Those of you following me on Instagram or Facebook will have seen pictures of great upheaval in my embroidery studio. Selecting and packing everything for the Leonhardimarkt in Geitau taken place last weekend. Now that the markt is over and my embroidery studio back in order, let me tell you what I have learned from the experience...
Up first, a picture of me explaining the St. Laurence goldwork project to some visitors in the local newspaper. Nice free publicity!
The Leonhardimarkt is organized by Fazination Handwerk (Fascinating Craftmanship) and aims to create a platform for artisans (i.e. not hobby makers) to sell their handmade products and to demonstrate how they make them. They do this by organising two 'up-scale' fairs a year. I had visited a fair before, but this was my first time participating in one. Unfortunately for me, this one was not visited well on two of the three opening days. Not only a pity for me, but for all the participating artisans as sales were way below what they used to be in other years.
On Friday, we had by far the most interested crowd of visitors. People really enjoyed seeing the St. Laurence project and for many it was their first encounter with anything other than embroidered tablecloths :). It was really nice to be able to explain to people what I was doing and why I was doing it a certain way. We drove the 1,5 hours home on a high!
But as always, after the sunshine comes the rain. The crowd on Saturday was bored and unfriendly. It was kind of a blessing that there weren't that many of them... The Sunday saw a much higher volume of visitors, but these were mainly the families who came for the watching rather than the buying. Overall, my finished embroideries did not find a new home. I sold a couple of beaded pendants and a few embroidery kits. Interestingly, my lovely neighbour the Federkielstickerin didn't sell any of her finished embroideries either! It seems that embroidery still has a long way to go when it comes to fair pricing.
Why is that? For a starter, I noted that people do not have a clue how long it takes to stitch. They really think that I spent only a couple of hours on a piece and then sell it for top euros. Educating them that I only want the German legal minimum wage of €8,84 per hour + material costs, opened a few eyes. Secondly, although you can only sell at this particular fair when you are a true artisan and not a hobby maker, many people still thought that embroidery is my hobby and not my way of making a living. It became clear that embroidery is not recognised as a serious art form or a way to pay the bills.
How best to change this? By attending future fairs! Even though I made quite a loss, I might pick up some after trade. The trouble is, I won't know until after a certain time. Unfortunately, I need to make a decision in the next two days if I want to attend their fair in February. And that fair has an even higher attendance fee... What would you do, dear reader?
P.S. you can now pick-up the many new beaded pendants I made for the Leonhardimarkt from my webshop! I have also listed the finished embroideries I have for sale. I need a bit of cash to buy additional storage space for my embroidery studio, so please help me out!
Oh Jessia, I feel for you. I am so sorry you had such a bad experience with the Craft Show. I have been there, done that and it is so dishearteing one wants to cry! All the time, effort, money and love for what we do to have these ninconpoops' comments and face making at the pricings, have no idea what our work entails is so frustrating and sad. They think we are out to make a fortune!
Thank you for your support Velia! What I found really hard was to tell my story in such a way people understand. Have to figure out how to do that better next time :)!
Oh Jessica, that sounds like it was a couple of ups and a few downs. I do hope you get some after fair customers or interest. It’s so difficult to know how to talk to some people of that mind set isn’t it? But I guess, unless you get out there and show people, the greater community will never know. Maybe the answer is taster classes to give people an idea of how much time, and how much of a craft, each piece is!
Yes, taster classes are a great way of getting people into embroidery. However, this fair is more of an art fair and I don't think I am allowed to do that. But I have something like that on my sleeve for my collaboration with the Klosterladen Ettal in December...
Nancy Anne White
Jessica, sorry to hear about the negative experience. It can take participating in a number of artisan fairs to get a feel for how embroidery fits.
Yes, that story and how to pitch it is very important. And that was the main lesson learned from this fair. I will definitely have several prepared for my next fair!
Mary Ann Witalec Keyes
I, too, do various types of art and crafts and have had some success selling them, but it can be very discouraging. I still have what we in the US call a "day job" in order to support myself. I do admire your work and all of your efforts to bring attention to hand craft.
Thank you Mary Ann, it is encouraging to know that I am not the only one suffering from this underappriciation!
