So here it goes… my verdict on exhibiting in one of the most impressive settings in the world, Liverpool’s St. George’s Hall.
I had a great time, a ball you might say. As a seller I rarely get the chance to browse my fellow exhibitors stalls and purchase something from their array of arty loveliness but, with a little extra help on hand at this fair, I was able to. Thankfully.
I was like a bee buzzing around a tasty flowery treat; hand-stitched badger phone-case by Landbaby for only £11, hand-stitched strawberry brooch, £4.50, a ladybird lavender pouch, £2. Value for money doesn’t even cover it! I also purchased a beautiful print and cards by Louise Wright Illustration, and probably the most fascinating card I’ve ever bought from Nicola Taylor. I had a gift bought for me from the incredibly inventive Factory Floor Jewels and eyed-up some Christmas baubles from Freida McKitrick. I could have bought more and now regret not stocking up on more cards from Becka Griffin and The Red Button Press but hey it’s something to pick up at the next one along with my baubles.
I mention the above prices too because this is also what fascinated me about the Summer Arts Market. All of the above could be featured in the coolest, chicest urban design boutiques at least double the price that I paid. This fair had a collection of designers, artists and makers that satisfied even my fussy tastes. Yes I am a sucker for branding, yes I am a designer label kind of girl, but that is because I love high quality materials, believe in ethical manufacture, ensuring that the original designer gets to see the profits, and, investing in pieces that are made to last. So guess what, that means I know quality when I see it. And it was here in abundance.
On this subject I have to mention Buttons & Twine, another seller at the show. This is your one stop-shop for the cutest handmade character toys such as elephants and mice, made from fabulous Italian or Cotswold wool and featuring finishing touches of liberty fabric amongst others.
Natalie Bosworth is another artisan who uses the best quality fabrics to create her wonderfully crafted designs, using mainly the iconic Liberty prints. The quality of finish to her products is exceptional and she also has that all-important branding spot-on with her delicate packing carrying the Bunny Bosworth logo. More products to go on my birthday list!
Let’s also not forget that by our artisans sourcing their materials locally (in Britain) they are also boosting our economy and keeping their carbon footprints low. Also, more independent artists are now using eco-friendly inks when using the screen-printing process in their work (such as myself and Louise Wright) and source earth friendly materials throughout other areas of the process. The majority of hand-made products also ensure an ethical chain of manufacture and this is never more obvious than if the maker is sat right in front of you selling the item in person. No sweatshops or short-cuts taken here.
Amy Lawrence Knitted Designs also made me stop for a second, and third look, and I am amazed that I haven’t already spotted her products on Liberty’s shelves. Her finely knitted and finely structured necklaces were a revelation and I will be adding her products to my now extensive birthday list too!
Finally, I have to come back to Nicola Taylor, a self-portrait photographer from North Yorkshire who tells us stories in her photography and this is also where I round off my point about quality and value.
Nicola describes each piece of work as being, “… a labour of love, with up to a hundred images layered together to create a haunting and otherworldly scene that encourages the viewer to explore their own imagination.”
As a fellow artist, who spends an immense amount of my time perfecting every detail of each design and some taking months, I felt a kinship with Nicola in her dedication to her art. In layering up to 100 photographs for one single image you cannot put a price on her work, and this is what I want all visitors to art fairs to understand; the finished article, that tangible object, is not what you are paying for. There is a process, some greater and more complicated than others, but if you understand and respect the process then you will appreciate your purchase even more. It becomes even more precious and enjoyable and, in my case with my purchases from Nicola, you feel that you have incredible value for money as well as your piece having its very own story. A life of its own even. Priceless.
So how do I fit in amongst all of these makers?
As a producer of high-end, luxury, and environmentally friendly clothing and artwork, I have to be careful where I show my work. I keep shows to a minimum and tend to exhibit at the larger occasions such as flower shows, annual large-scale design shows and in venues that I see as fitting to the quality of my brand. This is why the fantastic Grade I listed St. George’s Hall, in my hometown, was a must.
After exhibiting at the Winter Arts Market back in December however, I quickly learned that it wasn’t the building that made the show but the exhibitors who were tucked under its roof and the truly lovely people who came to shop there. It was a celebration of quality and artistry and it felt good to be there with my work, as an artist.
It is sometimes easy for me to get caught up in the duty of orders, paperwork, legal stuff and having to get used to being organised beyond my wildest imagination. Illustrating is at the heart of what I do, it is the heart of my brand and being here I get to tell my customers all about it! I get to tell them about the time I met the Donkey that they see on my t-shirts, and how proud I am of my wonderful eco-friendly printers. They get to hear my passion for nature and my love for my characters. And, they get to see that I am a creative. Amongst lots of other wonderful creatives. And it feels so right.
Surely there is no greater profession on this earth.
My pop-up at the show:
Louise Wright Illustration:
Becka Griffin Illustration:
Bird House Press:
Factory Floor Jewels:
Kath Flaherty ceramics:
Red Button Press and Lyndsey Green Illustration:
St. George's Hall: