do) in the local school, church hall and community centre. My interest in them got rekindled when my eldest daughter graduated from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen and decided to continue her textile profession through her work (aka – a woodentree as pictured above) her exhibitions and, as I was later to experience myself, through a new breed of maker events often being given labels such as Indie Fairs to named events such as Glasgow Craft Mafia, Morningside Makers Market, Made In The Shade and Magpie Market etc.

My own background is as a professional designer and visual artist so I had never really considered craft fairs as a business opportunity and indeed I didn’t know there were any that I may have deemed appropriate for me to get involved with. I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, (too many years ago to remember when) I was lucky enough to get offered a job as a designer and had no real reason to research alternative creative opportunities.

Tunnocks teacake folksy scotland

That all changed just last month when I took my first step to becoming a designer/maker by paying for a table in one of Edinburgh’s up and coming market events. My daughter was there and I got to observe, participate and experience what jobbing artisans have to do to get their wonderful work out there to the general public. And how they have changed from my childhood memories of Glasgow perhaps not the venues but what can be bought at these shows!

It also got me thinking about how does someone who is talented, who works all hours, who needs to not only produce an item that has the potential of being sold but also has to market themselves, produce promotional materials, get out there and network, and get to know what’s out there in Scotland. Is there a central source of support and information for independent designer/makers? This is what I’ve found out so far on my speedy learning curve…

As with everyone these days I went on to the Internet to research this type of event which is certainly on the rise and is becoming more popular and growing steadily all over Scotland. There are interesting sites that will gather event information you give them and upload it to their site and also provide interesting discussions, highlight craft makers, articles and personal thoughts.

There are quite a few out there which I was surprised at but the two that I have found interesting have been Applied Arts Scotland which is a registered charity run by crafts people for both crafts people and those interested in craft and also Ceramicist Tash Goswami’s Blethering Crafts – a recent online resource that researches the incredible world of very talented people who work in various studio spaces and kitchen tables, making little and sometimes not so little creations.

My next thought was – is there any support for makers on a national level ? … well there’s Craft Scotland where there are various (I counted at least eight) funding schemes throughout Scotland for both individuals and organisiations to apply to with grants up to £1,500 available – if the maker has the time to form fill or the inclination and meets the criteria. Can I just say that at art school no-one taught us to write an artist’s bio or produce a business plan or how to market yourself so I know some people will not even try to apply because they are not confident at, for want of better words, ‘how to sell themselves’. So all you makers out there should take these opportunities even if you do struggle with paperwork or don’t have enough time.

Even the BBC has a link to learning about arts and crafts online with links to craft courses, tutorials and projects. It includes information on careers within the creative industry. I think this is why I love using the Internet as a resource.

As Applied Arts Scotland states our “best resource is each other. Who else knows the market/ shows/ design trends so well? Some of us share studios with other designer/ makers and some work on their own, but I think that all of us find it hard to take time out from the daily rush of running a business to take stock. Can we make time and space to ask each other for constructive criticism or to take a step back and look at another’s business, and give advice. Could we set up an informal swap shop of ideas and advice? Or a monthly get together to ask each others opinions? It could be invaluable

I have to agree with that statement as I found out through following my daughter and more recently, chatting to makers at my first fair. That’s how I’ll find out about the who, what, why, when and how of being a designer/maker . I have my second fair booked for December with everyone telling me that this is the month they make the most from craft fairs. They don’t (and can’t) just rely on craft fairs as these amazing people will have to supply to shops, exhibit, take commissions, work in jobs and try to fit everything else they need to do to make a decent living.

More about the author –

Folksy Sellerred road design offers an original, eclectic range from vintage textile artwork, contemporary mixed media, graphic design, illustration to commissioned pieces. My fun illustration side creates the ‘Ziggy and Friends’ range of cute animals as party badges, sweet little pocket mirrors, illustration prints and handmade cards with a Scottish twist. See! I told you it was eclectic! Check out the red road design blog for more details

Jay has kindly agreed to write a follow up post for the Folksy Blog, exploring further into the world of contemporary craft markets in Scotland.

If you are interested in posting a Craft Local piece about your own area of the UK, perhaps looking at the availability of contemporary or traditional markets and other on and offline resources for it’s artists and craftsmen, please get in touch with hilary@folksy.co.uk with your ideas.

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Victoria December 9, 2010 - 9:50 am

Great to see a fellow Dundee graduate making it on the Folksy blog! Its true being in handmade often means you have to master skills that you wouldnt otherwise have. Its tough but challenging!

Fiona: crafted December 9, 2010 - 10:03 am

Ditto, I’m also another Duncan of Jordanstone graduate from many many years ago who has recently taken up the handmade challenge and some craft fairs!!!

julie MCCOLL December 9, 2010 - 11:48 am

love hoe you been inspired with childhood memorys keep up the good work jay

julie MCCOLL December 9, 2010 - 11:49 am

oh dear comment above can’t spell lol .should say love how :-)

Nicola December 9, 2010 - 11:55 am

I too searched the net looking for local info and i think your right in that the best and most useful info and opportunities come via word of mouth. I am registered on craft scotland and have had some enquiries from there and also done various craft fairs which can be a bit hit or miss. I’m a member of my local craft association Ochil Craft Association and find they tend to know what is going on in the local area and also have good contacts with local councils etc. I’m a self taught knitter and thought I would be behind those who have done a degree so it’s interesting to hear you don’t get taught the form filling and promotion I thought there would be on the course.
I’ll check out your suggested links.I’ve also found the cultural enterprise courses and days organised by fife contemporary art and craft association really useful. happy crafting

Jay December 9, 2010 - 12:22 pm

Thanks for the comments! I’m not sure if art colleges are more savvie these days Nicola in realtion to promoting yourself but creatives are often just not skilled or confident to be able to do it. They can draw, make, design but just can’t sell!

