Wednesday 29 June 2011

The "Silver" Exhibition at Walford Mill

Walford Mill in Wimborne are celebrating their 25th Anniversary. They have also recently secured planning permission to extend the gallery and other facilities hugely - it is already a lovely place but is going to be amazing when all of the building work is complete! So for the next month they are holding a silent auction to raise funds to build the new planned bridge across the river to give better access for the disabled. Dozens of artists and craftspeople have donated items to the auction which was officially launched last Friday evening, many of the items have been specially made for the event.

My contribution was a freeform woven sculpture "bridge", I hope it raises lots of money for them!

If you get a chance, please have a look at the photo gallery of some of the items on offer and make a bid if you can, they are stunning!

Monday 27 June 2011

Pot handles, Papier Mache and a Fox!

I can't believe it, I've reached my 200th post and had over 9300 page views. Many thanks to you all for your support, I hope you have managed to find something useful or interesting in my random ramblings!

So what's new? Last week was a busy one, but something a little bit different did come into the workshop to break up the monotony of rush work - this little silver pot handle wrap.

It's a little hand hammered tea pot with a very pretty border around the lid and top, so a fine, intricate handle weave was needed I thought to do justice to the delicate detail. It's a variation of a design used on a lot of the Liberty Tudric metalwork designed by Archibald knox, except this handle wrap has been re-woven in 1.6mm wide cane instead of 3.0mm, so it took a bit longer than usual!

The other unusual thing that arrived this week was this amazing lacquered and inlaid papier mache chair.

It needs a lot of work which should be started next month, but I couldn't help myself, I just HAD to see how it would look by cleaning just a little bit....

Ooooh it's going to be a treat working on this one! Look at how the mother of pearl starts to shine with a little bit of cleaning.

And lastly at the weekend we saw this very sorry sight.

This young and incredibly skinny fox was wandering around the garden in broad daylight eating the bird food - he must be starving. He was so weak that he didn't even try to run away when he saw us.

Friday 24 June 2011

Exhibiting at a Craft Fair - Episode 2 Presentation

This follows on from episode one found here

You've done the leg work and the research, found a few fairs and events that you fancy and now you've just got to make the booking and prepare for the big day(s). So, how do you want the World to see you? Are you quirky, cutting-edge-super-modern, traditional, designer, cool, quaint, eco-friendly, romantic, sophisticated...... some, all or none of the above?

How you present yourself does matter. As a visitor walks past you he or she will more than likely decide in the first 2 or 3 seconds of seeing your stand whether or not to take a closer look. So it is important to transmit what you do and your style with a display that has the right impact on passers-by in a matter of seconds. How? The best way I've found is to look at other "brands". Let's take Tesco for example. They have a simple philosophy, (and a bigger research budget than me!). Plainer packaging is down to earth, good, wholesome "value", but the "treat yourself to the finest" range has a more sophisticated packaging design with lots of black. Ask yourself, when you shop at a supermarket do you instinctively look for certain ranges of goods by their packaging?

So using the same ideas, if you want an elegant look for say a jewellery display, maybe darker colours with a bit of sleek contrast here and there, perhaps a bit of rich velvet or silk will give the "treat yourself to the finest" look, (think Harrods). Or for an excellent value, fresh, wholesome and earthy look, (some soap, candles, honey and foodies maybe?) simplicity, natural tones, greens, beige, pale blue and ethnic fabric, hessian, some fresh flowers and gingham! There was a superb example of this at a show we were at recently, a lady potter with her beautifully simple pots displayed on tartan squares with a plain blue cotton fabric background - stunning! The colourful tartan showed off her uncluttered elegant designs to perfection. I was drawn to her stand and just had to have a closer look.

The things to avoid in a display. The colour red. Be careful how much you use, it can subliminally warn some people away, but is a great tool in small quantities to attract attention. Likewise bright highlighter colours like fluorescent banana yellow and fuchsia pink - use with great care! And untidiness, I know it can be hard sometimes, but try to keep it neat.

Okay, so that's an overview of creating an image, so once you've got an overall vision of that, what about the nuts and bolts of showing off your stock? Obviously how you do this is going to depend on what you make or demonstrate, so I'll talk in general terms. Most people walking past a display won't necessarily look at things that are below waist height or above eye line to begin with, so bear this in mind. Put your most eye catching pieces within that range to attract their attention. You could also use Leonardo Da Vinci's principle - the magic triangle. If you look at his art, there is virtually always a triangulation - in his Madonna and Child paintings your eyes are drawn firstly by the Madonna's face, then down to the child, then to the feet, they are the most detailed and brightest spots in the painting, you are then captivated and start to look around then into the background image. Arranging your stand with this in mind you can draw the customers eyes from one bright piece to another and hopefully gain their interest. So what are the basic essentials for display:

A table. You need a really good one, not a special offer DIY paste table, it will fall over or collapse if someone leans on it, (and they will....). Some organisers provide good solid tables at events, some don't, so when you make your booking ask if tables are supplied and if so, how big they are. Cover your table completely with fabric or something right down to the floor all the way around, then you'll be able to hide overstock or empty boxes underneath. Use drawing pins or self stick velcro to hold the cover in place.

