Saturday, 4 January 2014

Christmas markets, economy and social skills

It is already 2014. Christmas season is over, but lucky me I still have a couple of days before engaging in my work routines. November and December were quite exhausting so I just collapsed when the holiday days came. This year I just compromised for two markets and our Open Studios for the Christmas season. I knew in advance I could not have that much work ready, and decided for just two market days. It was a good decision. As soon as I was back from China in November I had to start working immediately for Cheeky Tiki. Due to circumstances I had to do many extra hours for them which did not let me much free time to produce my own work. Luckily before leaving for China I had thrown and fired as many plates, mugs, tea pots and jugs as I could. They were only missing the glaze firing. I had work to fill three kilns and that was it. It was good enough as I share the studio and kilns with other 15 potters and the kilns were fully booked. this time I did not have as many problems with the glazes, but there were seconds. Open Studios was very calm and slow but there was visitors and sales. The pots and the figures I left out for viewing looked well together. My little corner in the studio was welcoming and full of interesting artifacts. This time I wanted to leave the space as close as possible to how it is when I am working there. I felt that it would be more interesting than attempting a shop display. This time I wanted to let the visitors to have a glimpse at what I am working on, not just my functional wares but my creative world. It was not just a sale. I did also kept myself at a distance. The reaction was good, I enjoyed looking at the expression on their faces. I had some of my figures , cities and houses out to see. People was interested and curious of the whats, whys and hows. I was ready and happy to talk to them and explain my ideas.
An interesting thing this year was to see people being very careful with their purchases. It happened in the three sites. This may be the result of three or four years of recession, of salaries not increasing at all for most of us while the living expenses keep rocketing up. But the Christmas show must go on. I have kept my prices almost the same for 3 years now. At the moment I prefer not to calculate to the penny how affordable this is to me. My rent has increased, the costs of materials and transport too, and the energy bills, and of course the stall prices. I explained all this to a costumer looking for a bargain, he and his girlfriend were trying to buy one mug and get another for free. When I asked how much money did they have with them, the answer was that they were just trying their luck. That infuriated me a bit, I explained to them I was a maker, not a middle person selling someone else wares and getting a profit on them. I told them of the hours of work I spent at my studio, to do the wares. I explained to them that I had to apply, submit images and descriptions of my work, more hours of work and expenses, in order to get a stall at that particular designer/makers fair. Last but not least I told them how much do I had to pay for the stall, which was not cheap. I also mentioned how tricky it is to transport my work, heavy and fragile ceramics, and the props to display and sell it. He bought the mug, she said nothing. Later on I was narrating the episode to my stall neighbor feeling I was to harsh with them. She told me I should have given my speech with a smile. I felt like I was an untamed beast with no social skills. My smile came back soon, and sales were very good that day. There was someone, at the end of the market day, who refused to take a few pounds change back saying I was pricing the wares very low. I thanked him then and I do it now, he gave a boost to my confidence. Some people were quite appreciative of my work, I want to thank them too. I hope they will come back during the year to order more wares.