Advice on trading displays and presentation standards

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Teagirl
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Advice on trading displays and presentation standards

Post by Teagirl »

Hi, everyone,

I'm hoping to get some help in planning our display for use in selling at one or two re-enactor/LH fairs over the next year.

We're not involved full-time as many people are, with the LH world, but we do want to be sure that when we come to a market that we're ready with the right sort of presentation and presence, so we're hoping for a small amount of advice or comment.

We normally attend bead fairs during the year (22 of them this year), which are not really vastly different from what we experienced at TORM this year as visitors, lots of people wanting to buy, some of them wanting small items to finish off a project and some wanting to buy from the ground up, crowds and lots of people talking about their interests and wares. Very much like a bead fair really.

We've seen a variety of display types from a simple table with a cloth on it on to more elaborate settings with wooden display racks, and also simple clothes racks, some of it very modern-looking. Is a modern display an issue or are the people who come to the markets not bothered? How much attention is paid to the clothing of the merchants? Will we be examined for proper attire or if we chose to wear basic clothing that matches our chosen presentation (Viking-era, as it seems to be the most appropriate for a beadmaker and merchant) will the fact that Mike must wear modern shoes (fairly plain and not overly obtrusive but still necessary) due to his disability be an issue?

We're not able to attend general fairs/markets this year as we're very much aware that there is no way we could put together a full trader display including working out a way to display the beads in a completely different way than we use now, but it seems to us that the LH/re-enactors' markets are a different thing entirely. Would using modern lighting where permitted be a problem?

I know we're asking for a lot of help here, but we are planning for the future, if we're accepted into some of the markets we want to be sure we're there with the right presentation and presence. We've applied for several markets, and have been confirmed for the Northern Multi Period Re-enactment Traders Fayre which we're looking forward to very much.

Thank you for any advice or comments you can give us.

-Su
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Scraggles

Post by Scraggles »

not overly worried on the clothes people wear as long as it looks "right" give or take a few hundred years :)

authenticity nazi's have something better to do imho

if selling beads, want to see the beads, maybe an example on cloth or on a piece of cord / linen

some markets might insist on "medival" displays, but some sort of simple container should suffice, depends how much time u want to spend

if the clothing extensively uses your beads, or perhaps is specially made with all of your beads on it, so that punters can examine them as other people would see them, saves having to have seperate displays :)

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Post by Teagirl »

Thanks!

We sell just the beads. At present we have two wooden hanging racks where the sets of beads are wired to individually priced hanging cards (took me months to get those right!) and the rest of the display is loose beads sold individually or jewellery made with the beads.

We're planning on little single-page A5 folded 'guides' for the time periods we cover with information on what would be suitable.

It's good to know that a reasonable effort at clothing will do, I do enjoy the research and making historic clothing was a real passion of mine years ago so I think I can get us dressed appropriately.

We're looking very much forward to this, it will be a definite change from regular bead fairs.

-Su
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Post by gregory23b »

at places like TORM, even though we traders are expected to dress up, it is practical necessity to have the items displayed so you can sell them, in some cases plastic wrappers (prints in my case) and with visible pricing. Not all products lend themselves for proper historical presentation and IMHO I don't think that helps much in any case. People come to look and buy, the good thing about TORM NLHF etc is that people come and haev a good idea of what the event is about, tehy know it is not a LH display.

However, having stock that is complete, or suggested uses is a must, as Acraggles rightly says, it shows would be customers who may be new or starting a new project just how to use the new goodies.

If you have things that can be handled, try and have some handling ones available.

"We're planning on little single-page A5 folded 'guides' for the time periods we cover with information on what would be suitable."

that is an excellent idea.

"It's good to know that a reasonable effort at clothing will do,"

You are lucky as your product is not era specific, so you can wear whatever historical clothing you like, however you must make sure that your product is not judged by the kit you wear, some people may see a medieval outfit and think 'oh, medieval stuff, I do 18thc' and walk on.

On a historical basis, say you were doing a late medieval event, you might slant the display that way a bit, if for example you have turned bone beads for sale, you might have a pic of the well know bead turner from the hausbuch. Some people will want to know how things are made, so over tme you might end up with props that shed more light on it. I take actual woodblocks along to prove that I have done the job, rather than buy in, likewise when quiet actually do some cutting etc. Granted, not all crafts are that geared for demoing.
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Post by Teagirl »

gregory23b wrote:at places like TORM, even though we traders are expected to dress up, it is practical necessity to have the items displayed so you can sell them, in some cases plastic wrappers (prints in my case) and with visible pricing. Not all products lend themselves for proper historical presentation and IMHO I don't think that helps much in any case. People come to look and buy, the good thing about TORM NLHF etc is that people come and haev a good idea of what the event is about, tehy know it is not a LH display.


