Craft fairs are hardly a new invention. They have been given local artisans an outlet for their wares long before the internet arrived to provide the biggest marketplace in the world.
One of Portsmouth’s longest-running craft fairs is that run at Fort Purbrook, which has been going for 21 years – long before the invention of eBay, etsy and other websites designed to help people sell their homemade goods quickly, easily and without overheads.
But despite the relative ease of selling online, an increasing amount of people are booking tables at such fairs in order to supplement an existing income, or to provide a main source of income.
Crafts, gifts, and art selling is becoming big business – big enough even for a destination retail centre, such as the newly-rejuvenated Port Solent, to create a massive space for sellers from the art world.
A large waterfront building which has been empty for four years has been carved up into 11 smaller shops and space for a tea room.
Work began on the Portside Locker project after Christmas, as soon as the building was free of the Christmas markets run during the festive season.
And in the summer the first retailers will have moved in, hoping the future of their business will be as bright as the summer sun reflecting off the Port Solent marina water.
Andy Philip, operations manager at the marina, said: We’re really looking for people who tie into the marine feel we have here, as that’s what a lot of people come here for.
‘We want people to come and visit and then maybe take away a few gifts from their visit.
‘We’re looking to get the bottom level of shops filled first, and then the upper first-floor level.’
The new shops will vary in size, with the largest at 400sq ft and the smallest at 80sq ft, as well as space for glass cabinets that local jewellers can use to display their goods without having to staff a unit.
Centre manager Samantha Golden said: ‘This development will be the icing on the cake for Port Solent. It is already a lovely place to come and I know that our customers will be delighted once we finally get the Portside Locker doors open.’
Port Solent is already home to one crafty entrepreneur.
Former primary school teacher Louise Badman, from Widley, runs Ceramic Creations from a gazebo within the Port Solent boardwalk site.
Her business is selling potter and ceramic gifts and also running workshops so children can make their own gifts.
She said: ‘I set it up about two years ago but it’s really been in the past year that I have been concentrating on making it give me a steady income.
‘I was a primary school teacher and when I had my first daughter I went part-time but when I had my second daughter the logistics of working, child care and doing the school run became too much to manage, so what I decided to do was learn to do the pottery.’
After she spoke to Samantha from Port Solent, the rest was history.
But Louise also has another string to her bow. She exhibits at the All That’s Craft, Gift, Vintage and Collectors’ Markets.
She said: ‘What I do is I have a table where I display what I sell, but at the same time I am running events for children to make their own gifts.
‘Having a presence there means parents can meet me in person, which of course is important when you’re working with children.
‘It also helps me network and get contacts with people, as I also run children’s parties - think Tupperware, but with pottery for children.’
The markets that Louise exhibits at are held in Chichester, Bedhampton, Emsworth and Felpham and are run by Emma Gray and her mum Lyn.
She said: ‘Our ethos is all about supporting local crafters and sellers, local venues and trying to support small businesses.
‘We worked hard in 2012 with our events and would like to make 2013 the year that we really help showcase our crafters and sellers and heighten the profile of the local craft world and the talents within it.’
Emma said her markets are going from strength to strength, not least because of the quality of the goods being sold at them.
Recently Emma launched a fair at the Assembly Rooms in Chichester, which sold out of pitches for stallholders.
But not resting on her laurels, Emma will be reopening her fair at Bedhampton Social Hall on Saturday.
‘We started holding the markets in Bedhampton in March,’ said Emma.
‘But they’re already really popular and we’re going to be holding a summer weekend of craft in Emsworth.
‘It’s really good.’
Chainmail gives Dawn inspiration
WHEN you think of chainmail, you don’t necessarily think of something pretty that can dangle from a delicate wrist.
Rather it’s about warriors in days gone by, using it as a mesh to stop blades.
But not for Dawn Frazier, who lives in Havant.
Her jewellery is inspired by chainmail, and her business - Handmade Jewellery by Dawn - has been running for just under a year.
‘I started making handmade jewellery before my twins started school,’ she said.
‘But then to support my hobby I needed to sell some first.
‘Exhibiting at the fair has helped me get to know a few people who are doing similar things, making new contacts as well as selling my jewellery.
‘I haven’t been going that long but I am going to keep plugging away at it and see what happens.
‘Most of the fairs I have been to have been in Bedhampton, but I did the one in Chichester last weekend and that was very successful - lots of interest and quite a few sales.’
Business funds Michelle’s hobby
FOR Michelle Sinclair, running her own business is a way of funding her hobby.
She runs Jumbleshell, and exhibits at the All That’s Craft, Gift, Vintage and Collectors Markets when they come to Chichester, as she lives in Bognor Regis.
She mainly sells knitted goods, but admits to turning her hand to anything crafty that takes her fancy, such as making fridge magnets, felt badges for Easter and other goods.
‘I’ve been doing it to sell for probably about 18 months,’ Michelle said.
‘It’s been since my son started school and some chunks of time suddenly became available during the day and I was making enough things to start selling them - before, I was just selling them to friends.
‘I just enjoy doing it so much and I want to do more of it, but I can’t afford to buy materials to make new things unless I sell what I’ve made so far.’
Michelle sells on the website folksy.com, which is dedicated solely to people like her who make their own craft products to sell.
But she says it is better to sell from a variety of platforms.
‘It’s always good to have different outlets.
‘As well as the fairs and folksy, I also have a shelf in a shop in Chichester.
‘Craft fairs are just another string to my bow, and we go to as many as we can.’