The story so far.

In my previous blog post ‘craft fairs, soul searching and a great day out‘ I shared my disappointment and frustration at the poor sales I have had from craft fairs this year.

Was it:
the venue?
the promotion?
my prices?
my product?
my display?
the footfall?
the customer demographic?
aliens? (just checking you’re still reading)

I shared photos of my previous stalls, inviting feedback, and I also invited feedback on my flickr photos here.
I was blown away by the response, thank you all for your frank feedback about your craft fair experiences, which mostly seemed to be similar to mine. It promoted a real debate on this issue. Do craft fairs work?

Well, I’m back, and I’ve done 2 more events since I last blogged about it.

100% Handmade in Ilkley 31st October

Back in the Ridding Hall, Ilkley, where I was 3 weeks before with the Keighley Arts Factory, but this time with an event organized by Leeds Vintage Fairs. Interesting to compare the differences, my analytic brain likes that!

my stall – glammed up considerably from how it was here enabling me to put more jewellery out, give it a bit more ‘shape’ etc
venue – Sally and Sam only had tables around the edge, and the middle had lovely shabby chic tables/tablecloths etc for people to have lovely pots of tea and wonderful food.
footfall – really good, interestingly Sally and Sam were disappointed, as their events in Leeds are normally busier.
promotion – great, Sally and Sam have built up an email list of over 3000 people through their Vintage fashion events, they put fliers through doors, boards up on the road in to Ilkley, and promoted widely in Leeds. This gets the daytrippers to stop by.

So, how was it? Well, after recovering from the shock that I had forgotten my new round black bead mats and mirror mats, I set up and was really pleased with the look of the stall this time. I haven’t made all the changes people have suggested, yet, but most of them.

And…I did really well! YEAY! Including a sale of an expensive set, which is always so flattering when people are prepared to commit to spending that much, and are giving it as a gift.

It was a great day, meet some more great craft people, some contacts which led not only to my Christmas Bazaar that I did yesterday, more about that later…and some more things in the pipeline.

So why was it more successful? Well, I am clearly no expert and I think my stall looks much improved, but mainly I think it was the promotion. I know that every events I have done has been promoted hard, but if it’s not the right kind, it is really ineffectual. Sally and Sam have a customer base they have gradually built up from their vintage fairs in Leeds, and you could tell that the people who came were mostly the right people for the event, and came with the idea to spend on desigener / maker goods. There is no substitute for this, I guess it just takes time as well as hard work. Events need to build a reputation to get the right people to come.

Christmas Bazaar at The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey

This was totally different to any other events I’ve done. It was a Ladies Luncheon Charity Day raising funds for the local Sue Ryder Hospice. Situated in the prestigious Devonshire Arms Hotel in Bolton Abbey, we were in a collection of small and intimate function rooms, and the ladies arrived all morning before going in to lunch, and came round again after. There were a few other people that came throughout the day.

I went with Chrissie from Hat Therapy and we both thought the venue suited our work. I think my stall looked it’s best yet, the table was a good size. Also there was Emma from Cakewalk in Ilkley and Cathy from ‘Dear Emma Designs‘ both of whom I met at 100% Handmade.

Another great day! The visitors took their time to really look at everything, asked questions and were very interested. I had good sales and a couple of commissions, too. It was beautifully organized and I would definitely do one of these events again.

I donated my ‘beauty bright’ prehnite, rose quartz and freshwater pearl charm bracelet for the Sue Ryder Charity auction next week

There were probably not more than 100 people that came, so it’s not numbers, it’s getting the right people. This is where only experience of the right venues and craft fairs can help.
But you don’t know til you try, do you?
Rachel x

Rachel Lucie Johns

Hi! I'm Rachel, a jewellery designer-maker & nature photographer. My work is inspired by the gorgeous countryside around West Yorkshire & Art Deco design. This blog is where I share my creative life and inspiration. find out more ...


  1. Reply


    15th November 2009

    Ah, Pepita, if only you were nearer! thanks for your input x

  2. Reply


    14th November 2009

    It is all about reaching the right target group.

    Compare it to placing an ad. You would ask the publisher for a description of its audience. The same goes for fairs or shops or online advertising etc. etc.

    So for fair organizers there is a lesson to be learned too. Treat your fair as a marketing channel and instrument for your merchants. Apply marketing principles to your fair as a any other retailer would do.

    As a marketing strategist who loves beads, I see lots of business opportunities here.

  3. Reply


    12th November 2009

    thanks for all your lovely comments, guys!

    yes, it's a complicated business, and sometimes one that looks fab on paper just doesn't work out or visa versa for totally random reasons that no one could predict.

    would love to know what some non-makers think, if my readers go to them, how they decide which to go to, etc.
    there's more questions the more you think about it!

    (Rowan, Holbeck is the next. I need to get confirmation of the date but think it's 12th or 13th Dec. Let you know x)

  4. Reply

    K S Jewellery Designs

    11th November 2009

    Congrats to you Rachel, this is really good news, I am very happy that all your hardwork is paying off and the sales at fairs are coming through – it does go to show that some things are out of your hands and when those things are in place (e.g. marketing, the right people through the door with money in their pocket) your jewellery can get the attention it deserves.
    Kristin :)

  5. Reply

    Rowan | KitschenSink

    11th November 2009

    So glad you did this post, I kept meaning to ask you how the 100% handmade went. Sounds like a winner, I'm in for the next one, whenever that is! If you hear let me know – I emailed them but heard nothing back

    Rowan xoxo

  6. Reply

    andrea creates

    11th November 2009

    I think I didn't get my last comment to work-
    It's true for me the shows I've done are really hit and miss.I tend to do the less expensive ones for fear I will waste money if I don't get any sales at a more expensive one but they tend to have the least amount of people-sometimes.Sometimes not.It's not easy-But you're right ,you can't know til you try-good luck in the future :)

  7. Reply


    11th November 2009

    It is so hard isn't it. In my, limited, experience. Specific fairs rather than craft fairs are better. People still expect something for nothing at craft fairs. Having said that I did a Christmas shopping eve once at a school and it was rubbish. The main thing though is advertising, advertising and advertising of the event. I am so pleased these were better for you.