Thursday, 28 February 2013

Buskers end and happy tales

The Belgrave Buskers Festival was celebrated on the (official) last Saturday of summer.
When we arrived in the afternoon for the twilight market, the last of the bands were wrapping up, sadly. We had hoped that the music would continue for a little longer. Most of the entertainment was staged in various places throughout the town and ended at Earthly Pleasures Café where the market was to be held.

As we were setting up our stall, people descended on us for a look and a lot of sales were made.
So, in between unpacking and placing up on the table, we were almost just as quickly, selling and wrapping clocks, vases, pendants and brooches.
Luckily, I had enough jewellery on hand to replace those sold, but not enough clocks and vases to re-stock the display. Poor planning on my behalf - note to self for the future :)
I was, and am ever-always, grateful for the help of hubby in the setting up and pulling down of my stall.  And, when he can stay around, his wrapping of sales is so appreciated - I think we make a great team!

We were placed down by the entrance in the front garden along the wrought iron fence. And, with my back to the road, I could while away the afternoon gazing upon the lovely stone manor – always a treat.

When the stall was up, I managed to pop up to the rear gardens near the old stables and take a few pics* and to catch up with my friend, Elizabeth Stevens.
Elizabeth takes lovely photographs throughout Victoria, creating and selling them as postcards and gift cards. 
In between sales, Elizabeth serenaded the marketeers and customers in the secluded cloistered gardens with softly sung and gently strummed folk classics on her guitar, adding to the relaxed ambiance.

After the initial rush, all was quiet and hubby left for a while. I took in the atmosphere and enjoyed the dappled sunlight through the trees, grateful, as we didn’t take a market tent.

It was during this time that two young lads, I’d say between seven and nine years old, came over after eyeing my, you-can’t-miss-it-purple table cover and the colourful goodies from a distance.
After asking the price of each item, they looked increasingly disappointed as they surveyed their pockets of change. Their wee faces were so forlorn.

I asked them if there was something on the stall that they liked. They pointed out a number of items, but were sad that they couldn’t buy any of them. One of the boys told me, “I only have a few cents”, and the other chimed in with a “me too”.
I had a notion of why they were at my stall, and my thoughts were confirmed when they told me that they wanted to, “buy something nice for our mum”.

The two of them, standing at my table, each with a small handful of coins in their hands and expressions like Oliver Twist holding his empty bowl forth, tugged at my heartstrings.
I told them, that if they wanted to, they could choose any magnet from my trusty, rusty old display tea kettle, and, pay me what they could afford.
As I said this, I delighted in watching their faces light up, followed by the concentration on making their important decision in choosing “just the right one”.
There was much discussion between them before they settled on a pretty bird magnet in, “the colour that mum loves”.

I said, “you must love your mum a lot”.
Without hesitation, and in unison, they replied, “we do… she’s the best!”

Now, I know I could have picked out a piece and given it to them – and I have no hesitation in donating or giving some of my smaller items free of charge, but in this instance, I felt that the boys wanted to actually purchase something. I think it was important to them, as they could truly say they “bought” a gift for their mum, which would have given that gift, no matter how small, a kind of value in their eyes.
And, they were passing up a bag of lollies for it! I was honoured :)

So, I waved them off with the biggest smiles on their faces, one happily clutching their nicely wrapped purchase. And, as I popped 65¢ into my cash box, I wondered who had the biggest smile, me or the boys.
That pretty much made my day.
And I thought, as much as I love to sell to people who like my stuff enough to buy it without hesitation (which is an honour in itself), it’s the little experiences that make what I do, whenever I can do, worth it.

The favourite ‘character’ of the day - for me - was surprisingly, not a busker or a wandering artist. But, a dog.
A three legged dog.

This dear wiry, wheaten fellow spent much of the afternoon loping from person to person, stall to stall with a grin on his whiskery face and a plea to play in his eyes.

I have a very soft spot for wiry haired “muttleys”. I guess because I have loved Irish Wolfhounds for as long as I can remember. I thought, surely this boy looks as though he has some wolfhound and maybe some lab and/or active kelpie in him?
I asked his owner for his story. It turns out that he was indeed part wolfhound.
He - sadly, I forgot to ask his name, an oversight for me, as I like to know dogs’ names - was a rescue dog who’d had his leg broken as a pup and, due to years of neglect, was turned into a shelter, his back leg badly distorted.

His lovely new people tried very hard to heal his leg, with some success. But in the end, the decision was made to have it removed as there was too much long term damage.
I was told this sturdy, stoic boy was up and running around in three days. He has apparently never looked back ever since then and is a much loved member of their family.

