How NOT to Prepare for Art and Craft Fairs

Picture of sandblasted stock items piling up for a craft fair
A huge amount of stuff having been sandblasted – in a tiny room, hot as hell…

At the end of last year, I really looked forward to the four whole months I had to prepare for the art and craft fair season, which was starting in May. I could see the endless days of working in my nice, warm studio, drifting in a cloud of serenity, not under any pressure, just creating. 

Guess what? It hasn’t quite worked out how I planned. Why? Because I am a terrible procrastinator. I am not kidding when I say tell you that I bought a course on how to stop procrastinating and, well, I’ve not done it.

Here’s a snapshot of the last 4 months:

January: 4 months until craft season

There was the taster weekend, which to be fair, was a lot of work. I’m not complaining at all as it was great, (you can read about it here*) but it did take up much more time than I anticipated. I was also nervous about it and being nervous does not make me very creative. ‘I’ll start building stock when that’s done’, I said to myself. 

February: 3 months until craft season

Craft taster weekend, done. I start to make some pieces. But I also do an online course with an international glass artist so I need to start working on that technique. It can’t put it to one side to do later because part of the course is to upload the piece you’ve done so it can be assessed. This is a brilliant way to do a course, but it does mean that I’m not making art exhibition stock because I’m concentrating on this new technique. I just tell myself it’s only February and we all know how long winter lasts.

Fused glass bowl in a new technique, ready for art and craft fair.
The piece in the new technique: Firework – from start to finish

Early March: 2 months until craft season

Slight panic felt in my tummy. But we’ve still got weeks to go before the first craft fair so I can easily push that to one side. To make myself feel better, I draw up a plan to work to: what pieces do I need, and what is going in the kiln and when. This of course, is a form of procrastination but I kid myself I’ve done a really useful thing. And go and sit down and do a sudoku. 

Mid-March to April

Full-on panic-mode. I now know exactly what I’m doing. But wait a minute – what the hell is that hissing noise? It’s my sandblaster – having a meltdown – clearly it wanted a serene four months, too. Rich decides he will try and fix it and does some online research. Sadly, because we don’t know what is wrong with it, he has to finally admit that he can’t. Besides, his face is now a sort of hell-fire red, which is its default colour when he is stressed. We send the sandblaster off to be repaired. In a couple of hours, Rich’s face goes back to its normal colour.

No sandblaster. This is a real problem. I had no idea HOW much I use it. I don’t just use it to finish off a piece, I use it between firings, a lot. Each week I wait for a call from the repairers. At the end of week three, I ring to find it’s not even been started. Enter full-on rant mode. This wears me out. I calm down by doing a sudoku. 

Early April: just a few weeks until craft season

The sandblaster is back and I spend what feels like days locked in a tiny room with something that is actually louder than my dog. I emerge only when I just get too hot to stay sane.

Now: what feels like just hours until craft season

Well, we are getting somewhere but I still worry I don’t have enough stock. If I had a magic wand, my wish would be that kilns didn’t take so damn long; that firings could be done in 2 hours instead of 24. (Mind you, I’d also like a bigger house, a fancier car, 33” legs and thicker hair but I guess you have to just get on with what you’ve got).  

We still have things to do: order some nice card for our displays, order wall fittings for the wall art, drive all the way to bloody Ledbury to get change for the float because every branch of sodding Barclays even slightly close to us has been closed. (Incidentally, I found out last week that the Post Office don’t like giving change because of potential fraud. I mean if I was into some massive fraud, I’m damn sure I’d be doing it with more than £20 in five-pound notes and £30 in mixed change but there you go).

Reader, this is how NOT to prepare for craft events. Of course I have simplified it. I haven’t really spent hours sat on my arse with sudokus and I have spent a lot of time doing commissions, marketing, etc but nonetheless, I could have done it better. I’d like to say ‘lesson learned’ but I’m not convinced this short-legged, fine-haired old crone, in a small house with an old car is realistically going to do anything different next time…unless of course I actually finish the procrastination course.

*if you fancy doing the next taster session in June, you can book here.

So tell me, do you do fused glass workshops?

Photo by Heather Wright Photography

‘Do you do fused glass workshops?’ is a consistent question I am asked when doing craft fairs. My answer is always the same: no. This is because my studio is too small (this is true) and I have reactive dogs (true). What I don’t say, however, is ‘because I’d rather set fire to my hair’, (also true). 

You may think this is extreme and wonder why I have this reaction. I’ve pondered on this and decided it’s because I catastrophise. In your head, you’re asking ‘I wonder if she does workshops?’; in my head, I’m thinking ‘what if a student cuts off their hand with some glass and I get sued and lose my house and then there’ll be nowhere for me and Rich to live and that means the dogs and rats will have nowhere to live and we’ll have to live in my car, which is tiny and only one dog will fit in it and how can I possibly decide which dog to keep and what about all my shoes…’ (btw, this isn’t bad grammar, though it is, it’s literally a running commentary in my head which features no full stops, commas or semi-colons). Anyway, you get the idea. 

A Jump into the Abyss

So why, three weeks ago, did I do not one fused glass workshop, but eight? Let me explain. I was one of a group of six artists and makers who came together in two of the artists’ adjoining studios to run a craft taster weekend. Participants chose 4 out of 6 crafts to ‘taste’ the very basics of their selected crafts. It resulted in a total of 8 sessions, with 5 participants in each, over the whole weekend. This was what is known as a baptism of fire, or, what I refer to as shitting myself.  