Staging. Shelves, covered boxes, pegboard or any other means of adding height, depth and interest. I've seen some fabulous props used for this, vintage shoemakers wooden lasts mounted onto a base and used to show off jewellery, ornate wooden hat stands adorned with belts and bags, antique plant troughs full of pottery sitting in straw and butchers hooks to hang baskets from the gazebo roof. Just one word of warning though, whatever you do use as a prop make sure it is safe and secure! If you are outdoors use tent pegs into the ground for any tall display, or indoors bungee them to an immovable object, never assume the best case scenario, the one in our dreams where all of the children will be perfectly well behaved and no-one will trip over or lose their balance and all tea cups are non-spill - instead anticipate the worst possible event and make sure that your display can take it

Lighting. Not always a possibility and it usually costs extra to have power on your stand. However, if you have access to electric make the best use of it. Crystal clear directional light can change the look of anything, especially glossy items like jewellery and polished furniture or metal, but it will also show up any imperfections! Be aware that there are rules about using electrical goods at a public event, they have to be very new with a current twelve month guarantee period and safety labels intact or if they're out of guarantee they have to be "PAT" tested and certified for safety. It need not be too expensive to get this done, ask the fair organiser as they may well have a deal going with an electrician for all of their exhibitors. We know this because our son is a certified PAT tester and he arranges equipment tests at a very reasonable cost for our friend who organises antique fairs!

Okay, you've done all of that, so now practice! Set up your stand at home, move things around, look at it from all angles and ask everybody for an opinion. Mess about until you're happy.

Coo.......that was a lot of blabbering.........Next episode, all the other things you need to remember for the big day including how to prepare yourself.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

A rainy weekend.

We're happy to be back in the nice warm workshop, it's Midsummer but no-one seems to have told the weather! The weekend at the Three Counties Show was cold, damp and sometimes very windy which is always a shame when so much effort has gone into organising such a big event. Nevertheless the visitors arrived in large numbers and had a good time. As ever the entertainment in the arenas was stunning, there was pole climbing, highland pipers, jive pony, birds of prey flights....allsorts. Then of course there are the sheds full of cattle, goats, sheep and ......pigs! I love pigs.

We did loads of work, two drop in rush seats, three rush spindle back chairs and four footstools so we were kept busy. The weather was a nuisance. When the wind and rain came at the same time, everything had to be moved right to the back of our stand or else it would be soaked, then the sun would come out and we'd move it all back again. Exhausting! Then I'd be polishing out any water marks and it's not easy to french polish in a field. Anyway the weather did make things interesting, look at this picture of the Malvern hills from Bernard's ramp. The sun had just come out after a heavy downpour of rain, it was suddenly really hot and steamy.

Can you see what looks like little clouds in the hillside? Well here's a close up of those clouds.

It's steam rising from the trees, the whole hill looked like it had caught fire! It only lasted a few minutes but it was surreal.

Monday 13 June 2011

How to become an exhibitor - Episode 1......

Okay as promised, (threatened!) a run down on what it's like to get out there and "strut your stuff" to the public at an event. Starting right at the beginning.

You're now really proficient at your craft/skill, you've made plenty of examples of your work, you've had good feedback from family/friends/colleagues and maybe some sales and commissions. You feel ready to take the next step so...., how do you choose your first show, fair or other event?

Before you do anything else, step back and impartially analyse your product or service. Who wants it, where do you think you'll find potential clients and just as importantly who wouldn't be interested in what you do? Ask everyone who is prepared to listen for their honest opinion. For example, our products and services cross over at least three different potential markets, antiques, craft and traditional skills, there's also possibly designer/maker events, but we know that we'd be useless at a pamper evening! So having established which categories you can potentially fit into with your work, you can start the process of finding events that will match your criteria. There's no lack of choice, but initially it's more sensible to go for local, smaller events. Why?

A. Because generally smaller events are less expensive therefore less of a financial risk and
B. You won't have wasted too much time and effort if it all goes wrong - but all feedback and experience is absolutely priceless.

Give yourself plenty of time, don't think that just because you've got everything in place you must do a show immediately. Pencil a few events into your diary that you fancy the look of and then go visit them as a customer. While you're there have a chat with other stallholders, see if you can meet the organiser, talk to other visitors - get their reactions. Look at the advertising, are there road signs, what's the access like, where do you park and does it cost, is there a "buzz" in the room, what competition is there for your range of products, how are people presenting their stands, is there a cafe and a toilet, is there FOOD! Boiled down to basics, did you feel inspired and comfortable at the event, was it an enjoyable time, did you buy anything, (or at least want to)? Don't worry if it takes you a few months or even a year to investigate all potential venues, the homework will be worth it. Keep notes, make sure you have the contact details of the organiser, cost of the event, address of the venue visited and the event dates along with a rough outline of what the day was like for you. What was the weather like, (always an important aspect when assessing any event in the UK!) and whether it was very busy, moderately so, or more like a morgue.

