In April I attended Northern a Ink at Northern Monk Refectory in Leeds as a trader. This was my stalls first appearance in my former home town. It’s also the first time I’ve attended a niche fair. Northern Ink was a celebration of Print, illustration and tattooing. The event featured a curation of alternative artists, live screen printing from the ever fabulous Awesome Merch and live tattooing. There were limited edition prints created especially for the event and a tattoo and tattoos flash available of each. It was run by the reputable Northern Craft who, I have wanted to work with since I heard about them,
The event opened at 11 and an immediate queue formed at the tattoo stall. Within 2 minutes all the tattoo spots were fully booked. These guys were clearly pros. This Meant that the fair was pleasantly full at the beginning and sales started early. It was difficult to predict how many visitors came to the event and what that meant for sales proportionally so I will opt for listing some pros and cons as I observed them.
The clientel are more targeted. This helps with what items you bring for your stall and your display. It was great to see so many like minded people with similar tastes and passions. There were a lot of artists visiting too and I always love to talk to people about their art.
We also got food and a drink included in the stall fee. This is incredible rare and extremely appreciated! Finding food and spending cash you might not have made back on your stall fee yet is tough sometimes.
The niche crowd was friendly, relaxed and the atmosphere was great. There was comerardery, and the tattoo were an excellent source of conversation. The event really did feel like a celebration of the arts it championed.
I’ll start by making it clear that I’m being harsh here calling them ‘cons’. Observations is probably more astute.
The niche nature of the fair means that the artists gathered can be quite similar. This is a pro and a con. It’s a pro because it is excellent to work alongside these artists, meet them and discover their art. I did some great art trades and it was wonderful to discover new artists with some awesome art who as a bonus liked my art too. It’s a con because it means that your target audience is their target audience and people only have so much money to spend. Those who might have ordinarily purchased from the stall are spoilt for choice and the purse strings become understandably tighter.
The other con do this is that I spent all my profits and then some on the excellent art available! I left Leeds with 2 new prints (including one of the tattoo flashes), a T-shirt and sculpture. It’s a pro for my art collection but a con for my bank balance! The trouble with being an artist is that you know how great it feels when people support your work and so in turn I find it irrisistalble to support other artists too!
The event space above the bar was also a new kind of event experience for me as most guests were drinking. This was something I have been nervous about in the past as a ceramics seller, but I know other traders find it encourages a few more sales. In this specific space I found that it encouraged people to do a lot of hanging about, which is great and it’s nice to chat but sometimes it can be difficult if people stand in front of your stall without any intention of shopping but block your stall view from others. It also makes it difficult to judge how busy an event is but it does create a good atmosphere.
I had a great time! I made a profit but I did spend that and more on the excellent art available. Also I found new artists too which is rad. From a business perspective on this occasion I definitely shopped more than I brought home, which is not really the goal. However, I had a great day and got some awesome art so I would certainly recommend.