09.06.14

June 9, 2014 § 3 Comments

For a long time, I have known that the way I display my pots at fairs has needed to change. It is not necessarily that my stands have looked terrible but they were not doing what was required of them.

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You turn up at a fair and set up your stand. You stand next to it for three days. You feel like it was a bit of a struggle and you haven’t sold as much as you would have liked. You need to make the fairs pay but you don’t know how. You decide that you can’t do them forever, if you don’t get the required returns.

The way a stand is displayed is crucial to how the objects shown are perceived and received by the visitors who encounter them at a fair. Each maker’s stand needs to fulfil a function, to tell a story about the products that the maker is selling, needs to tell the visitor why the objects are being displayed at all and what visitor is to make of them. Each maker’s story will be different, so each stand will need to fulfil a different function. Who the maker is aiming her/his products at will to a large extent determine the look and feel of the stand.

My function of my stand is to communicate the fact that I make ceramic tableware; repeat ware; simple, handmade, utilitarian pots. Having felt this way for quite a while it really struck home at The British Craft Trade Fair (BCTF) in April that my stand was inadequate and needed to change. My pots are intended to be pared down, simple forms but also be elegant, have some style and refinement. My stand only conveyed that I made ceramic tableware and none of the rest.

What was I to do to make the change? At BCTF were a fantastic couple with a fantastic product and a fantastic stand. Paul and Lidia, from Zinc White, have thought long and hard about how to display what they make. They know what they make and who they are selling to. They create jewellery from recycled coloured pencils and their stand is appropriate to what they make. I asked Lidia if she would come and chat with me about my stand. I told her why I was making what I make and, after some discussion, she said she thought I needed to set up a table with some simple, still life scenes; create little stories; show-off each pot with space. Then around the stand on shelves to have all the other pots out, stack them and show them in multiples, show how they would look on a shelf at home.

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So, this is my interpretation of my conversation with Lidia having its first outing this last weekend at the Contemporary Craft Fair. Gone is the terrible cloth and instead I built a table, with the help of Simon at Hive, and bought some industrial shelving. Now there is a simple, clean space. I can’t get the close-up pictures to upload but you can see them here, if you want to. What was a revelation was having all the pots out. People loved rummaging! They could peer and peek, dig about, find the pot they wanted. They could see bowls stacked, water jugs next to beakers, how a collection of pots might look. The colours were graded in shades of grey from black on the top shelf, blue/grey in the middle and purple/grey on the bottom. People liked the contrast between the clarity and simplicity of the table and the more industrial quality of the shelves. The big test for me, the essence for the change really, was to encourage people to see that I make repeat tableware and that they can buy multiples. Multiples is what I make but also, and importantly as I am running a business, how I am going to increase my sales. It worked, it passed the test. I sold almost twice as many pieces as at my previous best show.

I am really pleased with the change in how the stand looks. I feel it is far more fit for purpose, complements my pots much better than it did, and now gives me confidence that I can maximise the potential of the fantastic festivals, like the Contemporary Craft Fair. Thank you, Lidia, for your time, knowledge and insight.

 

 

 

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§ 3 Responses to 09.06.14

  • Jane Booth says:

    I find this really interesting as I was at CCF too and was thinking about this topic a lot. I see what you mean about wanting to display the fact that you do repeat tableware, but your new display style contradicts the ‘less is more’ theory! It is so confusing because it worked for you!

    For myself, I felt that I made a mistake this time by going for a smaller stand than before as my work felt a bit too squashed in. On the first day I didn’t sell very much. On the second day I moved my small table to the other side, which made my stand feel more open.Loads more people went up to my main display and my sales more than tripled from the first day! I would love more advice about this. I sell tableware too but mine is more varied in terms of design and most people buy 1 to 3 pieces.

  • David, this is a really fascinating post, thank you. I’ve been wracking my brains working out how I’m going to display my pieces. I know the first few shows I do will be a bit of suck it and see but I’d like to as few mistakes as possible. I too am struggling between the pared down approach (suiting my design background), and the multiples being on show (perhaps more appropriate for selling repeat ware).

  • […] stands and what effect this had (something the Shipley based potter David Worsley discussed in a recent post). It also gave me the chance to talk to those people interested in buying ceramics (and in some […]

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