This weekend just past was a long weekend in Australia, in celebration of the Queens’s birthday. (Which is amusing really as her birthday is actually in April.) Anyway, it means a three day weekend, and who am I to argue the semantics of whether we should or shouldn’t be having a day off in June? It also means that winter has started, and, more importantly for me, that the Handmade Markets have been held.
I know that I have written about these markets before, and that I am a bit biased as a stall holder at the markets, but they really are quite fabulous. The standard of handmade, Australian made, goods that are available is very high, and the diversity is wide. (and to show that it isn’t just me that thinks so here are some links to media coverage of the markets! ABC news coverage, Canberra Times article)
I have been working flat out over the last weeks to ensure that I had enough stock to take to the markets, and that it was of a sufficiently high quality. (Which explains my relative quiet here on the blog – I have been busy sewing!) It definitely paid off. I was very happy with the presentation of my stall this time (learning and refining each time I do a market) and with the bags and bibs that I had on offer.
I had planned to make pencil rolls to take to the Market as well, and had left them as my last bit of sewing to do on Friday. Until the mailman delivered a parcel from Spoonflower (that I had ordered 5 weeks earlier) and I was compelled to wash, cut and sew the fabric into bibs – it was too cute for words! Needless to say – no pencil rolls.
Then, to top off an already exciting day, I had a mid-afternoon mail delivery of a magazine called ‘Love Sewing Australia’ which is a new publication released by Practical Publishing, an Australian publishing group. Why was it so exciting? Because a pattern that I wrote was published in the magazine!! I was approached to submit a project back in January/February and prepared a tutorial for making an Oma tote (named after my grandmother, Oma) and a yarn bag – a pouch with holes for yarn to feed through so that you can knit or crochet on the go. And there it is, in radiant colour! The magazine is available in Coles supermarkets and newsagencies here in Australia. I might have to go and buy a couple of spare copies!
The markets were busy. I was on my feet all day of each weekend, with few exceptions, and talking to the most amazing customers. I think that attending markets and interacting with customers is the icing on the cake for me. There are so many wonderful people who want to talk about products and learn about them, and who are interested in what I can provide them, that it is really energising. They were also so busy that I had to do a bit of sewing on Saturday night to re-stock in time for Sunday! (Luckily common sense kicked in so I only made a few bibs, then went to bed – I was bone weary!)
There were two big differences in my experience of the markets this time. The first was that I didn’t need to call on my friends to help out with last minute prep, or set up. However I did utilise my children. The artist in residence spent time on Wednesday night attaching stickers to bags and cutting out care instructions. Then on Friday night the eldest chick rode her bike to my house straight from school (while the other two were still at their father’s house) and helped all afternoon, and into the evening, with packaging, counting, cutting, labelling, etc. Then she attended the markets all day Saturday and helped with the set up, and served customers. She interacted with them, told them about the products, made small talk, and made a few good sales!
The artist-in-residence attended on Sunday morning but was a little shy and didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers on her own. That, of course, was okay too. She did join in a conversation with a lovely couple who overcame her shyness by talking to her about things she was interested in, and she was able to tell them that she is having a painting submitted for an exhibition shortly. They were suitably impressed and asked for her name so that they could say they had met the famous artist when she was a child – and that made her day! (They also bought a bag, so that made mine!!)
The second difference was that customers knew me from the last market, and came looking for me specifically! That was a real buzz! I had a great position on the side of the market hall, which meant that there was room in front of the stall for people to chat without blocking the stall, and they could browse without feeling they were holding other people up. I was also interviewed for a TV show by the delightful Kitty von Tastique whose hair colours put mine to shame! This is definitely not my best angle, or shot, but a selfie was required!
The interesting thing that I am finding about the markets and my products is that I am constantly growing. I am developing my ideas, my style and my approach, and feeling more comfortable in my skin every day. Being able to say, quite honestly, “This is my full time job” felt good.
I also had my very first experience of someone being openly shocked at my prices. Of course it happened when another designer I know, who has attended one of my mentoring sessions, and who also makes fabric bags, was at my stall. I had just been giving her a pep-talk about how her prices were too low when a lady came and admired my bags, decided that she liked one, and then asked the price and recoiled in horror, thrust the bag back at me and said ‘Oh no, I won’t pay that” and walked away! I didn’t mind personally but thought that the timing was more than a little ironic!
For now, though, I am back in the sewing room, making new stock for my Etsy shop, for the Handmade Shop, and filling custom orders. I also need to catch up on my posts about my experiences in the Human Brochure – they have been amazing!
I hope that you had a great weekend too.