We’ve reached the end of our run of summer markets, completed the tiring jumps between setting up stalls on the South West coast, packed up the marquee tent and tucked it away until the winter markets roll around – and it’s made us reflect on both the highs and the lows of market life.
We get such a buzz out of holding a stall at a market: from meeting new customers and creatives to revelling in the lively atmosphere it creates, but there are also difficulties that come with it too. Read on for our frank breakdown of the ups and downs of participating in markets
1. Forging new friendships with fellow makers and shakers
From participating in markets all across the South West we’ve made many wonderful friends and fellow stall holders, each who have taught us helpful tricks of the trade and supported us along the way. It’s a safe space where everyone is in the same boat, and you can guarantee you’ll need market friends when you’re alone setting up a gazebo or desperately need the toilet and need someone to hold the fort. In addition, exploring the varied and exceptional handmade pieces by indie businesses provides us with countless inspiration and always keeps us aiming higher.
2. Broadening our horizons
We’ve learnt that joining markets away from your hometown does wonders for broadening your audience, as does partaking in markets in tourist hotspots, it’s always a total thrill to think of our artwork hung up in homes across the world. If you’re a creative and making new contacts (who could go on to become repeat custom) sounds ideal, join a further afield market. As a side note, it also taught us that we appeal to a far larger demographic than we ever knew, turns out that little children are drawn to our handcrafted animal pieces.
3. Finding out the favourites
It can be surprising what pieces sell the most at markets, sometimes it’s what we’d least expect, which makes markets a perfect place to roadtest new artworks we’re unsure about or favour less. It can make us view our pieces differently and give us a new perspective on them. Occasionally we’ll notice the same art prints selling over and over again and that’s great too – we know to give that some extra love across our digital channels too.
4. Cutting out the middleman
Markets are a chance for us to directly speak to consumers and tell them about our artwork, where we’re based, what inspires us and to provide the extra juicy details about a particular piece. If we weren’t there to describe the processes behind a piece we wouldn’t benefit from the same amount of sales. It’s a fantastic opportunity to receive new feedback and enjoy direct conversations with customers.
5. Confidence booster
Working solitary in a gallery and selling via our webshop can leave us a little unconfident at times. Partaking in markets and receiving flattering comments from face-to-face shoppers can do wonders for our motivation and give us a newfound confidence in what we do.
1. Are we there yet?
Market days are very long days – especially when they’re out of the county. They take a lot of preparation (which includes masses of printing and prepping stock, plus packing a car ‘til it’s bursting at the boot) and involves waking at the crack of dawn, guzzling a coffee and driving miles in the dark. Doing this in succession can be exhausting.
2. Lone wolf
Happily, we’re a team of two, yet it’s rare we work markets together. Usually one of us is in the gallery while the other is setting up and working the market alone. It’s for that reason we couldn’t do markets without the friendly faces of customers and other stall holders around us.
3. *Inserts image of tumbleweed slowly rolling across the ground*
It is impossible to predict how a market will go. One year it could be the busiest and most fantastic day of the year for sales, the next year it could be the same market, same day and in the same location and be painfully quiet. When footfall is low and you’re alone in the gazebo then morale can be low.
4. Think before you speak
Market shoppers can be extremely harsh critics – within earshot too – while most customers are nice, it’s not uncommon to hear cruel whispers about work you’ve poured hours of hard graft into. Soon enough you develop a thick skin to shake the comments off, but they can be tough. A few we hear repeatedly are: ‘my daughter could do that’, ‘that looks simple enough to do’ and there are also the sly looks at one another when discussing the cost of the piece. Can’t win ‘em all though eh?
5. You’ll bore yourself to tears
Be prepared to give the same spiel to every single new person you meet. Starting with who you are, where you’re based, what you create, what you use to create it. It becomes second nature to repeat your story and, while undoubtedly important, it’s a little nauseating to hear yourself blabbering on repetitively.
There you have it, our highs and lows of markets, and despite the few negatives we've found that overall they are 100% worth the effort. If you're a creative and unsure of navigating the various markets and which ones are the best to book into, drop us a message or pop into the gallery for a chat. We're more than happy to share our experiences and knowledge as best we can.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, please consider joining our enewsletter here for more news, offers and arty joy.