That's one of the main advantages for us is that the people who come to buy will generally have an idea of what they want. We went to TORM as we felt it was a good idea to see what we would be facing as far as layout, customers and sellers. It was definitely enlightening.

However, having stock that is complete, or suggested uses is a must, as Acraggles rightly says, it shows would be customers who may be new or starting a new project just how to use the new goodies.

If you have things that can be handled, try and have some handling ones available.


That's common to bead fairs too, we use our jewellery displays to show people how the beads look in finished works, and we have a lot of loose, single beads for people to pick up. Beads are so tactile that it's really vital they are available for people to handle, it also helps them understand that they aren't fragile. We've been known to bounce them on a concrete floor before to demonstrate that. Unfortunately, torches, fire or any other glass-melting tools are not exactly display-friendly, we usually take a small dvd player to shows and have a constantly-playing video of beadmaking for people to see how it looks. Would that be out of place at a market like the ones we're applying to?

You are lucky as your product is not era specific, so you can wear whatever historical clothing you like, however you must make sure that your product is not judged by the kit you wear, some people may see a medieval outfit and think 'oh, medieval stuff, I do 18thc' and walk on.


The beads we're concentrating on are somewhat era-specific for people who want them for their historic use, but beads are something that everyone likes. We chose Viking-era clothing as the most suitable as it's the latest time for the work we're offering, so we get a span from pre-Roman on up to Viking-era but as you say, people who want something later may simply walk past. We're counting on a lot of the 'ooh, beads!' effect to counteract that. (she says hopefully)

I take actual woodblocks along to prove that I have done the job, rather than buy in, likewise when quiet actually do some cutting etc. Granted, not all crafts are that geared for demoing.


You'd be amazed (well, maybe not after having dealt with the public for so long) at all the questions, the shocked look when we explain that Mike actually makes the beads that are sitting under the big sign that says 'handmade beads by Mike Poole'. We face a lot of competition from cheap imports in the bead world, but we find that people who appreciate quality will always understand the value of an independent artists' work.

I'm not sure how many times we'd be able to do fairs where we'd sell to the general public simply due to time constraints as we have around 20-22 fairs a year we do already, we're fortunate that the LH/reenactment markets we've applied to are all not in conflict with our other commitments.

We genuinely appreciate all the helpful comments in this group, and hope that we'll get a chance to meet up in person and have a chance to thank everyone.

-Su
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Post by Black Letter »

Hi Su

We began trading at Tewkesbury last year and our display has evolved - no doubt yours will too! So we did things the reverse to you - started out outdoors then have moved indoors (think your way is probably most sensible .............. :lol: )

I would agree with what has been said already. You need to 'suggest' uses of your stock, a portfolio of things made is a good idea, and be prepared for a wide variety of questions! If you are thinking of doing outdoor events in the future, I would highly recommend going to a couple of outdoor events this year to get a feel for the event and how people are dressed, etc. and also think how you can create a display that will be versatile and how your indoor setup can be adapted.

Indoor events are geared around table lengths, outdoor events will vary considerably, you will generally be positioned based on your tent type (e.g. historical tent or plastic) and then your pitch size - and you will no doubt want to vary your display from event to event). Outdoors events bring uneven ground, light issues, wind, rain... but they are fun. Going to a few will also give you a feel for which ones you may want to attend in future.

Hope this helps. The very best of luck...!

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Post by gregory23b »

"You'd be amazed"

not really, I still get the "did you really do them?" 'are they photocopies?' :roll:

"so we get a span from pre-Roman on up to Viking-era but as you say, "

that is what I meant in terms of not being era specific, you have beads for different eras, eg, my woodblocks are only 15thc-16thc, so it is easier for me to wear the kit appropriate to the main era of work.

I should have actually said 'single era', my bad.

I don't have the time to do general public events, as it is I can only do do markets this year due to the real world job/s.
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Post by Teagirl »

gregory23b wrote:"You'd be amazed"

not really, I still get the "did you really do them?" 'are they photocopies?' :roll:


Yeah, it's amazing sometimes the ideas people have. 'Are they plastic?'... 'Do you have to melt the glass or can you just glue bits together?' The list is endless. But on the other side, it's great when you get someone really interested in the whole process. We do spend a lot of time discussing the way the beads are made, which is fun.

