Tag Archives: British Craft Trade Fair

Escapism

I should have written notes while I was away, or I should have spent the evenings writing instead of watching murder mysteries, because now, less than a week since got home, I’ve so much to tell you but it’s all jumbled up with how it feels to be home. Things have burst into flower and leaf , houseplants are leaning towards the light and people have moved into the birdhouse we put up last spring – they have been busy dusting and bringing in new nesting equipment.

The return to Witchmountain, after British Craft Trade Fair, was delayed by a trip to London; so that altogether I was out of my nest for nine whole days! This only happens once a year and I should probably do it more often so that the feelings anxiety beforehand and unsettled flatness afterwards are less intense. I had such a good time and so many adventures. After all the build up to a big event it’s not surprising it feels a little odd to be back with no imminent deadlines and just a sleeping cat for company during the day (and the owl who likes to hoot in the daytime).

This year BCTF was back in a permanent hall rather than a marquee and we’d been given an extra metre of space due to a cancellation, so it was a massive relief that the calico backdrops I’d made last year fitted perfectly. We found it much easier to set up this year, although it’s never quite how you imagine it on paper.I’d mended the ladders with string but they still felt pretty dodgy and my mum told me yesterday that my grandad made them himself in the war or something…no wonder they were wobbly. Here are three generations of Tillyer women- I need to work on my body language a little don’t I, you can see the discomfort in my white knuckled, clenched fist!

Of course I got severe stand envy as I looked around at what other people had done and it’s the hardest thing in the world not to compare and lose confidence; it is for me anyway. My friend Bridget Wilkinson was there for the first time and the simplicity and neatness of her stand design really let her work shine … it was also easier to set up, so If I do the show again I may do some reinventing ( mine was done with fabric, mostly because I have no power tools except a sewing machine and my dreadful measuring skills are more easily forgiven in fabric ).

Well we had a good show and met so many lovely, inspiring people – makers and gallery owners- I can’t even begin to list them all (but I will be adding new dates and stockists to the exhibitions page on the website soon)  I began to think I should give London a miss and head straight home to start on orders. This year is going to be busy and exciting; I just hope it starts to even out financially because there’s no doubt it’s been an expensive journey. BCTF is cheap compared to the bigger events like Top Drawer but I reckon it cost over £1,000 to stand, which is an awful lot when you don’t have a guaranteed income. We treated ourselves to a hotel with a pool and I swam every night, imagining myself looking like Esther Williams until I put my glasses back on and saw the reality-sometimes it’s better to live inside your head and dream.

And so from Harrogate to London where the weather made everything seem like we could have been in Italy. We ate tiny overpriced cakes cut into 3 pieces in the Royal Academy members rooms, marvelled at the marmalade at Fortnum’s , lusted over everything in Anthropologie and visited the Bernard Jacobson Gallery where there was an exhibition by a rather special artist.  London glittered in the sunlight and I insisted we went to Kew Gardens after a tip off there might be Moomins there. We must have walked for miles and I do wish I was able to go everyday for a month with a sketchbook and a picnic and a good map and plant guide.

There was a Moomin event at Kew but the real reason we were in London was to go to the Southbank Centre’s Adventures in Moominland. Ok, I may have lost you by now; to a lot of people the Moomins was just a slightly creepy kids cartoon or a childhood paperback but I didn’t even discover the books by Tove Jansson, apart from the semi autobiographical  “The Summer Book”,  until I was 42. For some reason we missed them as children so my first Moomin experience is of  reading all the stories one deep, white winter, with a bottle or two of whisky for company, snowed in and  heartbroken after a relationship breakup. They are children’s stories yes, but as the exhibition makes clear they are also about existential crisis,  fear and loss, love and friendship, family and acceptance of difference, home and security. Many of the stories are actually about Tove’s own life and relationships. Lots of the characters are misfits and outsiders but all are welcomed into the “family”. Don’t tell anyone but at a couple of points along the guided “adventure” I nearly cried- it was so beautifly done, with little illuminated tableaux in each room containing exquisite original drawings… some hidden in suitcases like Thingumy and Bob’s “content”, the love that they kept secret. There were no filming or photography allowed which I can understand but I wish I could show you how magical it was to literally walk into a favourite book; the whole experience was gentle and tactile with the smell of woodsmoke and clever use of light and sound. It could have been tacky and theme parky, or full of cynical kids but in our group of 15 there were only two very sweet children and the rest were grown ups – which just goes to prove my point.

Tove Jansson’s niece, Sophia Jansson
Photo: Vic Frankowski

Almost every year and in times of need I re-read Tove Jansson’s books, especially Moominland Midwinter and feel grateful for the magic of a story that can transport you to another reality and put a different spin on your own. I think it’s no exaggeration to say those books saved my life that winter, because whilst reading it was as though I pressed “pause” and took the time out  I needed to feel  stronger.

OK, enough of the soppy stuff. I’m back in the Lakes now and busily making orders to send to all the lovely new galleries. There is a giveaway on my Facebook page at the moment to win a candle lantern… it’s in the spirit of Hobbit birthdays  because I’ll be picking a winner at random the day after my birthday next week. If you have time have a look… you’re in with a good chance because despite paying to promote the post only about 11 people have entered! The mysteries of Facebook algorithms.

