Alongside friends and colleagues on the Illustration course, we had a table at Tiny Mart! at Boston Tea Party in Plymouth. This was my first experience of doing an art fair of any kind so used this as an experiment, engage with other makers and see what people gravitate towards.
What to sell
I have previously been to Tiny Mart as a customer so already had some idea of what was sold there and the audience it draws in. Tiny Mart seems to attract young adults, so had to bare that in mind when putting together products. I wanted to keep what I brought with me to sell in keeping with what I am currently working on as part of my research project. This was largely to see if it would suit this market and whether these kinds of fairs would be something to continue with when I have finished my degree.
I started by wanting to sell prints. It felt like a good place to start and something that could be made quickly and for little cost. I have been working with printing techniques recently and have thoroughly enjoyed trying this new method, so have incorporated this aesthetic in my digital work and feel comfortable and confident with this process. Working with themes of isolation and freedom, I created a series of bird prints, using bold colours that still had a sombre undertone, in keeping with what I gravitate towards.
I also created a print of a hand holding a wilting flower. For this one, I attempted this sketch as a lino cut but was not entirely happy with the results. So for speed and accuracy, I recreated it digitally using textures from my printmaking tests. It took a while to get the colours to a place where I was happy with them, but I like the final result. Again, bright and fun colours, but a more sombre subject. I’m really enjoying playing with that juxtaposition.
I had copies of my zines left from Counter Fair and a few zine swaps and donations, so put them up for sale at Tiny Mart. I wasn’t sure if they would attract much attention, but with the mindset of using this experience to experiment, I took them with me.
A year or so ago, before I had studied illustration, I took part in a competition where I won 100 vinyl stickers of my design. At the time, I had been drawing geometric bugs and this made it onto the sticker design. I have so many of these to get rid of, so thought I should try selling them at Tiny Mart, again to see what people gravitate towards. To keep these stickers cohesive with this design, I created A6 handbound sketchbooks with a repeat pattern of the bug designs. I wanted to try different products out to see what would sell.
I also made a zine of some sketchbook work I like but don’t think I’ll have much use for, so collated it in this zine. Unfortunately, I had some printing issues so only got one copy made, which I’m using as my master copy for future reference. I will try this out at another fair in the future.
Because I was sharing a table with other artists, I made up some business cards to be clear of who created this work and how they can get in touch with me. I printed out a text template onto white card and then made carved a stamp that I could print onto the cards for a more organic aesthetic. I used the image of a crow that appears in most of my prints as my branding in this instance. I really liked how they came out.
On reflection, for future fairs, I could use this as something to do during quiet periods and to keep myself busy. It is very easy to feel like you’re watching customers, which can be intimidating and uncomfortable. It could also be an interactive addition for the customers, where they can pick their own stamp and colour ink pad and stamp it themselves, making my business card something more special to them.
I put each print into sealed bags with backing card to keep it straight, and also added in my business card to keep my details with my work.
This was something all four of us struggled with as we collectively had limited experience and struggle to value our own work. I had previously priced my zines as £5 at Counter Fair and didn’t sell any, so lowered the price to £3, as I would still make profit from that. Also, my zines are part of my research project, so wanted to sell these more urgently to distribute its content.
We worked together to price things, as we didn’t want to undersell each other and keep the table cohesively priced. We also had to consider the market this event draws in, mostly young people, who do not have a huge amount to spend on artwork. With these factors in mind, I priced my items like this:
A5 print – £3
A6 Sketchbook – £3
Zine – £3
Sticker – 50p
These felt like fair prices without underselling and were appropriate to the rates everyone else at the table had chosen.