Wednesday, 10 October 2012

In which I sell Things in the Real World

I've been making stuff out of fabric with skulls on and selling them to people under the guise of Lemur Lady for nearly two years now, but so far I have been able to hide behind the cosy virtual padded walls of the Interwebs. Aside from the odd cash sale to long-suffering friends ("I see you have a new phone. You know what you need for that? A phone cover with frogs on. Go on, buy one and I'll go away"), everything I've made has been photographed, Paypalled and posted.

I like running an internet craft business. It's warm and dry and apart from visits to the post office I can mostly do it in my pyjamas. I also have a lovely support network of other crafters, especially on my Facebook page. Whilst I wouldn't know them from Adam should I bump into them in the street (unless they too were in the post office queue in their pyjamas, which would be a dead giveaway), Facebook regulars such as LizzieMade, FionaT and OddSox make the virtual world seem like one big crafty community as homeworkers everywhere wait with bated breath for the 5 o'clock Friday wine bell to be rung by Little Black Heart.

So it was more in the aid of facing a fear than anything else that made me sign up to do my first actual, Real Life (TM) craft fair stall last weekend.

I live in West Norwood, a suburb of South London that has in recent years become home to the West Norwood Feast - a 'people powered market' that takes over the area on the first Sunday of every month. There are food stalls, craft stalls, performance areas, and a general feeling of villageyness (yes, that is a word. now.), in this unassuming high street. Since I live literally walking distance from the Artisans Hub (posh words for 'craft stall bit'), I thought it was time to stop spectating and get involved.

The month or so running up to the Feast saw me in a flurry of activity, desperately trying to get enough items made to have a respectable-looking stall. Finally, after burning the candle at both ends for so long that I gave up and chucked it on the fire, I was ready.

The night before I set out all my wares on a practice table at home. Eschewing the idea of a boring white tablecloth, I found this smashing spotty affair in IKEA. An eleventh-hour panic about how to display jewellery was quelled by the ever-resourceful Significant Otter, who invented the mushroomy-looking thing on the right of the table. It's a lampshade, stuck on top of an old gin bottle. And it spins! Honestly, that man could give MacGyver a run for his money. I'd worry, if his freaky talents weren't so useful.

The actual table was much bigger. I will remember this next time....

I was ready. I had stock, I had stuff to put stock in and on, I knew where I was going and when I had to get there.

Unfortunately, I also had a birthday dinner to go to that evening. The phrase "I'll just have a couple of glasses of wine, I've got a busy day tomorrow" was heard to escape my lips early on, but was quickly forgotten.

I learned the hard way, so you don't have to, that craft fairs are probably best attempted without a hangover.


I'm pretty sure the TARDIS parking space brought me luck.
After I'd got set up and had a restorative cup of tea, the world seemed a better place. I felt much like a small child playing at post offices among all the grown ups, most of whom were seasoned veterans, but my first sale settled my fears and I was able to get into my stride and really enjoy the day.

Against my expectations, I really enjoyed myself. I was convinced that people would think my stuff overpriced, underwhelming, badly made - all those things that the sensible me knows aren't true but that still rear their heads. But it soon became clear that my stall - and my items - were making people smile and, importantly, part with their cash. 

Would I do it again? Definitely, although with a full-time job as well I would never be able to maintain stock levels high enough to do fairs every week, or even every month. But it was a great confidence-booster to show off my work in the real world.

Having said that, I'm glad to be getting back to my custom orders and my online shop. Perhaps when I am a rich lady of leisure I'll be able to do both, but for now, I'm off back to Facebook to find out what everyone's been up to without me.


  1. Oh my... you need to have some sort of trophy/bravery award. I am in awe of your outside awesomeness.

  2. i too am in awe of your awesome braveryness! congratulations on doing all of the things!! i am way too scared to leave the house and do that sort of thing ever - i am that stay-at-home-where-its-safe-and-also-i-can-go-to-work-in-my-pyjamas kinda gal - but i do like to read about others doing it. i'm so glad it was such a success for you! x

  3. I feel I have Gone Outside on behalf of all of us. Like the Titus Oates of craftselling.

  4. I am full of admiringness too! You were Very Brave to go and do a public market for your first Real World sale. But although the words "and foolhardy" often follow that expression, you were Not foolhardy at all, because you did all the "before stuff" just right! You went to the market beforehand (yes I know it was only down the road but it does matter), you chose somewhere local and where you could make a good guess at the kind of people who would come. And you made plenty of stuff (well enough stuff) and pre- tested the stall (even if the real one was bigger). And, most importantly (after the stock!), you dresses up your stall (and it was prob good that you put on something other than pyjamas, tho the lemur suit may have raised some smiles - maybe try it another time) and you smiled & were friendly.
    Of course your stuff is so fab you could prob have sold it out of a cardboard box, wearing the lemur suit and a scowl, but the stall was so cheery that I'm sure it must have drawn people in.
    Well done you - I must follow your Excellent Example very soon.... If I can only find time to make enough stock!
    Nice of you to mention me - esp alongside of such crafting super heroines (of course that's a word!) as FionaT, Odd Sox, Little Black Heart etc... I'm honoured :-))

  5. When I wrote this post I intended to include all sorts of things about what I'd learned and tips and tricks and suchlike, but it ended up being much less useful waffle! So thank you very much Lizzie for your lovely comments. Even though most of the things I got right were mostly by accident than design, I couldn't agree more with how important the things you mention were to having a successful day.

    Making enough stock is definitely the trickiest thing. I think you should go for it!