A happy ending from sad beginnings. A heart-warming tale.

Towards late afternoon, as the crowds dispersed, the music-related stalls in our area took down their displays and many ventured off to the taverns and bars in town where the music continued into the evening.
In the front gardens, there remained just our stall, a shiatsu massage tent, lovely hand-made childrens clothing and a little further away, a talented on-the-spot portrait artist.

Looking down from the old building, our lone display did stand out!

A bohemian purple beacon on summer-parched earth among old shady trees in the warm golden afternoon.

Curious people enjoying a meal, later sauntered down for a look and thankfully, some last minute purchases.
So all in all, we didn’t do too badly. 
I’m happy to say it was a lovely end to the day and although it wasn't a bustling market, I was more than content to spend my time in such a lovely environment.

Holding a market was a new venture for the good people at Earthly Pleasures, and was trialled in conjunction with the Buskers Fest.
Hopefully, they will consider making it a stand-alone affair with more stalls in the near future. It’s a magical venue and, once word gets out among the locals that there will be further markets, it will go from strength to strength - new markets always take some time to develop a good reputation.

With gear safely packed in the car, we ended the day with a great cup of coffee and for me, a favourite treat - a little homemade cube of Turkish Delight.

Glancing back at the shadow cast stone walls, I secretly hoped that one day soon, I’ll be back again, in “market mode”.

* I would have liked to include more market images on this post, but some stall holders declined my request to place photos of their stalls on my blog.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

This little piggy went to market...

... then another and another.

Sorry folks, yet again another regrettably long pause between posts. I haven’t abandoned you all! Life has crept in and stolen me away from blogland for too long.

I’ve been clay-making, glazing, preparing and then marketing on weekends.
As I’ve mentioned to the lovely jaihn recently, revolving this around family and my sick puppy-dog (Jack’s eleven, but still my pup), leaves me with little time to even clean the now very grubby windows that I look out of.

And, as it is summer, it’s been hot.
I’m not a hot weather girl. I’m an autumn/winter lover - I guess that's because I was born in autumn, maybe. When that cool, crisp-ness in the morning air tells me that soon, the mountain will be painted with a palette of russet, gold and red, my heart skips a beat.
I am content then to wait.
In the meantime, I muster up the energy and try to ignore the listless-ness that goes with walking through the days enveloped in warm, sometimes stifling, air.

Having an art/craft market stall is cyclical and dependent on so many variables. Throughout the year, we marketeers always hope for a “successful day”, but know that we are at the mercy of the seasons (holidays), the economy, customers' needs and predilections, trends - if what we do isn't "hot", then we may be passed by. The dilemma for some is whether to create what you love and be confident there will be others who'll love it too, or chase one's tail trying to keep abreast of the current craze in the art/craft world, which can often reflect current decor & fashion trends.
I tend to follow my heart and make what I like. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. Trying to find a balance.
And, the weather can be a big influence on potential customers.
Too hot and it can send people to the beach for the day, or, they stay close to air-conditioning. Usually that means the large shopping malls – ughh, my least favourite places.
Too cold/rainy and people snuggle up inside at home or dash for the cafés, cinema or other sheltered interiors.
If we are lucky enough to snag an indoor set-up on a wet day, the chances of a steady stream of customers improve.

So, we all hope/wish/pray for a Goldilocks Day… not too hot, not too cold, juuuust right. Not too much to ask for, is it? Haha!

One of the good things about markets is that there is always a great selection of quality, delicious food stalls that entice people to venture out and be tempted to taste and buy a wide variety of fresh, home-made gourmet goodness. 
Those that come for food and drink, will usually browse the art & craft stalls.

Fortunately, the Abbotsford Convent Markets have a fabulous café, restaurant, bar and bakery in the grounds… bonus!

The temperature last Sunday was predicted to be 37°C (98.6°F). So, hubby and I were extremely grateful to be inside in the relatively cooler old convent building. And, we were placed next to a large open window that delivered, every so often, a gentle breeze. Bliss.


As the day progressed, we greeted ever increasingly red-flushed faces, seeking temporary respite from the sun’s bite. People stayed long enough to stop and chat, peruse and happily, buy.

It’s difficult to predict what my “best sellers” will be on the day.
Seeing as we move around far and wide. Each area has a different demographic and with that, a varied dynamic.
What sells well at one market, may not even be acknowledged at the next, over an hours drive away. And if I stop making something that hasn’t sold well for over six months, I will be asked randomly if I have any of that “discontinued” item. Go figure.
If I had the formula for what the most popular items at every market would be, well…

This time, the best sellers for me were mostly pendants, clocks, incense holders and brooches.