Dear Jessica, I am really with you in thought - cheer up, you are doing a wonderful job! Participating in fairs is always a bit of a struggle, especially when most people don't understand that you are a professional and don't charge top prices for just a few hours of work. But I'm sure your students all know how dedicated you are, and that you are a very skilled embroiderer!
Thank you Marina! I have decided to give it a go again in February, if they want me back. And I have booked a room for the duration of the fair. With the wintery weather I do not want to have to drive back at night. A little more expense, but much more peace of mind!
I've been following you for a while, love all your projects (:
Good points! The one of my neighbours who has been attending this fair for years, did get a lot of regulars. Although trade was low for him as well. The idea with the post cards is an interesting one I will certainly explore. And I will start making new kits in the near future. I already have some interesting ideas...
You've had lots of interesting and thoughtful comments there. Part of the problem is that hobbyists don't charge enough, and the general public doesn't have the knowledge to distinguish between them. I would hope that the Fair would help to make that distinction, but it takes time, and the different attendance this year may be the result of misplaced advertising.
Yes, Rachel, I agree. Part of the problem is that especially women charge not enough for their products. And women are less likely to pay fairly for a product produced by another woman. Especially if that product is a typical female craft. I can only hope to educate people on these points and be the change I'd like to see!
I really feel for you Jessica but I think that it is the same the world over, If someone sees you stuff and already does embroidery they think "I could do that " and if they don't embroider they don't appreciate the cost of materials and the time taken. Just a suggestion: Pin a table to every item stating cost of materials, hours taken to complete and at what hourly rate. At the worst they can only not believe you!! You could also produce a leaflet to leave on the table for people to take explaining more of your work especially that it is your job, hours taken to produce hourly rate and material costs with pictures of your studio emphasising it is art. If you could afford another show considering you may not sell anything at least you could begin to educate people and if people don't see the beautiful work done by embroiderers they will never appreciate it.
Good points Joyce! I will certainly change my leaflet to better explain what I am doing and that it is a job!
It is (if you can afford it) worth going to the one in February cause it gets you in the public's eye.
Yes, I will be going Leslie! All the points raised by my readers have convinced me that I should try again. Let's hope they want me back!
Jessica, I can only sympathise for your plight. However, I have read the comments from other followers. It seems to me that there are some practical and encouraging suggestions. Bon chance.
Thank you Erica! I too think that my readers are a pretty amazing bunch and their suggestions are really helpful. I just wish that my German readers would pitch in too...
May I suggest using facebook to display your work to generate interest and sales in both completed embroidery, kits and supplies. Facebook is a free source for advertising. It is also good to have a few facebook champions; meaning your champions/ambassadors like your posts, share your posts and make comments. These actions bring your posts to the top of your followers' newsfeeds & their friends may then also see your posts, especially when your posts are shared. always use your participation at fairs to advertise your website, blog, newsletter & facebook page; have a little card with this information on it, as a hand out at the fairs. Look at participation at fairs as an advertising source for your business. It is hard to educate the general public that what they perceive as a hobby is also a way to earn a living.
Thank you Sabina for your great suggestions! Please leave a glowing review on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MaerchenhaftesStickenJessicaGrimm/
Oh wie frustrierend. Ich kenne das Gefühl. (mit gewebtem, genalbundenen oder gesprangtem)
Hi Jessica, you could try to film some of the work you do up close with a timer running underneath. So that people understand the process better and the time needed (you'll need to edit it and put some subtitles). You could display it on a tablet on your table. Speaking for myself: looking at the price of the butterfly pendants for instance: only a skilled embroideress would understand the real value of such a (for me rather costly) gift. You might wish to produce more easy to sell items that take less production hours and will therefore be better affordable for visitors. Kits and postcards of items with your online address on it, sound good to me also. Good luck!
Hi Monica, thank you for your valuable comments! I always demonstrate at my stand to show people how much can be achieved in a certain amount of time. And people do agree that it is only fair to ask for the legal minimum wage for my work. A butterfly pendant takes 6 hours to make, for instance. In addition, I do sell cheaper pendants; and truth be told, they only sell well when displayed next to the more expensive butterfly pendants :). Right from the start of my embroidery bussiness, I have been selling kits of my own designs. I make sure they include a wide variety of techniques and materials and they are available in both english and german. Although I am not certain that postcards of my work would sell in Germany, I certainly will give that a try. People do take my flyers and bussiness cards readily, so that might lead to follow up trade!
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