Happy Spring, Easter, Eostre – whatever you celebrate x

Reading: “The Bear and the Nightingale” Katherine Arden and ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen Website: I met Heidi Vilkman at BCTF, she is from Finland and apart from her art she has built the most amazing little cottage which could easily have been in a Tove Jansson book- honestly you have to look! http://cobdreams.blogspot.co.uk

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Walls and Bridges

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I’ve had the title of that John Lennon album in my head a lot lately,”Walls and Bridges”. It’s hard not to be amazed and mystified by apparently pointless walls when you’re out on the Cumbrian fells and other upland bits of the North of England. As I’m labouring up a hill puffing and panting, I often wonder at the poor soul who had to build the miles and miles of drystone walls, often heading up the most vertiginous slopes, that drape over the landscape like strings of dirty grey and green pearls. The walls have been there for centuries and often mark the boundary between fertile land, intake and the open fell side -the boundaries must be mainly symbolic as sheep are very good at ignoring them. Recently there were protests all over the world against Trump’s border wall plans and since I didn’t have a banner or a nearby bridge I made a little paper banner for the bridge in a sketch I’d made last year and added my tiny voice to the others who were saying #BridgesNotWalls. Since then the stream of outrageous announcements from the USA has grown into a torrent and I watch horrified from my corner of a small valley in the Lake District and feel helpless, wishing yet again that I could DO something or at least articulate the opposing view without getting over emotional and crying “Why can’t we just be nice to each other?” like a foot stamping child.

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Lying awake and worrying about the world isn’t very useful for anyone when you’re meant to be preparing to conquer the world ( peacefully) at BCTF in just 2 months time! Yes I decided at the last minute that it was important to take part again this year, despite the financial hit, as there is no doubt that it really helped to get my work seen (and sold) in lots of wonderful places last year and probably more usefully, focussed my thoughts on what it is I’m trying to do. I’ve learned some hard lessons and being a sensitive creature I’ve been on a real roller coaster at times ( and if you know me in person you’ll know that I would never get on a roller coaster willingly… it would involve chloroform and heavy lifting gear of some sort). Despite all my reservations I’m really looking forward to it now that it’s booked and I’m thinking of it as a bit of an early birthday treat…it’s not often I get to stay in hotels so I’ve booked one with a pool so that Sara and I can float about relaxing after a hard day selling.

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This year I’m thinking of moving away from some of the smaller, time consuming (and therefore less profitable) things such as the printed and embroidered notebooks and I’ve been enjoying working with larger pieces of one off cyanotype prints, on fabric, to make lamps, shades and candle lanterns; these as well as the original framed work and some new greetings cards will be the main part of my collection. I’ve also been making some patterns to have digitally printed after getting hooked on Photoshop again. I made a pair of pyjamas last week using a pattern printed directly onto one of my Spoonflower fabric designs and I had enough fabric left over to make a tortoise fabric table lamp too; there are so many exciting possibilities.

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To get more organised and terrify myself to a jelly with figures, profit margins and sales targets I’ve just received my copy of the Makers Business Toolkit Yearbook which is a great idea from Nicola Taylor a photographer who I met when I lived in Yorkshire. I’m running a month behind, as I only got it this week, but already it’s forcing me to look at some questions that you will probably find it surprising and foolish ( but not uncommon) that I hadn’t already asked, such as “How many mugs or lamps or prints or current buns would I have to sell to actually make any money and pay the rent?” Well, pass me the chloroform, I’m off to get on board that rickety roller coaster to do the maths and then tick the boxes in the planner that state my tasks for today are complete  1. make cyanotypes. 2.write blog  3.look at numbers

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Thank you for reading. By the way you still have 24 hours to take advantage of the 20% discount code SNOWDROPS in my Easy shop 🙂

Reading:- “Swing Time” Zadie Smith                                                            Listening To:- Mind Games – John Lennon   Shop/Web:- Fat and the Moon I came across this via an Instagram post this week. Rachel had just found out that her home had burnt down while she was travelling and she’d lost everything. Her attitude was a revelation to me, so positive and strong.

British Craft Trade Fair 2016

Newlands Valley blossom

I feel as though I’ve been caught in a time warp, it doesn’t seem possible that just a week ago I was setting off across the country, full of nerves and excitement, my poor old car packed to the roof with work and stand props. The British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate has been a background preoccupation and worry for the past 2 years  (ever since I had to postpone taking part due to the house trauma) and it seems unreal that it’s now over and actually the real work is only just beginning. I imagine I’m feeling a little bit like a couple returning from their expensive wedding and honeymoon; so much planning and heaps of money just for one special event but it’s what happens next that really matters. I had a fantastic time pretending to be Agatha Christie in the Old Swan but it feels so good to be back on the mountain after an emotional return to North Yorkshire. We are a little behind with the seasons, Hawthorne and Sycamore buds are still only just emerging, Daffodils are at their Wordsworthian peak with Bluebell spears poised to take their place. It all has the air of something about to burst… a little sunny nudge and the whole thing will be freewheeling towards summer abundance.

setting up at British Craft Trade Fair

There is so much I want to say about the experience of BCTF, I haven’t yet worked out exactly how much it cost but I will let you know in a future post because I think might be really useful if anyone was thinking of doing a trade show. I really wish I had done it sooner… within a year or two of graduating, mostly because it has been a really useful lesson in planning, pricing, logistics and PR. It was a massive relief that the calico panels fitted the space (after a tiny adjustment to the wooden rods with a borrowed hacksaw) and everything looked almost as I had imagined it. I was envious of some of the more minimalist stands, they looked so slick and professional but overall I was very happy and relieved. It took 3 hours to set up and one to break it all down again!

