Jewelart in one of the cattle pens at the first Art in the Pen at Thirsk, Yorkshire, where over 100 cattle pens were transformed into amazing pop-up mini-galleries.
Some of the ‘pens’ are stunning, gorgeous arts and crafts displayed beautifully. Many ingenious ways of displaying work are used in each space, making each one a unique pop-up gallery.
Thankfully, a friend’s partner came over to look after my pen and I had an opportunity to take a wander around – say hello to people I knew – and enjoy looking at the other pens and see how some of the other artists and designer-makers had displayed their work.
Some of the pens looked so professionally displayed, plus the work was of such high caliber, that I couldn’t help feeling a bit of ‘stall envy’. It’s only my 2nd year of taking part in the Art in the Pen and I think my pen display has improved. I’ve upgraded from white bedsheets covering the inside of the pen to a thicker woolen material which drapes better, although next time I’ll buy something specifically for it – in one colour – that’s long enough to cover it all. Overall, my display could also do with some tinkering, maybe it needs a bit extra sparkle…
Why bother doing art and craft events? What motivates us – the artists and makers – to do them?
I think its much more interesting to purchase something handmade and be able to chat with the maker, instead of purchasing something mass-produced from the high street or on the internet. At events, you get to see my work displayed, chat with me about particular pieces that you like, and find out more about them. It makes it a much more personal purchase.
“I enjoy chatting to people about what I do and taking part in art and craft events.”
Although the main motivation for taking part in events, is for the opportunity to promote, display, and sell my work, there are other reasons too…
Like most designer-makers, my work is quite insular, so an event is a great opportunity to meet and chat with people, both customers, and other artists/crafters. Over the years, it’s been lovely that a number of friendships have blossomed out of chatting with my neighbouring stallholders at events. If I get a chance, I also enjoy taking a quick look around the art and craft stalls, to see who’s there are and say hello. I love seeing how everyone displays their work, the innovative and creative ways of using their limited space.
One of the things I don’t do is ‘sell’. I don’t like pushy salespeople and think there is nothing worse than people being hassled to buy something when they are just having a day out and enjoying looking around an art and craft fair. So, my work has to sell itself and I just help it out.
“Its really a great confidence booster, when people like my work and compliment it, and even better when they like it enough to purchase it!”
I prefer to be busy at an event, so if an event has quiet spells, I’ll do some making, either my abstract beaded wire brooches (as they are easy to ‘pick up and put down’) or wirework shapes. I’m happy then as I get in my own creative zone and time flies. Plus it has other advantages too, as visitors are usually intrigued with what I’m making, and its a good way of starting conversations.
At some events, I only have a 6ft table and my making tends to be more hidden from view, but at other events, such as the ‘Art in the Pen’, ‘Handmade in Lancashire and at my jewelart pop-up events I have a bigger area and my making becomes part of the display.
Occasionally I take part in charity fundraisers, so my being there is also helping out a good cause.
A highlight for me is that I get to visit and enjoy the atmosphere of some amazing venues. These range from gorgeous gardens to interesting buildings rich in histories, such as St Georges Hall in Liverpool and Lytham Hall in Lancashire. There is a lovely buzz about these places when they are filled with amazing arts and crafts and the hubbub of people chatting, admiring the stalls, and making purchases.
Thanks for joining me on my creative journey, come along and visit me at one my events,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x
After all the preparation work is done and you’ve been successful and got a stall at some art and craft events you’ve applied for, then the real work begins… It’s not just about ‘the making’, there’s sorting out your stall display, designing and getting business cards/leaflets printed, buying your packaging etc.
On the day of the event, once you’ve arrived and found where your stall is, there’s the unloading and moving everything, before setting up your stall display.
“Ideally, if I’ve got time before the event opens to the public, I like to take a quick look around the venue and see who’s there and say hello to the other stallholders that I know, but sometimes it has to wait until quiet spells later on in the day.”
Art and Craft events are very ‘hit and miss’. There are many factors outside of your control…
Outdoor events are often a wash-out if its bad weather, raining and windy, not to mention the potential to damage your art and craft. But equally, in the summertime, if its lovely weather, people don’t want to be indoors visiting an event.
If its a new event in a venue that doesn’t have a good footfall, it can often take a while for it to get established and attract visitors.
