Magnolia Square badges itself as ‘designer makers’ and is a craft fair held at two suburban Melbourne locations. The fair alternates between St Kilda Town Hall, in Balaclava (traditionally the home of orthodox Jewish families) and Malvern Town Hall, in Malvern (traditionally the home of upwardly mobile Anglo-Celtic families.)
Admission was free, purchasing wasn’t. By that I mean prices were high. My friend Amelia and I didn’t buy and I overheard one other visitor pronounce the goods ‘expensive.’ We agree.
The high prices reflect the standard or craftsmanship (also high) and it seems that each exhibitor had made a significant investment in visual merchandising. All exhibitors had business cards, some had flat screen panels showing their wares. This was high quality textile, leather and yarn craft, mostly. I think I saw a photographer promoting their services too.The new regional Victorian quilt shop TreeHouse Textiles were there promoting their quilting, applique and craft classes, and selling fabric. They had a few sewing machines out on work tables, but I didn’t see anyone using them at any stage so I imagine they were just raising awareness of the fact that they offer classes.
There was not a gaudily painted train set anywhere in sight, nor did we spot any toilet roll covers (do they still make them?) The design ethic on display was modern and ‘designery’, as encapsulated by the Lisette line of fabrics and patterns. You could easily imagine the vendors driving home in their Priuses at the end of the day to make dinner for their husbands and 2.3 children.My highlights from the day were the gorgeous crocheted animals available from Ladedahkids and the wooden printing blocks sold by a delightful lady from India, whose card I failed to collect. I fell in love with Freddy the Fox but the mouse toy Mikalah Mouse was pretty cute too.
The event was well attended but I’m not sure that sales reflected that. It was hard to tell how many of the visitors were actually buying. A good proportion of the items for sale were aimed at babies and young children. There was jewellery on sale for the grown ups, but I was surprised there weren’t more i-Device covers and that sort of thing.
My handy hints to exhibitors: If you’re going to exhibit at an event like this, be friendly. I appreciate that a lot of us are curious onlookers who don’t buy but you never know who’s going to drop some of their hard-earned cash on you. Having negative body language, crafting instead of selling or dismissing potential customers as tyre-kickers isn’t why you’re there. Have your smiles ready, and be willing to explain what you do, and why it matters, over and over again. Use those good manners your mother tried so hard to teach you. Most of all, be ready to sell. It’s why you’re there.