"so we get a span from pre-Roman on up to Viking-era but as you say, "

that is what I meant in terms of not being era specific, you have beads for different eras, eg, my woodblocks are only 15thc-16thc, so it is easier for me to wear the kit appropriate to the main era of work.

I should have actually said 'single era', my bad.


No problem, I just know that when we do start selling to the market, we'll get a range of people from the ones who will argue the toss about every single bead design to the ones who will insist they couldn't possibly have had glass back then. So, we're bracing ourselves for as many questions as possible. We've found from research and discussions that there's a big gap in the use of beads and want to be sure to not get called on any research errors, as you live and die by your reputation.

I don't have the time to do general public events, as it is I can only do do markets this year due to the real world job/s.


Sounds like us, we thought for a long time about getting into another market and type of selling, I'd love to do some general public events but it doesn't seem feasible for us either as time away from the studio is time Mike's not making beads. Added to the fact that we're selling up our floating home to move onto dry land and we're going to be rushed for spare time for a while anyway.

Again, thanks for the comments, everything has been extremely useful.

I forgot to mention that my main argument for going as late in time as possible was the chance to wear several strands of beads with my Viking clothing. I believe in ostentatious display whenever possible.

-Su
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Post by Teagirl »

Black Letter wrote:Hi Su

We began trading at Tewkesbury last year and our display has evolved - no doubt yours will too! So we did things the reverse to you - started out outdoors then have moved indoors (think your way is probably most sensible .............. :lol: )


Hi, Tam,

We've done the freeze-outdoors-in-windy-marquees before so we decided indoors was a Good Thing.

I'm not sure we will get to trade at general fairs for the public, it's not in the cards for us this year although I wouldn't mind but we have a modern round of bead fairs we do which we're booked up with through the end of the year.

I do like being indoors, it's warm, it's dry and there are convenient toilets, and a place to plug in the lights for the display without worrying about elecrocution. We did a craft fair at Newby Hall once, and weren't sure if we'd lose the stand to the wind before the rain did us all in.

With luck we'll meet up at a market this year, we're booked for one and waiting to hear about some others. Fingers crossed.

-Su
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Post by Lady Cecily »

As a customer at markets I can only advise on what I tend to get attracted by.

I can be put off by a seller who is wearing kit that says I am selling to one period only. I often feel that stallholders who wear plain modern clothing that's unobtrusive may fair better.

I really appreciate stall holders who know their stock and can provenance it instantly. Having the text book on hand that convinces me is even better. I like traders I can trust - if I can send a new member to a trader knowing they won't be sold something out of period or inappropriate I will recommend them again and again.

I am not fond of jumble sale stalls - you know the sort with the pile it high sell it cheap mentality. I like minimal display with special items highlighted.
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Post by Teagirl »

Lady Cecily wrote:I am not fond of jumble sale stalls - you know the sort with the pile it high sell it cheap mentality. I like minimal display with special items highlighted.


Thanks for the comments. I was under the impression that stallholders had to dress for the occasion as required by the event management.

I agree that stands that look jumbled don't do much for me either. We have worked and refined our display for almost two years now and are looking at what we need to add/change for these markets, but we always price everything clearly, display it to the best we can because it's what the work deserves and we are always ready to discuss the information necessary. That's why I'm working on the small handouts to help people choose correctly if they're concerned about a particular time period.

We do understand that not everyone comes to these markets with an eye to only buying for their historical needs but we also want to be sure that if someone buys from us they get the best information we can offer, and that includes bringing our books to the fairs. We have a small but very relevant library of books on the subject of beads, sadly the library is small in number but the books seem to sell by weight! We're discussing a bigger vehicle to get them packed in safely.

-Su
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Post by gregory23b »

Purely depends on the organiser and type of market. Some are more stringent than others.

In all honesty, even taking the possible mis-sale due to being judged of one period I do find the dressing up to be quite good fun and it really does add to the atmosphere and it is nice to see people in kit, it also spurs the odd MOP to wear their stuff, making a history market that little bit more historical and less like a jumped up boot sale or antique fair. Gimme the kit any day.
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Post by sally »

gregory23b wrote:
You are lucky as your product is not era specific, so you can wear whatever historical clothing you like, however you must make sure that your product is not judged by the kit you wear, some people may see a medieval outfit and think 'oh, medieval stuff, I do 18thc' and walk on.