Too many similar types of stalls
Some events aren’t selective, they just want to fill the stalls. It’s better for an event to have a good variety of different work, to attract visitors to the event. “This happens all the time to me – with jewellery – and although its usually all different work, there are only so many people that are going to buy jewellery at an event.”
Hobby-makers and bought-in work This makes it really difficult for the artists and designer-makers who are trying to make a living from their art/craft as you can’t compete price-wise with the hobby-makers or work that’s been mass-produced in other countries. “I now mostly try to take part in art/craft events where there’s been a selection process involved.”
If your stall is in a corner or your neighbouring stall has a card spinner or clothes rail in the space between the stalls, your stall can easily get blocked by people looking at their stall. “This is really frustrating and has happened to me at events many times. I usually give it a few minutes grace, and then if my stall is still being blocked I go out and ask them to move so that I can get to my stall display and tidy it up.”
The time of year
The run-up to Christmas is the best time of year, as many visitors are buying Christmas presents. At other times of the year, it depends on whether visitors have a reason to buy ie. birthday presents or see something they like and either want to treat themselves or are with someone else that wants to treat them.
When an event doesn’t work out, it’s hard not to take it personally and think that people don’t like what you make.
Figure out why your work hasn’t sold at that particular event and if it’s one or more of the above factors, or if there might be things you can improve upon, ie. your display, range of pricing, negativity etc. You can use each event as a marketing opportunity to see what does sell, what are visitors interested in, what comments and feedback you get and use it to give out your leaflets and business cards. A visitor who is interested in your work, might not be ready to buy at this event, but might come to another event later on and buy from you then.
Its all part of the learning curve, you have to try out different events to find the ones that are right for your work.
If it’s not busy, it’s nice to get to know the artists, designer-makers and craftspeople on your neighbouring stalls, see what they make, chat about events, marketing etc and help each other out if you need to leave your stalls.
“Over the years, I’ve tried out many different types of events and some just don’t work for me… these include family fun days, school fairs and vintage (with a bit of handmade) events, so I leave these events for others to do.
“I hope this information is both interesting and helpful for other artists, designer-makers and craftspeople doing events and visitors to the events.”
Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x
A lot of work goes into taking part in art and craft events and it begins months before the actual event. You wouldn’t believe how organised we have to be, and it isn’t something that normally springs to mind when you think of artists and craftspeople, as we tend to have a reputation of ‘having our heads in the clouds’!
Its planning, researching, organising and completing the applications and then once you’ve been selected for the event, paying for them.
This is how my year starts…
The first few months each year, I start to plan my year ahead. It involves creating a calendar planner, listing all the weekends from Easter to Xmas and pencilling in potential events, teaching dates, holidays, etc.
I begin with a review of the events I’ve done the previous year; looking at which ones worked, which didn’t, which are borderline because they might have been affected by the weather or had other problems and I might give them another go. This is followed by researching other events as potential ones to apply to and then listing them all on my weekend planner. Sometimes popular weekends might have a clash of multiple events and I have to make a decision of which event might work best for me.
Before I can start applying for events, I choose a selection of photos, from photographs I’ve taken during the previous months/year and I update my 100-word artist statement and artist CV. For some events you only need to send this information once, others you need to complete application forms and send it every time, alongside proof of your public liability insurance and sometimes a Risk Assessment as well.
Application deadlines vary from event to event, some might have deadlines 6-9 months before the event, others maybe 3 months. After applying, then it’s waiting to see if you’ve got in, then it’s sorting out paying for them.
April/May and September/October I try and keep one or two weekends available for teaching classes and pencil in potential dates on my calendar.
By now my planner is starting to fill up, so I have to make sure I put weekends off and holidays down on it too… otherwise you find your actually going to be working every weekend!
Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x
the studios 3-day November 2015 pop-up exhibition at Barton Grange Garden Centre
Its been a long-held dream of mine to work from my own studio and move off my kitchen table. I finally did it and moved into a studio-workshop. It’s rural, an old converted farm outbuilding and in some of my neighbouring studios there’s a lovely diverse mix of artists and crafters; a potter, a porcelain ceramicist, a textile artist who runs workshops and has a textile group ‘ Diversity’ and a part-time crafter who does sewing, knitting and card making and runs a weekly craft group. Next door to the studios we have a nice cafe, ‘Roots cafe’ and there’s also car parking.
