Our First Stall (at the ISQ Christmas Fair) – Another update many of you have been waiting, and asking, for. Why do I say “OUR first stall”? Well, as usual, I could never have done this without my husband. I know I sing his praises all the time, but the man deserves a gold medal. He is unbelievable. I told him that I wanted to make and sell craft at the ISQ Christmas Fair this year, and from day one he supported me every step of the way. He now knows how to order goods online (yes, in Chinese), so he ordered all the stock we needed. He spent hours helping me decide what to purchase, how much to get, and figuring out when it could get to us. As I mentioned in a recent post, we had very little time to prepare for the Fair, and we also had to make a trip to Beijing (for a South African passport renewal), so it was all pretty tight! Justin really did a amazing job as “my assistant”. Once he had ordered everything for me, he also helped me make all of the things that you see above (and much that you can’t see as well). After a long day at the office, he would call me and ask if he needed to bring home supper (so I didn’t have to cook), he would cover my evening classes so that I could keep on “DIY-ing”, and he would make sure that I could sit, uninterrupted and work for hours every evening. As soon as Elijah was in bed, Justin would sit down at our dining room table, which was then overloaded with multiple crafts – all in varying stages of completion, and he would say, “I’m all yours for the rest of the night, what can I do??” He mixed, poured and applied paint, he cut, glued, and sorted whatever I handed him. I have to say that, just like in every other area of our marriage, Justin really is truly amazing, and I couldn’t have done this without him!!
It was a tiring/ stressful week, but it was a good one nonetheless. With my mother here to help as well, we were able to juggle Elijah, work, and preparing for the fair. I lost a lot of sleep, and got sick during the week (from being overworked, no doubt), but this is something that I would LOVE to do on an ongoing basis, so I was eager to prepare well for the Christmas Fair. We attended the fair last year, but since we had never had our own stall, we had no idea what to expect. A notice was sent out during the week, informing sellers to “have enough stock for the entire event” so we tried our best to make a variety of crafts, and a few of each item. Not knowing what people would like, and how the day would go, it felt like we were going into it blind. We arrived back from Beijing on Monday morning at 1am, and by 8am I had all of the parcels you see below (top left image) ready and waiting for me to get working! I’m usually really good with documenting each stage/ step of my crafts, but there was no time for that, so I just worked full steam ahead, snapping a couple of phone pictures where I could… mostly just to get opinions from friends, and show Justin my progress while he was at work.
So what was all of this preparation for? What is the ISQ Christmas Fair?
This Christmas Fair is held every year on the ISQ (an International School in Qingdao) Campus. We attended last year, when Elijah was just a 6 month old little bundle of cuteness. We had never been free on Saturday in the previous years, so that was our first opportunity to attend the fair.
As you can see, lots of people, lots of shopping… and many stalls for browsing!
I don’t know how many times I have heard people tell me that I should make and sell crafts/art. Usually I just laugh off these comments because I don’t think that much of what I have made has been amazing enough for people to actually pay for. Certain friends, I won’t mention any names (you lovely ladies know who you are), have been pretty insistent lately. Since this is something I would like to pursue in the long run – along with photography – I thought that this year I would give it a shot.
I went on Pinterest. Pinned anything that I thought I could make based on the materials I could source online in China, and I worked from there. Many of the orders arrived and I figured out that the original ideas wouldn’t work, so I made alterations. Other ideas I changed completely. Some I kept the same. Pinterest is awesome… so many amazing ideas, right there at your fingertips!
The night before the fair was rough. Justin and I only slept for TWO HOURS!! We finished a number of projects and cleaned up as much as we could (oh the days before we had a toddler…. haha, SO EASY, leave whatever you want lying around). We then wrapped the breakable items in bubble wrap, and packed everything into crates. We made “information/contact cards” (i.e. cheapo-business cards… I didn’t want to be presumptuous and print real business cards. What if no one like my stuff?! haha), we decided on prices, and made sure we had a lunch packed for the next day. Before we lay down for “our nap” every single thing was ready and waiting at the door. In the morning, a very kind friend took us to the Christmas Fair in his car. It was too much stuff for one load, so Justin followed in a taxi. What a Lifesaver – Thank you Ben!
As soon as we arrived at the hall I was nervous. I even told Justin that I didn’t want to unpack all of the crafts. haha!
Of course, he told me that I was silly, and we began setting up our table. At first, Chinese people just strolled by, looking at what we had. No smiles. No comments. Just silent browsing. In my head was a silent scream….“Ahhhhhhhhh”
We know that westerners and Chinese have a very different style/ taste, especially when it comes to home decor times (which was mostly what we had on display), so it wasn’t overly surprising that most of them didn’t buy anything. Once the foreigners began to arrive at the Christmas Fair, the sales really began to roll in. Justin and I had such a wonderful time, laughing and working side-by-side. This is something we are made to do!
There’s wasn’t much place for us to display everything, so we tried to rotate all of the canvases by placing them onto the empty crates behind us. Often people wouldn’t even look behind us unless we intentionally grabbed their attention and pointed to the wall behind us, so I’m sure a lot of it went unseen.
It was so much fun sharing this experience with Justin. He continues to surprise me, and his love and compassion for me are something I could never take for granted. He worked so hard to help me achieve something that he knew was important to me. My goal is to keep selling crafts throughout the year. Maybe China isn’t the best place for me to make a success of this, but I hope that I can learn more about where my talents lie, and develop those areas, so that when we do move to the States, I will be able to do something like this full-time. I would love to have my own Etsy store!
What did I take away from this experience? I am very happy to report that I learned a lot through this. I now know that I can create some beautiful crafts, and that I am capable of far more than I initially assumed I was. I didn’t know where my strengths lie, but I am figuring that out…. and enjoying every step of that journey!
We stayed at the Christmas Fair until everyone had left and the hall was almost completely empty. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by how much stuff we had to pack up and take back home with us. I had expected to sell a lot more, but the truth is that there just weren’t as many people as we thought there would be. Most of the foreigners that were there came over to our table to look, buy, or ask questions, but we didn’t have much luck with the Chinese folks. Since the fair we have received a couple of orders, and I am looking forward to working on those projects (at a more reasonable pace) in the coming weeks.
Thank you to all those who have supported and encouraged me!