Top of The Range Craft Shows

 

Last month I was lucky enough to visit beautiful RHS Wisley Gardens in Surrey (please see my previous blog) -  and we took time to visit the Craft in Focus Art & Design Spring Show, a top quality arts & crafts fair, which has been hosted by Wisley every spring since 2011.

And since then I have been assisting Susan Entwistle Art on her gorgeous stand at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  Surely everyone has heard about the Chelsea Flower Show – so I don’t need to explain it here!  Susan is a pointillist artist, whose delicate colourful style is perfect for capturing the beauty of flowers and foliage – see her work here: https://www.susanentwistle.com.  It was a pleasure to be able to help on her stand again and  get a chance to enjoy the enormity of the Chelsea show.

I thought you may be interested to hear how you qualify for and cope with large, top of the range shows such these ones.

To exhibit at such a show, you have to put yourself through a rigorous assessment at the hands of the organisers:

  • there are many application forms to be filled out
  • you have to minutely detail exactly how you create your items
  • and supply photos of yourself actually creating too!
  • you are required to send high quality photos of your products
  • some organisers actually demand to look at the items themselves, so you have to ship them over
  • no bought in items are allowed at shows like these – and the organisers carry out stand to stand checks during the show itself.
  • high quality photos of your stand are also important - will you be up to snuff?

 

I haven’t taken many photos of the shows as exhibitors generally dislike their stands being photographed – if you go to a craft fair, do just ask first before you get your camera out.  This is my friend Meikie Knappert from https://meikiedesigns.com,  who does beautiful silk painting in wonderfully rich colours (so you can see that she & I have a fair bit in common!).  She has been showing at Wisley for many years.

On average exhibitors pay about £1000 - £5000 for their stands at  a show like Wisley.  But the fees for Chelsea & its like are far higher:  about £4,000 - £15,000.  This covers all the days of the show and also electricity for the stand lighting.

BUT

  • Exhibitors have to provide all their own tables, chairs, shelving, etc. etc.
  • Upon arrival, you will just find an empty square of grass with one plug socket – and it’s down to you to create an eye catching little shop within it!
  • Many exhibitors come from far off places, travelling from Scotland, Cornwall, etc. – so you need to have some kind of van to carry all your stock.

And what a lot of stock you’ll need (and all handmade too)!  Remember that you’ll need to:

  • make the pitch money back
  • PLUS pay yourself for all the hours you’ve spent on the stand at the show
  • PLUS pay for any helpers you may have hired
  • PLUS pay for the accommodation you’ll need to rent
  • PLUS pay for the petrol you’ll use
  • PLUS pay for all your food & drink

So you’re going to have to sell a HUGE amount of product, not only to cover all these costs – but to actually make some profit as well…..

You’re dependent on a large number of visitors coming out (fingers crossed that the weather will be okay) – and that they’ll be in a mood to spend money!  And these days the latter is becoming less and less likely….

Going around the stands at Wisley this year, all the exhibitors said that while it was still quite busy, it was much quieter than usual – and that visitors were not spending as much money.  Everyone, alas, has put this down to Brexit, as this problem has steadily been rising since 2016 – but has definitely culminated this year as, after all, who knows what on earth is going on…..??

Chelsea is in a different league, however; tickets for the day start at £100, so visitors certainly have money to spend!  On our last day there, we had the pleasure of a Chinese lady walking onto the stand and promptly spending £8,000 – just like that!!  She bought these 3 original paintings

The Wisley Art & Design Show is still a very enjoyable day out – and any of the RHS shows are a must for a summer outing.  You’ll enjoy yourself supporting any local craft show – and you’ll make a lot of handmade arts & crafters extremely happy!  And I’d recommend the RHS Wisley gardens to anyone at any time of year!


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