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Mary Portas could be right

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  • Mary Portas could be right

    Following on from the open letter from MP and the standard of craft fairs and thought what I heard last night whilst channel flicking gives food for thought.

    On a section of Coach Trip they were visiting a glass workshop, not the traditional glass blowing but making pendants etc out of recycled bits of glass. On of the contestants stated on camera that 'this is the sort of thing you see when going to a craft fair and think to yourself what poor git sat and made that'

    So back to Mary, if other members of the public think the same it is up to us to improve that image. This admittedly was one man but has certainly made me think and must admit have exhibited and visited craft fairs where I would not give the products house room and this is coming from someone who is passionate about handmade/crafted.

  • #2
    I agree that sometimes the things that are being sold look like tat. I love hand made and hand crafted things and accept that design and taste are personal but quality should always shine through. If it doesn't then it just brings down the rest of us who strive to make top drawer things. I have several boxes of stuff that I wouldn't dream of selling at a craft fair, the family rummages through it at times but selling it, except as seconds or rejects wouldn't be right

    "Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art" ... Leonardo Da Vinci



    • #3
      I agree with this so much. Taste is always a personal thing but quality is not.
      On this forum we have such a mixture of people that these kind of discussions often end up with people being offended rather than sensibly discussing the issue.

      I do feel that people who present their handmade items to the market should concentrate on quality-we cannot compete in the 'tat' market. How offended was everyone in a previous thread when someones jewellery was compared to that in Primark? We need to seperate handmade items by their quality.

      I am always amazed that people put the effort into making an item with the cheapest and most rubbish of materials.... thinking baby knits out of the horriblest acrylic etc. Leave that stuff to the machine made, disposable, industry and concentrate on quality.
      Of course I know quality materials can be expensive but the quality in most areas can be added by your skill, artistry and attention to detail. Wonderful items can be made from 'found', recycled or even mundane materials. It is the ability to see the possibilities and make them happen that makes handmade valuable (there is never any hope for acrylic baby knits though!!) IMHO only!
      Last edited by soap queen; 16-09-2010, 12:13 PM.


      • #4
        I agree quality is the key also love what you do, if you love creating, selecting the best of materials, then feel sorry for the idiots (customers) that do not understand handmade/crafted and perhaps educate them on the way, preferring to go to the likes of Peacocks etc, mind you can be useful for working t-shirts, that you don't mind destroying when working on your craft.


        • #5
          I've watched Coach Trip and I think what sad gits go on coach holidays and programmes like this. There are good and bad craft shows and all levels and they are very educational, fill a gap in the market and lots of people like buying crafty things.


          • #6
            firstly I love coach trip and look forward to watching it every day but I must admit I thought the same as you when I heard him say that - its a shame people have the wrong impression of handmade


            • #7
              Exactly Tracey, if he felt like that perhaps the public does need re-educating


              • #8
                I actually think Mary Portas is correct.

                Handmade is great, IF the quality is there.

                I was recently at an event where handmade was the rule - riding boots selling for £700 per pair, bronze sculptures starting at £3000, garden sculptures at £7,000, hand knitted cashmeres at £300+, all stalls did well.

                There was a wood turner, who sent his work to be "pryoded" (sorry for spelling woodtattoos;-) he was churning his wares out.

                Art, selling for hundreds of pounds.

                The public do appreciate handmade - but handmade have to appreciate their public.

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                • #9
                  I rather got the impression from the MP letter - that in a way it wasn't what crafters were selling that she saw as the problem.

                  She didn't really seem to focus on quality of materials - didn't really seem to give a monkeys if my reading of her words was right.

                  What she seemed to be saying was it is *how* you sell an item that matters. It has to make the buyer feel and connect a certain way. And that maybe the buyers get more of a buzz from buying in a snappy, fashionable enviroment than something they see as "dated" or "dowdy" which many craft fairs appear to be.

                  For many people, buying something isn't a choice about quality of materials or supporting working artists. For a large majority - making a purchase is taking a dose of a drug. The drug of retail, shopping, spending. That "hit" is more alluring if the enviroment, the feel is right. If the "name" or the "brand" is enough to gain you status points amongst your peers.