Kim Tillyer stand N27 British Trade Craft Fair 2016

My glamorous and wonderful assistant Sara was totally invaluable. I really couldn’t have done it without her (partly because my hips kept seizing up so I could hardly move after 7 hours of standing with a clip board). Sara kept me straight when I drifted in to typical artist “down talk”, reminding me that the work was was unique and perfectionist not experimental and “hit and miss”; she also correctly predicted the winner of the “Wow Factor” award, another CCAD graduate Joanna Coupland .We met so many interesting people and agreed that being a buyer or a trend forecaster must be a great job.

Sara Tillyer Smith at British Trade Craft Fair

The list of artists and makers that we met and whose work we fell in love with is too long to mention, I’ll list a few at the end, but the whole event reinforced my passionate belief that the skills and talents of these people should be celebrated and nurtured. Many artists and makers rely on the sale of cards for example, while they wait for the bigger pieces to sell, galleries too, which is why the Just a Card campaign is such a good idea. We don’t need a world full of mass produced cheap crap, we need fewer but more beautifully made things and an education system that values the arts and the contribution art and craft makes to society.

greetings card display

The wall I was most pleased with was my card wall with embroidered details and a quote from Haruki Murakami. I love receiving real handwritten letters (nice ones not upsetting ones) and it seems that the greetings card is not dead; people still spend money on lovely cards to keep or send.  I was hoping the show would push me in one direction or another but in the end there was interest in ALL the products from original framed pieces to mugs and velvet cushions so after this I’m off to continue following up the contacts I made, evaluating all the feedback and making a start on some new cyanotypes and drawings.

witchmountain stand N27

Thank you so much to everyone who visited the stand or sent good wishes from afar. It’s been wonderful to meet so many people and talk non stop for 4 days – a complete contrast to where I sit now, listening to the buzzards circling above the valley… and an owl just then… oh and the sun is just breaking through.

Some of my my lovely stand neighbours :

Melissa Yarlett– gorgeous jewellery inspired by mosses and lichens             Stephanie Hopkins – copper bowls and jewellery ( award winner at the show)  Holly Argyll – Bright, quirky illustrations on textiles and giftware                       Katie Edwards – Fellow member of Cumbria Printmakers

“Hang up your chairs to better sweep, Clear the floor to dance…”

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It is a lovely feeling to clear the table and tidy up at the end of a long project. Apart from a few last minute finishing off jobs, yet another lost delivery (hint to van  drivers…use a map not satnav when looking for barns in the middle of nowhere) and a painfully slow internet, I’m all packed and ready to set up for BCTF on Saturday. Ok, we have run out of heating oil, I melted my printer, blew up the hoover and the power’s due to go off at any minute but it still feels good to be able to say, “I’m ready… as ready as I’ll ever be”. The kettle is on the stove and I’m going to have a gallon of tea and maybe even make some scones for old times sake (before the power goes off!).

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On Friday I’ll be heading back to North Yorkshire for the first time in over a year, hoping it feels more friendly than when I left it. It will also be the first time I’ve spent much time in Harrogate since I lived there when I first left home, for a rather disastrous foundation year at Harrogate School of Art. Sara is coming up to be my assistant so we are combining it with a kind of belated/early birthday treat and staying in the hotel that Agatha Christie stayed in when she went missing in 1926. Originally I was going to camp in the van on the showground but decided to make a holiday of it. I hope they let me in with a ruck sack as I seem to have mislaid all my monogrammed luggage and hatboxes.

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Preparing for this event has been an all consuming preoccupation since I first had to postpone taking part last year but, even if it’s not a huge financial success, I do feel as though I’ve learnt so much from it already and it has certainly focused the way I work. No doubt I will come back next week with plenty of new ideas and information and it will certainly make a change from sitting here watching the woodpeckers and chatting to the cat. One of the things I’ve discovered is that many of the odd things I have needed can be found and supplied by small quirky, local shops and businesses and I’ve really made an effort to do this, particularly following the floods of 2015.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m currently multi tasking by sitting on hold to an EE call centre who are trying to work out why the internet keeps going off… they don’t believe me when I tell them it’s because the wire from Braithwaite keeps getting wet.  I will let you know how BCTF went next time I write and if  you’re visiting the show don’t forget I’ll be on stand N27…also Good Luck to all the other amazing artists and crafts people taking part, I hope it’s a big success.