Before deciding whether to move into the studio, I made a list of things that I could do there that I couldn’t do at home, alongside teaching were also doing ‘open studios’, as I wasn’t normally going to be open to the public and selling my work from the studio.
Last year we got together and organised 2 studio open weekends, learning and trying out new ideas along the way. It developed; we had meetings to choose our group name, sort our pictures and text for our website and leaflets/posters and then I designed them. But, the studios are very much off the beaten track, so we ended up with more nosy hens from the neighbouring farm coming to visit us than actual people (not counting friends and family that came to visit).
Doing these ‘open studios’ clearly wasn’t working, rather than trying to get people to come to us, we needed to ‘go to the people’.
That was how our ‘creative roots studios’ event idea began and I felt the nearby exhibitions room at Barton Grange Garden Centre would be ideal for us, as there would be ample room to fit the 5 of us, plus 2 or 3 guest artists. Over the years, I’ve hired the exhibitions room, otherwise, known as the ‘green room’ (its painted green) a number of times for teaching jewellery making classes. I’ve also taken part in the jewellery and craft fairs that Barton Grange ran, plus the Art and Craft Guild of Lancashire exhibitions there.
Although a lot of work went into organising the event, it’s been such a great learning experience for me (being the main driving force and organiser) and given us as studios the opportunity to get together, get to know each other more whilst taking our work out to a wider audience.
From the studio group:
myself, jewelart – beaded sculptural wirework and glass jewellery
Josh, Joshua Coupe Ceramics
Brenda, Brenda Fee Porcelain
Pauline, Creative Stitch Studio, as she was ill her textile group ‘Diversity’ exhibited in her space
plus guest artists:
Diversity textile group, William Poole wood-turner and artist Siobhan on Friday and Lorraine rag rugs over the weekend.
Luckily the table plan, which gave us 2 tables each, pretty much worked out and we managed to fit all the tables and our displays in the room, with enough room for visitors to access each of our displays.
It was really wonderful that our studio group exhibition got some great comments and feedback from both the venue, visitors and customers and overall it was a successful event for us selling and promoting our work. I loved that a number of our friends and customers came along to support us and visit our studio group exhibition. Sam Rowena x
some photos from my recent pop-up jewellery display at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe, Lancashire
The education gallery, situated at the back of the Platform Gallery, is a lovely space for solo and group exhibitions, workshops, and meetings.
I enjoyed spending a few days there, meeting and chatting about my work to gallery visitors whilst making some new work; wired pieces and hooks for my new light-catcher glass pendant display on Thursday, brooches on Friday and Celtic wire-work designs on Saturday.
jewelart pop-up exhibition 2015 postcard
It always fills me with joy when my display and work gets great compliments and even better some of my jewellery went off to new homes across the British Isles; to Scotland, Brighton and Essex, as well as places closer to home in Lancashire.
Sam Rowena x
It runs from the 17 October 2015 to the 9 January 2016 at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe, Lancashire. I’m chuffed to bits that a small selection of my jewelart Venus copper wire-work jewellery designs are included in it and on display in the gallery.
This Northern Star exhibition at the Gallery connects visitors with contemporary makers and their crafts from Lancashire and throughout the UK. Work on display includes; ceramics, jewellery, wood, paper, stone, craft, textiles, glass, metal, print and plastic.
Venus copper wire-work collection wire shaped in spirals, squiggles, flowers, Celtic inspired and wrapped designs. Copper wire is combined with abstract fused glass, gemstones, freshwater pearls, Swarovski crystals and vintage buttons to create unique wearable jewellery.
I will be at the gallery with a larger selection of my work at my pop-up exhibition on Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 October. Come along meet the maker – chat to me about my work, watch me making and have an opportunity to buy direct.
See some more examples of my venus copper wirework collection in my earlier post. Love to hear what you think of my new designs.
Sam Rowena x
Wow, what an amazing transformation took place, cattle pens at the Auction Mart at Carlisle (June) and Skipton (August) were turned into wonderful mini-galleries. There was a great selection of beautiful art, ceramics, glass, wood, wirework, textiles and jewellery on show. An opportunity for visitors to meet the artists and designer-makers in their pens, chat with them about their work, and purchase pieces.