                  It may be that we throw our hands up at this type of spending, and we thank the lord not all people are like it. But we need to recognise that many, maybe most, are.

                  I think that was what she was trying to get across - that it doesn't matter what you are selling - you need to move out of the church hall and into the sexy retail space on the kings road. Or at least cultivate a *feeling* tantamount to this in your online selling.

                  And I am sure she is very right- as much as it pains me to admit it.

                  I think she highlighted a valid point - makers waste too much time obsessing on how they can "get the public to understand them". But the ones who go on and make the good money don't bother with this vanity. They realise the public doesn't really want to understand them. The public just wants to be bluffed into thinking they are THE thing to have, their venue is THE place to buy. So they get their work into the posh galleries or they invest in high cost tables at very exclusive shows, maybe only doing one a year but with price tickets on their work to match.

                  Its all in the marketing and less about the making. That is really what I took from her comments, and rather what I expected her to feel about the whole thing anyway.

                  The funny thing is - I found myself on the other side of the fence the other day and it was a bit of an eye opener.

                  I was at a country fair that had a few craft stalls too - nothing too fancy. There was a lady there selling very nice leather work. Mainly handbags, all quite chunky and plain, quite austere and to my tastes. I might have bought one, I was quite close to actually.

                  Then, she came up and started talking to me about how the bags were made, how they were all traditionally tanned, showing me the mould they were made on and the stitching and blah blah blah. Very professional and very much like they say in "the books" on how you should sell your craft work.

                  I would have thought that me, being a maker myself, would have lapped it up.

                  But the reality was, I suddenly found my internal dialogue as she talked about her work was "lady - I don't actually give a s*** how they are made. I thought I would, but actually I don't"

                  And I realised in that that moment, her over zealous explanation of how they were made had actually put me off them. It took the mystique out of them. In that moment, i sort of understood why some men say they don't want to be present at the birth ;-)

                  It really surprised me that I felt this way. Because if that is the effect it had on me, and I am more likely to be interested - how would it affect the normal Jo Public?

                  I actually have had a turn around -recently. The MP debacle, this event I was at. It all has made me think we need to stop boring the bits off our customers with how our stuff is made and just explain to them why it will make their life better!

                  I realised that for me, MP was right. If I had gone to that stall - as shallow as it sounds - and the women had been friendly, explained BRIEFY they were handmade and of quality leather. But that I could see a more attractive display of the products, seen some nice quality glossy paper carrier bags or something with her name on and some sort of branding. I think I probably would have come away with one of her 50 quid handbags.

                  But the way she sold the product was just SO un-appealing, and although very polished - the whole "talking about how your work is made" speech suddenly seems incredibly dated to me now. It worked in 1991 - it got sales then. I just don't think it will anymore. I think branding, packaging, display and "buying into a lifestyle" is pushing a lot more buttons these days.
                  Last edited by ejralph; 16-09-2010, 10:22 PM.
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                  • #10
                    These are very good points.
                    I do think we need to go into a minimum explanation of how it is made to emphasise the quality. With our soaps we explain how the making process means that the soap is better for your skin and better for the environment-the emphasis is definitely on what it does for YOU the buyer not a chemistry lecture.
                    we try to point out how much better their lives will be if they use CP soap and our bath and body products.
                    It is so much about packaging and presentation that I dont think it can be overestimated. I have already posted about our new gift box where we spent as much time thinking about the packaging as the soaps and they have flown off the shelves and I have orders till Christmas - and they are not cheap - I actually wonder whether I should have charged more.1/2 the work, same amount of profit - happy days!
                    Last edited by soap queen; 21-09-2010, 09:14 AM.



                    • #11

                      You don'thave to sell - your work should sell itself. The main problem I see at shows is the quality element, not just in the material used but the construction of the items - it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours to become good at anything.
                      Some of the itemsI have seen lately should be turned as handicraft not craft work!