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.
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.
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