How Do I? Illustration Stall Advice

As you may know, I am running a stall at the House of Illustration's Illustrator's Fair on Sunday the 22nd. This will only be the second time I've run a stall like this and the first time I'm doing it solo so I thought it would be a good opportunity to mine knowledge from some of my more experienced friends! Hopefully their advice will be useful for other newbies out there like me! So without further ado, here we go...

 

Mandy Knapp, printmaker and creative director of Cambridge Creative Network:

  • Take as much stock as you can carry!
     
  • Make sure you have plenty of height going on, prop stuff up to make it visually interesting. Also find out if you've got a wall behind you; maybe you could hang things up?
     
  • Make sure everything is priced clearly.
     
  • Take a receipt book and/or notebook to log your sales and plan how you will collect the money and keep it safe, such as using a cross body small bag or lock-box.
     
  • Put your cards in a nice box for people to flick through unless you have a card rack. 
     
  • Make friends with stallholders either side to share loo breaks and tea runs! 
     
  • Smile endlessly! Wear comfy shoes and layers! 
     

Jo Clark, designer and illustrator

 Jo's stand for 'Spirit of Summer' at the London Olympia this year.

Jo's stand for 'Spirit of Summer' at the London Olympia this year.

  • Make sure you bring your bestseller and display it prominently! Sounds obvious but I have forgotten to bring mine before...oops!

  • Be topical, relevant and seasonal.

  • Plan your display and how much stock you will need; try not to take too much or too little. I try to keep my stall stock limited to one suitcase on wheels.

  • Demonstrate your products! If you are selling t-shirts, wear one. If you are selling unframed prints it's a nice idea to have a framed example. Top tip; make your work fit a standard frame size. Customers love this.

  • Take photos of your stall (in between selling your lovely things of course) and use social media while the event is going on to create a buzz.

  • Relax, be yourself and enjoy the day. Remember not every event is a success in sales but stay positive and they can be a great experience in lots of other ways. Oh, and try not to eat too many cupcakes.

Aurora Cacciapuoti, illustrator and art workshop leader:

  • Make sure you take lots of change!

  • Do not spend your time there reading/doing other stuff; it is always nice to see a smiley face and to look busy. Tidy up the stall now and then.

  • Take a notebook to log visitors emails for your newsletter.

  • Make sure you have a lot of business cards!

  • Take a cute tablecloth to cover your stall (neutral colours are better).

Alan Rogerson, illustrator, cartoonist & comic-maker. (Alan's Art Kiosk is open weekly):

 Part of Alan's Art Kiosk, showing some of his handmade card and print displays at his stall in Cambridge market. Visit him there every Wednesday!

Part of Alan's Art Kiosk, showing some of his handmade card and print displays at his stall in Cambridge market. Visit him there every Wednesday!

  • Set up your stall at home first. I like to test everything before taking it out in public. What does it look like? Have I forgotten anything?
     
  • Don't leave your strange stuff at home. People are strange. I often find that the pictures I make that I think that no one would ever buy turn out to be my best sellers.
     
  • Make cheap things. I sell 100 more cards and comics for £2 than posters for £20.
     
  • Promotion, promotion and even more promotion. Everywhere I go I carry my promotional material with me.
     
  • Smile, say hello and talk about your work. I try not to sit around looking bored fiddling with my phone. If I get bored I draw stuff in my sketchbook; it adds to the art thing.
     

Ceri Ann Littlechild, artist/designer:

  • Presentation is everything! Every little detail counts; your labels, packaging, framing and your display units. I think it's worth taking your time and investing in this as it creates a lasting impression of your business and how you run it.
     
  • Since you're selling your creativity, try to have something new or quirky about your display that nobody else has.
     
  • A market stall is a good way for somebody to try out a new business venture but the selling context is important. You are much more likely to sell at a specific arts and crafts event where visitors are planning to buy art work. Stalls at other local events don't tend to work out too well as people aren't necessarily planning on carrying around artwork that could be easily damaged.
     
  • Selling isn't everything! Every event I've attended has been an opportunity to talk to new potential clients. You can engage people in conversation about your work and your trade; hand out business cards to people who are genuinely interested and hopefully they'll come back to you later on with a commission. Building personal, face to face relationships with customers and with other artists is the best way to get new clients who'll buy your work.


Some great advice there from some wonderful and creative people! I've certainly found this useful in planning my own stall at the Illustrator's Fair. I think Alan's suggestion of setting up a trail run of your stall at home is a particularly good idea as it allows you to get a feel for what works and what doesn't and check what extra supplies you will need. It also makes it easier to set up on the day because you already know exactly what you're aiming for. Here are a couple of tips of my own I would like to add about setting up and displaying your work:

  • When planning your stall, consider how you can make the best impact without laborious and complicated set-up plans. You want to build an attractive stall but you don't want to spend the first few hours of your day getting worked up over your stall preparations instead of saving your energy for the customers.
     
  • On a related note, it's important you think carefully about the best way to show off your work. For example, if your work is colourful and digital like mine,  you could soften it up with some natural materials for contrast, or you could use clean, crisp whites to make it pop. Ideally you should avoid anything which distracts from the work itself. You want to be talking about what you do, not where you got that beautiful table-cloth!

    (This may seem obvious but I've seen plenty of stalls at craft fairs which are beautifully elaborate and must have taken ages to set up, but actually make the products that are for sale harder to spot.)
     
  • Can you add something to the stall that encourages people to remember you and look you up later on? It could be a social-media competition that visitors to your stall can enter, it could be a little drawing exercise or a 'submit something to me later' feature of some kind, or something else entirely. Little interactive elements help your audience feel connected to you. It really helps to go the extra mile to get people to recall you in a positive way and encourage later affirmative actions which help establish lasting connections with your audience. 
     
  • Do you have a great Twitter feed or Facebook page? A special Twitter hashtag?  A newsletter or a really awesome blog? At Pick Me Up London this year many of the stalls had their own hashtags or twitter handles on display to encourage visitors to connect with them later on. The Codswallop Collective had a prominent hashtag and several interactive elements to their stand and people tweeted the hell out of it! 

    If you're going to be at the Illustrator's Fair this Sunday, make sure you use tweet @illustrationHQ and use their #illustratorsfair hashtag to help get yourself seen and promote the event so they can do it again next year!

 

I hope you find the advice and suggestions from myself, Alan, Jo, Aurora, Mandy and Ceri helpful and I very much look forward to meeting lots of you at the Illustrator's Fair on Sunday! All the best of wishes,

Abi.

 

P.S: If you're nervous about an illustration fair and comparing yourself with other attendees online, check out my earlier blog post on why you shouldn't compare yourself at all! :)