Monday, March 26, 2007

Country Living Roundup.

This was meant to have been done on Thursday - ah well - it is probably a bit irrelevant really but these are stalls I liked at the show and then there are a couple of rants

Caroline Zoob - always beautiful, much copied, but then they never quite get it right.

Primrose Hill Interiors. Flowers, ginghams, hearts and dots

Boxwood - the most packed stall in the hall.

And now for Rant 1.

The Country Living Magazine awards a prize for the best stall design, the prize is a free stall next year and it is meant to encourage people to put a lot of effort into their stall design and so improve the look of the whole show. we won last year and it was a good reward for a lot of hard work that went into the look of the stall over and above the things we were selling.

This is the stall that won

Hume Sweet Hume. I don't really understand it - I'm not being tricksy with the photos - that is the whole stall, there isn't something interesting just out of view. Now I like Hume Sweet Hume's products, their knitted cushions are very soft and tasteful, but this is not a designed stand. It is a shop fitting c. 1997.

This is the stall I think should have won.

Dream Acres had a great hand cart that became the stall and lots of things, including these patchwork flowers, had been made for the show.

I think it very peculiar - and judging from the amount of people who mentioned the odd choice at our stall - so did a lot of visitors.

Rant 2

There has been a lot of bad publicity for Country Living Shows within the blogging community, a feeling that there are not enough small craft producers any more, that much of the stuff on offer is bought in and that there is a lack of variety, that they are too crowded for a leisurely browse . The knee jerk reaction seems to be to blame the magazine and actually I do not think that that is justified.

Stalls are expensive - the overall expenses for a small stall for a one of the shows must come in at about £2,000 - but this is very much in line with all trade shows -many of which do not have the slickness of the CL show. I was constantly amazed by the speed and professionalism of the Melville team handling the putting up and taking down of the show. I don't get the feeling that the shows are a great money making exercise for CL magazine.

So, to cover costs you need to sell approximately £4,000 over the 4 days. Now this is not an issue for some stalls - Stephensons Rocking Horses must take double that every day, one jumper stall told me of a customer spending £2,500 in a single purchase - but it is an issue for most of the craft stalls. This is because customers do not value their products properly.

I had bought a felt corsage, made from knitted material hand felted then sewn up, a one off.

It is lovely and goes well with my red coat and cost all of £16.00. I feel that it was a more than fair price. 2 customers told me - without my having brought the subject up -that I should have saved my money and gone down to Accessorize where they have a 2 for 1 offer on corsages.

There seems to be an inability in many people to distinguish between mass produced throwaway items and hand made unique ones. It all comes down to price. Though they want the stalls there at CL Fairs so that it looks pretty, they will buy on the high street.

Then there is the customer who does appreciate the difference. The customer who has paid her £7.50 entrance and is using the Fair as a source of ideas. She quizzes about methods, she takes surreptitious photographs, she scribbles in her notebook. Friends say to each other "Oh what a good idea, you could do that".

I had 15 magnet buttons stolen from my noticeboards - presumably by people who thought "Oh what a good idea, I could do that".

So I don't think that it is the organiser to blame - yes, I wish they could get more innovative press coverage, yes I wish they would get more young people in with houses to fill, but really I think that it is the customers.

If you want the small crafty unique stalls to attend- BUY FROM THEM - don't just tell them the look nice.

As to the negative comments about the magazine itself see here I am with Nikki on deploring the laziness.

Rant over

We actually had a very good fair - but many people didn't - so I leave you with a last photo of my van. You can tell I am confined to bed today trying to recover my voice, this post has taken ages.


Heather said...


Your van looked great.
I don't see the virtue in the winning stall.
I understand your rant.
I can be set off ranting too - its cathartic.

Hope you're feeling better

Charlotte@Hope&Faith said...

Hi Jane,
Hope you are better soon. I had a great time at the fair, just a pity I didn't get to meet you. I was frantically searching to find the winning stall and obviously couldn't because it didn't enter my head that it would be that stall. No offence to them but there was no design and character to it.
Your post was an interesting read for me as I was having my own little rant to my sister about the cost of getting in and the price they charge for stand space, but, everyone has to make money in the end of the day. My thoughts on the subject are a bit up in the air now.
Charlotte x

carolyn said...

