Even though I was feeling under the weather and could just about speak, I popped along to The Handmade and Vintage Fair at Newcastle under Lyme College on 20th May to try and grab an interview with the organisers at one of their monthly events.
The Handmade and Vintage Fairs are organised by creative duo, sisters Lauren and Julia Chamberlain … plus their mum was at the nearby stall, with some lovely vintage children’s games and kitsch prints (which gave me a real blast-from-the-past ) and other nic-nacs, including a scary nun that I now wished I’d photographed!
On this occasion, the event was placed in a smaller side room than normal, the dance studios, because there was a big sports event the same day.
Unfortunately because of an agreement with the sports event folks who were providing catering , Julia and Lauren weren’t able to provide tea and cake stalls, which always make the event feel that bit more special. Personally I felt that there was probably a bit too wide a mixture of stalls for my taste, with some weak ones in the mix, but maybe that just allowed the good ones to shine that little bit brighter.
There were also few fab vintage stalls worth browsing, but I want to tell you about some makers showing their handmade wares.
Here are some photos from my pick of the best makers showcasing on the day. If you like their work, click on the images and they should hopefully take you through to their websites.
Both sisters graduated from arts related courses before making a career from making, selling and organising fairs. Julia (standing) had studied 2D/ surface design at Staffordshire University and Lauren (seated) did her Fine Art degree at Bournemouth and then came back home to Stoke on Trent and worked at Emma Bridgewater for a few years.
The family ran a vintage shop a couple of years ago and then started to do fairs about 18 months ago at the Borough Arms Hotel in Newcastle, before moving to this venue at the college last year.
Julia told me about their plans and it’s evident that they don’t necessarily see themselves as just local fair organisers. They exhibited at the Clothes Show at the N.E.C in Birmingham two years ago. At the time it felt like a big risk, preparing a stall for a huge event and paying a large fee for a stall, but it was worth it. There were 300,000 visitors coming through the door and they had a great time. Next on their list of big shows to attend is the Country Living fair.
We talked of how things have changed quite rapidly in the few years and with so many local events to go to. This had affected how they run their events. They recognise the stallholders have more events to choose from and the demand of finding affordable selling opportunities has changed. “When we first started doing the fairs we would get over 70 applications from makers and stall holders to take part in the events, so we could really choose who we would showcase. But there are so many selling events now that people can go to, so it probably feels like the choice for us is thinning out a little. But we think of ways to change things and try new ideas too, you have to. We went to a new promotion event the other week at The Brown Jug in Newcastle, initially to support a friend’s new creative venture but also to promote what we do, reach new people. We have a mailing list of over 2000 people and we use Facebook and use other ways to communicate what we are doing.” Julia agreed with me that it’s great for customers when to get a mixture of people but quality is important plus the desire to see some new faces and fresh ideas.
Julia really wants to concentrate on the making side of her business at the moment and wants to get her “Linen Circus” work into galleries and other venues, but she is still committed to working with her Mum and sister to organise successful events.
I really love the “Whimsical and Curious” range from Lauren, with her quirky one-of-a-kind dolls (not for kids) and her memory based works.
The next showcase event will on June 17th (10am – 3pm) at Newcastle-under-Lyme College. As usual it will be free entry but it will be a bigger Summer Fair than the previous event. The makers and vintage folks will be taking over the Gordon Banks Sports Centre, so there will be more capacity for the 30 stalls, food and other things to see and do.
For more news of their future events this year check out this flyer and if you are a maker and want the chance to showcase your work just email Julia on firstname.lastname@example.org :