These cute little guys, were a favourite with most people and sold out early.

It seemed many people either had Scotties, or have very fond memories of one in their childhood. They make perfect gifts for dog lovers too.

And, my little natural leaf pendants were also snapped up. I love leaves and am ever inspired by the forest environment I live in.

This particular pendant is in my Etsy shop* here

*I'm still trialling my Etsy shop and have kept mostly small, light items on there as I've found the international postage prices from Australia expensive and, I imagine, off-putting to international customers.
So, I'm still undecided as to whether or not I keep the shop open. Any suggestions from seasoned Etsy sellers?

I do like attending markets. I love people watching and meeting others in person. And markets are one of the best places to do just that. I meet some of the loveliest people. And repeat customers are the sweetest!
Although, I’ve had my fair share of some incredible odd-bods that just love to cruise the markets and visit every stall. Some of their comments/antics can be quite alarming/disturbing/intriguing/mind-boggling. But, they are mostly harmless characters and are just having fun. I think they add to the almost carnival atmosphere of some markets.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to spend the day – as long as I can cover my market fee (and then a little extra) in the quiet times. Mostly, I’ve been lucky enough to do that.

My experience has shown that July to September (winter in the southern hemisphere) are the most quiet months. Many outdoor markets close-down for the winter.

Last July, I attended an indoor market. My stall was well-stocked with a selection of goodies. But there were almost more stall holders than customers that day. And the people that came through held tight to their purses/wallets.
I was very glad to make enough to cover my stall and some expenses, but others didn’t fare so well. So, it can be very disheartening.

From now on, the winter months will be spent cleaning my studio and kiln room, trying out new ideas, re-stocking supplies and creating anew for the spring season.
Then, our corner of the world begins to awaken and people are on the move, shaking off the warm woolies and craving the coming festival season. Pockets are full and spending abounds, again.

Uh oh...

This Saturday, I'll be at another market. And, it just so happens to be the day that our old friend, Mister Trickster himself, Mercury slows down for his backwards shuffle-cycle! Proceed with caution indeed.
If you need a refresher on the mayhem of Mercury Retrograde, check out my post here

Now, I know to be aware, and there are plenty of "don'ts" associated with this time. 
But, frustrating as it might be, it’s not always possible to take time out. Life happens and things that need tending to, sometimes fall during retrograde cycles. And since I’ll be attending more markets this year, there are online applications (and subsequent email communications) due within this coming retrograde cycle.
So, there might be a bit of cosmic argy-bargy between the Universal Jester and I, as I need to be moving forward while he moves backwards. Oh well, should be interesting - I hope he’ll be kind :)
My fingers are crossed that the next few weeks are smooth-going and the computer behaves - if there’s another long absence from me... consider it may be Mercury’s fault, haha!

Saturday's market will be a part of the eagerly anticipated Buskers Festival, which will be held in the wonderfully arty town of Belgrave, Victoria.

Hosting the markets and graciously opening their grounds to provide a venue for some of the competition stages are the good folk at Earthly Pleasures café. One of our very favourite places to go for coffee or a meal. The staff are always friendly, the coffee superb and the food is heavenly. We are very partial to the berry crumble, mmmm. Delish.

I fell in love with this place the moment I saw it.

When you walk through the old stables gateway, at the rear of the building, you leave the 21st century behind and enter a world-gone-by… or so it feels. The cloistered courtyard, gardens and beautiful stone manor (built in 1931) retain the charm and atmosphere of yesteryear, yet are infused with a funky vibe that comes from being situated in a bohemian community.

The following pics were taken on a morning not too long ago. We arrived as they opened the doors for the day, so it was nice and quiet - a rarity for this bustling establishment.

I’m very excited to be a part of this community festival. It’ll be a wonderful opportunity to see and hear a variety of home-grown talent performing in venues and on street corners throughout the town.
So, for anyone in Melbourne who's interested in a great day out this Saturday, take a drive up to the mountain. Spend a few hours checking out Belgrave, gateway to the beautiful Sherbrooke Forest, and charming little villages just beyond. Then, end the afternoon/evening with a bite to eat at Earthly Pleasures.

*¤°.¸¸.·´¯` ° ☾ ° twilight market ° ☾ ° ´¯`·.¸¸.°¤* 
will be on from 4pm to 8pm

Come and browse the market stalls, be sure to say hello - I'd love to meet you, and be entertained by modern-day minstrels, troubadours, and bards.

I’ll have info and photos of the day in my next post. Til then, bye for now. Take care everyone!