Hello Jane, hope your sson feeling better and that you had a successful CL. Your van looked wonderful and I agree with your comments re the winning stall. Weird huh? Actually I agree with just about everything you have said, many people these days just don't want to pay for quality or maybe it's just that they can't afford to.

Jane said...

Thanks all - sorry to have missed you on Saturday Charlotte. I hope that you introduced yourself anyway and got one of our felted egg soaps as a reward!

Carolyn - I do see where you are coming from with your suggestion that people can't afford things. Of course, with the general population that will be right in many cases. I'm not sure that that is the whole answer though with the gererally affluent Country Living crowd. I think that people have become used to having lots and lots of very cheap things which they can renew frequently.
I don't find that annual income necessarily determines whether someone will buy hand crafted - I have many customers who are counting their money but still want something that they can hand on or that will last a long time.

cherry menlove said...

I am 100% behind this post. I REALLY do think that people have gotten used to buying things on the cheap. But that leaves us surrounded by stores like Tescos and people working in dangerous inhuman conditions. Winds of change are blowing and they will blow faster with folk like you around.

Cherry x

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,

Good to meet you at the fair. Thanks for the fab soap - it's gorgeous. I hoped to plant the dahlias this weekend but I haven't managed it yet, soon though.

I was surprised when I read on your blog which stall had won - there were so many exciting ones to have chosen from.

Regarding spending I think people seem to fall into 2 camps - either awash with money or being very careful with their budget. I am much more careful with my money now that I have left the rat race but had made up my mind that I would buy presents for people at CL to get something original so I started my Christmas shopping (ridiculous!) I think people often go to these events with £50 or whatever but hopefully they will buy later on and the stallholders will reap the benefits of all the advertising/chatting they have done.

From a custome rpoint of view it would also be good if the fair had more tables to sit at for drinks & eats. I don't enjoy that whole balancing-lunch-on-my-knee thing.
Apart from that I loved my day out.

Anyway, hope you're lots better.

Anne from sunny Warwickshire

Kate said...

I found your rants fascinating ... our craft shows seem much different here in Canada.

Your van is adorable and your stall looked great.

I am going to add your blog to my gardening blog links.

Jane said...

Anne - it was lovely to meet you too. I hope that the book sale went well.
I must admit that I bought a few Christmas presents to squirrell away as well - to be honest I don't think that it is the high priced craft sellers that find it hard. £800 jumpers sell despite their cost it seems. It is the £15-50 price range.
My daughters spent their money on horrible mass produced soft toy puppies from a very pink glittery stall.
I have ordered them 2 of Tree Fall's sock puppies to thank them for their help in the run up to the Fair.
They are about twice the price of the acryllic puppies, much more special and will not be discarded by the end of the month. I think it money better spent, but then I give them very few presents.

Victoria May Plum said...

I agree with your rantings, (I love a good rant, makes me feel much better afterwards). It is such a shame that people buy such tat nowadays. There is nothing more lovely and worthwhile than buying something that you truly love, that was made by someone who truly loved doing it.
Your stall looked great though, and I' glad that you had a good time (aside from feeling poorly that is).
Victoria x

Samantha said...

Hi Jane,
I totally agree with ALL your sentiments. The stall that won the best at London really wasn't that special. There were others far more inventive.

And as for people telling their friends "You could do that" I often feel like telling them to bugger off my stall and go and do it themselves!

It feels good to rant

Nonnie said...

I totally agree with your rants too and could go on at length about what people seem to be prepared(or not!) to spend, but I think you've said it all. Your stall looks really lovely and I agree that the winning stand is very dull indeed. I noticed that the winning stand in London was also not particularly special compared to some of the others. Makes you wonder how they choose.

Primrose Hill said...

Seeing as everyone seems to be bashing Hume Sweet Humes stand and I've contradicted this on my blog as I think they deserved their award, I'd like to ask one question:
When exactly was said photo of thir dull stand taken - was it at the beginning of the show when everyones stand is looking beautifully styled and perfect or was it on Sunday morning (when you took photos of my stand) when generally everyones stand is being held together with threads as they are pretty much sold out and only just managing to keep it all together?
As I've said in my post I think a lot of work went it to their stand - details that are not shown in your photo - unless you saw it in the flesh you wouldn't really understand.

BeachysCapeCodCupboard said...

OOh! I just had a bit more time to peruse your delightful blog, and I must add, I LOVE your van!