As a Meet the Makers reader, we can all already agree that buying from independent makers is the way forwards in life. There are of course some amazing online stores to make your purchases, but visiting craft fairs is even better! A whole day of being surrounded by incredible makers and their handmade wares, the opportunity to talk to said makers and walk away at the end of the day knowing you have purchased something worthwhile and unique sure as heck beats a trip to Oxford Street in the rain (urgh). Having been to a fair or two in my time, most recently the Renegade Craft Fair in New York, here are a few things I’ve learnt that can help you get the most out of your craft fair visit:
I got to Renegade at 11:30am, 30 mins after the doors opened & there was no queue. About 2pm I thought I would pop out for some lunch but upon opening the door saw the enormous queue and turned right back around. Make a day of it, go on!
Sign up for the workshops
Do this as soon as you arrive. Yes, even before you look at the stalls. Even with my relatively early arrival, there was still a two hour wait from putting my name on the list for Grace Bonney’s workshop, and I stood in line for well over half an hour for my screen printed Renegade tote. Workshops are usually free or at least affordable and are a really easy way to try something you wouldn’t otherwise.
My *ahem* crafting skills made this…now you can see why I interview makers & am not one myself. Fun though!
Wear flat shoes
Both the New York and London Renegade fairs I’ve been to have been very light on the sitting opportunities (read: nonexistant) so if you’re planning a long day, don’t wear even small heels, unless you are a heel-pro. I have never been more grateful to put my flats on the next day!
Talk to makers
Well, DUH. It’s this opportunity which actually takes your purchase out from behind the computer screen of online sales to meeting real-life people and hearing their stories. It really is so much fun chatting to the designers and makers. They’ve been working their arses off in the run-up to the fair in order to share their handmade work with smitten buyers like you. So tell them how much you love what they do! Tell them a short story about why their product resonates with you even. I bought a little card from Small Adventures with illustrations of animals that mate for life & immediately started waffling to the designer about how perfect it was because my boyfriend and I call each other by these animals and needed new name options. I mean, it was probably way too much information (and still is), but it didn’t stop me (sorry Small Adventures. And you).
Bring plenty of money
Most stallholders now have the option for you to pay by card using smartphones, etc. BUT this isn’t a given and you shouldn’t rely on it. There is also the inevitability of you discovering something you didn’t know you *needed* right now, and the sadness that will come if you’re not prepared with extra cashish.
Have a plan (sort of)
I always spend some time before my craft fair visit checking out their website for the list of exhibitors who will be there. This way I know I will not accidentally walk past the stall I am desperate to buy from. If you’re after something specific – a new print, spectacular necklace, some cosy cushions – start following the designer whose work you’re after on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. It will get you even more excited to see pictures of what you love crop up in your newsfeed, eeek! Saying this, don’t be too military with your plans as guaranteed you will still totally discover loads of makers you will have accidentally overlooked previously. Do more than one circuit of the fair 🙂
My special Renegade tote being screenprinted. Little bit special this.
Keep an eye out for special pieces and discounts
Often designers will have created pieces especially for the fair that are unavailable elsewhere. So don’t get carried away buying online a week before you go as you don’t know what you may miss out on. Most importantly I’ve noticed lots of people sharing discounts and special offers over on Instagram on the day of the fair so keep that social media switched on.
Collect business cards
This is a really easy way of following up with the designers you’ve just fallen in love with. 99% of the time the cards look amazing (which should go without saying really) and their various social media lines are now open for you to follow, share & shop!
Any other tips you’ve found helpful for visiting craft fairs? Designers/makers: what should an ideal customer be doing to bring a smile to your face? Share in the comments!