Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Key to Getting to Market on Time is......................... Part 1

After I began selling my Bad Bear Brooches, I decided I would expand even a little bit further into the world of Bad Bear Key-rings. It was not a massive jump from one to the other and it seemed to fill a gap in my market. A lot of men did really like my work but unless they were of a badge wearing age, they really were not going to go in for sporting a brooch. The key-rings did very well when I premiered them at my next market and so, I have continued to include them in the Bad Bear line-up.

I thought it might be interesting to share with you the full life cycle of one of these pieces that is destined for a market stall; from materials to making, from making to packaging and from packaging to placement. They go on quite a journey from beginning to end.

I’m generally in Dublin city centre on a Thursday and so, about a week before I am set to go to market, I can be seen going from fabric shop to bead shop to ribbon shop early in the morning. I have a well worn route that I take to make the most efficient use of my time. The night before I will have made a list of the most pressing materials I need and then I will make a small map of the shops I need to make a stop at. I do have a very good store of materials at home in my studio but you would be surprised how often you need to stock up on basics like felt squares and brooch backings. If you find yourself needing to buy more essentials it generally means you have sold your work so it is not a task I complain about. 

I find that in a bustling and jostling city centre, the haberdashery shop is a calming and quiet sanctuary. They are usually filled with intent shoppers looking for a specific coloured thread or a certain size of sewing needle. I find them to be a relaxing and enjoyable environment to be in.

I wasn’t always so comfortable I have to say. But I found when I made regular visits to these places, learned the lingo and got to know some faces, I soon felt right at home. I found going in over and over again, even for short trips, helped to build my confidence and I even have come to enjoy this aspect of my work. You also may feel a little intimidated by a shop that sells niche or specialist items. My advice would be to take your time, hitch a great big smile on your face and ask some questions. In most shops, they will be more than willing to help you with what you need.

After getting my loot home, my next job is to assess the stock I have left over from the last market. I will count my numbers, check my sales journal, assess what sold well the last time and make a judgement about how many of each item I could make for the upcoming event. I then will set targets for myself. I write a list of all the things I would like to have made by a certain day. As I finish making things I will check them off my list and assess where I need to focus my attention next. I always have priority pieces to finish first and then less important or irregular sellers lower down on the list. I find this helps to keep me motivated and focused in the run up to the market. Without clear and achievable goals I begin to panic so I try to make the time for this important step.

The next thing I do is roll up my sleeves, take out my materials and get to work. Over time I have developed some work habits that have helped my productivity. In regards to the key rings, I split the making up into several steps. I do all my cutting out first. I draw on and cut out my basic shapes from felt in a big batch. It can be fiddly work but if you do it all in one go I have found you can get a rhythm going that supports you to do it quickly and easily.

The next step is to embroider the faces onto the felt backgrounds. This is where I have to engage my imagination and have a confident hand while stitching each newly invented expression. Again, I try to do this part all at one time so that I can keep track of what I am making in terms of sizes and colours, but also to keep a momentum going rather than constantly chopping and changing tasks.

I attach the key-ring clasp, stuff the head and sew up the completed piece all in one go also. This last step can be quite technical and a little monotonous but you are on the home stretch so that helps to keep you going. When I see a full row of Bad Bear faces scowling up at me I feel it is a job well done.

Join me tomorrow for part 2 of this journey.

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