This has always been my dilemma at the NLHF, I've hestitated to go in kit as the goodies I trade at that show cover rather a wide potential timespan, but I do miss being in kit for it. Havent yet worked out what to plump for clothingwise :?

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Post by Teagirl »

sally wrote:This has always been my dilemma at the NLHF, I've hestitated to go in kit as the goodies I trade at that show cover rather a wide potential timespan, but I do miss being in kit for it. Havent yet worked out what to plump for clothingwise :?


Early Tudor-Viking with a dash of Minoan? It would certainly get attention.

-Su
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Post by sally »

Teagirl wrote:
sally wrote:This has always been my dilemma at the NLHF, I've hestitated to go in kit as the goodies I trade at that show cover rather a wide potential timespan, but I do miss being in kit for it. Havent yet worked out what to plump for clothingwise :?


Early Tudor-Viking with a dash of Minoan? It would certainly get attention.

-Su


ooh yes, I can see it now :lol:

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Post by Teagirl »

sally wrote:
Teagirl wrote:
sally wrote:This has always been my dilemma at the NLHF, I've hestitated to go in kit as the goodies I trade at that show cover rather a wide potential timespan, but I do miss being in kit for it. Havent yet worked out what to plump for clothingwise :?


Early Tudor-Viking with a dash of Minoan? It would certainly get attention.

-Su


ooh yes, I can see it now :lol:


The worrying thing is the guys are now all seeing it too. :-D

Sadly I'm a bit old for the Minoan part now. But I could do a nice line in Tudor draped with the spoils of my enemies.

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Post by gregory23b »

"The worrying thing is the guys are now all seeing it too. "

Not worrying, Sally Rocks!
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Post by Teagirl »

gregory23b wrote:"The worrying thing is the guys are now all seeing it too. "

Not worrying, Sally Rocks!


No, I'm worried for all those guys who are doomed to disappointment as there's only one Sally.

-Su
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Post by Tuppence »

bearing in mind that I'm coming from a clothing angle, not a 'litle stuff' angle......

Is a modern display an issue or are the people who come to the markets not bothered?


it depends. I can actually do both - even have dress stands made of wood when it's insisted on, but most fayre organisers (even alex :lol: ) are happy with my modern dummies, heads and rails, and my hose and things in bags.

How much attention is paid to the clothing of the merchants? Will we be examined for proper attire or if we chose to wear basic clothing that matches our chosen presentation (Viking-era, as it seems to be the most appropriate for a beadmaker and merchant) will the fact that Mike must wear modern shoes (fairly plain and not overly obtrusive but still necessary) due to his disability be an issue?


Thanks for the comments. I was under the impression that stallholders had to dress for the occasion as required by the event management.


It depends. I have to admit that for most markets I tend to wear modern clothes (incl places like tewkesbury, and the northern fayre - usually trousers and a black top).

At some markets (torm being an example) costume is compulsory. but I have had problems in the past when wearing a specific period outfit that I've been passed by as 'not my period' (have even heard it said) despite having something their period on display!!! now I tend to wear clothes as modern as possible (usually fifties), nige tends to wear acws, and martin wears norman stuff.

Would using modern lighting where permitted be a problem?


nope - provided you let the organiser know well in advancce that you need a socket (assuming you do), and that all equipment has a current pat test certificate. likewise to laptops etc.

I really appreciate stall holders who know their stock and can provenance it instantly. Having the text book on hand that convinces me is even better.


this is one of the best pieces of advice you will ever get.

it's been the thing to swing an order in my favour in the past, even when I didn't give the cheapest quote.
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Post by Teagirl »

Tuppence wrote: I have to admit that for most markets I tend to wear modern clothes (incl places like tewkesbury, and the northern fayre - usually trousers and a black top).

At some markets (torm being an example) costume is compulsory. but I have had problems in the past when wearing a specific period outfit that I've been passed by as 'not my period' (have even heard it said) despite having something their period on display!!! now I tend to wear clothes as modern as possible (usually fifties), nige tends to wear acws, and martin wears norman stuff.


That's very useful, thanks. We're not new to selling but it's a definitely different sort of venue and it's important that we feel that we've got things right when we go into selling at markets such as the ones we're applying to. I admit that I never walk past a stall being dismissive or judging on what is there at first glance, I'm always interested in what's available but I'm a born browser.

"Would using modern lighting where permitted be a problem?"

nope - provided you let the organiser know well in advancce that you need a socket (assuming you do), and that all equipment has a current pat test certificate. likewise to laptops etc.

