What an incredibly talent-filled place, with so much devotion to fine craft, exquisite paper and tenderness towards the Art of the Book!
I am very very tired after two days of manning my stall. But I feel content on one level and am inspired to work even harder at my art. It’s too late to even give a glimpse of anything else that I saw at the show, but I will do so soon. In the meantime, I’ll show you some images of my stand on day 1 and day 2.
I was pleased with my design of the stand having done a mock-up at home. The wicker basket and wooden drawers plus the little wooden display stands gave it warmth. There was enough detail for people to linger and the carousel of cards was right next to the stand. My cards always sell well. I even did a doll’s house set up, for the doll’s house books. (This had been very popular at the Wantage Museum exhibition in the display cabinet) While I had half a table instead of the usual 3 tables at Art in Action, I felt I had used the space well.
I was sharing a table with Oxford Scribes who had dozens of tiny books and little boxes, all beautifully made.
My sales weren’t great, particularly of my two most important books – Rope of Words and Dance. I watched the people walk past and they looked at Oxford Scribes first, having come in that direction then their eyes glided unseeingly over my books, mostly pausing at the mini-books on top of the wicker basket, settled on the carousel of watercolour cards and on to the next table of foundry metal stamps. Watercolour cards are not so good alongside all the lino-cut cards and letterpress cards on other stands. Wrong show – although I did sell quite a few!
In the great hall, most people had a few books and lots of ‘white space’ or table cloth space. Let’s think of a jewellery shop – one with lots of trinkets and some good pieces, and the other with just a few amazing pieces.
So I went in early the next morning and cleared the table.
I added white space (in this case, black space) put Rope of Words and dance where they were focal points, ABC Uncials on the faux leather box (which held spare copies) banished many wooden boxes, dolls house stuff, cut labels right down, got rid of duplicate pricing and effectively de-cluttered by at least 50%. I moved the carousel of cards well away and back.
And hey-presto, my books began to sell steadily. All of them!
That was a lesson worth learning.
The design of the table has so much to do with the overall environment. Art in Action is a family affair; people choose their favourite marquees (e.g.Calligraphy and Illustration) and linger. The artist demonstrates and I have always managed to keep a crowd around me at my table. The Oxford Fine Book Press Fair is about understatement, serious book binders with books at around £1000 (yes, thousand) and more, interspersed with artists’ books and tiny books ranging from £8 upwards; Sharing a table meant that I had to make sure that my table looked good next to Oxford Scribes – and because of all the bitty things next door, I needed to make mine a lot ‘quieter’. It took me a while to realise this and design my stand accordingly.
So now, tired but happy, after a long soaky bath and Downton Abbey!