Ding Dong Merrily on High, In Devon the Bells Are Ringing…

Seasons Greetings one and all!

This is a hideously late (but hopefully worth the wait?!) update from an incredibly windy South West. Apologies as always for the lateness of this post – I can’t even blame DMT (Dreckly Mean Time) for this one – I’m laying the blame squarely at the door marked “Christmas bonkers-ness”, and there it shall stay. Not only have I had a really busy month taking Rockpool on the road for Christmas (more of that later), but it’s also our first Christmas with my little’un, and in a fit of what I can only imagine was hormone filled madness, I’ve offered to host Christmas. (Am hoping mini-RT might distract the guests from what will almost certainly be a bit of a burnt offering…).

Anyway – excuses done with, and on with the show. We maxed out on fairs in December, and actually had a really good month by going down this road. 2013 has been our first year of really doing the craft fair thing, and OK, I could have done without the 6am starts, but I really enjoyed getting out, meeting customers, nattering to other stallholders and generally having a lovely time. The last fair (14th December) was an event organised by the fabulous Outset Plymouth, who gave us loads of helpful guidance and support when we were taking off. The fair was shared between Outset businesses and local Young Enterprise teams, so the day was…well, lets say…”lively”. A brief explanation for those who didn’t have the pleasure of doing Young Enterprise when they were at school: I don’t really know the ins and outs of it, but it’s an extra-curricular scheme where schools get to put teams together (often paired up with other schools), and have to come up with a product or service to sell – the aim being, of course, to teach kids about business. Coincidentally, I actually did YE when I was 16, and the fair on Saturday brought back A LOT of amusing memories, not least being the bizarre approach to sales which YE seems to promote. To give a general gist, there must be a memo floating around somewhere entitled “Your Young Enterprise Step by Step Guide to Sales Success”: 1. Shout. 2. If other people are shouting, make sure you shout loader.  3. If shouting doesn’t work, jump out in front of people. 4. If even further persuasion is needed, wear amusing headwear and offer free biscuits. Basically, Enthusiasm is King. (Ahhhh…. if only that’s all there was to it). Still – the teams at this fair were spirited and happy, and it was lovely to see. Hopefully some of these young’uns (Oh God, how old am I?!) will make the brave leap into the entrepreneurial world and, furthermore, will actually succeed. And if they do, I’m sure they can employ someone to shout on their behalf. Happy days.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported RT over the last year, either by buying unique, handmade items from us, coming along to craft fairs, helping out behind the scenes, interacting with us on social media or supporting us in any number of other ways. We’ve had a crazy but wonderful year, and we can’t wait for bigger and better things in 2014.

In the meantime, we’re off to baton down the hatches, crack open the Quality Street and kick Christmas off with a mahoosive glass of mulled wine. As we say in the Westcountry… ‘appy Christmas to You and Yours! See you on the other side.

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A snap of Tudor Evans (Leader of Plymouth City Council) opening the Outset Plymouth Fair. The Young Enterprise bods can be clearly identified by the festive headwear…

 

So many craft fairs, not enough time

So there’s a Black Friday and there’s a Super Monday… If this is the case, then the weekend of 7th & 8th should hereafter be called “The Utterly Bonker’s Craft Fair weekend”. (At least in Plymouth and the surrounding area anyway).

So this weekend, RT packed up the car again, and headed to the All Things Vintage and Festive fair at The Guildhall in Plymouth. We attended this fair last year as customers and it was packed, so we were eager to be stallholders this year. The fair was really good – loads of varied stalls, perfect location and a great atmosphere throughout the day – but chatting to the other stallholders around us, it became apparent that the footfall was a down on last year. A little Googling revealed why – that weekend, if you were a fan of handmade and unusual items, you had a choice of at least 5 fairs within a 5 mile radius of Plymouth – the Royal William Yard, Mount Edgcumbe, Tavistock and the Plymouth Plaza were all also hosting fabulous fairs this weekend! And you’d have to be a pretty committed independent retail shopper to get round to all of them over the space of 2 days…

So – on the plus side – fabulous to see there is clearly a growing market for locally made, hand crafted items. (Which is lucky, given our USP…), but perhaps it would be a good idea to spread them all out a little next year?! On a purely selfish note, that would also allow us to spend most of December touring Devon & Cornwall doing Christmas fairs and sleeping in the car. Woo-hoo!

One final thing; I met some super talented crafters over the last fortnight, so if you’re still looking for some unusual Christmas pressies, here are my top tips:-

  • Peagreen Furniture – Beautiful candles in jelly moulds and other retro pieces of crockery. And they smell divine. (The candles, not the crafters. Although I’m sure they smell lovely as well).
  • Made for Keeps – Super-cute little hanging hearts made using vintage materials and really well presented. Top stocking-filler idea.
  • Made by Messy Muppet – LOVE her crochet hair slides and alice bands. And she has a massive range as well.
  • Rosie Drake Knight Textile Design & Illustration – If you have a few bob in your pocket, Rosie’s items are simply stunning. A real statement gift – worth the investment!
  • Funkybead – Uber-pretty jewellery and really reasonable prices.

One more fair for the RT team before we put up our feet and crack open the Quality Streets for Christmas. Come and see us at the Outset Plymouth fair at the Plymouth Guildhall on Saturday 14th December!

Stalls, shawls and baubles…

And so it begins people – December is officially here, and the month of Christmas frenzy looms large. Deep breath – we can do this. We’re all in it together.

It’s a slightly later post this week – I decided to give myself an extra day due to the completely bonkers weekend we’ve had at RT HQ. Craft fairs, Argyle, donkies (don’t ask), more craft fairs, and general Christmas madness – last night I was about ready to sleep for a week. We are now well and truly on the festive bandwagon, and actually it’s quite a nice place to be. No bah humbugs here, (at least not yet). It is, however, crazy busy with another fair next weekend, a social media campaign involving play dough robins (again, don’t ask) and Christmas orders to get out – lets just say I’m very much looking forward to a glass of mulled wine when all’s said and done on 24th December.

Anyway – that’s a long way off yet! Sunday saw the RT team head to the Christmas Producers’ Fair at Crocadon Sawmill, in East Cornwall – lots of stallholders wrapped in their thermals and grasping flasks of tea (or Lemsip) and lots of eager shoppers who’d come specifically to buy their Christmas trees (it was the 1st of Dec after all (!)) and make a start on the long, winding and sometimes painful road to Christmas shopping Nirvana – a Christmas tree surrounded by pressies, all wrapped up and ready to go. It was a fabulous fair – really well organised by the Crocadon team; even standing in a drafty barn for 6 hours couldn’t dampen our spirits.

And as it’s now December and the tidal wave of festive frivolities is gathering momentum, we had our Christmas tree decorations on sale – really cute wooden robins and doves from Lillies (crafters previously from Cornwall but now emigrated to Devon) and very sparkly holly and Christmas tree decorations from our long term crafter and friend Sue Cheney (based in Plymouth). Whilst I was talking to a friend about these, she told me about an idea she’d heard from parents who’d recently had their first baby: apparently, you buy one, individual, handmade decoration from the year your child is born, right through until they are 18. You can then present your (not so) little’un with a collection of beautiful decorations to welcome them to adulthood, and keep for their own family Christmas trees.

I know. It’s adroable. I can see the John Lewis advert now…

Anyway, I thought this was a fab idea, so I thought I’d share it with you. And if you’re in the market for an individual, hand crafted decoration to start your collection, I know of a good website…