So, on Sunday there I was at my first in-person artisan market in exactly two years. It was so exciting to be back, behind my table, chatting to folks, meeting customers, and enjoying the atmosphere of the day.
I’d spent quite bit of time in the days before Sunday just getting things ready for Support The Makers Market in the seaside neighbourhood Portobello. I checked my stock and gave it all a freshen-up with the iron. I got my pricing stickers ready. I made a few ‘wee things’ to fill my table with. I tried out my table layout and made sure it was going to work. I made sure that I had something tasty for lunch and a bar of chocolate for that mid-afternoon energy slump. And the day before, I had everything all packed up and ready to go.
Sunday morning came and the sun was shining. Yay! Always great to have good weather on market day. It encourages people out and about. I arrived at the venue and took the first of my things inside. At first, I couldn’t see where my table was. There were lots of people milling about, setting up, and bustling around. It took me a wee while to just find my bearings and adjust to the setting. Then I noticed my friend’s table sign – crisp white and a gorgeous purple – very distinctive and I knew straight away that it was her. I headed on over and found my spot next door to her. Thank you Carmen for arranging to put us together – you are a star!
I headed back to the car and brought in the rest of my things. Then I headed off to find a place to park for the day. I was so nervous that I wasn’t able to park up! I made such a mess of putting the car in to the space and it took me several attempts. But I got there in the end. Then I raced back to the venue to start setting up. Doors were due to open in 30 minutes and I suddenly felt that I was running out of time! My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding! My friend, Gillian from Juniper Cards and Gifts, was very calm and helped my put my table cloths out to cover the table. Then I set up my table stand – a shelving system to display some of my items and give my table height. This was the first time that I’d used it in practice and I was really pleased with how it looked. Gradually I laid out my items, positioning and repositioning them around the table, trying to get the best look. Then, with hots sweaty hands, I started to put my price labels on. That was fiddly and I really wished that I’d done this the day before… With minutes to spare I was ready.
And then the doors opened. And customers started flooding in. It was super-busy from the get go, people keen to come in and browse, to find new stockists, reconnect with favourites, and make purchases. There was a real buzz about the hall, with lots of happy noise and chatter.
I gradually settled in to the day, got over my nerves and the rush at the start. The coffee vender was on the other side of the hall from my table, so I wandered over and treated myself to a cappuccino. We got chatting and discovered that we’d both had quite a rushed start to the day. They’d also had trouble parking up, nerves getting to us all. I took a sip of my coffee and could feel my shoulders relaxing a little more.
The morning continued with a lovely level of noise, chatter, and customers milling around. My friend Gillian made a few sales and I congratulated her and shared in her delight. Customers approached my table and I said hello and good morning to them, trying to engage with each one behind my face mask. Lots of nodding heads and big smiles seemed to help. I encouraged them to pick my items up and try them out – see how the zip works on the purses, or feel with weight of wadding in the tea cosies. It felt great to be engaging with real people again, getting instant feedback on my products and gauging their interest in what I made and do.
And then I made my first sale! Yay! A customer had come over and had a really good look at all of my things. She was particularly interested in a string of bunting and I helped her to unfolded it and hold it up. I showed her both sides and explained that it was reversible. She pondered about where she might hang it in her home. Or, she wondered, that she might give it as a gift. We chatted for a little, she commenting on the bright colours of my items. Then she wandered off and said that she would take a browse around and come back. Which she did, some 20 minutes later. Again she looked at the bunting and said that she knew where she would hang it – in her kitchen. I thought that would be lovely and began to wrap it for her. My hands were shaking so much from the excitement that I struggled to make the wrapping neat, but I managed somehow to hand over a presentable parcel. We shared a few more comments and I thanked her for her purchase. As she left and moved on I turned to Gillian on the neighbouring table and we shared in my celebration – it’s always good to get out of the starting blocks!
Soon afterwards, another customer came forward. She knew exactly what she was looking for – a sunny yellow tea cosy. She picked it up and held it in her hands, wondering about the size. I explained that it was modelled to fit my large family-sized tea pot and she thought that it would be big enough. My wrapping skills a little more improved, I handed over her parcel and let out a little internal cheer! It’s always so lovey and reassuring to have someone make a purchase. It helps me to know that you like what I do and what I make and that I’m on the right lines.
The afternoon carried on, still busy with lots of people about. Some came to my stall and we chatted, they looked and some picked items up. Others walked by slowly, taking it all in but needing nothing more than a passing glance.
My final sale of the afternoon was to a very dear friend who had travelled all the way across town especially to visit the market. She had been to a few stalls before arriving at mine and had made some purchases. She knows Gillian from Juniper Cards and Gifts too, and the three of us got chatting together about the afternoon and what she’d been buying. She’s a great supporter of my business and loves to cheer on hand-crafted makers. She’s very discerning too, and knows what she’s looking for. It’s always a real pleasure to serve her and help her with her requests.
The market started to quieten down a little, with fewer people coming through the door. It was later in the afternoon by now and folks were heading home for the day. I took the chance to look around me and see the other stalls close by. I took in what they were selling, but mostly I was taking in their display. I noticed how they had set their items out, what props they had used and how they had made the best use of their space. I jotted down a few notes, chatting with my friend to sound-out a few ideas. I’m always looking to improve my set-up and make my stall as appealing and attractive as possible.
And then, 4pm and time to pack up and head home. That was much less stressful than unpacking! But, still I worked in an orderly way, neatly placing things bag in the bag, folding the table cloths, and taking down the shelf stand. I packed them back in to the car and headed home. As I drove – munching on my emergency bar of chocolate – I reflected back over the day and decided that I couldn’t wait to do it all again!