If you read this blog then there's a high chance you follow Oh Squirrel on Instagram. If you follow Oh Squirrel on Instagram then there's a high chance you know a little about Renegade… I was a tad spammy over the weekend!
So, Renegade came around again! It wasn't plain sailing this year and it has been a bit of a funny time preparing for it, but wow it was all worth it.
Last year was my first Renegade and it was a big deal. If you're not 'in the know' - Renegade is a big American Craft Fair that for the last few years have had a once a year event in the UK at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, East London. It's pretty much the fair to end all fairs, it is HUGE and the standard of traders is very high. It's quite easy to spend a lot of money there!
So for 2014 I was back. Armed with lessons learnt last year I was already hard at work on my festive range when I found out I had a place, so planned to be back bigger and better. I wanted my display to be a little more impressive than last year. I feel that Oh Squirrel rocks the whole Vintage Suitcase thing very well, but I wanted another edge this year. This year I BUILT my display. With a drill and everything! It was built specifically to fit the table I was allocated and I was very happy with it. I can't take credit for the whole thing though, my lovely friend and studio buddy Harry pretty much taught me carpentry last week and I'm now completely obsessed by the idea of building everything! I painted it with chalkboard paint so it could be customised for different occasions, and created lovely little signs in a similar style too.
Having done Renegade last year I felt a little more calm about this one, knowing it might get pretty busy, but also there would be fierce competition for sales! I arrived nice and early to get ready, and spent the full two and a half hours setting everything up, including the wall display behind (I thought I had a full wall when I planned it but had two little wall bits in the end… I made it work though!) There were many other things I learnt too - this isn't an advice blog but for me offering card payments and advertising it was a huge help, as was having lots of different price points and making sure I had plenty of general cards in addition to christmas (people are born all year round y'know!)
Once the doors opened, it was pretty much chaos for a whole weekend. It was one of my favourite weekends, possibly ever. I saw friends, old customers, new customers, people from instagram, other amazing makers…. it was just a huge buzz from start to end.
There were a couple of highlights for me - when Mollie Makes took a photo of my handmade 'as seen in Mollie Makes' sign (if that gets in the magazine then what on earth do I put on the next sign?!) seeing some of my very first clients who had surprised me with a visit, and the big one was selling every product. Not actually every single product, but at least a couple of everything I had (dozens of some!). That in itself felt like a huge achievement as I'd worked so hard on expanding the range and adding in new products, and they were all a success!
The thing with Renegade is that you're full of like minded people, so everyone tends to get a little giddy. I got to hang out with two of my favourite people Dianne and Hannah all weekend which was great, but also met a ton of other makers and saw folk I'd met last year too. I had a quiet moment of likening it to school. I can't say I particularly enjoyed school and never really felt like I fitted in (mostly my fault for trying not to in hindsight!!) - but at Renegade it felt like everyone fitted in - we all work out absolute backsides off to create things, some of us have left good careers behind to do this, and most of us are doing this simply because we can't not do it! I won't lie, there have been times this year when I've been dealing with copying, lost orders, broken equipment and the odd over demanding client that I've thought maybe I'd be better off working for a company where I could leave this behind at the end of the day, however that isn't me. These times balance themselves out.
Renegade was a success for me. It was a success in many ways - I sold very well, I had a brilliant time, and I got a lot of confidence back in myself, especially with the new products. I spent so much of my weekend smiling, listening to customers laugh away at funny card messages and then deciding which ones to by. I don't do this to make my fortune, I do this because I can't imagine doing anything else. The highs way out way the lows, the midnight finishes (all last week to prepare!) are balanced out by being my own boss and being creative for a living. Renegade reminded me of this like a big friendly kick in the face.
If I met you at Renegade then thank you! Every smile, sale, lovely comment meant the WORLD to me.
Don't forget, you can catch Oh Squirrel at quite a few other festive markets!