I began my first workshop. ‘Are you bleeding?’ said a kind soul as I looked down at my hand to see it leaking copious amounts of blood. Yes, thirty seconds in, I had cut myself and DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE. I made some lame joke, patched myself up with a plaster and carried on despite the blushing warmth radiating from my face like a small woodburner.  However the rest of the day ticked along nicely and I even relaxed enough to take off my coat.  I got home and sat in front of the TV and milked it for a bit whilst Rich got my tea. When I got to bed, I lay there for a while, musing over ‘plastergate’ until sleep took over. 

A 70’s popstar

Teaching fused glass workshop
As Alvin Stardust…

By day two,  I was feeling a little more confident, (despite Rich telling me ‘you look like Alvin Stardust in that jumper’ as I left the house). First session and up comes this concerned voice ‘have you cut yourself?’ Cue blood all over my hand. By now, I was wondering if my subconscious was having a laugh at my expense, (the bastard), and had a small frisson of panic run through me. 

But do you know what? It was fine. All of it. The students were fabulous: eager to get stuck in, and interested. By the end of the weekend, I was buzzing; chuffed to bits with what the students had produced and more than a little proud of myself. Of course, without the support of the other artists, I would’ve found it much more daunting. They all run workshops so I took my cues from them. They had let me practice on them a week before, which gave me confidence. I’m very grateful for their support and for trusting me to live up to their standards. I know that I know my craft extremely well and that questions wouldn’t phase me. My fear stemmed from being the centre of attention; even more so as I was dressed as Alvin Stardust. 

Fused glass workshop. Coasters to be fired in the kiln
Selection of students’ coasters about to be taken away and fired

…and on to the next one

So where does that leave things? Well, we are doing another Craft Taster weekend on 11th and 12th June 2022. I will be there…with a suitcase full of plasters. 

Note: My partners in crime for the weekend were: Chris Lewis, Jen Johnson, Rachel Shilston, Yvette Farrell and Jo Snowdon

I Love a Craft Fair…

Sometime late last year, I wrote a blog for this website about craft fairs. It appeared on the site for only a short time. This is because when I tried to do updates on my website, I messed up the whole site, big time. I had to write a creeping email to my step-son-in-law (who looks after my website) asking if he would kindly fix the mess I’d made. He had to restore the website to a previous back-up when the craft fair blog hadn’t been done.

By this time, I was diagnosed with cancer, and then Covid reared its (very) ugly head. I didn’t put the blog back as suddenly there were no craft fairs, and wouldn’t be for a long time. It didn’t seem right to put up the blog at a time like that. Additionally, whilst my blog was tongue-in-cheek but quite subversive, I found myself really, really missing craft fairs. The upside of Covid has been that when we can go back to doing them, I literally cannot bloody wait.

Whether you believe in vaccines or not, the fact theres now one on the horizon means I can visualise being at a show. I have therefore decided to publish the craft fair blog again. When you read it, bear in mind that it is all meant in a jokey manner, for you to enjoy. Rest assured, I simply cannot wait to see you all at shows again – I will be bringing out the bunting.

So…here it is:

If you’re a crafter, you will at some point attend a craft fair in an attempt to sell your wares. Craft fairs can be good fun, or utterly soul destroying, depending on how well you do and whether you are a pessimist, like me (you won’t find me filling in a crossword with ink).

How enjoyable is a craft fair?

Craft fairs are a unique experience. If you’re a people-person you’ll think how great it is to spend the day selling your products and talking to a variety of people who you would never have met if you weren’t there! Win-win. If you are somebody who finds socialising more difficult, the thought of strapping a smile with the girth of a small ocean to your face all day makes you feel a little apprehensive.

Are you an optimist, or a pessimist…

Whichever camp you fall into, craft fairs are not easy. It may feel easy on the day the sun’s shining, you’re taking lots of money from some wonderful people and the lid on your cashbox won’t close when you come to go home. However, that just doesn’t happen very often. If you are lucky, you’ll live off the optimism from that single show for quite a few weeks. But when the weather is frankly, shit, people aren’t buying or worse, aren’t even looking at your stall, then it’s hard to go home and feel good about yourself, your life and your career choices. Even an exuberant dog, so excited to see you, tearing round the house with the sheer joy of you being home, won’t lift your spirits (especially if said dog expresses its joy by carrying one of your slippers out into the pissing rain). 

Bloody Hard Work….even without the Chairs

Fairs are hard work. You’ve usually got up at some ungodly hour to go and set up. It’s often cold. The cheap chairs you bought because ‘they’re only for craft shows’ are so uncomfortable that by lunchtime, you’d sooner sit on your banner pole. The flask of coffee you brought with you to save you money is so bitter, you wonder if you actually put arsenic in it instead of coffee (and if it’s a really bad show, you hope you did…).

You realise that you actually are the sort of person that eats a family-sized bag of crisps in one sitting. And if one more person says they can’t buy anything because ‘it’ll collect dust/the cat will knock it over/I’ve got too much stuff as it is’ you will drown yourself in the remains of your awful coffee. (Incidentally, the ‘best’ reason I had from somebody to not buy something of mine was as she was elderly, she would be dead soon and ‘then what’ll happen to it’. I struggled to answer that one. 

The Upside…..yes, there’s an upside

However, this is all the negative. When a craft fair is good, it’s absolutely brilliant. You love meeting your customers who smile when they see the products you have made; your fellow craft fair buddies are funny, kind, and frankly damn good company; your credit card machine hasn’t let you down once; you’ve sold some stuff so can legitimately go and buy a coffee that doesn’t taste like something’s died in it. You’ve ‘earned’ that cake, the size of a small child which you have just bought from a fellow vendor. It’s a wonderful feeling. And no matter how seldom it happens, when it does, oh, it’s just heaven. 

Black Cat Glass Designs’ stall at an exhibition with the Herefordshire Guild of Craftsmen