Hilary December 9, 2010 - 1:18 pm

I guess it all comes down to confidence.

Craft fairs or regular markets are excellent at building your confidence in your own work. Having to stand behind your work quite literally while people pick it up and examine it, or just walk by (eek) can be exhilirating but nerve wracking too. It’s definitely worthwhile to get some hands on experience selling as well as selling online, even if it is just as market research. I did a fair last night which was not terribly lucrative for me so my head is well and truly spinning with what I could have done differently! Both in terms of the marketing, (my stalls appearance) and the actual items I made.

Sally Lucas December 9, 2010 - 4:04 pm

Fabulous article – thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. I’ve been looking on and off over the past few months and this just pulls all the threads together. Well done.

red road design December 9, 2010 - 4:39 pm

Thanks Sally – this is me just dipping my toe into the world of maker markets. There wasn’t enough space to provide a comprehensive list so I just provide a personal snapshot of my experience so far….

Jane - Max and Molly Designs December 9, 2010 - 4:49 pm

Wow, Jay – I’d no idea ‘wooden tree’ was your daughter! Really interesting article you’ve put written with lots of useful resources pooled together. Look forward to the next part… Jx

Ruth December 9, 2010 - 8:41 pm

I really enjoyed your article Jay, I’ve been more into the Textile side of things, (City & Guilds Part 1&2 in Creative Embroidery and studied towards an HND in Textile Art) both in Dundee. I had a WASPS studio in Dundee till ill health forced me to give it up, but now I’m once again looking for outlets and crafts fairs to see if there is any interest in my current work. Which I have to admit is more mixed media/art journaling and running a Craft Group and a new Art Journaling group starting in January. I’m enjoying just crafting once again, so it was nice to see this article and know that there are others out there and living near me are at the same point in their lives.

Kirsten aka Quernus Crafts December 10, 2010 - 8:30 am

Brilliant article, Jay! It’s great to know more about your journey, and to have some great resources pulled together under one roof is great! And I had no idea you were old enough to have a grown up daughter!! What your article really underlines for me is that there’s a need for there to be a central organisation for designer makers because is it such a growth industry, regardless of the economic climate. We are all going out there doing individual research – imagine if all that information was brought together in one place that we could all add to and learn from. This idea has been kicking about in my head now for a while – perhaps now’s the time to do something about it! Thanks again, Jay!

Aileen Clarke Crafts December 10, 2010 - 9:06 am

Great article Jay! I agree with Kirsten that if all the information we have was brought together it would be a great help to us all and especially those just starting out. I get a lot of emails from people asking about fairs I do and how to go about applying to stockists so people are definitely looking for the information. I think there may be some hang ups about some sites looking a little too corporate. Some makers may want just a little information so they can set out on the road at their own pace while others feel that they are ready to say, “Here I am, this is what I make and I want the world to know about it”. It would be good to have an informative place that would be useful to everyone.

Friday… | The Jazz Emporium December 10, 2010 - 10:53 am

[…] your waiting why don’t you read this article from Jay Anderson, the talented designer behind Ziggy & Friends and Red Road Designs, […]

Jay December 10, 2010 - 3:00 pm

I just want to thank everyone for their really interesting and thought provoking responses. I, too, feel a ‘joined up’ resource is the way forward for this growing market. Thank you so much for your comments!

Tash Goswami December 10, 2010 - 6:24 pm

Thanks Jay for a thoughtful and insightful article about the world of crafts – i agree with you that crafts in the UK needs to have more network support and easier access to whats on out there – I feel a training session coming on here, especially how to write a winning funding application.

Also big thumbs up for the link to my new site Blethering Crafts, much appreciated.

Goodluck with the upcoming craft fair and with writing the next installment to this one!

Louise March 12, 2011 - 6:44 am

Hi Everyone.

Ive recently joined this lovely community after a number of years making and selling my own crafts. Ive also spent a few years organising several Craft Fairs throughout the year so I thought Id post the details here so that any fellow Crafters local to this area, can get in touch for more info and a stall booking!

Im always looking for new, unusual and high quality crafts to have at my fairs, and the emphasis on my events is always ecclectic, fun and to provide high end items with excellent quality. I invite local bands, artists and entertainers to come and showcase their talents, and have 30+ stallholders, who sell their handicrafts and giftware. I also support DEMELZA childrens hospice by inviting them along to run a fun raffle and run the kitchen, where they provide lots of yummy treats.

I advertise heavily and the local press are invited along, and feature the event in the local newspapers, along with stallholder photos and an editorial. The event is also featured on local radio.

If you are interested in a stall in the East Sussex area, please email me and Ill send you some more information. Ive three dates coming up over Easter and the Spring Bank Holidays, so if you are interested in a fun days selling over this time, let me know. Ive also 5 dates for Christmas fairs you may wish to consider.

In the mean time, if I can offer any advice to stallholders or folk wishing to set up their own fairs, please dont hesitate to get in touch!

Best Wishes
Louise x

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