Sunday, 22 May 2011

Review of the BCTF

Leigh Shepherd Designs
Last month saw the annual British Craft Trade Fair at Harrogate, a three day event attracting more than 500 designers and artists and over 5000 visitors.  This has to be the most exciting event in the designer-maker trade show calendar with buyers from galleries, department stores, gift shops, boutiques and garden centres all looking for the next big thing.
Because of the economic climate and the demise of many handmade outlets in the UK, the past two years have been particularly tough for the creative industry so it was inspiring to see so many buyers at this year’s event and to hear so much excited and positive feedback from the traders there.  Four people who caught our eye were artist Julie Bell of SiaArt, semi-precious jeweller Rachel Lucie, glass artist Genevieve Thompson of Wicked Gen Crafts and contemporary jeweller Leigh Shepherd.

Rachel Lucie Designs
Competition is fierce at the BCTF with traders vying to make their product stand out. Simplicity is the key to success with most traders opting for simple white displays that complement their work and show off their key pieces. Here you can see how Leigh Shepherd used two plain display shelves mounted onto white cabinets to show her vibrant paper and scrabble tile jewellery to its best advantage.  Both Leigh and Rachel Lucie were in the Newcomers Gallery but both designers made their displays look totally professional. I really liked Rachel’s use of enlarged images of her key pieces.
Wicked Gen Crafts
But before you even consider taking a stand at the BCTF you need to be absolutely sure about your product. Because of the cost of exhibiting there it is not the venue for test trading to see if your work is saleable.  You need total confidence in your work and be positive that there is a market for your designs. Genevieve of Wicked Gen Crafts has a large repertoire of glass designs but she was extremely selective in what she brought with her.  Her latest glass hearts have a unique appeal and she chose pieces that both complement and describe her style.  She also chose pieces that she loves to make knowing, that if she landed a large order, she would have to make the same design many times over.  

Over-stocking a display is detrimental to the look of a trade stand. Although buyers may order multiples of one item, showing the same item as a multiple makes that display look more like a shop and not a trade stand. Artist Julie Bell of SiaArt kept her display to a minimum, her work shows her artistic style and stands out brightly against the stark white display stand.  Julie knows that selling her art is about selling a life style and appealing to interior designers.
But, like most shows, the BTCF has its winners and its losers – designers who could not pick up a single enquiry and designers who were overwhelmed with orders. Disciplines such as jewellery and glass are highly competitive and oversubscribed. But the most likely measure of success at the BCTF is a long term one – and that is securing a REPEAT order.

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