A story and a little gem of knowledge that was passed on to us by a great friend and fellow crafter about judging the likely success or failure of an event. We were alongside each other at a big, well attended outdoor fair a few years ago. Our friend was watching intently as the crowds milled around in the glorious sunshine - he was staring at everyones feet. After a while he looked up and said, "You can always tell whether it'll be a good day or not by peoples shoes you know. Today's going to be good."

Meanwhile while you're busy doing all of the above, you can formulate your unique brand "presentation", your look. That will be the topic of Episode 2......

Sunday 12 June 2011

Preparing for the Three Counties Show

This weekend was meant to be spent in preparation..... rebuilding stands, wax finishing stool and chair frames, cleaning the truck and all the other admin/packing and background tasks that go into making yourself ready to put on a show. However, the weather dictates as always! It's pouring with rain, which according to the forecast is here for the day, so most plans are scuppered. The heavier outdoor prep work will just have to wait until tomorrow. There are a few things I can do, some printing maybe and basket making, so with a bit of luck we may be able to make some headway later today.

We have had a productive week, tedious at times but satisfying. A couple of oak framed chairs have been refinished ready for their new drop in rush seats, another oak cane seated chair has been refinished and recaned, a footstool or two have been done and joy of joys this little treasure is finished.

As predicted it has taken an age, a panel 24" x 17" with a two by two twill weave in 3.0mm wide cane onto bowed rails. If you have ever done any hand knotted close cane work, I'm sure you will know what that means - weeks of work!! Never mind, it will go home in a couple of weeks and the pain will be just a memory.

We should have been at Walford Mill Gallery this weekend for the Wimborne Folk Festival but didn't go because of the Three Counties Show starting on Friday. Such a shame for them that this weather has moved in, it spoils the fun and makes life so difficult if you are trying to put on a show. It started me as a result next week I'll start a sequence of posts about what it's really like to go out there - become an exhibitor and put yourself up to public scrutiny! What it takes in real terms.

(It's possible that I may need someone to censor my posts!).

Friday 10 June 2011

It's nice to be appreciated!

We're not very good at joining clubs, associations and that sort of thing. Partly because we're not able to give them as much time and attention as we'd like to give them and maybe also because we can be quite solitary and private sometimes. So it came as a surprise last week to learn that one of the few associations we are members of had received a note from someone singing our praises! A teacher and professional caner, (we don't know who) had written to the Basketmakers Association just to tell them that they had bought and used all three of our DVDs and wished to recommend them to the membership proclaiming them to be excellent! The Association printed the details in their quarterly magazine this May. We knew nothing about it.

Praise indeed and very humbling, it is so nice when someone takes time out of their day to do something like that. Whoever you are, if you are reading this, I would like to say thank you very much, it is much appreciated!

It doesn't seem like it but it was about five years ago that we finally finished the DVD training "trilogy" and have sold hundreds all over the world since. The filming process took four gruelling years - we spent months finding the right seats to work on - organising venues to film at - voiceovers, (oh how I hated those!) etc. Paul the wonderful film maker, (and now a great friend) has the patience of a saint and a perfect eye for detail. True dedication to a level that I have never encountered before. He is currently self funding and making a low budget British film, it is looking REALLY promising, if you would like to have a look, his facebook page about the film is here On Common Ground. We wish him all the luck in the World and I hope its a blockbuster!! Please give him as much support and encouragement as you can - trust me, there is one Craftsman who TRULY deserves it!

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Soda blasting project - gilt chairs

A bit of an unusual request. These two beautifully made French chairs were originally gilt, but as the years have passed, the gilding has worn off and someone in the recent past has decided to coat them with thick gold paint to try and revive them. Trouble is that paint never has the same look or feel of gilding and the gesso/gilt finish beneath the paint shows through with ugly chips and cracks. So the new owner has requested that we remove the gold paint,  re-finish the chair frames in distressed grey Farrow and Ball paint and then replace the cane seats.

The hand carving is top class and very fine, so we will blast the paint off with soda which will leave the gesso undercoat and delicate carved details intact. Imagine how long it would take to strip this by hand with chemicals especially the little crevices around the rose petals where the paint has run into big thick blobs!

First stage in progress, the side rail has been blasted and you can see the intact original surface beneath. More updates to follow......

Thursday 2 June 2011

Wishbones and Tricorns

Wishbones, or Mr Wegner's "Y" chairs, all eight of them.

But these will be very special when they're restored, the owner is going to have them re-woven in black Danish cord and as the chairs are early oak versions, they have beautiful golden colour, what a contrast that will make!

Meanwhile another unusual piece.

A three legged rush chair. The workshop is full to bursting at the moment, but I am looking forward to working on this one. Which leads me on to the.....

Word of the Week.

Excoriate - scrape layers off. (something we'll be doing a lot of)

Wisdom of the Week.

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing - you're right." - Henry Ford