19 October 2018

Craft Fairs and Creative Friendships

After nearly four years as a "crazy craft lady", I finally visited my first Craft Fair and all I can say is: where have I been?! It surpassed all expectations and I couldn't resist sharing my experience on here... even if it is 19 years four weeks later! 

As a craft-fair fresher, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would the stalls be selling craft supplies, or finished products? Would the makers be older, or younger? What kind of crafts would be on display?  Admittedly, my biggest question was this: would I get imposter syndrome? While I've seen other Etsy Sellers on instagram, I was certain that NOA (negative over-analysis) would try to trip me up. 

Nonetheless, "maker magic" cast its spell and told the mind muggles to go to... you get the picture! Speaking of pictures, I think my smile below says it all. I'll admit that I was also riddikulusly excited to be wearing my Vendula 'Wool Shop' bag, as you couldn't really ask for a more perfect location. Unsurprisingly, it proved to be nearly as popular with the fair's makers  as 'The Chosen One' was with Hogwarts 6th Years! I suspect Romilda Vane would like the Chocolatier's purse...  
As I said, from the moment I entered Swindon's STEAM museum  the "maker magic" took hold. (Disclaimer: if you're already exhausted by Harry Potter references, I would strongly advise boarding the train back to King's Cross ASAP). For perhaps it should come as no surprise that, despite the giant penguin standing on the first table, the first item i gravitated towards was the cutest family of felted nifflersr moles

I can't be alone in thinking that they bear an uncanny resemblance to nifflers!  There was even a little baby one, which was quite simply a-dumble-dorable and only made me more determined to crochet a baby niffler before the Crimes of Grindelwald is released. As the 16th November is less than a month away, it's safe to say that no fluffy yarn is safe and, as of 19th October, I'm 93.4% of the way there!
I may be a herbivore by mouth, but my maker's diet is 100% Yarnivore  and no stall catered for this better than Adore Haberdashery. Their "Utopia" Yarn practically screamed "PLEASE FREE ME AND TURN ME INTO SOCKS!" So, naturally, I did what any House Elf Liberator would do  and bought the yarn - if you look hard at the right hand photo,  you will be able to spy the missing gap. I can confirm that it was sitting in my pocket paper bag and, two weeks on, I can also confirm that it has exceeded expectations for both socks AND bobble hats! Hermione would be proud.
At the start of this post, I apologised for the delay in writing and never quite explained why. Ironically, it's a positive reflection on Make It and More, as I left with newfound motivation for Bumble and Be Makes and have been up to my arm yarn in Pymgy Puff fluff ever since! What's more, many makers at the fair asked about my own crafts and I even handed out a few business cards. A couple even asked to see photos of The SPEW Crew and couldn't have been more complimentary! In short, people seemed to genuinely care about what I was doing...

...which brings me onto my biggest epiphany of the entire day. Beyond all its reassurance for my own small business journey, the most uplifting part of all was, quite simply, meeting other makersIt's one thing to interact with artists and yarnivores online, but quite another to talk in person and share that passion. Apart from the times I've been in hospital, I've never actually spoken to fellow crafters in person, let alone others who have started their own business. So I want to end this post with the two makers who, more than any other, promoted this realisation. To paraphrase Roald Dahl, "they gave me a comforting message: you are not alone."
This quote couldn't ring more true for silk-painter Nicola Davies. I instantly gravitated towards the illustrated quote print above and it was one of only three things I bought (context: there was A LOT of yarn on sale!) They are words that, though simple, are so easy to forget and I am definitely guilty of doing so. Now, they are the first thing I see each morning and start the day on the right foot (although, technically, I get out of bed with my left foot... we'll brush over that!)

"Smile often, think positively, give thanks,
Laugh loudly, love others, dream big." 

Alongside her artwork, I realised that the name "Nicola Davies" rung a bell and it was then I saw "My Super Sweet Recovery Cookbook", alongside the donation box for BEAT. It clicked - I'd seen her book on the BEAT website and read about her story on social media! More than that, I'd contemplated messaging her so many times, but anxiety always got the better of me. This day was different. I found myself opening up about my own struggle with anorexia and how I discovered crafting as therapy, learning to knit and crochet  in hospital.

It soon transpired  that her experience was nearly identical and it's hard to put into words how incredible this moment was. That moment when you someone gets it, in a way you never thought possible. The best part was that, when I later mentioned Nicola in my IG stories, she replied and I have been able to keep up with on Instagram ever since. Social Media does have its silver linings! I also learnt that Nicola is the 'make-it-happener' behind Corsham Creative Fair, so I solemnly swear that I will be attending the one in November.
The second makers I properly interacted with were the magical mother-daughter duo from Hedgehog & Hoot *pause to appreciate this baa-rilliant name* I instantly fell in love with their pom-pom hedgehogs, right down to the detail of their needle-felted faces, and practically loved how they all had names - just like my own crochet creatures! If this wasn't enough, I saw a sign that read, "10% of Hedgehog sales goes to Oak & Furrows Wild Animal Rescue." and felt like I'd found my soul-sisters craft-cousins Needless to say, little Pippin was picked as the "chosen hedgehog"and is now happily sitting on my bookshelf at home, alongside Nigel the Niffler!

After Purchasing Pippin, I got chatting to the mum - and hedgehog maker - about how she felted the faces. Felting is top of my "to-learn" list and these little fluff balls only made me more determined to try! I subsequently discovered that she runs felting workshops each month and instantly responded with an "I'll be there!", before I had time to think about it. As I walked away five minutes later, however, NOA rudely interrupted my initial excitement. The reality of going to a new place, with new people and learning a new skill suddenly hit me and, with it, a huge wave of anxiety. Simply put, it's a world of unknowns; it's a lot of space for things to go wrong.

Consequently, it's space that I often avoid and I realise that, in the past month especially, I have avoided it at all costs. I've let the fear of "wrong" ovshadow any possibility of "right". So it's time for a new outlook. For every glass half-empty, there's a glass half-full... or, in this scenario, a glass half-WOOL.  I think I've found my new motto! On reflection, my fear of "wrong" is exactly why it's the right decision to put myself out there. Even if I don't succeed in the skill itself, I will have the chance to meet fellow crafters and give myself the chance to forge Creative Friendships. Meet people who understand my love of wool shops, quirky bags and DREAMING BIG.
I subtitled this post CREATIVE FRIENDSHIPS, because that is what I want moving forward and I don't want it to be just words. After spending just ten minutes with the mother-daughter duo from Hedgehog and Hoot, I fhappier and more hopeful than I had in a long time. Imagine what an hour-long craft course could bring? It's time to make fetch "right" happen, or at least give it the chance to be found. It's time to put myself out there and risk falling flat.
At the very least, I can comfort myself with cappuccinos, chickpeas and siriusly cute travel cups. All three of these things happened later that day, when we popped to the Designer Outlet Mall across the road and. We may have given Gucci and co a miss but, for what it's worth, half price Wrendale crockery will ALWAYS bring a smile to my face... especially when I give myself permission to buy something! For herbivore heaven and quality alpo froth, I also highly recommend giving Soho Coffee a visit. After all this time, they never fall flat white.

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