That's the same as what we are required to have for regular shows. Our power requirements are below the usual maximum for the shows we attend but it makes a vast difference with glass beads if they're well-lighted so it's important to know. I understand that it wouldn't be as effective at a market selling to the public while using halogen lights, it has a tendency to diminish the historic ambiance.

"I really appreciate stall holders who know their stock and can provenance it instantly. Having the text book on hand that convinces me is even better."

this is one of the best pieces of advice you will ever get.


I agree, and it's why we've been working for quite a while amassing a library of information we can take with us. I do have experience with dealing with groups of people buying items based on historic research, my ex was a woodworker and we sold handmade furniture in the US, so I have already been through the 'that's not accurate' even when there's information about and images of the original museum pieces sitting on the item. We also know that you can't please everyone but it's worth making the effort to at least be able to stand your ground on the information you present. If we know we have the right stuff based on the available evidence that's all we can do, really.

I appreciate your very helpful comments. We're trying to not end up as square pegs in round holes so all the help here has been very welcome.

-Su
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Post by Wiblick »

As a buyer I'm just waiting to see where you'll be trading this year!

And although I'm eager to add beads to many an ensemble I'm utterly ignorant so will be relying on you to have a "this bead is from X date and is made from Y" label on everything.

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Post by Teagirl »

Wiblick wrote:As a buyer I'm just waiting to see where you'll be trading this year!

And although I'm eager to add beads to many an ensemble I'm utterly ignorant so will be relying on you to have a "this bead is from X date and is made from Y" label on everything.


They'd be teeny labels! Oddly enough we started out putting price labels on the beads and it ended up a disaster with the tags getting tangled. We have five of the wooden display trays with compartments, each tray for a separate time period or style with the info clearly displayed on each section.

We're (well, me really as Mike's off melting glass) working on little handout booklets for the time periods our beads are suitable for and we'll have each section set out by time period. We agree entirely that the more information the better and we'll have our library and resource material with us.

First stop is the fair in Leeds. And after that it's up to the event management to see if we can get a slot, being newcomers and all.

One thing we're adding to the beads is a set of 'faux' organics, for two reasons, one is that you can't get decent beads from organic sources such as coral, amber, jet or bone/ivory now, some of it is not available and some of it is harvested in less than ethical conditions. Add to that the fact that modern semi-precious and organic beads have tiny holes for threading we've been working on glass alternatives to them. Black glass is virtually indistinguishable from polished jet, some of the transparent amber glass is the same, you'd have to feel it to see it wasn't amber, and modern coral beads are not at all like the coral used for beads in the periods we're looking at, antique coral beads have a lovely, smooth and polished surface not like the modern 'fossil coral'. Ivory is not a modern alternative and bone isn't suitable for some people, but etched or shiny ivory glass is very close to polished or antique ivory or bone. Plus, the beads have holes big enough to string on a leather or woven cord or small chains.

Sorry, don't mean to waffle, I just am very concerned to get things as right as possible.

-Su
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Post by gregory23b »

"One thing we're adding to the beads is a set of 'faux' organics, for two reasons,"

I would add a third, because they were done in the late middle ages, pearl, coral and amber was all faked up, pearl was made form the nacre from the inside of shells, all ground up and glued and baked, amber with a combination of gums and resins and pigments, coral, of a few materials. But they are all organic though.

Re the bone, have you though about turning a few, might be interesting. Museum of London has some bone bead stocks (all cut out).
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Post by Teagirl »

gregory23b wrote:"One thing we're adding to the beads is a set of 'faux' organics, for two reasons,"

I would add a third, because they were done in the late middle ages, pearl, coral and amber was all faked up, pearl was made form the nacre from the inside of shells, all ground up and glued and baked, amber with a combination of gums and resins and pigments, coral, of a few materials. But they are all organic though.

Re the bone, have you though about turning a few, might be interesting. Museum of London has some bone bead stocks (all cut out).


Mike's been turning beads for a while now, based on some of the bone beads we've seen especially in some of the Viking-era finds. I'll look at the MoL ones too for him, thanks! With luck we're going to have a few days in London soon for some more research.

I read that beads were faked for ages including blown glass beads coated with the nacre, I didn't think to add that in as we're not doing pearl beads but the information on the others is very much appreciated. I'm very cautious about offering alternatives in glass unless I can back it so all help is gratefully accepted.

-Su
Prime practitioner of headology and purveyor of beads.

Tillerman Beads

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