This year, the Art in the Pen at Skipton celebrated its 10th Anniversary. I’ve heard many good things about it, but getting selected for it hasn’t been easy. To apply you have to send your artist CV, artist statement, and some images of your work. Thankfully my persistence has paid off and it was 3rd time lucky, especially as they had over 450 applicants for those 160 spaces!
As a first time ‘penner’, sorting out how to display your work in a pen is a bit of a learning curve… normally I only have a 6ft table to display my work at events and I’m not used to having a blank canvas, quite a large empty pen to magically transform. So many things to take into consideration; how to cover the sides of the pen, how many tables to use, how to get some height into your display, the lighting, where to sit, plus how to fit it all in your car and carry it all to the pen.
The Carlisle Art in the Pen was a brilliant test-run and opportunity to see how the other artists had used their pen space.
At the Skipton Art in the Pen, it took me; 4 sheets to cover the sides of my pen, 3 tables used in an L shape, 2 new wall displays I’d created using material combined with old frames and I sat tucked away next to my making/leaflets/packing table.
jewelart Art in the Pen 2015
my making / leaflets table at Art in the Pen
jewellery artist at Art in the Pen, Carlisle 2015
It was really rewarding that my pen display got some great compliments from both visitors and stallholders alike, especially my wooden display table (it’s my work-table I use for doing wirework at my studio, I originally discovered it outside my local charity shop) and my new up-cycled frame displays.
My wirework jewellery and glasswork also got some great compliments and, even better, many pieces went off to new homes.
It was a brilliant experience to take part in the Art in the Pen events, I enjoyed meeting people that liked my designs and work, catching up with visiting friends and making new friends. I’m there at the new Craft in Pen event in November and fingers crossed will be back again at the Art in the Pen events next year.
Hopefully, even more, people will come along and help support these events, take the opportunity to meet the makers and artists, help to publicise them, and buy some local handmade arts and crafts.
Sam Rowena x
My visit to the Platform Gallery luckily coincided with the Black Sheep – Darker Side of Felt exhibition that’s on there. This exhibition has spent 18 months travelling around the UK and the Platform Gallery is its last venue. Wow, there’s some amazing work on display. There’s a collection of work by 7 international felt artists; including colourful large abstract wall hangings, sculptural 3-D pieces including vessels, costumes, and my favourite the primal animal headpieces by Barbara Keal. I could just imagine myself transported to fairytale land wearing one of the pieces and meeting up with elves or witches (as we’re near Pendle, the witch county).
There’s also a display of different types of wool and other materials, and info about the felting process. Although you can’t handle any of the main exhibits, there is a handling section showcasing a variety of felted work. It’s definitely worth going to see, you could also have a go yourself at one of the felt workshops or find out more about the exhibition at the curator talk.
Info board about the exhibition: This exhibition is an exploration of the edgier side of this extraordinary and versatile material, looking at artists who create sometimes disturbing and bizarre oddities and technically brilliant objects. This is a touring exhibition from The National Centre for Craft and Design.
Info board about the artist Barbara Keal: “On my way to the workshop I was gathering leaves and grasses I suddenly felt giddy, overwhelmed by the strength of the force of life – when I arrived at the workshop I got down to making a hat fast and furiously – how can I make a work wild and vigorous enough for you to catch that feeling?”
East-Sussex based Barbara Keal is on a mission to create hats for the whole world, inspired by real and imaginary animals, and effortlessly crossing the boundaries between sculpture, craft, design, and fashion. Keal’s work is an example of the extraordinary sculptural possibilities of the material. Felt is often used to replicate animal puppets or toys but Keal’s work has a rawness and reality to it. By wearing Keal’s creations we are encouraged to become another creature and explore our primal side. visit the exhibition to read more…
The Black Sheep Felt exhibition runs until the 3rd October at the Platform Gallery
My main reason for visiting the Platform Gallery was to collect my work that had been in this year’s Craft Annual Open Exhibition – great news that 3 of my pieces sold (2 pairs of my Venus copper flower earrings and a pair of my rose medieval design earrings) – and to deliver some posters and leaflets for my 3-day pop-up exhibition there on 22-24 October.
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x
Clitheroe is a great place to visit for a day out. It’s a pretty market town, with lovely shops, cafes, galleries, a castle, and a museum.