I have been wanting to have a table at an art fair for a long time, but have never felt confident with the work I had and in my ability to sell. I asked my friends on the MA Illustration course if they would like to share a table with me, which they did, so we applied for a table at Tiny Mart!
I wanted to use this as an experiment, a trial run for a possible future table at an event, to see what would sell, how much for and generally have a better understanding of this particular market. I had no goals in terms of how much I would like to make, as I have no previous experience of how much could be made on these events.
The table hire itself was very reasonable, at only £5 between us, so was easy to make a profit. The table we had was slightly awkward though as it was a booth, so we would sit alongside the table, which may have come of as quite intimidating for customers.
We put the more interactive items at the front, such as zines and books, so people wouldn’t have to lean over to pick them up and read. We placed most of the prints towards the back of the table, as they could be appreciated from a distance and didn’t necessarily need to be picked up. I think this display was reflected in the sales, as we sold mainly zines and very few prints. I am not disheartened that none of my prints had sold, as I am confident that the subject and aesthetic is of value, but the table layout does reflect what was sold.
Also, we were not particularly prepared in terms of what we would use to display our pieces. We rustled together what we had as a group and made do with that. We weren’t entirely clear of what each other was selling or more specifically how we wanted to display our works. This may have reflected in our presentation.
I was happy to sell two copies of my zine “Waiting Room”, especially as I nearly didn’t bring it because I didn’t feel it was as strong as “Sick Days”. One customer was already following me on social media and came to purchase a copy of Waiting Room as they had seen images of me make it on Instagram. They had also read Sick Days on Issuu and really liked that. This felt really good. Its rare that you meet your followers so was nice to see who my work is being seen by.
The other zine was sold to an occupational therapist. They had issues with the publications they are asked to distribute to patients, as they were very corporate and not based upon patients experiences. We discussed how my work is often a reaction to the literature I have been given. They suggested I contact NHS trusts about distribution of my work, as they felt it would be beneficial for medical professionals to see it. It was a really interesting conversation, and encouraging that people from the other side of health experiences agree with my aims. It showed me that you never really know who your audience are. I expected to have a largely young adult audience, which we did, but had little or no interest in the politics of health and accessibility.
It was also really interesting to see what other people were selling and how they were presenting themselves. I made time to go round and talk to other artists, what their background was, and did some swaps of my work with theirs. The collector for Plymouth Zine Library was also there, so did a zine swap with her so Waiting Room is now in the collection. Overall, we did make a lot of money, but it was great to be in a room with so many other creatives and engage with them.
I have definitely learnt a lot from this experience. I know to be prepared with a plan for how I will display my work and have appropriate display stands purchased and ready. I also know to get in quick on getting a good table. We held back this time and got a booth which felt awkward for both us and the customers. Once I feel I have more work to display individually, I would definitely consider doing this solo, or as a group again, now that I have broken the ice and have a better idea of what to expect.